France is a friend of The United States. They’re like America’s oldest friend. From Lafayette to Normandy the US has always been friends with the French. While they are a member of the European Union who President Trump said hasn’t “treat us well” France’s actions speak louder than words.
Sometimes your friends tell you things about yourself you don’t like to hear, as with the second Iraq war. Most agree now that it wasn’t the best or most well executed move. Of course Americans got upset by France being the most vocal friend on the matter and did juvenile things like change “French fries” to “freedom fries” never stopping to remember that we wouldn’t have the to freedom to arbitrarily change the of America’s favorite side item without French intervention. But nevertheless France remained our friends even though America made mistakes.
The same applies with their immigration policy. Americans, particularly conservatives, warned France and many in Europe that their refuge and lax immigration policy would have disastrous issues for them down the road. And it has. It’s like when your buddy decides to move in with that kinda crazy girl he’s been seeing for a while and you warn them it will end badly. Even though you warned your friend this would happen, you still go help him pick up his clothes that the crazy girl didn’t burn because America is still there for our friend, France.
That brings the discussion about to current geopolitical situation Africa. The US have offered assistance to African nations and the French, who have been countering AQ in Western African since launching operation Barkhane in 2014, for 3 reasons. The first: al Qaeda is tough as nails, and they’ve shifted their focus back to the African continent. They look to make splashes like they once did in Nairobi and create a new prolonged insurgency like the French faced in the Algerian war of the 1960’s. The second reason: al Qaeda is very aware of how sensitive Africans are about the history France’s colonial adventurism, as Ayman al Zawahiri recently pointed out in a finger-wagging self-righteous sermon via a video released to the masses. The third: all the different factions trying to help Western Africa create a traffic jam, and one skill that the US has honed over the last five years in fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is directing traffic.
In a report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the G5 Sahel Joint Force the CSIS wrote:
“France has expressed willingness to sustain its effort through Operation Barkhane, but it is unlikely to expand its efforts, given its need to deploy forces domestically to respond to the rising threat of terrorist attacks at home. In Mali, the European Union has trained 10,000 soldiers (one-third of the national army), but progress is slow.”
France has to deploy forces to combat issues that have arisen on the ground in France, their homeland. They don’t have the resources to continue the fight in Western Africa largely because of the issues that their immigration policy has created. Helping them with Burkhane is the right move for the US.
What they can’t do on the ground in Africa, France can help with in other areas — like Asia, where they can use diplomacy in concert with US deterrence maneuvering to contain and motivate China to curb their expansionism in farther south in Asia. The French Navy recently conducted drills with People’s Liberation Army of Hong Kong. The Asian Times reported “The exercise was held in waters about 20 nautical miles off Hong Kong during which marines from both militaries used English in their communications.” In English, which will come in handy when coordinating efforts in patrolling the South China Sea.
Timing in geopolitics is rarely an accident. This move by the French comes at the same time as the US has returned to Vietnam for the first time since the withdrawal in 1973. It is a good thing to have a strong presence in Asian waters with a diplomatic friend facilitating the dialogue with the people who hold a large portion of one’s national debt. In addition, France scheduled naval drills with South Korea on their Asian tour which adds a fresh set of legs to the tired standoff with North Korea.
Some Americans, those more leaning right more so than those leaning left, like to pretend the EU, and its members like France, are some sort of a soft enemy or malicious saboteurs. It can be easy to come to that conclusion if all one does is listen to partisan echo chambers and cognitive bias confirmation mills, but the actions of France simply do not reflect the rhetoric of partisan critics. These recent geopolitical developments are a good sign in the new fashionable Asian Pivot.