Ever since France declined to join George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” back in 2003, the home of European democracy, fine wines, and the Maginot Line has been derided by self educated dudebro experts as a weak and simpering nation full of quitters and losers. Above, you can see the kind of manic silliness this “you’re either with us or against us” rhetoric resulted in. Freedom fries, cheese-eating surrender monkeys (first coined as a joke in 1995 on the Simpsons), and chain emails stating that France had basically lost every war it had fought in, all these things were rampant during the mid-2000s and many a ‘Murica’ lover was happy to take part in the international insult.
Of course, none of the above was true. France’s current clout on the global stage belies their previous history of twice nearly taking over all of Europe under Napolean and being one of the greatest Naval and colonial powers the world had ever seen. France was the primary battlefield for World War 1’s Western Front and, of the Allies, France had the second highest death rate, losing 1.7 million of its citizens and accruing 4.2 million casualties, second only to Russia’s 3 million deaths. The ridiculous idea that the French won’t fight is an insult to history that only a person of supreme stupidity or ignorance would believe.
Post WW2, France’s sphere of influence waned considerably but it still remains extremely important in many of its former colonies, specifically in Algeria, Tunisia, and Mali. It was for this reason that France directly engaged in military operations in Libya, Algeria’s neighbor. What is somewhat surprising, however, is that France is now bombing the Islamic State in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government.
On Friday, French Rafale fighter jets bombed Islamic State fuel depots and munitions sites near the town of Zumar, Iraq, where Kurdish Forces have been engaged in a pitched battle with extremists. The Iraqi military reports that the attack also killed dozens of Islamic State fighters.
Speaking after the attack, French President Francois Hollande said:
“This morning, at 9.40am, our Rafale aircraft carried out a first attack against a logistics centre of the terrorist organisation Daesh [Isis] in the north-east of Iraq. The target was hit and entirely destroyed. Other operations will be carried out in the days to come.”
So France is gearing up to be a major U.S. ally in whatever strategy the West ends up adopting against the Islamic State, possibly as part of a larger strategy to combat Islamic extremism in both the Middle East and North Africa, where extremism is on the rise in both Libya and Mali, and as a way for France to shore up its sphere of influence in its former colonies.
France has deployed troops to both the Central African Republic of Congo and the nation of Mali over the last two years. The latter deployment was a wholesale assault with French troops fighting alongside African Union soldiers to push back Islamist insurgents who’d nearly taken over the country.
All told, the very leftist President of France, Francois Hollande, has been the most militarily aggressive leader of that nation in recent memory and, in that sense, he’s much like his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, so this seems like a national strategy the French intend to sustain rather than a one-off based on one particular leader. And like under Sarkozy, it appears that France is intent on sustaining military alliances with the United States where the two nations are perceived to have common interests.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Patrick Dempsey had the following to say after hearing of the French bombing.
“The French were our very first ally and they are there again for us,” Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Normandy. “It just reminds me why these relationships really matter.”
Freedom fries and surrender monkeys? Not so much, dudebros.