Representation without Taxation – French Audacity in the Lebanon Crisis.

In the aftermath of the of the Cuban Missile crisis, when the French discovered NATO was an American-run show, they slammed the door and left the Alliance. Stephen Ambrose once memorably described the move this way: the French thought there should be no annihilation without representation. They had a case back then. But they stumbled on a bad lesson all the same: in the Cold War context their political gestures have no consequences. What did the gesture mean anyway? Would America not protect Western Europe in the event that a Soviet attack would begin with France?

The bad habit remained with the French. High rhetoric is divorced from responsibility and consequences. The French are quick to preach to everyone about moral standards, but feel absolutely no need to make even the faintest excuse for breaking them themselves. A Washington Post editorial barely restrained its sarcasm when it noted that after great fanfare about brokering the deal in Lebanon, after supporting the idea of an international force (up to 15,000 soldiers according to Resolution 1701), it turned out the French were willing to send some 200 advisors. Presumably these would advise the Hezbollah about the virtues of peace.

Perhaps it is time the international community began to reconsider the role it is willing to grant France in global affairs. All nations, George Washington once observed, could be trusted only as far as their own interest goes. But French egotism surely exceeds even this grim assessment. If France wants to be represented in any important global forum, it should perhaps be taught that there is no representation without taxation. Proportionality applies not only to military retaliation. It also applies to the ratio between pompous presumptions and political responsibility.

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