Gordon lectures on U.S.-France relations in light of Iraq events

Gordon began his speech with metaphor for Franco-American relations as a marriage headed for divorce. Gordon characterized the “ad-hoc cooperation” as a date.

In the 1930s France was, according to Gordon, the strongest nation on Earth. Mr. Gordon pointed out that in the first half of this century, Paris was the mecca of literature, fine arts and fashion. France’s colonies lay scattered across the globe and had the most powerful army in the world.

Mr. Gordon noted that “structural tensions” between France and the United States can be seen clearly beginning in the 1950s when France, seeking a global role, desperately sought American aid in maintaining its colonial rule of Indochina and Algeria. “France saw itself as holding onto these territories on behalf of the Western world,” said Gordon. “[France] was stung by American refusal to back its struggle.”

In the Suez Crisis, Gordon saw a mirror image of the recent war in Iraq. Here France, with Britain and Israel’s assistance, attacked Egypt but was foiled by American intervention. Whereas France could only threaten to hamper American plans for Iraq, America stopped French military activity dead in its tracks.

Gordon simplified the reason there is tension between the countries currently.

“The structural tension between the two nations can be boiled down to two points-France was a great power and America is a great power,” said Gordon.

According to Gordon, another cause of tension were countries’ differing methods used for responding to the same international crises.

Gordon believes the actual crisis over Iraq was exacerbated by dishonest discourse in both the United States and France. He attempted to deflate some of the myths created by the war. He emphasized that he did not think that France opposed the war because of French economic and energy interests in Iraq. Nor did he believe claims that France supported Saddam Hussein because he owed France billions of dollars.

Gordon denounced the idea that the French opposed America because of irrational anti-Americanism. Instead he said it was based on French and European ideas of world order under which a nation can not impose its will on other sovereign states at its pleasure.

The aftermath of the war was imagined very differently in the two countries as well. Whereas the American government seems to have taken it for granted that Iraq would be reconstructed as a stable democracy, French opinion opposed the war because they saw a post-war Iraq as an American-occupied den of anarchy and despair that would prove a ripe growing field for Islamic fundamentalism.

When America and France both went to the U.N. last September, they had very different agendas. America wanted the U.N. to facilitate a war on Iraq and France hoped to help avoid a war which they thought was unnecessary and possibly dangerous.

Furthermore, France wanted to maintain the U.N.’s role as an international arbiter, Gordon said. The two months that it took to create Resolution 1441 saw Franco-American relations come to a standstill. America no longer saw France as an ally, but rather as a fundamentally unfriendly nation.

Gordon pointed out that perhaps by not falling in line with the United States in the Security Council, France had weakened the U.N. more then anything else.

As of today, America has toppled a bloody tyrant in Iraq, said Gordon. But Iraq remains in a state of turmoil. Everything the French said would happen seems to be happening. Instead of reaching out together to rebuild Iraq, America seems to be ignoring France. And France seems to be setting the bar for re-establishment of close relations rather high.

Mr. Gordon summarized his speech by pointing out that one doesn’t necessarily “need allies, but must maintain diplomatic relations” in case a future mission necessitates the formation coalition.