Saturday, August 28, 2004

French 'Tude

Bret Stephens parses the soul of French political culture a little more carefully than most U.S. observers (pro- and anti-Chirac) have done in these days of Freedom Fries.

Usually, the explanation comes down to adjectives: cynical, hypocritical, Machiavellian, cowardly. Yet the adjectives don't capture the reality. France is not hypocritical: It simply holds contradictory positions. Or to put it more precisely, France has attitudes and it has policies. And while the two are frequently confused (often by the French themselves) they serve radically different functions: the former is psychological; the latter is political. To have an attitude is a way of saying, this is who I am. It's a matter of self-identification. To have a policy is to say, this is what I'm going to do about it. It's a matter of will and capacity.