Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the cold war between America and France has ended. America and its oldest ally are on speaking terms again, and the French are happy about the reconciliation.
Le Figaro magazine has just published a series of articles welcoming the warming of relations with the United States. The French magazine conducted a poll in the U.S. that shows Americans now take a kinder view of France. Even though many still think the French are arrogant and ungrateful, almost half of Americans now say they have a positive image of France. And a third even say they would be ready to live in France. Young Americans (76 percent) and those who vote Democrat (60 percent) have the most favorable view of France.
So what happened to French bashing and â€œfreedom friesâ€? The French believe that both the United States and France have changed in the past four years.
Americans now overwhelmingly oppose the war in Iraq, or at least the way President Bush has been conducting it. Many say that the French were right to oppose to war, even if they did not like the way former French President Jacques Chirac announced his opposition.
The Bushes invited Sarkozy to Maine
France now has a new president, and that is the other big reason relations are warmer. Americans (or at least those who are aware of what is happening in Europe) see Nicolas Sarkozy as a bit like themselves. He is straight-forward, even brash, speaks frankly and has a can-do attitude. The son of immigrants, he fought his way to the top in politics. Moreover, he really likes America and Americans, and as we all know, spent a summer vacation after taking office this year, in New Hampshire.
Even politicians have noticed the difference. French fries have reappeared on the Congressional menu, and presidential candidates no longer see familiarity or friendship with France as the kiss of death. Former actor and Republican Senator Fred Thompson declared he is ready to toast Mr. Sarkozy with a glass of French wine, and former Republican Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani admitted he was flattered by the comparison when the New York Post described the new French president as a â€œFrench Rudy.â€
You can also notice the warming of relations here in France, where for the first time in several years, I am beginning to see more American tourists on the French Riviera. Americans apparently no longer feel it is unpatriotic to enjoy the pleasures of France. (One New York woman told me several years ago, she was reluctant to tell her friends she was vacationing in France.) Now it's just the high cost and weak dollar that make Americans hesitate to come.
Both France and America will benefit from this new era of better relations. France, with its free enterprise, pro-American president can stop condemning the so-called evils of American capitalism and start tackling much needed reforms of its own economy. And America will find it has an ally whose president is not afraid to line up alongside it in the United Nations, to step up the pressure on Iran, and to become a helpful friend rather than an annoying critic.
That is not to say that France and America won't have divergent interests in some areas, but the new French government is neither Socialist nor Gaullist. It is pragmatist, and that makes it a lot easier to kiss and make up.