Le Rapprochement: An American in Paris

Le Rapprochement: An American in Paris
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Le Rapprochement: An American in Paris

The rapprochement between the two capitals exists despite, both countries’ Presidents viewed as an odd couple.

By Abddennour Toumi

head shotLatent differences between two great nations often emerge and become problematic for the relationship. Did there really exist an anti-French sentiment as expressed by the American media, certain politicians, the W. Bush administration’s foreign policy ideologues in 2003, and President Trump (then-candidate Trump) in 2015-16?  

The answer is more complicated than one might think. The American media went overboard in their commentaries on the subject. It ignored the substantial matter of whether the then-French government’s disagreement with the U.S. before and during the Iraq war was in fact a major philosophical disagreement.

At that time the Bush administration dismissed Europe or expected it to be fully in agreement with the administration’s point-of-view. The surprise for some and the unforgivable disappointment for others at high levels of the W. Bush administration was that the French didn’t see it “their way.” Some of them saw the French as a foe, putting them on the same level as the Saudis after the tragedy of 9/11. Richard Pearl and David Brum, in their book The End of Evil, included a chapter on the topic of “why France and Saudi Arabia have to be treated as adversaries.”

Eiffel Tower street view. Courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

Eiffel Tower street view. Courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

In addition, and to better understand this relationship, Americans cling to that old cliché of seeing the French people as beret-wearing cheese-eaters, highly qualified as restaurateurs and perfume designers, a cliché the American First Lady wouldn’t shy away from! Worse, they are scorned by some as being easy on their enemies and tough with their allies.

President Trump will be sitting next to President Macron in the July 14th (Bastille Day) military parade at Champs Élysées Avenue, this visit of President Trump to France coincides with the 100 anniversary of WWI’s end.

Thus, the difference in geo-political approaches has been evident for the several decades, ever since Israel’s invasion of south Lebanon in 1982 sparked a disagreement between the Mitterrand government and the U.S. over the decision to send Marines in 1983. That disagreement continued over the U.S. raid against Ma’amar al-Gadhafi at his desert khayma (tent) in 1986.

The Arab Daily News

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France is not anti-American in any reactionary manner, in spite of French opposition to military action in Iraq. Rather, they have always been a principal ally of the U.S. They were shoulder-to-shoulder in Gulf War ll of February, 1991, in the Balkan conflict of Bosnia, 1993, in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 against the Talban regime and al-Qae’eda bases there, and currently in Iraq, Syria and the Sahel are fighting ISO elements.  

Paris view. Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

Paris view. Photo courtesy of Abdennour Toumi

There is an umbalance between how Americans view the French and vice-versa. The anti-French sentiment became fashionable in the U.S. with some American restaurants changing the names of dishes from French into English. For instance, instead of “filet mignon,” did they not think about a “cute filet?” Then there was the restaurateur in North Carolina, who got that idea to change French fries into Freedom fries — by the way, his hometown is Beaufort, NC!

Perhaps it may surprise Americans to know that French people hold no anti-American sentiment per se. The Americans may see this as a “clash of culture” or thoughts, but actually it is a “clash of personalities” between the leaders of both countries. Then-President Chirac thought he had an historical, political opportunity to realize what he always dreamt about: achieving the Gaulist ideal and reviving his political spirit.

President Trump is measuring his Syria strategy, which fits with then-candidate in 2016, who campaigned for uni-lateralism and islolism: “America First” and upsetting America’s European allies.

It seems he has found a best European friend in President Macron, as President W. Bush found a friend in Tony Blair in 2003. Ironically, in 2017 the world is getting an apolitical and unpredictable business man as President, and an intellectual and prudent pro-business President: at this point, this couple is still in a observatory stage.

Last monther, when President Trump decided to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, immediately President Emmanuel Macron answered in English showing his disappointment: “Make our planet great again.”

The rapprochement between the two capitals exists despite, both countries’ Presidents viewed as an odd couple. One is pragmatic, the other idealist, the latter however, seems to get it — they need each other to fight the major national security question that they face. The ghost of ISO is still haunting both nations’ national security and interest in the region; though this week defeat of ISO in Mosul, has boosted the morale of the Kurdish fighters and the Western military coalition commanders in Raq’qa.

Hence the ISO and the so-called “war on terror” equation are offering a new geo-political approach in the two countries’ MENA foreign policy that both lost a great deal in terms of prestige and credibility in recent years. The dispute that arose publicly during the Iraq war in 2003 is history now.

Paris is a safer place [at least for the U.S. President], and  people don’t need to be armed to defend themselves from terrorists… First Lady had a magnificent tour visit of the city and its land marks like Notre-Dame with Mrs. Macron. President Trump with his host had a splendid table dinner at ‘Jules Verne’ Restaurant in the Eiffel Tour, a breath taking view of the city.

The bottom line is the sentiment of the Land of Opportunity vis-à-vis the Land of Liberté-Égalité-Fraternité. A deep cultural complexity exists between these two nations — from the land of George Washington, a cultural inferiority complex, and from the land of Lafayette, a military and economic inferiority complex.

President Macron needs the symbolic and diplomatic support of President Trump, as the latter needs the endorsement of the former for a domestic political boost on the eve of the turbulent political scandal that awaits him. After all, the Sicily meeting handshake between the two new “buddies” may have felt like a Laughing Cow Cheese toast snack.

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Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi:
- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- www.bareed-areej.com Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.

EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.
Abdennour Toumi
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