Side by side
Does America really need another book built on a cliche (“The French as churlish snobs living the good life,” Books, Sunday)? The cliche in this case begins with the title of the ravings of Richard Chesnoff in his book “The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can’t Stand Us — and Why the Feeling is Mutual.” Mr. Chesnoff displays his arrogance and that of some officers I encountered in 20 years of U.S. naval service who shared his ill-informed views.
At the beginning of our War for Independence, France secretly supported the Colonies with arms and supplies. France sold warships to the Americans and allowed them to sail from French ports to attack ships near England.
After we had defeated the Brits at Saratoga, the announcement of French support inspired large numbers of Americans to enlist in Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army. French troops under Gen. Comte de Rochambeau landed at Newport, R.I., where a statue pays tribute to him. American feelings for France were so warm that the cockade worn on American tri-corner hats was a mirror image of that worn by the French.
France spent a fortune supporting the American Revolutionary War, costs that contributed to the fall of the monarchy in the French Revolution. Mr. Chesnoff reluctantly concedes there were more French troops than Americans at Yorktown while overlooking that the French provided decisive naval support before the Battle of Yorktown. The Battle of Virginia Capes sealed the fate of the cruel Lord Cornwallis.
Of our major allies in Europe (including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy), France is the only one against which we have not fought a declared war. We have fought the British and Germans twice. It was during our second war with England that the Brits burned Washington, D.C. Our wars with Germany have cost us dearly in lives and treasure.
Your reviewer opines, “One thing about the French, they are rarely there when you need them.” During the American Civil War, France provided little assistance to the Confederacy. It was the British who nearly went to war with the United States after the Trent Affair.
Blatant British sales of armed raiders (including the CSS Alabama) to the Confederate navy allowed the latter to destroy millions of dollars in merchant tonnage. After the war, the British paid the U.S. for ships sunk by British-built Confederate raiders as a result of the Alabama Claims.
During the Cold War, America welcomed French assistance. French political and military efforts in Africa allowed the U.S. to deal with the Soviets elsewhere.
French nuclear weapons seriously complicated Soviet planning. France and the U.S. sent large military contingents to Lebanon during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. After the tragic bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the French suffered a similar attack.
It was the French who showed Americans how to carry out successful retaliatory air strikes in Lebanon. When U.S. Navy ships requested port visits in Italy and Spain in the early 1980s, both countries denied those requests on the grounds that our State Department had given insufficient notice; meanwhile, the French bent over backward to welcome U.S. warships.
During numerous extended port visits to the French Riviera, I always found French citizens and France’s navy to be cordial hosts.
On one occasion, my ship’s captain presented a wreath honoring French World War II dead in a village. A World War II survivor delivered a tearful speech thanking Americans for having liberated France and lamented that some young Frenchman tend to forget that.
In Paris, I never encountered the proverbially rude waiters. In our first Gulf War, France fought beside American forces to liberate Kuwait. After September 11, the French military supported our liberation and ongoing rebuilding of Afghanistan. Mr. Chesnoff and your reviewer chose to overlook those facts.
I do not wish to suggest that France and the United States always see eye-to-eye. Both sides do what they perceive to be in their national interest. That explains the reprehensible behavior of the French in the oil-for-food scandal (in which the Germans were just as guilty).
Fortunately, on most occasions, our oldest ally is on our side. A July story in The Washington Post describes how the French intelligence service works more closely with the CIA than any other ally. Ironically, when the socialists govern France, our relationship is better than when the less socialist Gaullists (I hesitate to call them conservatives) rule; the latter is the case today.
The battle over battleships
James G. Zumwalt, writing about battleships and the DD(X) destroyer (“Dread not the DD(X),” Commentary, Thursday), evidently did not know that his renowned father, Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr, while heading the Navy, blocked efforts to get rid of reserve battleships.
I am sure he would be appalled at the present Navy’s so-far-successful campaign to persuade Congress to have our two reserve battleships turned into museums. In fact, as a Marine, James Zumwalt should be appalled that this will, for the foreseeable future, leave the Marines with no naval surface fire support (NSFS), essential to saving lives in littoral conflicts. Not only does this Navy action have no national defense justification, it disregards Public Law 104-106, which mandates keeping those two ships in reserve.
A strong case can be made that in the Vietnam War, the same baseless Navy bias against battleships now echoed by Mr. Zumwalt needlessly cost thousands of American lives. Without NSFS, history will repeat itself. Those who would turn the battleships into museums should ponder the probable tragic consequences of their actions. (For a refutation of the Navy’s arguments, see www.usnfsa.org.)
Actually, the debate is not between the battleships and DD(X). It is between a battle-proven, on-hand weapon system ideal for modernization, and nothing. The DD(X) doesn’t exist. Also, excessive cost and systems complexities may leave this program in a developmental stage. If any are built, they will be too few for essential NSFS; the first would be in 2014, at best.
WILLIAM L. STEARMAN
White House National Security Council staff, 1971-6, 1981-1993
Former U.S. Navy officer
As one who has had a long love affair with the Iowa-class battleships, I have followed with interest the battleship versus DD(X) positions taken in Rear Adm. Charles S. Hamilton’s column (“Building a new Navy,” Op-Ed, June 13) and in columns by James O’Bryon (Op-Ed, June 17), Dennis Reilly (“Battling for battleships,” Op-Ed, June 21), and now James Zumwalt.
Though I am reluctant to provide ammunition to the anti-battleship argument, I am nevertheless amused that, as is often the case in senior Navy circles, the vulnerability of the battleship to bottom influence mines has been ignored. The Iowa-class battleships have awesome armor against torpedoes, moored mines, bombs and missiles, but their softer underbelly is vulnerable to the bottom influence mines to be expected in shallower littoral waters as they support Marines ashore. That vulnerability is because of both the shock wave and the bubble pulse, which, because of whipping action, can break a ship’s back.
With appropriate mine countermeasures, that vulnerability can be minimized, but, to be fair, it should not be ignored in this argument.
Intellectual property rights
Your characterization of the Supreme Court’s decision in MGM Studios v. Grokster as a “welcome defense of intellectual property” may be premature (“Protecting intellectual property,” Editorial, June 30).
Taken in tandem with the court’s recent Kelo decision (expanding the use of eminent domain), Grokster has seriously imperiled patent protections.
If government can transfer tangible property from one private entity to another for public “good” (not public “use”), what’s to stop government from transferring my (intellectual) property — say, a hot new software program — to Microsoft for it to use its advanced distribution network to maximize profits (and, thus, tax revenue)?
Any “just compensation” I would receive would do little to stanch the disincentives to innovation these rulings have spawned.
Congress, where are you?
JOHN J. LISANICK
Lunenburg Correctional Center