Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship With France

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Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship With France

By John J. Miller and Mark Molesky
Doubleday, 2004
304 pp. $24.95
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That a book as shoddy and biased as this one should be published by a reputable press is eminently regrettable. Penned jointly by a National Review writer and a Harvard lecturer, this romp through the history of Franco-American relations purports to show that the French have been eager to annoy, oppose, or cheat the United States at every turn. It is clear that the French have often opposed U.S. policy (sometimes foolishly, sometimes wisely), but instead of providing an honest account of the facts and attempting to discern reasons behind them, the authors offer only vituperation and contempt. They make no effort, for instance, to understand why the French (along with the British) wanted to impose heavy reparations on Germany after World War I, or to explain how a country so wracked by moral decadence after the Franco-Prussian War fought so bravely in 1914. They dismiss the French resistance as a joke and Charles de Gaulle as a disaster. They distort the last three years of French policy in order better to denounce it. They substitute the silly idea of a French nation obsessed with fears of decline and "fantasies of greatness" for any awareness of complexity. Ultimately, this book is a contribution to our understanding only of U.S. neoconservatism, not of Franco-American relations.