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France wonders what future may hold

    Saturday, July 14, 2018 -- (Long Beach, CA) -- On July 14th, 1789, word reached America’s ambassadors -- Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin -- that dreaded dungeon known as the Bastille had been stormed.

    The King of France -- Louis XVI -- showed no hesitation to crush opposition by throwing anyone in the Bastille, whether they held different political views or simply stole bread.

    Jefferson and Franklin walked a middle ground, for while their own presence in France inspired Revolution due to America’s own, it had been Louis XVI who sent the French military to join America’s rag-tag colonial forces battling the King of England.

    Military theory teaches that, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and the rag-tag Americans would certainly have lost to the most powerful military in the world, had Minutemen continued standing alone against England’s redcoats.

    The English were the principal strategic opponent to France, and the two nations had battled for centuries. Throwing a young general -- the Marquis de Lafayette -- to fight Fance’s enemy made American’s their friend.

    In the two centuries since the two revolutions, France stands as the only major European nation to never fight a war against America.

    Even after the humiliating defeat of France in 1870 -- due to Germany’s new cannons -- the French showed love remained absolute, as their crippled government still took pride at sending sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi’s “Lady Liberty” in 1876, to mark our own revolution.

    France and Germany continued battling for control of Europe, and the United States remained loyal. While the word “great” gets used a lot, only an armistice ended The Great War , now known simply as World War One. The French and British had lost millions of young men fighting Germany’s Kaiser, in a brutal “War to End All Wars.” Only the sheer will of the French stopped Germany from an immediate complete victory in 1914, and four long years left them broken.

    France stayed close to the Americans, but the delicate political debate in the United States over foreign wars, Americans could only watch German tanks roll across western Europe in the May 1940 Battle of France. Absolute defeat forced France to kiss Germany’s ring, through a war-hero’s treason. England stood alone against Hitler.

    The only way to end constant war in Europe was to bring the Continent together. Defeat of Hitler’s Nazis resulted in a division of the west and east. The Communists who controlled 15 nations as their own “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” would itself allow no strength of Germany against them.

    Germany had brutally invaded the Soviet Union, after having cut a secret a year before, allowing the USSR and Germany to slice Poland in two. When Adolf Hitler broke the deal, his tanks rolled quickly across the massive wheat fields of the USSR.

    America worked together with the Soviets only because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” After the Allied victory to crush Hitler, the USSR demanded half of Germany, including half of the city of Berlin, so that Communists would never have to fear German advance.

    The USSR showed no hesitation to tinker with elections in Europe, and to invade nations unwilling to bend to their control.

    The sweeping domination of eastern Europe became known as the Cold War , which swept like an Iron Curtain when Winston Churchill visited Harry Truman’s home state to deliver one of history’s greatest speeches.

    As a strategically step to battle the USSR, America joined Canada and all of western Europe, to form an alliance to defend nations from Soviet invasion. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization , signed in 1949, remains to this day as the leading vehicle to combat spreading war across Europe.

    Americans faced ultimate risks during the Cold War.

    When the USSR closed the gates to West Berlin, by banning Allied trucks to carry food and goods, Harry Truman ordered American planes into the air.

    When the USSR built a wall separating East and West Berlin, the Soviet’s “zero tolerance” permanently separated German families. President John Kennedy, who stood in front of the newly-erected Berlin Wall told Germany that we stood with them. The young President faced the ultimate foe, when Soviet atomic weapons soon stood posed to strike Washington.

    After a decade of haggling with an enemy who aimed nuclear weapons at every major American city, President Ronald Reagan entered office despised by Europeans. In France and every other nation of western Europe, protestors by the million showed fury over America’s escalating military spending and hostile deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

    In his first week in office, Ronald Reagan sat with military leaders and asked, “Do we have more gun” or “more ships” or “more bombs” or more of anything to fight the Soviets. After a long silence, one general said, “We have more money.”

    Reagan demanded NATO to deploy US-controlled tactical nuclear weapons as a direct challenge to the USSR. All lives were at risk. No protestor in Paris or Berlin could know that the Soviets bankrupted themselves by building military growth they couldn’t afford.

    When Mr. Reagan flew to Berlin to tell the Soviet leader that “tear down that wall,” it quickly was followed by the ultimate collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the end of the Cold War.

    On this Bastille Day, France and all of western Europe may celebrate victory against wars. NATO ended the military threat of Germany, and worked for decades to end the Cold War.

    On the prior Bastille Day, America’s new President watched While the Soviet Union collapsed, you don’t have to look far to find Communist treats to Europe and world.

    The man who now is the American president watched French forces on display , with the annual military parade to mark their own Revolution. Also attending the annual parade are weapons buyers, who get to see before they buy.

    America’s Commander-in-Chief ordered U.S. military personnel to march in front of him in a bigger and better parade, while the U.S. Army is given orders to view bravery by skin color.

    America’s President seems uninterested in the continued presence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    France’s neighbor -- Germany -- is not longer allowed to hold a massive military, and thus a push to downsize NATO poses a profound risk . America’s President throws candy at the German chancellor, saying she can never say he hadn’t given he anything, which brushing aside concern about Russia.

    America’s President appears ready to shift alliances, by cutting loose on NATO by threatening to chop America’s spending on the strategic goal of holding back Russia.

    The long-time ruler of the Russian regime smiles when America’s new leader smiles back, which even a bipartisan vote in the US Senate sees as kissing.

    With friendship between Vladimir Putin comes requests to share information, and the President declares “absolute right” to keep kissing.

    The French President gets plenty of kisses when his became the first State Dinner in the White House, but even planting a tree doesn’t last . Wanting to divide Europe in the same spirit as he divides America, the President urged France to exit the European Union, and weaken Europe’s connections together.

    Bastille Day, then, is much different in 2018 than the prior year.

    Today, France -- and all of Europe -- must wonder if Russia is winning the war . NATO members view America’s President as a liability , and a re not sure he remembers his words . Is Russia a new friend? Is England our friend? Is Canada -- our largest trading partner -- America’s friend? Are the world’s biggest economies our friends?

    Since Russia has a long history of distrusting the world, it could easily be that the new friendship cares nothing about elections . USSR tyrant Joe Stalin taught that, “It doesn’t matter who CASTS a vote, but only who COUNTS them.” If America’s new President ditches NATO and the G-& to kiss Vladimir Putin, will he notice if he is being lied to?

    Perhaps the rapid disappearance of the tree planted by the French and American presidents is more than a symbol on this Bastille Day.

-- Billy Orton

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Billy Orton is a novelist and historian living in Long Beach, California.