Let's call 'em Lazy-Boy War Hogs.
The self-righteous rallying cry of the Lazy-Boy War Hog is: "Those Frogs liked us just fine when we saved their asses in World War II."
First of all, nobody who's saying this ever saved anybody's ass in World War II. There may be a few 85-year-old men down at the VFW cafeteria who landed on Normandy Beach, but they tend to glamorize the invasion less than the 30-year-old weekend warrior who somehow thinks France owes us a perpetual debt.
This is one of those American myths -- like the idea that every foreign immigrant dances happily through the streets when he gets off the boat in New York Harbor -- that is supposed to make us feel like we have the only brave soldiers in the world and the only nation worth protecting. If you want to talk about brave, selfless soldiers in World War II, look to Russia, where a huge nation lost half its male population in battles against overwhelming odds on their own land.
Even when the cause seemed hopelessly lost, the Russians almost always fought to the death in wave after wave of human sacrifice. Entire battalions chose death over surrender to the Nazis. The Russians were actually out-soldiered on the Eastern front, but won the war by sheer force of will. We glory in the invasion of France, but the Russians still put out flowers every year on parts of their cities that were totally destroyed by a scorched-earth policy.
And if you want to talk about historical debts between France and the United States, head a few miles up the river here in Virginia to the Yorktown battlefield. Only one thing made it possible for George Washington to besiege the city and force the surrender of Cornwallis -- the presence of the French fleet. They sent their ships, guns and men before we were even a country. They sided with us when it was a long shot.
I don't think they even teach it in American schools anymore, but the Marquis de Lafayette was at one time considered an American Revolutionary War hero far more than even Washington's general staff. The Count de Rochambeau was another one. They were considered gallant not because they were French, but because they had the idealism and courage to leave their own country and make a foreign people their own -- an act we should consider at least equal to the men who invaded German-occupied France.
But the Lazy Boy War Jockey needs no courage to whack the French. He knows that Iraq has no smart bombs (and very few stupid bombs), no air force, no missile delivery system, no ability to wreck his home. (Oh, okay, he knows theoretically that a dirty bomb in a suitcase could go off somewhere in the United States, but it's the same sort of risk you assume when you know that sometime this year a commercial airliner will probably crash somewhere.)
And so we have calls to kick France off the Security Council and replace it with India (the country that has weapons of mass destruction trained on Pakistan). We have Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican, calling the French cowards. We have calls for import bans on French wine, cheese and bottled water. We even have a congressman calling for a boycott of the Paris Air Show.
What's next? A ban on Eiffel Tower tourism? Keep Hollywood from attending the Cannes Film Festival? Actually, the
French would probably thank us for that. They could use the space.
Even more baffling, though, is the characterization of Germany as "Old Europe." Germany is where the Vandals, Goths and Huns came from, the ones who sacked Rome and plunged Europe into 800 years of darkness. Germany is the country that remained at war for centuries, as various kings, lords and rulers of fiefdoms constantly burned each other's cities to the ground and often slaughtered the inhabitants. Germany created two of the most brutal war machines of the last century. THAT is Old Europe.
The Germany that has emerged since 1945, and especially in the last 25 years, is so different from the historical Germany that it should be regarded as a victory for human nature itself. Germany, as anyone can tell you who has been there, is so new it hurts. Germany, of all countries, knows about the futility of war and the prosperity that comes from peace.
I'm one of the worst offenders when it comes to telling ethnic jokes about the French, the Germans, AND the British. But the problem when these things are said by world leaders, legislators and diplomats is that they're constantly repeated in the European press, and they have an achingly personal effect on the people who would otherwise love America.
The French and the Germans don't hate Americans. They tell jokes about us, just like we tell jokes about them. They make fun of McDonald's, the trashy way we dress, the silly movies we send over there, and our obsession with money. But these are all dinner party jokes. What's happened now is that, in the middle of a good-natured dinner party, the American has suddenly gotten drunk and started making actual insults, casting a pall over the dessert course.
If I could send them a message, I would say, "We're terribly sorry. We beg your pardon. We have these people, Lazy Boy War Hogs, who get drunk and say stupid things. We'll take him home and get him sobered up, because we've been friends much too long to let something like this affect our relationship. Also, if it makes you feel better, you should know that when the guy wakes up tomorrow ... we're gonna kick his ass."
Joe Bob Briggs writes several columns for UPI. To contact him, write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
his Web site at joebobbriggs.com. Snail mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221.