Vive le Multilatéralisme
Bruce Barton on Franco-American Relations (1953)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| April 26, 2018                                                          

French Fiddling While Paris Burns? | by Bruce Barton (October 18, 1953)

Dating back to the American Revolutionary War, the U.S.-France alliance has always been highly consequential. And at this latest juncture, the thorny matter of Iran is wedged squarely between them.

As President Emmanuel Macron rounds out his important U.S. state visit, there is much at stake, including the question of whether the Trump regime — in defiance of the French, Germans, Russians, Chinese and British — will back out of the hard-fought Iran Nuclear deal (JCPOA) signed in Vienna in July 2015.

Macron fears that will happen, saying that decision to renege on the treaty would be “insane” in view of its long term effects. His new buddy Trump thinks the deal itself is “insane”. What would Voltaire and Ben Franklin make of this impasse?

Bruce Fairchild Barton (1886-1967) Here is a vintage newspaper column from the Cold War opining on this age-old dynamic by Bruce Barton (1886–1967), famed advertising mogul, author, and former Republican Congressman. At the time, Barton was wary of France’s dependability as an ally...kind of like now, only in reverse.

October 18, 1953
French Fiddling While Paris Burns?
By Bruce Barton

In World War I a newspaper friend of mine detailed by the State Department to accompany some of the foreign military missions on their trips around our country. Mostly he was with the English and the French.

One day he was telling me of his adventures, and wound up by saying, “I admire the English, but confidentially, you may have my share of the French.”

PARIS 1953 I was almost as shocked at if he had criticized George Washington. The French were our “brave allies.” They were all descendants of Lafayette, who helped us win our independence.1

At that time I had never been to Europe. When I did go, shortly after the end of the war, I had a good time in Paris, but my Francophilia considerably cooled.

I was shocked by the conversation I heard at French dinner tables. Prosperous, well-heeled citizens boasted proudly how, and how much, they were cheating the government on taxes. I thought to myself: “A people who do not care enough about their country to pay their taxes will never again fight for their country.”

World War II strengthened that conviction, and everything that has happened since has added to it.

David Hume2 called the French “the only people except the Greeks who have been at once philosophers, poets, orators, historians, painters, architects, sculptors, and musicians.” This is perhaps the most flattering tribute ever paid to them.

Another Britisher, Walter Bagehot, distinguished political scientist, thought them “the most frivolous and fickle of civilized nations. They pass from the game of war to the game of peace, from the game of science to the game of art, from the game of liberty to the game of slavery, from the game of slavery to the game of license.”

Without taking sides in this centuries-old debate, I should like to ask our State Department to answer honestly two questions which may be vital to our future security:

(1) Since the Germans are working day and night rebuilding their country, saving their money and paying taxes, isn’t it inevitable that they will be again, as they have been twice in the past, the strong nation of Europe?

(2) Isn’t it equally probable that the French, who instantly throw out any government that even suggests the tiniest increase in taxes, will prove to be a broken reed so far as our defense is concerned?

May not the airfields we have built in their country, at the cost of so many billions, be grabbed by their own Communists at the first sign of hostilities? Isn’t it tragically conceivable that, if another war comes, our American soldiers now in Germany, instead of fighting Russians, may some day find themselves in the sad position of having to fight the French “the most frivolous and fickle of civilized nations” to get to the Channel ports and out of Europe?

1 Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, French aristocrat.

2 18th century Scottish philospher and historian.

Jawaharlal Nehru | An Appreciation by Bruce Barton (1950)
Jawaharlal Nehru | An Appreciation by Bruce Barton (1950)


Related links:

Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France (April 1, 1952)

CHARLIE HEBDO cartoons on Iran, the Shah and the Mad Mullahs

The Crisis Technique | Bruce Barton on Emergency Powers (1951)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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