In role reversal, the French become “cowboys”

This weekend, while the focus was on the hostage situation involving Captain Phillips, the French military rescued four French hostages, including a three-year-old boy, after President Sarkozy authorized a military attack on a French yacht that pirates had seized in the Gulf of Aden a week earlier. The rescued hostages were all unharmed, but another hostage, the skipper of the yacht, was killed.

According to The Independent, this was the third rescue operation conducted by the French in the past year. These incidents, including the dramatic one this weekend, seem to have received very little coverage in the U.S.

Although the French government did negotiate for a while with the priates on the captured yacht last week, President Sarkozy’s overall approach to these incidents seems more aggressive and proactive than President Obama’s. Reportedly, Obama’s orders were to act only if Captain Phillips was in imminent danger. As John has noted, the Navy may have bridged the gap between Sarkozy and Obama by construing the latter’s order to mean “shoot only when you have clean shots at each of the bastards.”

JOHN adds: France’s reputation for wimpiness is somewhat misplaced, I think. The French may seem weak when we want them to help us with a difficult task from which they will gain no immediate payoff–but that isn’t wimpiness as much as cynicism. When it comes to protecting their own interests, the French are quite ruthless. Remember when they dispatched frogmen to bomb a Greenpeace ship? It’s hard to imagine any American administration issuing such an order. Unfortunately.

PAUL adds: John is right; the title of my post was meant in jest. Acutally, the French are cowboys, cynical cowboys.

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