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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post "No Stomach for War": France 1939-'40
Created by John Eipper on 06/28/19 4:25 AM

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"No Stomach for War": France 1939-'40 (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 06/28/19 4:25 am)

John E asked, "Cameron, do you also accept the oft-repeated point of historians, that the French people simply had no stomach for [WWII] after the slaughter of the previous one? The Germans suffered equally in the Great War, but at least they had revenge as a motivation (as the French did in 1914). Ultimately, the French decided with Pétain that it was preferable to try their luck under the German boot than to continue the bloodletting."

Who knows? There is probably a grain of truth to it, but I think at best this is an oversimplification. The French were beaten at the time they gave up--should they have kept fighting after they were beaten? I probably wouldn't have. Arguably the Russians were also beaten by August, 1941, and they did keep fighting what for a time looked like a completely hopeless fight, taking horrendous casualties.

But the difference is that unlike the French, the Russians did have what it took to come back and win. Did they know that? Did the French really know for sure they didn't? Who knows! But don't rely on oversimplified explanations. The French were not cowards--for sure. They may have been tired of fighting, but that was not the only reason they gave up.

JE comments:  We raised this question earlier, but perhaps there's more to be said:  was there any plausible way France could have kept fighting?  It's not a nation that lends itself well to guerrilla warfare.  You need rough terrain and vast wilderness for that.

On a tangentially related note, today's big World Cup match is a showdown between the US and host country France.  Given his rocky relationship with our team, I expect Trump to cheer for France.


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