The Trouble With France
MORE than a century ago, Alexis de Tocqueville said that “the French constitute the most brilliant and the most dangerous nation in Europe, and the best qualified in turn to become an object of admiration, hatred, pity, or terror, but never of indifference.” More recently the French have not been especially brilliant or especially dangerous, and have inspired neither terror nor admiration. Yet it is still impossible to be indifferent to France.
Indeed, since the death of Georges Pompidou in early April, the attention of the world has once again been fixed on France, with the expectation that a new President will effect dramatic changes in French policy, especially toward the United States. But the course of recent French political behavior is unlikely to be reversed by the new President, for that behavior owes more to history than to personality, and is deeply rooted in the traditional feelings of the French both about themselves and about the role of their nation in the world.
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