Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends: The United States and France since 1940

Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends: The United States and France since 1940

Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends: The United States and France since 1940

Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends: The United States and France since 1940

Synopsis

Offering a revisionist-style look at the French-American relationship, Charles G. Cogan presents a series of case studies dating from the "great misunderstanding" between the Roosevelt administration and the Free French movement in World War II to the formation of the Euro-Corps in the early 1990s. In struggling to regain France's leading position in Europe, the French leadership under Charles de Gaulle sought on the one hand an independent nuclear force, and, on the other, a strengthening of Europe with a Franco-German alliance at its core. Both of these policies provoked friction with the United States; both will now have to be revised, the author asserts, after the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a powerful, reunited Germany. The overall prospect, however, is that of continuing differences between France and the United States, as the antagonisms of the past, which date primarily from the World War II era, will not easily die out. Written by a former senior intelligence officer with a background of extensive French government and academic relationships, Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends will be invaluable to all students of contemporary European history and U.S. foreign relations.

Excerpt

Charles Cogan's well-informed, beautifully researched, and elegantly written account of a number of contests between France and the United States has two great merits. The first is that he emphasizes what lies behind many of these clashes: the confrontation of two universalisms, of two remarkably similar convictions that the values one's nation stands for are universal values; and the belief that there can therefore be no difference between the pursuit of the national interest and the quest of what is good for all. As Cogan points out, in the United States that belief dates to the American Revolution, that is, to the birth of the United States. In France, this belief begins with the French Revolution-- late in France's long life--but it had, so to speak, been incubated throughout the eighteenth century by the various philosophes of the Enlightenment; in the nineteenth century French historians, especially Jules Michelet, often interpreted earlier French history as if it all had been meant to culminate in French universalism. The trouble lies, of course, in the difficulty that each of these universalisms has in accepting and acknowledging the other one. The United States, long a negligible player in the field of international relations, behaved, when it became a major actor, as if its benevolence and moral superiority were beyond doubt and challenge, and as if all other players were too selfish, small, or evil to be on the same ethical level with the United States. The French, while acknowledging the similarity of goals of the two revolutions and of their respective proclamations of human rights, have often suspected American behavior in world affairs of self-serving hypocrisy. They have sharply distinguished between universal values common to the two nations, on the one hand, and on the other, a cultural and political way of life that they accuse the Americans of wanting to spread universally and that contains many aspects that the French dislike.

Behind many of the misunderstandings and collisions Cogan analyzes, we . . .

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