Anne Applebaum: The French & British Go to War Again





[Anne Applebaum is a weekly columnist for The Post, writing on foreign affairs.]

‘Freedom fries,’ served instead of French fries back in 2003, are no longer on the menu in Washington DC. French wine, out of fashion after Jacques Chirac refused to join our ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq, is no longer shunned. Au contraire. In one Washington restaurant last Saturday night, someone at my table raised a toast to the new leaders of the free world: ‘Vive la France!’ What else could we do? Our president was on his way to Brazil. Over in Old Europe, the President of France and his new best friend, the British Prime Minister, had just put themselves in charge of a new ‘coalition of the willing’ in Libya.

As I write, the ultimate goals and even the composition of this brand-new, ad hoc international grouping are still unclear. But the circumstances it reflects are perfectly clear. The United States of America is still prepared to join the rest of what we used to call ‘the West’ in policing the world, especially where the aims are entirely ‘humanitarian’ and no one will be sending ground troops. We’ll even lend you our logistics, communications and satellite data which are, quite frankly, a lot better than yours. But we aren’t in charge, at least in public. And we aren’t going to stick around very long either, and I hope you know it.

Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, this ambivalence does not simply reflect the nature of our current president. For all I know, Barack Obama may very well be indecisive, pathologically pacifist and uncomfortable with American power. He might even subconsciously harbour anti-imperialist and anti-British sentiments, inherited from the Kenyan father he scarcely knew, as some bloggers (who obviously know him better than the rest of us) have declared. But if that is the case, then maybe a lot of Americans have Kenyan fathers they scarcely knew as well...



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