Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. Show all posts

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Making The World Safe For Democracy - 1917 To 2000

In August, 1914, Europe erupted in warfare  For nearly three years, President Woodrow Wilson kept the United States out of the war, even in the face of actions that could have justified US entry.

American lives were lost on the high seas when German submarines sank the British civilian passenger ship Lusitania without warning and without stopping the ship and boarding it to determine if the cargo included contraband or offering passengers the opportunity to escape in life boats. These were well understood measures in maritime law intended to protect civilian life. To sink the ship without warning violated international law and custom.

Germany justified its actions because, since the last maritime war in the early 19th century, Marconi's invention of the radio made the traditional procedures too hazardous for warships to follow. The United States protested and Germany relented to a certain extent.

But Germany was becoming desperate. Enough so that they sent a telegram to Mexico offering to return territory taken by the US in 1846 to Mexico if they would join the war if the United States entered on the British side. That Zimmerman telegram alone could have been enough to justify US entry. But Wilson held off.

Then, in January 1917 a desperate Germany renewed unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking merchant ships on the high seas without warning no matter what flag they were flying. The goal was to starve England and France to the negotiating table. They expected this would cause the United States to enter the war, but expected they could defeat the allies before the US could recruit, train, equip and transfer to Europe a force sufficient to tip the balance against them.

It was a bad bet.

Last week PBS broadcast a three episode series showing the US entry into World War I: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/great-war/

If you missed the series, I recommend you seek it out and watch it.

Consequences of that decision produced powerful effects whose ripples are with us to the present time.


Friday, November 20, 2015

We'll Always Have Paris

From our village in southern Belgium to downtown Paris was about a three hour drive. About the same as from Oriental to Raleigh.

Two decades later, we lived in Paris and my office was in the Marais (third arrondisement). It was a  ten minute walk to Boulevard Beamarchais for lunch near some of last Friday's shootings.

It was pleasant to stroll around the streets, sharing Paris with a diverse populace of Parisians and visitors.

I take exception to the MSNBC reporter recently describing the events of last Friday 13th as having "devastated Paris."

Paris is not devastated.

Parisians are back at their outdoor cafes. They gather at Place de la Republique and hug each other. They lay flowers as a memorial to victims. Life goes on much as before.

Vive le France!

Yet we must not forget that the terrorists who attacked Paris were themselves French men and Belgians. Not Syrians. Not refugees.

The France that was so welcoming to African Americans like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin has not been so welcoming to Algerians and Moroccans. I have seen it with my own eyes.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vive La France

For the past couple of hours I have watched hordes of French citizens - Christians, Moslems and Jews, marching from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nacion, demonstrating national solidarity. It was a grand spectacle, more than a million, perhaps two million, demonstrators showing the best and most inspiring face of France.

Vladimir Lenin once observed, "it is the role of terrorists to terrorize!" If it was the purpose of the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the slaughter of journalists and cartoonists to terrorize France, they utterly failed.

The French president did not hide in a bunker waiting for the dust to settle. Neither did the French people.

Last Thursday, while the killers were still at large, the French public held their first rallies, displaying signs proclaiming "I am Charlie Hebdo."

Some random thoughts and observations:

1. One French journalist was amazed that, not even when France won the World Cup in 1998 were there such large demonstrations in Paris. I was more amazed to consider that the demonstration was more massive than those celebrating the liberation of Paris in 1944. I suppose it is a generational thing;

2. A TV reporter asked a French rabbi about Benjamin Netanyahu's invitation for French jews to emigrate to Israel. "We are jews, he replied,"but we are French. We live here. We will stay here. Today we have marched together with French Christians and French Muslims, marched for Liberty and for Unity. This is our country."

3. A handful of disgruntled terrorists, no matter how thorough their planning, can't intimidate a country that refuses to be intimidated. They can't take away the liberties of a people who refuse to give them up.

Vive la France!