US-France Relations May Be Most Complicated to Mend

Even before his European diplomacy began, Mr. Bush had talked about the importance of the transatlantic relationship. But Europe is composed of many different countries, with different attitudes towards America.

Perhaps the most complicated relationship is that of France and the U.S. While these two countries have been allies for more than 200 years, there has always been an underlying tension between them.

But Europe is many different countries with different attitudes towards the United States. French singer Vigon performs American music every night at the restaurant The American Dream in the heart of Paris. He says French people love America. "I have been singing American music here at the American Dream for over 40 years and people here love it," he said.

At the other end of the spectrum Frederick Royer is so critical of U.S. foreign policy that he started his own satire publication and called it L'Anti-Americain. The articles poke sophomoric fun at American stereotypes. In one issue there is a contest to rename the United States and a fictional day planner belonging to President Bush listing such activities as bombing Iraq and talking to God. 

"This is a response to the French bashing that has been going on in the United States," Mr. Royer said.

Both viewpoints characterize the love/hate view that many French people hold about America. Andre Kaspi, Professor of American History at the University of Paris-Sorbonne says the underlying tension is not just about current politics.

"We consider globalization and 'American-ization' is the same and therefore if you walk along the streets of Paris you will find a lot of people wearing cloths like in the United States, eating like in the United States and at the same time regretting this American influence because of the loss of national identity," he said. "That is why I think you will find at the same time a fascination for the United States and strong hatred for what they call American civilization."

This loss of cultural identify combined with a serious disagreement over the unilateral use of American military power in Iraq threatened to undermine the transatlantic alliance. But the recent Iraqi elections, the Bush administration diplomatic initiative in Europe and recognition by both sides that they need each other offer hope of renewed cooperation.

"The Europe powers mostly France know that they have to do something with the United States in Iraq," Mr. Kaspi said.  "Because if in Iraq the United States is defeated, that will be a defeat not only for the Americans but also for the Europeans, that will be a defeat for democracy and since we have the same kind of political values, if you lose, we lose."

What could significantly alter the relationship between European countries and the United States in the near future is the prospect of a united Europe.

French National Assembly Representative and president of the country's delegation to the European Union Pierre Leguiller says some sort of United States of Europe would be a stronger and more influential partner to both support and counterbalance their American allies.

"In the future we will have better chances of having a united Europe and those problems, especially in the Middle East and in Iraq, but not to be against America but to be a good supporter of America," he said.  And he says while good friends and supporters can sometimes disagree, a strong, united ally will be harder to ignore.

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