Heat from the street
Here in the mainstream media, we are so good at cloaking the news in decorum that it's often hard to figure out what people are really thinking. This problem isn't a big one on the Internet, where enormous scorn has built up for the French-German "axis of weasels" (a term that arose on the Net). The French are "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," a memorable line from the Simpsons TV show popularized by Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online. A mock sale on the Internet offers a French clock, with hour and minute hands aimed at 11 and 1 o'clock, like arms raised in the surrender position. The ad copy describes the clock as unreliable, but the permanent hands-up position seems to have worked for more than 150 years in France. You can never surrender too often or too early.
One Internet site, ScrappleFace, contributes this satirical news report: "France today will introduce a new resolution in the U.N. Security Council giving Iraq `only 12 more years to comply' with the U.N. resolutions of the past 12 years. The resolution is the hardest line yet taken by the French and has driven a wedge between France, Germany, and Belgium. Leaders of the latter two nations support a competing resolution calling for `inspections forever, or until nothing is found, whichever comes first.' "
"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion" is a familiar one-liner that has circulated on the Internet since January. It sparked an online contest by the Federalist Society for the best going-to-war-without-France simile. The entries include: "Going to war without France is like a Texas barbecue without a croissant," "like going to Marine boot camp without a `Best of Liza Minnelli' album," `like going into the ninth inning without your placekicker," "like planning the Normandy invasion without Yves Saint Laurent," and "I'm sorry, war without whom?" (Belgium, tiny fellow traveler of France and Germany, is not involved in the contest, though some Internet chatterers are anxious about going to war without Belgian chocolates.)
Chicken a la France. A former U.S. Navy officer, a naturalized American citizen born in France to French parents, wrote something less whimsical about France's tendency to cave in when challenged: "It was France's government that surrendered a largely undefeated army in WWII to Nazi prison camps . . . . The government just waved the white flag and abandoned Britain to its lonely struggle . . . . It was France's government which, during the Cold War, played footsie with the Soviet Union [and] comfortably hid all those years behind the American military umbrella." University of Tennessee law Prof. Glenn Reynolds, who featured this letter on his InstaPundit site, said French and German leaders "underestimate the depth--and the longevity--of the hostility they are creating."
On the Net, there is now talk about "the American street," meaning mass opinion here that the United States and the West cannot shrink from the conflicts ahead. Discussions of the "street" usually refer to excitable rent-a-mobs trotted out for television in Arab countries. Recently, Europeans have argued that French and German leaders are constrained by anti-American and pacifist leanings of the "European street."
Sen. John McCain used the term "the American street" in a low-key but very strong speech February 8 in Munich. As a result, McCain, not a traditional favorite in Internet commentary, has emerged as something of a hero. European statements that "seem to endorse pacifism in the face of evil and antisemitic recidivism in some quarters, provoke an equal and opposite reaction" in the United States, McCain said. This American street, he continued, strongly supports disarming Iraq, "accepts the necessity of an expansive American role in the world to ensure we never again wake up to another September 11th, [and] is perplexed that nations with whom we have long enjoyed common cause do not share our urgency and sense of threat in time of war." He said a minority of European leaders, by using anti-Americanism to achieve European unity, are acting like the Arab governments that use anti-Americanism to divert their people from problems at home. The endless international inspections that France and Germany call for "are unlikely to work any better than did the Maginot line" in World War II.
McCain talked about the cost of not confronting Hitler and al Qaeda earlier. Munich was the perfect place to deliver a speech on the obvious theme of appeasement and the more subliminal theme of political cowardice. It was a potent talk missed by the mainstream media. You can link to it from GlennReynolds.com.
This story appears in the February 24, 2003 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.