French Anti-Americanism Today
The underlying cause of these opposite reflexes is the antagonism of two civilizations. The one--ours--is the daughter of pagan antiquity; the other the daughter of the Reformation. The one descended from Greece and Rome; the other from the Bible. We French represent two traditions, the ancient and the Catholic, which Protestant Anglo-Saxons must distrust.
-- André Tardieu, 1927
Two decades separate the appearance of Siegfried Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui from the publication of Simone de Beauvoir L'Amérique au jour le jour. We are farther removed in time from her work, therefore, than she was from Siegfried's. Have the events of these three decades served to undermine the conception shared by Siegfried and Simone de Beauvoir of a traditionalist France falling prey to the power of a modernizing America? This durable conception of opposition survived the New Deal and the collaboration of Americans and Europeans during World War II. Is it still a useful device, and does it imply the necessity of French resistance to America?
The events following World War II have done much to change the conditions which encouraged the articulation of the antithesis by French critics after World War I. The failure of the United States to collaborate with France in the 1920s was an important reason for the acceptance of the idea of opposition. If many Frenchmen agreed that the appearance of American soldiers in Europe during World War II was only an aberration, the Marshall Plan and NATO constituted evidence that the Atlantic Ocean was not an unbridgeable gap.