Witnessing the melodramatic outpouring of Gallic histrionics at Australia’s surprise but masterstroke decision to ditch the overblown, over-budget and already over-time French submarine contract, in favour of making a pact with the two great Anglosphere powers, Britain and the United States is, frankly, galling.
To hear Emmanuel Macron, his government and his ambassadors talk of ‘France being stabbed in the back,’ ‘betrayal’ and ‘we cannot trust Australia and the United States’ would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious. It seems the French want to upend everything from the European Union, to Nato, even to an anniversary dinner to commemorate the navy of Louis XVI winning a decisive battle to ensure American independence, all because of Macron’s offended amour propre. On the ABC’s The Drum on Monday night, a supercilious Francophile academic with a Franglais Clouseau accent even went as far as to accuse Scott Morrison of ‘treason’ in reaffirming and throwing over the French submarine project for a better deal from the US and UK, cheered on by China-appeasing panellists.
But before you start feeling sorry for the Frogs, and take the ABC view of AUKUS as gospel, remind yourself not of perfidious Albion and Australia, but of la perfide France.
There are any number of examples from the last century of how the French elites put their self-interests ahead of those of their allies and partners. Here are salient examples of such conduct that directly affected Australia.
1940: The defeatist French cabinet capitulated to Germany after a six-week blitzkrieg, refusing to fight on with Britain despite Churchill’s offer of a formal union, and Britain sacrificing Tommies to rescue more than one hundred thousand poilus at Dunkirk. Instead of standing by her steadfast allies, Britain and the Old Commonwealth nations, France abandoned them, confident the Nazis would overwhelm Britain in a matter of months.
World War II: Vichy France under the quisling Maréchal Pétain and his slimy prime minister, Pierre Laval, became active collaborators with Hitler. Vichy French fought the Allies, including Australians, in North Africa, Lebanon and Syria, and Vichy’s Indo-Chinese colonies became jumping-off points for the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore in December 1941. And never forget the Velo d’Hiver and the Vichy regime’s rounding up of Jews and opponents of the Nazis who had fled to France before the occupation. Our own Nancy Wake helped lead the resistance to the evil done by the Nazis and their French collaborators in those dark Vichy days.
1958: De Gaulle spat in the faces of his Western allies and established his own nuclear Force de Frappe – strike force – because he wanted France to stand independently with her own nuclear capability. The concerns of the US, the UK or anyone else mattered not a jot to de Gaulle; it was his way or the highway.
1960s: De Gaulle (that man again!) showed his gratitude to France’s British saviours by continually saying non! to Britain joining what became the European Union. But, on second thoughts, hindsight says he was unintentionally doing the Poms a favour.
1966: De Gaulle took France out of Nato’s operational command because he resented and distrusted the United States. The withdrawal was done at very short notice, and threw the North Atlantic alliance into disarray at the height of the Cold War. Had the Soviets wanted, they could have walked into western Europe thanks to France’s betrayal of her allies. Looks suspiciously like a ‘stab in the back’, ne c’est pas?
1970s: France gave two fingers to Australia, New Zealand and the island nations of the South Pacific by conducting atmospheric nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll.
1982: In the Falklands war, brave British sailors died when French Exocet missile, fired from French aircraft, and sold to Argentina in full knowledge these might be used in such a campaign, sank HMS Sheffield and the transport Atlantic Conveyor, and severely damaged HMS Glamorgan.
1985: French security service agents bombed and sank Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour – brazenly and arrogantly violating the sovereignty of a notional ally, New Zealand and killing people on board. We do not have any respect for Greenpeace and its politics, but we know a cowardly and murderous sneak attack when we see it.
2003: Instead of supporting Western action in the Middle East post 9/11, France denounced the United States instead of Saddam Hussein. Thus it was that ‘freedom fries’ came on to the American menu.
So don’t merely look at the here and now; look at who’s complaining. France, stabbers in the back of allies since 1940. This mob of cheese-eating surrender monkeys have a long history of poor form, and they clearly don’t like it when the tables turn on them.
Pity them not.
Terry Barnes edits our daily newsletter, the Morning Double Shot. You can sign up for your Morning Double Shot of news and comment here.
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