The Long Goodbye

By Edward Goldstick

I've got one longish and two shortish posts in the works that I hope Jim and his colleagues will allow me to get in before I sign off ...

... but for now, here's a short three part ode to what's good in the French as in ...

The Good:  a musical "Sunday Promenade"
The Bad:  Francophobia and the abuse of history to avoid asking real questions The Ugly: How Obama Failed in Egypt? (emphasis added as in "Obama?")

With the second two are offered below the fold so as to not irritate the restful among you (whatever sabbatical and/or spiritual sense might apply).

Bon Dimanche!

The Bad:  Francophobia and the abuse of history to avoid asking real questions...

Upon reading it, my wife observed that Charles Krauthammer's weird OpEd bookends ("Obama's Louis XV Budget") merit a retort by someone of Fallowesque stature that I have yet to see elsewhere, so here are her points:

- Louis XV started his reign with the debt accumulated by Louis XIV;

- Louis XV exacerbated things by triggering the Seven Years War with Great Britain (which simultaneously 'trained' the American insurgency, so let's hope that second part is not prophetic...);

- Only the Third Estate was taxed in the France; that is, the nobility and the clergy were not even taxed one centime when the national debt grew due to those foreign adventures and other royal extravagances (and it hardly be said that there were many "welfare queens").

- And let's not forget the John Law "invented" financial experimentation and speculative bubble...

Sounds familiar?

And yes, lest defenders of Bush the Younger and/or Obama the First* find that the allusions and connections are both too obvious and a bit muddled, that is the point...

* as in the First "integrated, multicultural, multifaceted, post-Postmodern [sic] POTUS"... but that's an even better endpoint.

The Ugly: How Obama Failed in Egypt? (emphasis added)

... and yes, I am referring to this latest attention-grabbing "thoughtful" polemic that I will not attack point for point (Heavens to Betsy!  I didn't even go to Harvard...); however, the connection with France and European history is plain for me in the penultimate paragraph:

Bismarck knew how to choose. He understood that riding the nationalist wave would enable Prussia to become the dominant force in Germany, but that thereafter the No. 1 objective must be to keep France and Russia from uniting against his new Reich. When asked for his opinion about colonizing Africa, Bismarck famously replied: "My map of Africa lies in Europe. Here lies Russia and here lies France, and we are in the middle. That is my map of Africa."

How'd all that turn out?  It is certainly unfair to blame the Prussians for all the horrors that followed.  It's unfair to blame either Grant or Lee (and Lincoln or Davis) for the carnage that transpired "among" The States to retain The Union... but it's certainly misguided to ignore that some did see the cataclysm as it arrived when they were discounted and ignored or worse... and some, to be frank (no pun intended) make for moving melodies... as in here and here.

Edward Goldstick is a veteran of the high-tech, software, defense, and energy-technology worlds in the US and France.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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