Thursday, February 20, 2003

We? Don't Drag The Rest of Us Down With You Molly

Whenever the thought of undertaking a rigorous Fisking of Molly Ivins creeps into my head (which occurs damn near every time I read her column) I usually dismiss the idea out of hand. There's something about the concept that's unsettling. Perhaps the word to describe the action is just a little bit too close to another verb that conjures up visuals so disturbing as to leave one scarred for life. Or perhaps it's just that her columns are so disjointed and illogical that the idea of having to go through them more than once is more than my intellect can bear. But every once in while Molly rises to such heights of absurdity and in this case hypocrisy that I have no choice but to respond. Sorry brain we're going in.

Molly's latest column is called Cheese-eating surrender monkeys, eh? and surprise surprise she comes to the defense of the French who she feels have been unfairly bad mouthed by conservatives pundits lately.

George Will saw fit to include in his latest Newsweek column this joke: "How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? No one knows, it's never been tried."

That was certainly amusing.

One million, four hundred thousand French soldiers were killed during World War I. As a result, there weren't many Frenchmen left to fight in World War II. Nevertheless, 100,000 French soldiers lost their lives trying to stop Adolf Hitler.

Molly's assertion that the French weren't able to defend their country in 1940 because so many of their soldiers had been killed in the First World War is laughable. Do you suppose the Germans suffered a few casualties? (1.6 million dead) How about the British? (660k dead) The Russians? (1.7 million dead) Yet all of these countries were able fight on long after (and suffer many times the losses of) the French in the Second World War.

On behalf of every one of those 100,000 men, I would like to thank Mr. Will for his clever joke. They were out-manned, out-gunned, out-generaled and, above all, out-tanked. They got slaughtered, but they stood and they fought. Ha-ha, how funny.

One out of four ain't bad is it Molly?

Out-manned? Not in terms of numbers. Although she chooses to ignore them the British, Belgian, and Dutch forces who along with the French faced the Germans on the Western Front had almost twice as many men as the Germans did. Now if she means out-manned in terms of the average German soldier being better trained, better motivated, and better led than the average French poliu she might be accurate. I have a hunch that's not what she meant.

Out-gunned? Again not in terms of numbers and not necessarily in quality either. The Germans 88mm gun wasn't used to the devastating effect it later would be in the sweep through France in 1940.

Out-generaled? Of course. But is this an excuse for the French? Don't we celebrate our successful military generals as American heroes and a product of our country? In the same way doesn't the failure of the French high command reflect on the failure of France?

And finally, out-tanked? Once again not in terms of numbers and again not in quality either. The best German tanks came out after the Battle of France and it wasn't the numbers of tanks or their superiority that led to the German success it was the manner in which they were deployed and the superior tactics the Germans used.

In the few places where they had tanks, they held splendidly.

This is nonsense. The French (sometimes acting with the British) were able to mount a few counterattacks using tanks that enjoyed brief moments of success before being repulsed and crushed by the Germans. But they were poorly coordinated and amounted to far too little far too late. It wasn't that the French didn't have tanks in enough places it was that they had them in too many places, scattered in small groups alongside infantry rather than being concentrated to deliver striking blows.

Relying on the Maginot Line was one of the great military follies of modern history, but it does not reflect on the courage of those who died for France in 1940. For 18 months after that execrable defeat, the United States of America continued to have cordial diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany.

And your point is what ??? For some reason I can't imagine Molly circa 1940 calling for immediate US military intervention in France even though we were not at war with Germany.

The column then starts to unravel as unconnected thoughts begin leaping around in Molly's brain:

Roosevelt was anti-colonialist. That system was a great evil, a greater horror even than Nazism or Stalinism.

This really doesn't even deserve a response. The gas chambers in Nazi Germany and the forced collectivization of the Ukraine were not nearly as bad as the British Raj? The woman really scares me at times.

Surrender monkeys? Try Dien Bien Phu. Yes, the French did surrender, didn't they? After 6,000 French died in a no-hope position. Ever heard of the Foreign Legion? Of the paratroopers, called "paras"? The trouble we could have saved ourselves if we had only paid attention to Dien Bien Phu.

The best figures that I could come up with for French dead at Dien Bien Phu were 3500 dead or missing. After the surrender of the remaining 10,683 troops a large number died on the way to captivity before the war ended a short time later. Of course when you say French you have to realize that about 70% of the force at Dien Bien Phu were either Foreign Legion, colonial troops from other French possessions, or Vietnamese fighting with the French.

But Molly once again misses the point of Dien Bien Phu. The French were not forced into the "no-hope" position. Rather they chose to put themselves there in an immense strategic blunder and miscalculation of their enemies capabilities. Another egregious example of poor military leadership.

And we did pay attention to Dien Bien Phu. At a little place called Khe Sahn. While some may question the wisdom of the whole Khe Sahn operation it was certainly not a defeat for the United States militarily speaking. The U.S. had just over 200 killed at Khe Sahn while North Vietnamese losses were at least ten times that number and probably even much higher due to heavy U.S. bombing. And we didn't surrender.

After more rambling and stumbling through seemingly unrelated subjects including Molly's fond recollection of being patted in Paris on 9/11 (don't ask) she winds up with this doozy:

This is where I think the real difference is. We Americans are famously ahistorical. We can barely be bothered to remember what happened last week, or last month, much less last year.

The French are really stuck on history. (Some might claim this is because the French are better educated than we are. I won't go there.)

We are famously ahistorical? Sorry Molly but please speak for yourself on this matter. Your column clearly has.

For more on Ivin's latest look here, here, or here (all via InstaPundit) This piece was written before I had read any of them so if there's a bit of overlap chalk it up to the whole great minds thinking alike thing.

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