10.23.2008

Charles de Gaulle. Good? Bad? Otherwise?

Charles de Gaulle once said "the sword is the axis of the world and its power is absolute."

If I were a sword I'd be inclined to take that as a compliment, but one can't just take endorsements from anybody these days.

Charles de Gaulle certainly had quite a career. Ultimately the president of France in the 1960s, he was previously President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic in the 1940s and Prime Minister of France in the 1950s. He organized the Free French Forces (a French army that continued to fight against Nazi Germany after France surrendered to the Germans) from London. He was a member of the cabinet at this point, but prior to his political career he was career military.

Like any political leader, he made his controversial decisions. He withdrew France from NATO, but also granted independence from France to Algeria. He was among the first international leaders to support President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis,* but he also caused quite an uproar when, at the 1967 World Expo in Montreal, he exclaimed "Vive le Qu├ębec libre!" in front of the gathering.** He remains an admired, yet controversial figure in France, but not considered especially evil or bad.

So, again, if I were a sword, I'd take the compliment. Of course, if I were a sword, I would recognize that any power I might have would rest in the skills of my wielder. After all, Confucius once said "never give a sword to a man who can't dance."

True that.

*An interesting article from the International Herald Tribune. de Gaulle was offered photographic evidence of the missiles, but reportedly said the word of the president was proof enough to pledge French military support. Not anymore!

**The current French president does not support the sentiment.

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