Thursday, December 03, 2015

A Toast To The French

The Treaty of Versailles, signed nearly one hundred years ago, brought peace to a world that had just endured "the war to end all wars." That was the one we eventually had to redefine as "World War I," since it turns out that our world is plenty big and strong enough to withstand more than one world war. Like the eventual and inevitable movie sequel, if it makes money, there's bound to be another one. I'm looking at you, Jurassic Park. But back in 1919, this was the agreement between the factions who were fighting in  the corner of the globe called "Europe." It was very polite of the French to provide such an austere setting for such a monumental event. When the world sat down to negotiate peace, we went to France. That agreement, which set up payment for reparations also helped bankrupt Germany and make a fertile breeding ground for what would become Nazi Germany. Besides giving up all its colonies, Deutschland was also asked to pay a reduced sum, talked down from sixty-three billion dollars to the low, low price of just thirty-three billion dollars because that was the cost of doing that kind of business in 1919.
Fifty-some years later, the world's eyes turned again to Paris to see what sort of peace could be made out of the quagmire of Vietnam. If you are keeping score at home, this would be one of those conflicts from which we did not emerge victorious. It may also be noted there that France's involvement in the peace process could have had something to do with their own involvement in that quagmire, some years before the United States jumped in lock, stock and smoking barrels. The deal was a pretty sweet one in comparison to the one they came up with for Germany. The United States needed to get out of Vietnam, advisers, troops, bases, and so on and in exchange we got our prisoners of war back. In effect, we didn't lose anything, except that big game of metaphorical dominoes that was going on in southeast Asia at the time. Well, that and the reminder that Vizzini gives the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride: never get involved in a land war in Asia.
Now it's 2015. The war on Terrorism, Drugs and Christmas wear on, but the leaders of the world are hanging out in Paris once again to try and reach a settlement. This time it's all about the carbon. How much should we have to breathe? The Kyoto Accords are about to expire, and so we need to have some sort of arrangement by which we can avoid destroying our planet once and for all. That way, if we still have anyone left to fight, we can get back to having wars so that every so often we have a really good excuse to visit the City of Light.

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