My Liberty: Shared Realities Make France and the United States Partners

It all depends if you believe there's a legitimate terrorist threat or not. From here, it can be determined the degree of security measures needed - if any. Such is the reality of living in a free and democratic society. No one ever said it was going to be easy.

Cynics, skeptics and leftists (artists and political theorists alike) obviously take the position that it's a gross exaggeration fed to us by a media kept in line by the government. Some of their arguments are valid and others should be dismissed outright. What intrigues me is how many who stand against the government threaten to move to France to voice their displeasure.

Is the grass greener in France? Let's look at it, shall we? Ironically, the perception is that France is a freer society. Culturally the French are indeed more liberal - and anti-American. But that's another story. French anti-Americanism is hardly how conservatives like Hannity and O'Reilly describe it. It's just a typical philosophical position taken by a quarrelsome society that enjoys taking a devil's advocate stand. This is not to demean their recent posturing on this front, but a sense of perspective is needed here.

France has a reputation of being an inept military society; as if Inspector Clouseau ran the show. This, too, is selective, for the descendants of Gaul and the Franks are noted for their military abilities. We always remember the most recent things in life, because we have short attention spans when it comes to history, and France - until they prove their worth in another war - will always pay the price for their record during World War II. People care little for the big picture for it will inevitably shatter their narrow perceptions.

On a governance level France is a unitary Republic that wields widespread power unseen in the United States. On the terrorist front France is a key partner. They are efficient at breaking up cells and plots. It is here that we begin to see a breakdown in people's arguments against Bush, who wants to use simple and controversial, but effective measures like wiretaps and internet tools such as 'Google' to fight terrorists.

It may come as a surprise to many but France has been a police state for decades. France has been dealing with terrorists for centuries, but specifically since the 1950s with Algeria. Since then an organization calling itself Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) has made France a target. France has responded with three police services responsible in fighting terrorism: Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), Direction Centrale des Renseignements Généraux (DCRG) and Division Nationale Anti-terroriste (DNAT), each with specific roles and duties that cooperate with one another.

France is a sophisticated civil society that makes no qualms about the fact that the threat is real. One need only examine the networks they have dismantled and destroyed either by mass arrests or targeted killings. The list is daunting if not frightening. France has some of the toughest anti-terrorism laws on earth. For their part, Germany, Britain and Italy all have functional intelligence units that are experienced in this field and together they form as formidable a power group. Interestingly, France and the United States have been cooperating behind the scenes to devise plans on how to fight terrorism. On this front, the uncomfortable alliance remains strong.

In 2001, Americans were introduced to an act of murder Europeans had grown accustomed to. As such, its government has sought to introduce various responsible, expensive, imperfect and unpopular security measures and organizations necessary to defend themselves. As time moves forward, Americans will become better at balancing civil liberties and security. After all, France has done so (they did manage to fool entertainers). This is the nature of the beast Western societies face.

It is up to Americans if they want to use short-term considerations to drive their responses to security concerns. Will someone stand up and speak for the big picture? Big pictures always reveal some surprising truths.

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