Friday, November 2, 2018

Cheeses and Charles de Gaulle

Patriotism versus Nationalism
While we sprint towards WWIII, a French military leader and politician from WWII has some relevant points . . . 
Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport 1970s Stewardess in green uniforms
Before Charles de Gaulle was an airport, he was a French general and politician.
Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970), was argumentative, stood 6' 5", and had a reputation for arrogance.
Charles de Gaulle at Saint Cyr military academy
A young Charles de Gaulle at Saint Cyr Military Academy
"People looked up to him because they had to."
"His ego glowed from far off."
While being held as a POW during WWI, de Gaulle met the future commander of the USSR Red Army. They had plenty of time to develop and share military strategies.
Charles de Gaulle looking very French WWI @TheWWImuseum
Charles de Gaulle looking very French @TheWWImuseum
At the end of WWI, de Gaulle wrote Toward a Professional Army arguing for an elite fighting force, troop mobility, and eliminating trench warfare. He only sold 700 copies in France but the Germans apparently paid attention and developed some tactics outlined his book.
The Maginot Line, France 1944
Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him. - Charles de Gaulle
De Gaulle opposed the ill-fated Maginot Line, an enormously expensive fortification between the French and German border. As anticipated, Hitler circumvented the fortification by marching through Belgium into France. It took six weeks.
Anti de Gaulle propaganda during the German occupation of France. "The General-Micro"
Anti de Gaulle propaganda, "The General-Micro" 
Rather than surrender, de Gaulle became the commander of the Free French force from England. The remaining French government, eventually known as the Vichy Regime, surrendered to Germany and sentenced de Gaulle to death for treason.  
With the hard propaganda push, the Nazi-collaborating French officials created a hero in exile.
Armed French Resistance fighters read a Newspaper article titled "hope" WWII
Armed French Resistance fighters
read a Newspaper article titled "hope"
De Gaulle, realizing he had very little power, compensated by cultivating a demanding and pompous personality. Bolstering the resistance, he became the personification of French determination. 
Eisenhower pushed to work with de Gaulle. "It is essential to have on your side, not the local forces you wish were popular but the local forces who actually are popular."
Rival French leaders Henri Giraud and Charles de Gaulle met with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (Casablanca Conference, 14 January 1943)
Rival French leaders Henri Giraud and Charles de Gaulle
sit with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill
Casablanca Conference, 1943
Roosevelt disliked de Gaulle and he was excluded from the 'Big Three' Conferences.  Ongoing tension and mistrust between de Gaulle, the USSR, and the "Anglo-Saxons" lasted long after WWII.  
Originally, the Allied commanders did not believe liberating Paris was a strategic priority. 
The French Communist Party, particularly after Hitler's invasion of Russia, became very active in the resistance. De Gaulle appealed for liberation and predicted the communists would come to power without rapid intervention . . .
De Gaulle Square in Moscow
Unveiled in 2005, 
the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II, 
the statue of de Gaulle is 26.25-feet-tall 
and stands on a 32.75-foot plinth.   
and even with the happy, friendly relationship with Uncle Joe, FDR and Churchill had some concerns over Stalin marching into France. 
Charles de Gaulle returns to France The Liberation of Paris, August 25 - 26, 1944
Charles de Gaulle returns to France
The Liberation of Paris, August 1944
De Gaulle arranged for French troops only to accompany him into Paris and orchestrated the procession where he walked confidently ahead of the others. 
Vichy militia opened fire. 
From a BBC report:
"Firing started all over the place . . . General de Gaulle walked straight ahead into what appeared to me to be a hail of fire . . . but he went straight ahead without hesitation. . . It was the most extraordinary example of courage I have ever seen."
Charles De Gaulle at the Joan of Arc festival in Orleans 1959
Joan of Arc festival in Orleans, 1959
De Gaulle was able to manage the post-war provisional government and prevent a communist revolution before he dropped out of the public eye for 14 years. 
Explaining his disappearance, de Gaulle told a colleague, "France may still one day need an image that is pure . . . If Joan of Arc had married, she would no longer have been Joan of Arc".
(Knowing when to do dumb things in private instead of public is apparently a lost political art.)
Charles de Gaulle 1944 Decolonization in French West Africa
Charles de Gaulle, Decolonization in French West Africa, 1944 
As predicted, de Gaulle was called out of retirement in 1958 during the Algerian War. The Algerians, it turned out, did not particularly enjoy colonization. Four years earlier, the French had been rousted out of Vietnam. The Vietnamese also, it turned out, did not enjoy colonization. 
De Gaulle was elected President later that year with 78% of the vote.
charles de gaulle President of France 2
Charles de Gaulle was responsible for creating a new French Constitution, 
the National Social Security program, and the Bank of France. 
Reelected in 1965, he became increasingly unpopular and resigned in 1969.  
He died in 1970, two weeks before he turned 80. 
Charles De Gaulle Memorial. Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, France
Charles De Gaulle Memorial
Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, France
Like most adept at politics, De Gaulle crafted a national myth with theatrics, mystique and symbolism. 
"I am trying to give France the appearance of a solid, firm, confident and expanding country, while it is a worn-out nation." "In reality we are on the stage of a theatre where I have been keeping up the illusion since 1940."
WWI soldier visits a grave. The graveyards are full of indispensable men. - Charles De Gaulle
WWI soldier visits a grave
Relevance to our current political cesspool (as discussed in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik) involves creating a myth hinging on nationalism versus patriotism:
The nationalist has no particular sense of affection for the actual place he advocates for but channels his obsessive grievances into acts of ethnic vengeance.
The patriot loves his place and its cheeses and its people and its idiosyncrasies.


I'm going to side with the cheeses.
French grenadier and his sentry dog, Aisne Front, France, World War I
French grenadier and his sentry dog, Aisne Front, France, World War I
#History #Quote #WWI #WWII #WWIII #Patriotism #Nationalism 

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