July 8, 2004
Declare warBy Thomas Lifson
The failure of the Bush Administration to seek a Declaration of War following the 9/11 attack is once again causing problems, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court rulings on the rights of detainees. The lack of an official war status has had other serious consequences, hampering diplomacy, and encouraging politicians and the public to lose sight of the serious peril with which we are confronted.
That's why I urge President Bush to seek a Declaration of War.
War with France has many benefits and a relatively small downside. First, the benefits.
Much has been made of the failure of the United States to secure French participation in the Coalition forces in Iraq. Even though dozens of other nations have joined with America's cause in Iraq, and British, Polish, Italian, and Japanese forces, among others, serve with the Coalition in Iraq, the lack of French participation has led Senator Kerry and many others to brand our occupation as 'unilateral.'
Following France's surrender and the installation of an occupation authority, and eventually our puppet government, we can expect French volunteers to apply for service with American forces, in their own French—speaking brigades. A properly located recruiting office, good pay, and access to first class American military equipment should be more than adequate to attract substantial numbers of French soldiers to serve under American command.
It worked that way for the Nazis, after all. When a recruiting office was set up in 1943, at 24 avenue du Recteur Poincare in Paris, some 1,500 Frenchmen, many of them university students, showed up to volunteer to fight for the Germans. The 8.Freiwilligen Sturmbrigade Frankreich (8th French Free Will Storm Brigade) of the SS earned its place in France's military history. The Sturmbridage Frankreich trained with the SS, served alongside other German SS units, and fought on the dreaded eastern front, where casualties were heavy.
We can expect that French would be no less servile and anxious to gain favor with their new conqueror. So, the President would finally have achieved the multilateral coalition so fervently desired by his opponents.
For decades now, France has been chafing at American military, economic, and cultural dominance of the world, and has schemed to frustrate American initiatives in many spheres of activity. Charles Krauthammer, the eminent commentator, sees France emerging as an active foe ('the champion of Arab aspirations against American imperialism') of America's policy to bring democracy and freedom to the Arab world. Conquest would go a long way toward alleviating such irritations for the French, and ease America's way in getting the United Nations Security Council to be more supportive of our diplomatic goals. Without a French veto, and lacking the elaborate backroom scheming and deal—making, our opposition would be far weaker.
Halting the time—honored French practice of giving and receiving bribes would also serve to advance the goal of cleaning house in the world's multilateral institutions, especially the UN. Give Paul Volcker access to the French government archives, and his task of getting to the bottom of the UN Oil for Food Program scandal would surely be vastly simplified and speeded—up.
But what of the costs and risks? A legitimate question.
Following our Declaration of War, if surrender were not immediate, the conflict would surely be very small in scale, brief, and mild. Since the French are renowned for surrendering rather than risking actual damage to Paris or elsewhere, little or no physical destruction and few if any combat casualties would be involved on either side. The strain on overstretched military assets would also be minimal. If the Rhode Island National Guard is not on training maneuvers at the time, it should suffice.
To be sure, in past decades, under President Charles de Gaulle, France took great pride in its force de frappe, an independent French nuclear arms capability. France blew up South Pacific atolls and even had its frogmen sink The Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace anti—nuclear protest vessel, when it was docked in New Zealand. But France's ability to project its power overseas has diminished considerably since then.
Take, for example, France's sole aircraft carrier, the nuclear—powered Charles de Gaulle, named after the leader who ordered American troops off of French soil. According to the assessment of Strategypage.com, it would not seem to represent much of a threat. Well, at least to us, if not to its own crew:
The new French nuclear carrier "Charles de Gaulle" has suffered from a seemingly endless string of problems since it was first conceived in 1986. The 40,000 ton ship has cost over four billion dollars so far and is slower than the steam powered carrier it replaced. Flaws in the "de Gaulle" have led it to using the propellers from its predecessor, the "Foch," because the ones built for "de Gaulle" never worked right and the propeller manufacturer went out of business in 1999. Worse, the nuclear reactor installation was done poorly, exposing the engine crew to five times the allowable annual dose of radiation. There were also problems with the design of the deck, making it impossible to operate the E—2 radar aircraft that are essential to defending the ship and controlling offensive operations. Many other key components of the ship did not work correctly, including several key electronic systems. The carrier has been under constant repair and modification. The "de Gaulle" took eleven years to build (1988—99) and was not ready for service until late 2000. It's been downhill ever since. The de Gaulle is undergoing still more repairs and modifications. The government is being sued for exposing crew members to dangerous levels of radiation.
While protesting the American 'unilateral' invasion of Iraq, France sent its own troops to its former colony of The Ivory Coast in Africa, with nary an advance word to the UN Security Council. After encountering a less—than—enthusiastic reception, the troops were eventually withdrawn, having accomplished almost nothing. No quagmire there. You can't get stuck if you run away.
The only real downside I can imagine is that the French, watching events in Iraq, might very well demand massive foreign aid from us, to repair the damage to their infrastructure resulting from years of corruption and misrule. Watching American engineers rebuilding Baghdad International Airport, one can imagine that Charles de Gaulle (that name again!) Airport officials, repairing their collapsed terminal roof, might be envious of the Iraqis, who have access to the likes of Bechtel and Halliburton in errecting buildings that won't fall down.