France: Much More Friend Than Foe

Maybe the U.S. should think twice about considering France an adversary in the war against Saddam Hussein and the remnants of his regime. Paris may be helping more than it hurts.

Among the beans that Baathist mouthpiece Tariq Aziz has been spilling lately is the news that French and Russian advisers told Saddam that he didn’t need to fear a rapid ground offensive from the U.S. Looks like he took the expert strategic opinion to heart, considering how quickly his crack troops got rolled.

Quite possibly, the U.S. should thank French government officials for advising their fraternal socialists in Baghdad not to worry. Because with advice like that, who needs disinformation?

One is left wondering how the NATO member could be such a poor student of U.S. military tactics and capabilities. Russia’s bad advice is equally perplexing. Perplexing, that is, until one reflects upon both countries’ rather rich legacy of military screw-ups.

It’s not the first time Paris has let Baghdad down. President Mitterrand supported the U.S. in the 1991 Gulf War. Afterwards, Saddam sent through an intermediary a stinging rebuke against French officials. He reminded the French government of the two countries’ longstanding socialist ties and warned that if France failed to protect him again, he would make public in France the lengthy list of shady benefits derived by French government officials doing business with Iraq.

We might never know whether Saddam was pleased with France’s advice this time. His acolytes are evidently getting some use out of the French missiles given to Saddam in violation of the U.N. embargo. But the “don’t worry, be happy” counsel reported by Aziz may be something of a sticking point.

Not that Saddam, if alive, would be able to make the French pay: The U.S. in recent days seized Iraq’s intelligence archives, a move that suggests the French and American public alike will know about Baghdad-Paris coziness even sooner than Saddam intended.

Melana Zyla Vickers writes about defense technologies and foreign policy for  TechCentralStation.com and is a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum. She is a former editorial-board member of USA Today, Canada's The Globe and Mail and The Asian Wall Street Journal, and a former editor at the Far Eastern Economc Review.