During the recent presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry assailed President Bush for alienating key U.S. allies, evidence he maintained of the incumbent’s lack of foreign policy acumen and an arena in which the challenger insisted he could “do better.” Implicit in this critique was the belief that such allies — notably, the French — were anxious to be our friends, if they were not mistreated by America’s leader.
In fact, it is increasingly clear the French government under President Jacques Chirac is bent on policies antithetical to U.S. interests. They are not simply anti-Bush, they are anti-American and anti-Atlaniticist. The latest example is Mr. Chirac’s determination to have French and other European weapons manufacturers arm Communist China as part of what he has called “a necessary rebalancing of the ‘grand triangle’ formed by America, Europe and Asia.”
This is, of course, hardly the first time that French policy toward the United States has been defined by balance-of-power considerations. Indeed, the decisive assistance of France to the American Revolution did not reflect affection for those bent on ending royal misrule — a phenomenon its own king would be murderously subjected to soon after. Rather, the motivation was to weaken France’s age-old rival, Britain, by helping to cut loose her American Colonies and sapping her wealth in a costly war to bring them to heel.
Just a few years later, though, weakening the United States seemed in France’s interest. France engaged in predatory acts against American shipping and backed subversion here at home, culminating in the so-called XYZ Affair that roiled Franco-American relations in this country’s earliest days. In the 19th century, the French helped Southern secessionists and would have recognized their independent Confederacy had timely and decisive Union victories not made it clear which side would prevail.
Nearly a hundred years later, President Charles de Gaulle repaid U.S. help in the liberation of France by cultivating close ties with the Soviet Union and expelling NATO headquarters from Paris. Jacques Chirac was no less troubled by notions of alliance solidarity when the French government reportedly assured Saddam Hussein it would oppose any U.N. authorization of the use of force against his regime.
Seen against this backdrop, Mr. Chirac’s calculation that Europe must strengthen China militarily at America’s expense is not just a one-off betrayal of an ally. It is part of a geostrategic tradition that renders France, at best, an unreliable partner in international affairs and, at worst, what the French call a “faux ami,” or false friend.
Unfortunately, as this column has noted repeatedly in recent months, France is striving to impose its strain of anti-Americanism on other European states that have traditionally preferred the trans-Atlantic partnership to French or Franco-German domination of their Continent’s affairs. The principal vehicle for enforcing the latter over unwilling states — notably, Great Britain and nations Don Rumsfeld has described as “New Europe” — is the new European Constitution.
If this draft constitution is ratified by voters in Britain, France and a half-dozen other countries, the European Union will have authority to “define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defense policy.” The U.S. can forget about “special relationships” and strong bilateral ties, let alone “coalitions of the willing,” with states bound by such a compact.
Even before such an authority gets conferred upon unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels, Paris is working on a dress rehearsal: its bid to “rebalance” American power by augmenting that of Communist China. France and the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, are pushing hard for lifting an embargo on arms sales to Communist China imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre. All other things being equal, the French and Germans expect, with help from a double-dealing British government, to dispense by next spring with opposition to such a step from the Netherlands, New European states like Lithuania and the European Parliament.
The implications of European weapons manufacturers joining Russia in arming China to the teeth are quite worrisome. Thoughtful observers, like acclaimed author Mark Helprin, warn of China’s rising application of its immense accumulated wealth to strategic advantage. The latter include: neutralizing U.S. dominance in space and information technology (Chinese acquisition of IBM’s personal computer division is not an accident); moving aggressively to dominate the world’s critical minerals and other resources (especially those relevant to its burgeoning energy needs); establishing forward operations in choke-points and other sensitive areas around the globe (including, in our own hemisphere, in Cuba, the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, Brazil and Venezuela); and acquiring financial leverage by purchasing vast quantities of U.S. debt instruments.
Retaking Taiwan is an immediate target of such power. Dominance of Asia and the Western Pacific are in prospect. And China aspires to exercise global superpower status in due course, if not short order.
For years, Washington has paid lip service to — and often actively promoted — European unification. If, however, the upshot of unity is to be, as seems likely, a Continent whose policies are dominated by anti-Atlanticist France and Germany and contribute to emerging threats elsewhere, the United States must make discouraging such developments an explicit part of its foreign policy.
Mr. Chirac’s determination to provide weapons that may be used to kill Americans in the event China decides to attack Taiwan should be a wake-up call. False friends are not allies. They should not be entitled to the preferential treatment accorded the latter. Mr. Bush is right that democracies traditionally don’t fight democracies. But when they equip authoritarian regimes to do so, they must pay a real cost.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.