News from Paris

February 19, 2002


"River Metro" Project (3/1)

Duplicitous Ticket Booths at the Eiffel Tower (2/28)

The Slang of the Suburbs (2/25)

"France Is Not Anti-Semitic" (2/24)

What Is Your Favorite Meal? (2/23)

Diana's Fans Are Deprived of Their Flame (2/21)

The Champs-Elysées Are No Longer A Paradise For Cinemas (2/18)

How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day? (2/14)
Franco-American Squabbles

Paris and Washington are again squabbling. France does not appreciate the unilateral warrior rhetoric of the United States, whose foreign policy is henceforth uniquely focused on the fight against terrorism. "Simplistic and black-and-white" criticized Hubert Védrine, when describing the "Axis of Evil" theory of George Bush (targeting Iraq, Iran and North Korea). "Mr. Védrine is full of hot air," retorted an irritated Colin Powell, the American secretary of state. A rejoinder judged "interesting" yesterday by president Bush, who has it repeated in his report.

At the same time, the statement of the French diplomatic chief has yielded from the Washington ambassador to France an "invitation" last weekend to explain himself to the State department. François Bujon de l'Estang defended the summons, however: "It was a prearranged conference," he assured, "in the course of which Mr. Védrine's talk was effectively first."

The Hawks of the Pentagon

In fact, the differences between France and the United States are the usual ones. Washington doesn't understand how a little European country can be permitted to give lessons to the leader of the free world. Paris, on the other hand, doesn't sit well with the idea that its overly powerful ally can ignore the advice of the Europeans.

At the origin of the dispute are the declarations of Colin Powell, who was deemed moderate even in the heart of the Bush administration. He let it be understood that an attack against Bagdad was envisaged. His words were interpreted by the European capitals as proof of the alignment of Colin Powell with the war hawks of the Pentagon. Paris considers, in effect, that the battle against terrorism cannot be reduced to an armed action and that France cannot watch these proceedings without becoming concerned.

This time, France is not alone in raising its voice. Joska Fisher, German minister of foreign affairs and, more surprising, Britain's Chris Patten, European commisioner in charge of external relations share the opinion of the Quai d'Orsay. And they have not missed the chance to say it. Washington holds back from responding to the Europeans, preferring to point a finger at what is made out to be the usual French contrariness, and the press follows in step. A day doesn't go by that the "New York Post" doesn't discredit "those patronizing French who, in addition, cheat at the Olympic games." A Democratic representative observes the squabbles, amused: "Numerous Americans think like the Europeans, but, for the moment, it would be suicide to criticize George Bush, who is still very popular."

Original article by Laure Watrin

Translated by David Sadegh