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Thread: Do the French deserve their reputation as weak-kneed?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    In conclusion, even so the USA had a bigger population and more natural resources than France, its military power and political influence was much weaker than France's between 1870 and 1918 (or even until 1945).
    All that tells me is that the French didn`t make the best decisions strategically and being in a situation of having to more and more relinquish their holdings, perhaps a sign of gluttony that they could not sustain -- or a bigger world view of themselves that they could not support.

    But, why do you think France has been unfairly painted as being weak-kneed if there is no truth to it? I think there is truth to America being arrogant and therefore we are viewed as such. Why has France`s image of being weak-kneed come about?

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    Quote Originally Posted by strongvoicesforward View Post
    All that tells me is that the French didn`t make the best decisions strategically and being in a situation of having to more and more relinquish their holdings, perhaps a sign of gluttony that they could not sustain -- or a bigger world view of themselves that they could not support.
    France only lost most of its colonies in the aftermath of WWII, when the central government had been dismantled for 5 years and the country was morally and financially ruined. Before that it could very afford its colonies.

    Btw, the same happened to Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands after WWII. The only country that has kept a significant number of colonies and integrated them into the country is France (French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, St-Pierre-et-Miquelon...). Even the US, that didn't suffer much from WWII, and even enriched itself from the Nazi and Japanese gold, didn''t keep the Philippines.

    But, why do you think France has been unfairly painted as being weak-kneed if there is no truth to it? I think there is truth to America being arrogant and therefore we are viewed as such. Why has France`s image of being weak-kneed come about?
    Easy. This is only the case in North America, so chances are that this anti-French movement started in the US because some people were too proud of helping in WWII and jealous of France's power and influence until WWII.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Easy. This is only the case in North America, so chances are that this anti-French movement started in the US because some people were too proud of helping in WWII and jealous of France's power and influence until WWII.
    Hmmm...perhaps not. Mycernius has corroberated that they are viewed as week-kneed, referring to them as "surrender monkeys."

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    Quote Originally Posted by strongvoicesforward View Post
    Hmmm...perhaps not. Mycernius has corroberated that they are viewed as week-kneed, referring to them as "surrender monkeys."
    That's the international "joke" since the war in Iraq in 2003 (and only since then).

    Anyway the English and the French have been rival and made joke about each others (like any neighbours) for hundreds of years. The Brits are in a bad position to criticise France's military power, as they lost the 100 years' war againt a teenage French girl (Joan of Arc), and didn't manage to defeat Napoleon without the help of Prussia, Austria and Russia (and even so that was a short call). In fact, they have been so proud to defeat France with this super-coalition 200 years ago that they still have their main train station in London (Eurostar station) named after the Battle of Waterloo, and the city's largest square named after the single naval victory of Trafalgar (which didn't win the war).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    That's the international "joke" since the war in Iraq in 2003 (and only since then).
    Like I said, it is not wholey peculiar to the U.S. That said, I personally do not agree with that view, which I think I mentioned earlier in the thread.

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    they didn't put resistence against Hitler's invasion... no matter how many excuses you try to put for that. it was an embarrassing and coward behaviour by france that will remain in history. and then you have how they ran away from the battle of trafalgar... that doesn't really help either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    But maybe Americans see the French as cowards because they expected them to do all the job in fighting the Brits during the American war of independence, or because Napoleon just sold off 1/3 of the present USA to the young and weak American government, when reason would have commanded to use this as a base to reconquer the former British colonies instead of attacking Russia, Prussia, Austria and Britain (each more populous and much more militarily powerful than the USA at the time) all at the same time !
    ).
    I freely admit that we in the US have not been fair to the French in this case.

    My only protest would relate to the desire that they wanted the French to do their whole job for them in our war of Independence.

    There is no doubt that their help was indispensible and that our envoys petitioned relentlessly for every ounce of support that they could extract.

    I don't believe, however that any historian, American, British, or French, would go even so far as to say that the Americans wanted the French to do most of the fighting for them, let alone 'all' of it. Any such claim would stand in denial of the facts.
    Last edited by Regulus; 27-03-11 at 19:46. Reason: mispelled 'ounce'

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    They are not as weak-kneed as Italians.

    After the disastrous defeat at Caporetto in October 1917 it was reinforcements from France and Britain that saved Italy while WW2 was a complete fiasco for the Italians.

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    Quote Originally Posted by strongvoicesforward View Post
    Didn`t the French lose in Vietnam, too, prior to U.S. involvement?

    The battle of Dien Bien Phu and their defeat there decisively ended France`s colonialism, or their attempt at reimposing colonialism on their claims in Indo-China.

    In addition France lost Algeria in a devastating guerilla war of insurgency.

    Therefore, France has lost to developing nations as well.
    Didn't France also lose the War of Spanish Succession after defeats by the Brits under the Duke Of Marlborough (at Blenheim, Oudenarde, Malplaquet etc) and the Habsburg armies under Prince Eugene of Savoy?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vallicanus View Post
    They are not as weak-kneed as Italians.

    After the disastrous defeat at Caporetto in October 1917 it was reinforcements from France and Britain that saved Italy while WW2 was a complete fiasco for the Italians.
    Yes it seemed that most Italians weren't quite as convinced of their own invincability as that little madman Il Duce. Even the Greeks kicked their backside when they attempted to invade Greece and the Germans had also to step in there and save the day. Hitler was not impressed.

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    The french aren't cowards nor weak-kneed, their role in the 30 years war was essential to defeat the catholics, who had controlled the war.

    In the revolutionary-napoleonic period, and despite the fact they finally lost, they were the best army, fighting against many nations and with little support from allies.

    WWII was another business; they had the best european army -better than the german by 1940- and were smashed. As allies of the axis -issue often forgotten- they were defeated again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vallicanus View Post
    Didn't France also lose the War of Spanish Succession after defeats by the Brits under the Duke Of Marlborough (at Blenheim, Oudenarde, Malplaquet etc) and the Habsburg armies under Prince Eugene of Savoy?
    Not really considering that Louis XIV's grandson, Philippe de France, became King Philip V of Spain ! As no clear winner emerged from the war, all powers had to make concessions. But France got the throne of Spain (the main stake of the war), in exchange for granting the Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium) and parts of Italy to Austria. Britain only got Gibraltar and Minorca in the operation - not a big deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canek View Post
    they didn't put resistence against Hitler's invasion... no matter how many excuses you try to put for that. it was an embarrassing and coward behaviour by france that will remain in history.
    If you knew more about what happened in WWI, you would surely understand why the French didn't try harder to resist Hitler's troops. Even today I believe it was a wise and courageous decision to admit defeat instead of starting another disastrous and protracted Franco-German war. At least the French population was spared and no city was destroyed.

    With the hindsight, it may seem unbelievable today that any country should let themselves be conquered so easily by the Nazi. But hardly anybody back then knew what Hitler was really capable of. The French knew that Hitler was a fascist, but that wasn't a big problem for a lot of people since fascism was the "fashionable" political climate in continental Europe in the 1930's. Petain was also a fascist and he was freely elected by the French just as Hitler was elected by the Germans or Mussolini by the Italians.

    Incidentally, I don't understand why the French are seen as the cowards of WWII when in fact the Czechoslovaks, Austrians Danes and Dutch didn't even fight back when the Nazi marched on their countries, and no country in Europe was militarily equipped to resist German panzers and stukas. Britain was lucky to be an island country, otherwise it would have fallen just the same. Even the mighty USSR should have been easily defeated had Hitler not been stupid enough to postpone his campaign and let the Russians organise themselves. The French were merely reasonable enough to realise that they were not ready to fight and didn't want to sacrifice another generation of young men for nothing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canek View Post
    you have how they ran away from the battle of trafalgar... that doesn't really help either.
    You can't quote trafalgar without referring to all the French victories within the French Revolutionnary and Napoleonic Wars

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    i'm not judging then as being unwise maciamo, but it was a coward behaviour no matter how anyone try to explain their reasons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canek View Post
    i'm not judging then as being unwise maciamo, but it was a coward behaviour no matter how anyone try to explain their reasons.
    In what way could you say that Czechoslovaks had guts at that time and overall in the History

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canek View Post
    i'm not judging then as being unwise maciamo, but it was a coward behaviour no matter how anyone try to explain their reasons.
    With that kind of logic the Quechua (Inca empire) were the biggest cowards in history for not resisting more against Pizarro and his hundred illiterate drunkards. What kind of civilization abandons all hope and give away all their power, economy and culture so easily ? Unrivalled in history ! The conquistadores were the Nazi of the 16th century, and the Amerindians their victims. Look at France now, they didn't lose anything to the Germans during the war and is the biggest voice inside the EU. Look at Andean countries now; they speak Spanish, are Catholic, are ruled by a mostly white upper class, and all this after 200 years of independence. Talk about weak-kneed ! Since the Renaissance, France has been and still is the European leader in culture, fashion, cuisine, technologies and politics. Too bad you don't understand the difference between cowardice and reason !

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    oh please p. courve, let's not convert this debate into a kindergarten discussion "you were more coward than me". let's stay civilized.

    incas were far from having the same technology the spaniards had. and they didn't have horses also. frenchs weren't an undeveloped civilization when compared to the germans. still they give up and open the door to the germans. it was an act of cowardice even if it was a wise move.

    your comparison is absurd, and you know it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canek View Post
    incas were far from having the same technology the spaniards had. and they didn't have horses also. frenchs weren't an undeveloped civilization when compared to the germans. still they give up and open the door to the germans. it was an act of cowardice even if it was a wise move.

    your comparison is absurd, and you know it.
    I don't want to add oil on the fire, but my point was that the French knew very well that they couldn't fight against German panzers and "stuka" dive bombers. German military technology was considerably more advanced than other countries in 1940. The Poles still had cavalry units ! The gap between panzer tanks and cavalry is not unlike the one between Inca warriors and conquistadors. The Nazi invented the Blitzkrieg, which was as revolutionary a way of fighting than the invention of the chariot or the sword in the Bronze age, or of the phalanx in ancient Greece.

    All Europe watched helplessly the Germans conquer Poland. The UK and France declared war on Germany for that, but no one dared attack Germany because they knew very well they would lose a direct military confrontation. When Hitler finally decided to invade France, the French had been awaiting for months and discussing their options. They tried in vain to resist, but understood that the battle was lost before it was even fought. It would be utter madness to send millions of young men dying when you know they don't stand a chance. I think it was rather brave of the French government to choose temporary defeat and occupation, then wait for the Germans to leave or fight a guerilla warfare (la Résistance) until they do. I think that many French people expected the Germans to take back Alsace and Lorraine and go back home. That was pretty much how the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and WWI ended.

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    I think that France's cheap sale of its North American colonies (about 1/3 of the current land area of the USA) is as much for the Americans to be thankful for that the help France gave them to get their independence and be recognised as a sovereign country.


    France may have had a claim to these territories, but they were hardly settled in the same way that the Eastern seaboard states were. Also the French needed the money , and if they hadn't sold it the Americans or even the British would have taken them - France had no capacity to stop it, BTW the British loaned the money to USA to pay for it. It was a pragmatic decision not a benevolent one

    Also the French took alot of encouragement to help with the War of Independence, they promised and promised but only delivered towards the end. Exactly the same approach the Americans are being accused of in relation to the first world war

    The USA was already a major world power in the late 19th and early 20th century, during which time France built most of its colonial empire in Africa and Indochina. In fact, the USA was already more populous than France from the early 1870's. France's later colonial possessions were only acquired after the founding of the Third Republic in 1871. By 1910, the US population was over twice that of France.

    In conclusion, even so the USA had a bigger population and more natural resources than France, its military power and political influence was much weaker than France's between 1870 and 1918 (or even until 1945).
    Its a bit unfair to compare the two countries, the USA was a very young country then, and had an isolationist policy. There was also the Monroe doctrine, you stay out of our Western hemisphere we won't bother with yours

    France

    Major wars won mostly alone

    - Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)
    - War of Spanish Succession by Louis XIV (1701–1714 - alone against Europe)
    - French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802 - annexed the Benelux and Northern Italy, defeated the Austrian Empire)
    - Napoleonic Wars (1804-1814 - alone against Europe again)
    i don't know much about some of these wars, what did they win in the 100yr War, was this just a series of wars, was the battle won by Joan just the last war / battle

    Hard to believe when you see that more Americans are of German or Irish descent than British or "Anglo-saxon" (i.e. English).


    This may true, but if you are you implying that Irish / German people had a stronger influence on the development of USA I have to disagree. I do know that at times in the 19th century there were concerns about Germanic influence but these were stamped out by the "establishment" and many groups. It is a fact the USA was strongly influenced by Britain in its development. Although they gained independence from them - most of the people on both sides considered themselves British, but believed in no tax without political representation. When developing the Dec of Independence they looked towards the most successful and liberal country in the world at the time ie Britain. Guys like John Locke had a significant influence

    John Locke ( ; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an Englishphilosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the Britishempiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the AmericanDeclaration of Independence.[5]

    I am appalled by so much ignorance. The French won WWI without ever surrendering. Most of the fighting of WWI took place in France, and more French people died than any other Entente country. Talk about cowards, the Americans didn't even join the war until it was almost finished. If you look at WWI casualties you will see that France has lost 1,415,800 people (+ 4,266,000 wounded) in the war against 126,000 (+234,300 wounded) for the USA. Almost laughable contribution of the US, thank you. Romania and Serbia lost respectively 3 and 4 times more men in WWI than the USA.


    France won the war? I don't think so, they were a significant part of it. New Zealand where I hale from lost more people per head of population than any other country - of course we were a only small part of the force - and we travelled 19000km to take part under the British

    Yet France did suffer more casualties (including civilians) in WWII than the so proud USA, who again came when the enemy was very weakened (by the USSR and internal revolts within occupied Europe). Again, who are the cowards who always show up when they are sure to win. The USA has always chosen to participate in wars in which they were sure to win, either because the enemy was exhausted, or because the enemy was so much smaller and weaker militarily (e.g. Panama, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq...).


    Let me get this right, you expected the Americans to get involved in a European war at the drop of a hat. Yes they did hold off getting involved, but they did eventually. I think they got involved directly from the beginning of 1942, and the war ended in 1944/5 - I think it took a year or so before the Germans were on the backfoot - so I guess there was some serious fighting to be done. You show a complete lack of respect for people from far away who died on your land - yes your land for your freedom. It was the Anglo Saxon world and other British Colonies (eg India) who saved your butt. Except for looking after your colonies, are there examples of where the French have travelled and fought for other countries - I'm sure there are but I just don't know

    We also joke about the French being cowards, but like all humour there is some truth in it, but off course there are many examples where the French are not cowards

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    Mikester,

    I don't agree that France can be accused of cowardice in World War II. I think that Maciamo made many excellent points in his post.

    However, American history was one of my majors at university, and from my perspective, your analysis otherwise is spot on. You are from New Zealand right? I am beyond impressed!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikester View Post
    Its a bit unfair to compare the two countries, the USA was a very young country then, and had an isolationist policy. There was also the Monroe doctrine, you stay out of our Western hemisphere we won't bother with yours
    The USA was a very young country in the early 20th century ? It had already colonised the whole continent from the east coast to the west coast (Alaska included). At the time of WWI, the USA was more populous than any European country (except the USSR).

    i don't know much about some of these wars, what did they win in the 100yr War, was this just a series of wars, was the battle won by Joan just the last war / battle
    The Hundred Years' War was a long series of battles in which the French got back nearly half of their country (all the west, from Gascony to Normandy) that the English had acquired through a few judicious political marriages. The Duchy of Burgundy, in the hands of the Habsburgs, also acquired tremendous power, extending all the way to the Low Countries (also by marriage), and allied itself with England against the King of France. The French managed to kick the English out of France and regain the control of Burgundy. This is basically how the feudal patchwork of medieval France became the strongest country in Europe by the Renaissance.

    In the 15th century, French knights were the most powerful and respected knights throughout Europe. Hardly cowards. The Romantic image of the medieval knight is mostly inspired of the French knights, and even the term 'chivalry' in English comes from French (note that the English had a long-standing preference for longbows and crossbows, as they didn't like close combat).

    France dominated Europe militarily from the late 15th century until 1870. Louis XIV defeated all of France's neighbours, which boosted his ego and the prestige of France across the continent, as far as Russia and Turkey. This is how Czar Peter I (later known as "the Great") ended up spending several months in France to study how the French had succeeded in becoming so powerful. He copied the French system and vowed to make Russia, then a desolated backwater, a great country like France. His palace in St Petersburg, the Peterhof, was one of numerous European copies of Versailles. French became the court language of Russia and was also widely spoken at court and in upper-class and bourgeois circles in the Ottoman empire until the early 20th century, such was France's prestige, acquired by the arms during centuries of military campaigns around Europe.

    Britain controlled the oceans and had more colonies, but in terms of military power on land, France was always stronger. At the onset of WWI, the British army was ridiculous compared to the French or German armies. The British had most of their troops sent around the world to manage colonies, and these men didn't need to same training or equipment as the French or the Germans, because colonised peoples were hugely inferior militarily.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    . The Romantic image of the medieval knight is mostly inspired of the French knights, and even the term 'chivalry' in English comes from French

    "Everything that is courteous, honorable and elegant in the English culture comes from the French invasion".
    Walter Scott

    Well I think that the main French influence on England is that 1/3 of the English vocabulary is made-up by french words



  24. #49
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    At the onset of WWI, the British army was ridiculous compared to the French or German armies
    Agreed in the sence that the Britsh have never tried to compete on this front, at the end of the 19th century I think even the Swiss had a bigger army. Off course they had a Navy bigger than the rest of the world combined. Also the populations of France and Gemany have been significantly higher the the UK for much of history, so easier to man up.

    One reason suggested for why the continent relied on big armed forces was that they were more autocratic / militaristic societies (ie less democratic) . Where as in Britain parlimentary democracy was pretty well embedded, they controlled taxation, the laws, generally they would never let a King or Queen get too carried away with such ego driven expensive campaigns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikester View Post
    Agreed in the sence that the Britsh have never tried to compete on this front, at the end of the 19th century I think even the Swiss had a bigger army. Off course they had a Navy bigger than the rest of the world combined. Also the populations of France and Gemany have been significantly higher the the UK for much of history, so easier to man up.

    One reason suggested for why the continent relied on big armed forces was that they were more autocratic / militaristic societies (ie less democratic) . Where as in Britain parlimentary democracy was pretty well embedded, they controlled taxation, the laws, generally they would never let a King or Queen get too carried away with such ego driven expensive campaigns.
    Haha... The British did just that what you mentioned about the French!
    The British used propaganda to get things done.
    How else would they ever had an empire?

    Not by democratic means!

    Ok, Napoleon did a lot of stupid things in the last period of his reign, but the British did a lot of stupid things all along history!

    For instance.. They shouldn't have messed up their relations with the Dutch.
    We will never forget that!

    During WW2 Dutch partizan's were deliberately betrayed to the German Nazi's.
    Dutch secret agents were parachuted over The Netherlands and immediately taken prisoner and shot by the Germans.
    Why? Because they had a communist background!

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