This analysis includes the striking assertion that “The time has come to mark all debts to Lafayette: Now and forever paid in full.” This editor knows many observers who would agree with that sentiment, but a probably equal number who, struck by the historic mystique of la Belle France, would find such a sentiment hard to subscribe to. The reader is invited to express his or her opinion in that regard. – Ed.
French apologists shed alligator tears for urban rioters as if the plight of unemployed immigrants was somehow divorced from the larger crisis facing the nation. French explanations of the riots raise more questions than answers. The untold truth is that France could sustain the burden of unemployed immigrants as long as state run industries operate at peak capacity. As arms contracts with client dictators have dried up and the lucrative oil contracts negotiated with Saddam Hussein for expansion of the Iraqi oil fields became worthless with the demise of the former Ba’athist Regime, the French economy has contracted. Production has slowed, workers have been laid off, and French unemployment has reached crisis proportions.
So what’s the problem? Is it unemployed and unassimilated immigrant thugs? Or is it something much larger? Is it the fact that the socialist state is dependent upon government owned and operated industries that are in turn dependent upon client dictators who are unable or unwilling to subsidize the French economy. And workers are laid off, while immigrant workers doing menial labor are taking the heaviest hits.
A spate of recent publications have exposed the corruption of the authoritarian French State, prompted by the French betrayal of America in the days leading up to the war in Iraq. The Conservative press has highlighted The French Betrayal of America by Kenneth Timmerman, Our Oldest Enemy by John Miller and Mark Molesky, and Vile France by Denis Boyles. All of which have illuminated the problems facing France.
More enlightening than the critiques of French diplomacy and corruption in government owned industries is Gertrude Himmelfarb’s comparison of the British, French and American cultures: The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments. Gertrude Himmelfarb’s book reveals the true character of the problems confronting France. The French Enlightenment spawned a revolution fueled by class warfare to eliminate unfortunates identified as enemies of the people. The Jacobin revolutionaries demolished the monarchy, banned the Church, and trashed the existing political culture in return for revolutionary change based upon unlimited faith in the perfectibility of man. In sharp contrast to the French totalitarian approach, the American and British enlightenments looked for the betterment of mankind through gradual progress based upon private and public works built upon the existing institutions of society. Moreover, the British and the American Enlightenments preserved their deeply rooted political cultures, religious institutions, as well as their convictions regarding the imperfect nature of man.
The French revolutionaries disavowed their ancient political culture, trashed the institutions of government, outlawed religion and launched a revolution founded upon a philosophy of equality through the mass murder of class enemies and redistribution of wealth. The French approach to modernization became the prototype for two centuries of socialist revolutions and dictatorships to achieve utopian societies built on faith in unproven, radical theory.
Consistent with their differing approaches to modernization, the British and the French took dramatically different approaches to management of their colonies over the last two centuries. The British prepared their colonies for the transition to democracy. The French did not. The British integrated native public servants into the administration of their colonies, while introducing democratic institutions in their colonies, thus easing the transition to independence. The British encouraged native owned and operated industries, whereas the French controlled production through French owned industries and agriculture, especially rubber in Indochina. More harmful to the French colonies than Gallic resistance to colonial reforms was the reliance upon police power, as well as military forces, to stamp out political opposition. The results were telling. Whereas Great Britain assisted their colonies in the peaceful transition to democracy, the French colonies produced widespread revolutionary warfare and in the end authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships.
Socialist dictatorships, under various names provided by French revolutionaries, Karl Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao, or Pol Pot, seldom progressed beyond revolutionary myths, wars, and death on a scale never seen before. Socialist dictators threatened world wars and world socialist revolution. The list includes German National Socialism, the Soviet Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Mao’s People’s Republic and multiple uprisings of colonial serfs reacting to the excesses of the French Colonial Empire. And a century later France is now haunted by the party line that all are equal within the French revolutionary culture, the ploy used to mobilize the mobs that carried out the revolution. It is the same falsehood that has jump-started French industries by promoting arms sales to and economic exploitation of state sponsors of violence, while opening France to immigration from their former colonies.
And now the worthless note has come due on French promises of equality with immigrants from their former colonies; while socialism, the sterile creation of the violent French Jacobins, still governs supreme in scores of countries in the U.N. General Assembly including beleaguered European states that struggle with stagnant economies. And today as French cars burn in the night, Europeans must come to grips with the failure of their socialist economies and secular cultures, while unassimilated Islamic zealots recruit émigré malcontents to commit acts of violence in the night.
Socialist centralized planning and colossal industrial experiments, including the gulag, have proved unsuccessful. And today intelligent, communist leaders are attempting the transition to free market economies as rapidly as they can accommodate change. Despite the failures of socialism, the French remain committed to their enlightenment philosophy and the grim practices of their predecessors. French society still professes equality at the expense of individual rights and looks to an authoritarian government to make good on the socialist party line, while tolerating autocratic rule that sharply curtails the press and eschews transparency in government. And once again France finds her feet being held to the fire by followers of her ruinous enlightenment theories.
Where to now for the French Enlightenment as cars burn in streets across France? America saved France from German National Socialism in World War II; and we saved them from the aggressive Soviet Empire that threatened to overrun all of Western Europe during the Cold War. We even attempted to bail them out of their disastrous colonial debacle in Indochina, where the Soviets and the Chinese Communists exported wars of national liberation. But the time has come to call a halt to saving France from itself. The time has come to mark all debts to Lafayette: Now and forever paid in full.
And the American Enlightenment? It is working still, even if the liberal academic community in America, which bought into French Enlightenment theories early in the Last Century, fails to admit the triumph of freedom and democracy. The American Enlightenment has spawned no dictatorships. It has encouraged the growth of democracy in the Philippines, Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea, and Afghanistan. And today Americans are encouraging a fledgling democracy in Iraq, a society formerly ruled by the murderous Saddam Hussein – a French supported dictator and leader of a socialist Ba’athist Party.
It is sad that Lenin did not live to see this day. Lenin wrote that the predicted collapse of capitalism was averted by colonial holdings of the Imperialists, which artificially stimulated industrial growth and produced earnings at the expense of hostage colonial populations. Yet today capitalist economies, without colonies, are booming around the World. It is socialist economies that are in crisis. It is socialist France that is dependent upon arms contracts with corrupt client dictators to provide jobs and illegal contracts in violation of U.N. sanctions to fuel a wasteful socialist industrial base. Lenin had it all wrong. It is socialism that is dependent upon colonies. Joining France in opposition to U.S. demands for military action in Iraq were socialist regimes in Russia, China and Germany that all appear to have been dependent upon neo-colonialism in the form of illegal trade with Saddam Hussein.
Lenin was not a true scientist. Lenin was a true believer. When the predictions of Karl Marx failed to materialize, Lenin rewrote socialist theory. When facts did not support his theory, he manipulated the data producing more accommodating facts. And his contemporary followers wear the same blinders and mouth the same broken promises. And socialist true believers are unlikely to accept their failures as long as there is a mob to incite and a booming American economy to serve as a scapegoat. Theirs is a profitable tradition – for party elites – of class warfare, violence and plunder that is a powerful incentive to those who can’t make it in the work place.
Today capitalism flourishes in a global economy. Socialist economies have become dependent upon protectionist policies and new colonies ruled by client tyrants and dictators. So Lenin had it wrong. And France, the primary proponent of socialist theory, is trapped in a quagmire of stagnant, corrupt and inefficient industries predicted by Lenin as the fate of the American industrial giant. And today radical socialist zealots rail against the global economy and the free enterprise system that raises the standard of living of entire populations in democratic states.
Gloating may be inappropriate, but righteous indignation may be in order at the demonization of American workers and entrepreneurs by the Marxists over the last century. And pride in a free enterprise system that still provides widespread prosperity is in order. Regrettably, the government controlled press in France, China, Cuba and North Korea still produce virulently anti-American propaganda that has fueled an anti-American rage that continues to do violence to American interests in the international community of nations.
Despite socialist propaganda, the success of the American free enterprise system is legendary, bringing immigrants of all nationalities to our shores. It is seen in the flourishing of the American culture and economy reflecting the vitality of the American Enlightenment, while the French Enlightenment has entered a period of widespread decline. The collapse of socialist economies is global in scope causing pervasive economic stagnation. It is seen in the massive unemployment rates in socialist welfare states. It is the cause of cars burning in the streets of Paris and Lyon, and Marseille. All of which point to the culmination of the French Enlightenment in a macro failure demonstrating that hubris and utopian theory are no substitutes for hard work by free people based upon free enterprise, private ownership of property, and the protection of individual liberties under governments for, by and of the people.
While Conservatives are dismayed by the plight of self-professed enemies of the American Enlightenment, Americans must not return to the pattern of our past mistakes. The French brought this disaster upon themselves. And this time we cannot save them from the evil they have loosed upon themselves. This is a French crisis created by hubris, greed, corruption and massive bloodshed orchestrated by the French State over many years. France must reform by taking responsibility for their long history of criminal conduct; and they must repudiate their radical tradition that paved the way for two centuries of bloodshed leading to failed economic systems and rogue states. All Americans can do is recognize the problem and salute Gertrude Himmelfarb for her brilliant analysis of the French, British and American Enlightenments, which identifies the fallacies of the French Enlightenment that constitute grave obstacles on the road to modernity. And it may be appropriate for Americans to permit themselves some satisfaction in this moment of truth in appreciation of the vindication of the American Enlightenment.
Colonel O'Meara graduated from West Point and served abroad in Europe and Vietnam. He was decorated five times for valor during his service in Vietnam. He attended the Army War College and earned two graduate degrees over his military career. Since retirement, Colonel O'Meara and his wife have resided in Pawleys Island, SC. His published works include Infrastructure and the Marxist Power Seizure, Accidental Warrior, Only the Dead Came Home, and Voices from the Underground.