Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This Day in the History of French Resistance
Labels: WWII history; European theater
Had the French not fought so earnestly on behalf of their German allies (at Mers el Kebir and during Torch) and had the French not been so diligent in their aid to the "Final Solution", I'd be more willing to credit them with the actions of a few (very few) members of the Resistance. As it is, I'm afraid that the graveyards in Poland and Germany and Morocco and Algeria filled with men killed by the French offer too much of a counterargument.
The French aren't bad allies, but that's because they aren't allies at all.
"The French fleet was not prepared for battle and was anchored in a narrow harbour. The main armament of the Dunkerque and Strasbourg was grouped on their bows and could not immediately be brought to bear."
"The French eventually replied but ineffectively."
"After some thirty salvos, the French ships stopped firing. Meanwhile, the British force altered their course to avoid fire from the French coastal forts."
"That night, French bombers carried out a retaliatory raid against the British fleet at Gibraltar to no great effect."
As at the Battle of the Nile, the French fleet was caught at anchor and unready for a fight. They didn't put up much of a fight (I'm shocked, shocked), but they did what little they could to kill British sailors.
Also, the French resistance was a pretty important factor in the Normandy Campaign. Many French citizens collaborated with the occupation, but I would be willing to bet that under the threat of death or torture that Americans would comply with the Nazis if we were in their shoes.
I know that the French did not support our "War of Iraqi Liberation" (based on the correct observation that the Iraqis did not have weapons of mass destruction), but the French have been fighting and winning a lot of wars for a hell of a long time.
30-Years War - France begins the war as an ally of Spain and the Catholic German states. When it became apparent that there was advantage to be gained by switching sides, the French allied with the Protestants against their erstwhile allies.
Franco-Dutch War - Previous alliance with France was no protection when the French decided to take Dutch territory.
War of the Grand Alliance & War of the Spanish Succession - As should be expected, this was about opportunism. France tried again to grab Dutch territory and seated a Bourbon on the Spanish throne.
War of the Austrian Succession - France signed the Pragmatic Sanction, guaranteeing Austrian territorial integrity upon the death of Charles VI. Within two years, France had attacked Austria in an opportunistic attempt to grab territory.
7-Years War - The War of the Austrian Succession ended in 1748. By 1756, France had abandoned its previous alliance with Prussia, and allied with Austria to fight Prussia.
Revolutionary War/AWI - Studiedly neutral at the start (aid to the incipient US was illegal), the French saw the opportunity to discomfit their old enemy (England) and entered the war on the side of the US. By the end of the war, the French tried very hard to betray the US during the peace negotiations. (As a result, though fighting ended in 1781, the peace treaty wasn't signed until 1783.)
Quasi War - Though France had been a defacto ally of the US during much of the AWI, and though the US had been an ally of France during the French Revolution, by 1798, the French had begun capturing US merchant ships, which led to a two-year naval war between the two countries.
Napoleonic Wars - France vs. all of Europe (most of which had been allied with France at some point) except Spain. France (of course) betrayed Spain in the middle of the wars. (So much for the Bourbons.)
Franco-Prussian War - Characterized by extensive French incompetence, I don't actually know of any active French betrayals in this war. The lack of allies for France would have, of course, made betrayal difficult.
WWI - It's not clear which side had the moral advantage in this war, though of course the allies were the first to break the treaty on the use of poison gas. (The Germans were the first to use poison gas, but they used it within the treaty constraints.) The peace treaty, of course, was a disaster, and that disaster can be laid directly at the feet of France.
WWII - Previously discussed (at tedious length).
Cold War - France, being protected by default by other NATO forces, repudiated their military participation in the NATO treaty. Why bother to contribute when you can get someone else to defend your country without actually helping them? (And let's not even discuss Viet Nam.)
GWoT - Discussed at tedious length. Direct French abrogation of NATO treaty obligations has been rampant. (Oh, and the French believed that the Iraqis had WMD programs, just like the rest of the west. Their decision was based on short-term advantage, not superior intelligence.)
French faithlessness has not by any means been unique to the US/French relationship.
Note further that they did not expect such protections, nor did their allies expect them to be afforded such protections.