Our Oldest Enemy
John J. Miller & Mark Molesky
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Buy *Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France* online

Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France
John J. Miller & Mark Molesky
304 pages
October 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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"Next to the the weather [the French]...have caused me more trouble in this war than any single factor."
(Supreme Allied Commander and future U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower as quoted by the authors)

As the title suggests, this is a book about the troubled history between the USA and the various French Republics. It's well-researched and is a book that Francophiles will not like. The authors have nothing good to say about the French. It is their contention that most of our indulgence of the French is due to the fondness for Lafayette and appreciation his services to our country. They relay the oft-repeated statement that when World War I General Pershing arrived in France he declared "Lafayette, we are here!" They also believe that the French have exploited this fondness at every opportunity.

The book begins with the French and Indian wars of the sixteenth century, a time when most colonists along the Atlantic coast considered themselves loyal British settlers. The French claimed North American territory as New France in present-day Canada, the Great Lakes region and all of the land drained by the Mississippi River. They were determined to keep the British from expanding west across the Appalachian Mountains. To accomplish this, they formed alliances with the Native Americans to drive the British out. The French and Indians committed numerous atrocities and massacres (a French word). After much bloodshed, the British and colonists defeated the French. Our first president, George Washington, engaged in some of these battles with mixed results.

The authors contend that the French came to America's aid during the War of Independence due to their desire for revenge on the British. Even then, they waited until the Americans' victory at Saratoga to fully commit, wanting to be sure that the Americans had a reasonable chance of winning. French generals were very condescending and unreliable as fighting allies.

It seems that each French commander pursued his own agenda. However, the authors concede that French intervention made a decisive difference. That concession is the only positive thing said about the French in this book.

In the US presidential election to succeed President Washington, France, seeing Jefferson as more sympathetic to them than John Adams, engaged in various intrigues to bring about Adams's defeat. After Adams was elected, the French demanded tribute to negotiate with US ministers. She also authorized privateers to prey on America ships. This in turn caused the creation of the American Navy. The first hostilities with a foreign country after America became a nation were between the new US Navy and the French. However, President Adams recognized that the fledgling country was ill-prepared to go to war and managed to negotiate the peace treaty of 1800. But the near-conflict probably cost him a second term.

According to Miller, a political reporter, and Molesky, a Harvard history lecturer, we had ample reason to go to war against France as well as the British in the War of 1812. Again, during our own Civil War, the French saw an opportunity and invaded Mexico, conniving to make the southern states part of a French empire on the American continent. When the US went to the aid of the French in World War I, she wanted to make the American troops replacements for the French troops she had wasted by having them charge into machine-gun fire. The American generals wisely refused. Her actions after the war were largely responsible for the conditions that allowed the rise of Adolph Hitler.

The book continues on through the French's double-dealing and intriguing up to our present day war on terror. One wonders if something has been omitted that would show the French in better light. There is nothing in the book to ameliorate the condemnation. However, the authors have convinced this reviewer.

© 2004 by Donald Allan Scott for curledup.com.

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