Jonah Goldberg
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I was wrong about France.

No, no, this isn't prelude to an apology for being the earliest and biggest popularizer of the Simpsons' nom de French: "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." Rather, what I was wrong about is that the French are even worse than I thought.

I had predicted in September of 2002 that the French would ultimately fall into line with the United States on the Iraq war. My rationale was that French recalcitrance had less to do with principle and more to do with a combinations of interests: a need to protect French oil contracts; a desire to conceal French complicity in the Hussein regime; a desire to enlarge the power of the United Nations, which would in turn amplify French influence in the world; and, of course, a certain cultural joy de vivre in soiling America's Corn Flakes whenever possible.

But once it was clear that America would invade Iraq with or without them, I predicted, the French would fall in line so they could be in on the postwar action.

They never did, obviously. America, Britain and Australia went to war. The French went to the cafes.

Actually, they did worse than that. The French lobbied African nations to vote against America in the U.N. They threatened fledgling Eastern European nations that support for America might mean trouble with the E.U. They threw numerous monkey wrenches into diplomatic machinery so it would be impossible to gain international support.

Indeed, as Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has noted, those shenanigans might have made war more likely because the French didn't want the U.N. to level a serious ultimatum against Saddam.

Now, I don't want to revisit the whole issue of France, a country we liberated and rebuilt, not only NOT supporting us in a time of need but actually actively campaigning against us. Either you're ticked off about that or you're not.

Oh, and spare me the references to the post 9-11 Le Monde headline that declared "We Are All Americans." Not only did the text of that very article, written by Le Monde's publisher, criticize America for its "cynicism" but by December of 2001 - more than a year before the Iraq war - the author was already denouncing America as racist, fundamentalist, death-hungry, etc.

Anyway, since the French didn't get their way in preventing the war - and there was no way they could have kept us from winning it - they are now fairly determined to see us lose the peace.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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