Perspective

Remember From Whence Thou Art Fallen

“Forget about Europe!” shriek the neo-isolationists.  “Only Britain and Israel matter.  We saved the French twice in one century, and they still think they have a right to follow their own foreign policy.”  Americans used to have somewhat longer memories.  When General Pershing arrived in Paris in 1917, his aide and orator declared, “Lafayette, we are here!” not only in remembrance of the Marquis de Lafayette’s services during the Revolutionary War but in acknowledgment of the fact (not often recalled) that the French navy and army rescued the American cause at Yorktown.  There were, in fact, more French than American troops on the ground when Cornwallis surrendered.

The American victory was important to the French army, whose memories of glory went back to the first half of Louis XIV’s disastrous reign, but, under the nationalist governments of the Revolution and the Empire, French arms dominated Europe.  French soldiers fought and died bravely in World War I, and, although the nation was too worn out to sustain a second war against Germany, French volunteers in British forces and the soldiers of the Free French, led by the greatest statesman of the 20th century, made a good showing.  My late friend Marcel Boisot, an heroic pilot who flew his plane out of Vichy France and crash-landed in Spain, flew many missions for the RAF and was highly decorated...

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