When Did France Become So Bellicose?

Have the cheese-eating surrender monkeys transformed into carnivorous attack chimpanzees?

  • Share
  • Read Later
REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French President Francois Hollande adjusts his tie as he attends the traditional New Year ceremony which reopens France's highest court (Cour de Cassation) in Paris January 18, 2013.

Ten years ago, as America prepared for war with Iraq, few countries protested more noisily about George W. Bush’s war plan than France. Paris opposed an American effort to win United Nations approval for an invasion of Iraq and generally denounced U.S. aggression on the world stage. The backlash in Washington was so strong (and juvenile) that, in what may have been the zenith of pre-war conservative hubris, Republicans renamed the House cafeteria’s french fries as “freedom fries.” (Before typing that sentence I had to double-check that such a preposterous thing was not some apocryphal joke but actually happened.) France’s refusal to join George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” popularized, especially on the right, the anti-French label of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years later, France is leading the west into an extremely dangerous confrontation with Islamists in northern Africa. Earlier this week the French launched airstrikes against Islamist rebels who were threatening to take over the country, putting a western face on an effort that the Obama administration had been mounting as quietly as possibly, copiously relying on indigenous forces with admittedly poor results. An almost immediate result was the terrorist attack on western oil workers in neighboring Algeria, leading to a chaotic hostage situation in which, thanks to a trigger-happy Algerian government, a dozen hostages are dead. Has this tragedy–precisely the sort of thing that the Obama team feared might come from a direct intervention in Mali–led Paris to second-guess its Mali intervention? To the contrary, French president Francois Hollande–a Socialist, no less!–says the episode proves him right.

Now the U.S. is pledging to provide support, albeit of a limited,  logistical nature, to France’s Mali operation, which is already looking more complicated than first expected. And while a major escalation of the conflict there seems unlikely, it’s also likely that, once engaged, the west is always determined to avoid the appearance of defeat or retreat.

This isn’t even the first time that France has dragged Obama into conflict. As civil war raged in Libya two years ago, it was not Washington but Paris which pushed hardest for a NATO intervention to topple Muammar Gaddafi. Indeed, there’s a good case that Obama might not have allowed military action but for the agitation of the swashbuckling French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Does this mean that the cheese-eating surrender monkeys have somehow transformed into carnivorous attack chimpanzees? Not exactly. There are some specific causes for France’s interventions, including its historic colonial ties to Africa. But times certainly have changed. Finally, it’s once again safe for conservative hawks to be seen eating french fries.

22 comments
jerry48
jerry48

here is one of the reasons why, in the US, haters started to call us French cheese eating surrender monkeys : " the French denying the United States overflight rights in their airspace under the 1986 bombing of Libya "

YES we didn't want airplanes over the country fearing that one might crash ( AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED !) First : the Press forgot to mention that SPAIN and PORTUGAL also denied overflight rights ! Second : the Press forgot to mention that the french air force bombed and destroyed a lybian air base in southern Lybia  ONE WEEK BEFORE the US air force raid ! I was in the STATES at the time and : NOT A SINGLE WORD ABOUT IT ON TV,  RADIO and newspapers !  Great Job! by the way have they found those weapons of mass destruction yet ???

concerning the french bashing : " Frankly my Dear we don't give a damn ! "  " L'insulte est l'arme des faibles " ! LOL ! HAVE A NICE DAY YOU ALL !

jerry48
jerry48

great job TIME ! not a word about slavery : " Slavery in Mali has persisted for centuries. The Arab-Berber population kept black slaves well into the 20th century, until slavery was repressed by the French authorities around the mid 20th century, and there still persist certain hereditary servitude relationships and according to some estimates, even today approximately 200,000 Malians are still enslaved. As a result, there remain racial tensions between the "black" (sub-Saharan) and "white" (Arab-Berber) groups, especially between the Songhai and the Tuareg. "

Candid
Candid

“Does this mean that the cheese-eating surrender monkeys have somehow transformed into carnivorous attack chimpanzees? “

Always MONKEYS however !!! Anyone daring to compare JEWS or BLACK PEOPLE with MONKEYS, would immediately be denounced by everybody as the worst of nasty racist ! How long do FRENCH PEOPLE will still have to endure this shameful treatment ? by Allied ?

notsacredh
notsacredh

Surrender you monkey-spanking cheese eaters! Wait...something seems wrong here.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Coalition of the willing in Iraq? Seriously? I guess that puts just about everyone in the world except the US and the Blackwater mercenaries squarely in the "cheese-eating surrender monkey" camp. And also in good company: the not stupid.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Number_of_foreign_troops_in_Irak_in_2006.png

roknsteve
roknsteve

The only "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" that I know of are chicken-hawk republicans who have never been in the military.   

Al77
Al77

- the support of all the surrounding African nations, as well as the Tuareg rebels, that stated that they were ready to help France fight the Islamist extremists.

- the fact that these groups, through their various activities, actively finance Al-Qaeda, which they are part of. They are in fact one of its more active branch.

- the danger of the return of terrorism in France.

- the difficult financial situation France is in and the fact that it went ahead with a conflict that could turn out to be costly, when its interests were to avoid any additional increase in its budget, without having financial gains in return.

- the example of democracy that the Republic of Mali had become.

- the policy of France to stop helping governments in power just because they are friendly to France. A few weeks before, France refused to help militarily the government of the Central African Republic, with its internal problems.

Citing "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" might add some sexiness to the article, but it will not help understanding the facts.

Al77
Al77

It's puzzling to try to understand why Time would authorize a piece that would compare conflicts, that are not comparable, is so weak in relating relevant facts and does not focus on the main issues.

- the resolution of the UN last October http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sc10789.doc.htm

- the defense treaty between the Republic of Mali and France, requiring an intervention of France if Mali was attacked.

- the fact the various Islamic extremist groups had formed a coalition and had started to march toward the capital, to take control of the country, which would just have been a step before invading neighboring countries.

notsacredh
notsacredh

"Does this mean that the cheese-eating surrender monkeys have somehow transformed into carnivorous attack chimpanzees?

Cheese-eating surrender monkeys? Please God, don't let me give in to my baser instincts and go off into places where flights of fancy might turn into crude adjective laden descriptions.

MrObvious
MrObvious

If you look at France actions in Africa and especially in their former colonies this shouldn't come as a surprise. They just don't make warfare into entertainment.

newsy97
newsy97

Good golly Mr. Crowley, do you think that the leaders of the Western world have not read the tea leaves, and by now, understand the menace of the spread of Islmofacism? One after another, in their own way, each major power will have their own confrontations with the swords of Allah.


fitty_three
fitty_three

That's what happens when one lets the GOP control the narrative.

I don't remember Dems or their spokesmen and -women saying that.

After all, they were our allies in the Revolutionary War.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@Al77  

Yup.  That last part is a bit of Neocon nonsense that somehow got translated from fantasy to reality.

anon76
anon76

@sacredh

"Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" was coined by Groundskeeper Willie.  He wants his royalties.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Do you remember back when we were young and the little head ruled the big head? You'd see a beautiful woman (or maybe even just one that wasn't hideous) and all of a sudden you'd be prepared to sign over your paycheck and do any disgusting thing imagineable if she'd only consent to spend the evening with you? Well OK, the disgusting things were usually my idea and kind of a bucket list, but that's kind of how I felt when I saw "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys". I was smitten. I was transported to that magical place where words have substance and dreams become reality. Or else it was the vicodin I took for my knee. I'm not sure. Regardless, it was a good line.

notsacredh
notsacredh

roknsteve, I was just the opposite. Nothing embarrassed me. I was amused by almost everything. I'm embarrassed now by how I used to be. I've tried to track down and destroy almost all of the pictures from the old days. Remember the Abbey Road cover? Stretch Lennon out, darken his hair to almost black and lengthen it by about a foot. That's what I looked like. The horror

roknsteve
roknsteve

@sacredh I used to be very embarrassed when I was 16 and the "swell head" was on red alert and it was time to get off the bus.  Now I'm just grateful when the 2 heads have a mind meld and a happy ending.  

notsacredh
notsacredh

fitty, when I was young I was the most irresponsible, hedonistic party animal you could imagine. So were most of the people I ran with. Every single night was a party.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@sacredh 

It was a tough time too when things didn't work out.  That's what the cold showers were for because sometimes the little head would ignore the big head and keep on swelling. 

 And back in those days we didn't have to call the doctor after four hours.