When I was a small child one of the first images that I remembered was the vision of France sending American air wings home. It’s strange how such a vision of a seven year old boy would bias ones vision of another nation.
In 1952 America was building up defenses in Europe as a counter measure against the bulging military might of the Soviet Union. Russia and its’ allies desired to control the world in the name of Communism. America, the strongest economic country in the world had to counter this threat. Ten bases were planned to be built in France for the use of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. NATOs mission was simple; form a strong coalition to counter the threat of the Soviet Union and prevent a takeover of freedom loving countries in Europe.
Several years after the construction of the French bases it became clear that the best deterrent to Soviet Expansion was by the deployment of nuclear weapons. This required that France would have to accept nuclear weapons on its’ soil. General Charles De Gaul, president of France and commander of the free French forces during World War II would have none of it. The Americans would have to leave. This image of America leaving France left an indelible mark on my psyche.
As I grew older the relevance of what France had done for America and our own culture in Louisiana had a dampening effect on my view of the French but I still listened to travelers talking about the “arrogance” of the French toward the Americans when visiting Paris. I refused to visit the city of lights despite flying into Paris to change flights and every encounter with the French was a pleasant experience.
Over the past few years my perception of France began to change. Watch the History Channel and listen to the wonderful accents coming from the Swamp People of the bayous of South Louisiana. The British didn’t want the French in Canada so prior to 1756 the French were expelled and sent to French Louisiana. We can thank some of the best food in the world to this expulsion. Twenty years later saw America in its’ war for independence and the very first ally of our fledgling country was France. They landed goods and troops to support the American Revolution. At the battle of Yorktown, a major battle and pivotal point in the war the French attacked with the Americans. The French lost two hundred and fifty percent more troops than America in that battle. Ironically, the support of the Americans caused such a financial strain on France coupled with the American freedoms witnessed by the French led to the French revolution.
Over the last couple of days this came into focus to me. Paris was attacked by three Islamic Terrorist with the effect of locking down a major European capital. Many thousands of police and military resources were diverted to finding these gunmen and guaranteeing the safety of the citizens in and around Paris. They accomplished their mission and three terrorist have been sent to meet their maker.
On the Sunday following the successful elimination of the immediate terrorist threat in Paris, a rally was held to show solidarity against terrorism. This rally displayed that the Paris attacks did more to unify a world than any international negotiations had accomplished in the past. Never in my wildest dreams would have I thought that I would see the Islamic leader and Catholic Bishop from Paris enter a synagogue as a show of solidarity as the Prime Minister of Israel addressed the congregation. Dumbfounded is the only word to describe the leader of Hamas, a terrorist organization in Palestine, coming out to condemn the attacks in Paris. Fifty heads of state from around the world joined over one and half million citizens in the middle of Paris to show worldwide solidarity for the French, supporting the world wide war against terror and paying tribute to the French people. I’m sure Al Qaida and ISIS did not expect this reaction and they will surely pay the price for this mis-step. The war is truly being waged and the battle lines are drawn.
The quiet that came from our own capital had a deafening roar. While the majority of public comments from other world leaders will be very low key when it comes to condemning America for its’ lack of public support, the snub is surely being felt. Once again we have stumbled in our International affairs. Perception is very important and even though we will be backing France, the appearance of America is once again being viewed as a non-committal and non-caring country. Now who is being viewed as arrogant?
There are also comments questioning why the French did not have a better handle on these terrorists. We don’t need to be second guessing the French in any way. What happened to our own ability to track terrorist when it came to 9/11 or the Boston Bombing? Instead of criticizing France lets rejoice in their ability to neutralize a difficult enemy.
Going forward I have found a new found respect for the French and it is now added to my bucket list of places to visit. Viva La France.

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