André Lewin


Despite the divergences that have regularly separated the United States and France, or at the very least their officials-who unfortunately influence public opinion as well-there are, in my opinion, more similarities than differences than one would believe between these two countries' approaches to international relations. They both feel that they have a calling to defend the advancement of universal values in the world in order to further humanity along the road of peace, democracy, happiness, and justice. The United States, which can be considered a relatively new country, values respect for human rights, free enterprise, equal opportunity for everyone, individual freedom, religious faith, a belief in justice, and constitutional rights. The United States can also be characterized by its ambivalence towards state intervention, balanced by a feeling of national pride and that "the American way of life" is an objective worth defending in the United States and promoting all over the world. France is aware that it is an old country, where revolutionary ideals are mixed with a respect for tradition. France also shares a respect for human rights, a strong belief in equality and equal opportunity, and a belief in a political democracy with freedom to criticize the government. Although the French criticize the state and politicians, they look to the state for service and assistance whenever there is a problem. France and the United States have similar objectives. Although their methods of achieving those objectives may once have been similar-for instance the methods of the de Gaulle administration are similar to current United States methods-today the manner in which the two proceed in attaining these objectives places them at odds. France has become conscious that it is no longer a superpower and has adapted its diplomatic means to that situation. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the disappearance of the blocs, and the end of the East-West conflict, the United States has unarguably emerged as the sole world superpower. Having overcome the temptation of isolationism, its tendency has been to practice a unilateralist approach in which "he who is not with me is against me." A multi-polar world is irrelevant for a nation convinced that it holds a monopoly over good. On the opposite side of good there exists only the axis of evil and its allies, or rather its accomplices, and one of America's priorities has become the fight against terrorism, in which international cooperation is vital. As George W. Bush put it, "I believe it is our duty to lead the world." This attitude, which can easily become arrogance, is somewhat simple to carry out in the arena of bilateral diplomacy once one accumulates demographic weight, political dynamism, military force, economic power, financial preponderance, cultural appeal, and the use of a progressively universal language. However, it is within international organizations that this policy faces obstacles because these bodies are generally founded upon the principle of sovereign equality among states and a voting procedure of "one state, one vote." Therefore, the United States must compromise with often reticent, if not hostile, majorities. During the era in which the non-aligned movement represented a real force, refusing to choose between the two blocs, yet often acting as an ally of the USSR and the "socialist camp," created difficulties for Western positions, especially those supported by the United States. Henry Kissinger stated that ''the non-alignment itself is also an alignment." Jean Kirkpatrick, referring to the vast differences between United States contributions to the UN budget (twenty-five percent at the time) and those of the non-aligned countries (a good number of them contributed at the minimum rate), declared: "Who pays the note does not get the vote.''

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