Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times

By David Strauss | Go to book overview

chapter 14
The Defense of Europe

Europe will be punished for her policy; she will be deprived of wines, beer, and liqueurs. And other things. . . .

Europe clearly aspires to be governed by an American commission. Her whole policy is oriented toward that end.

-- Paul Valéry, 1919

"The trip to America taught me more about Europe than long years spent on our continent," remarked André Siegfried. "We become conscious of a reality which escapes us here: that there exists, a European spirit of which the American spirit is often the perfect antithesis."1 The discovery of a European spirit did not, of course, await André Siegfried's trip to the United States. In the early postwar period, as Valéry, Demangeon, and others reflected on the destruction of the war years and the rise of extra-European powers, they came to the realization that the nations which had so recently fought each other belonged to a common civilization. The bitter hatred of the postwar years, however, provided a poor climate in which to nourish the concept of a European consciousness. As Albert Thibaudet explained in 1925,

At the time of the Armistice, the words " Europe" and "European" had a bad connotation in France. Anyone who accepted them as political and moral rather than geographic expressions was suspected of a lukewarm feeling toward his country. The dilemma--France or Europe--was a difficult one.2

The preoccupation with the war and the belief that it was necessary to use force in dealing with Germany persisted until 1924. As late as

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