Submarines, Covid Tests, and Baguettes


Andy Behrman '24

In recent months, France has been at the center of a number of major news stories on the world stage.

Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, the leader of an Islamic terrorist group in Africa, was killed on Aug. 17, 2021. At first glance, I thought that the U.S military had killed another terrorist leader, but actually, he was killed by the French military. The French president, Emmanuel Macron (whose name sounds like a pastry you would get in a cafe in Paris) announced that the French military had finally killed the leader who had killed four U.S soldiers. This was simply something I had never seen before. 

This raises a question. We have now pulled out of Afghanistan – the debate about this is a can of worms that I am not opening – and the American public seems pretty tired of billions of American tax dollars being spent when they intervene in every single foreign conflict. (This is not just a new Biden thing, so don’t play pin the tail on the donkey. For instance, Trump pulled troops from Northern Syria way back in 2019.) The question is: Will America stop intervening in foreign nations? Whether they should or will is a really complex question. But, as I argued in my last article, the U.S might not be the only major economic and military superpower in the world forever. And with this, new players will step in and here I’m going to argue that France might become a big player in global politics in the 21st century, in addition to other more obvious candidates. Here’s why.

The first reason is that France is handling COVID-19 pretty well, especially in comparison to the US. As of Oct. 12, over 82% of the French population is vaccinated against COVID-19. This can be compared to the U.S., which is currently at 57% of its population. Also, their COVID numbers have been relatively low, which can be attributed to antigen rapid testing, and I mean really rapid testing, as in a matter of minutes testing. Imagine you wake up one morning and you have a stuffy nose and you are coughing a little. Theoretically, you should just stay home and probably get tested for COVID –  however, this takes 24 hours and you probably have a math test or you have a football game tonight. Instead of waiting 24 hours being quarantined, or worse, disregarding the symptoms and spreading COVID while waiting for the test to come back, in France, you can just take a COVID test from your bathroom shelf. In minutes, you’ll know that you either are positive and will quarantine, or you are negative and you can take that math test. These rapid tests are commonly used and widely available in France, along with other European countries; right now, they cost around $1,122 at your average American CVS, according to the New York Times

The second reason is that France is a country with an independent streak. It is not a country that automatically does whatever America says. One thing that you may or may not have seen in the news was the submarine deal with Australia. Essentially what happened was France was selling submarines to Australia. However, that deal was canceled when the U.S. and U.K. sold some nuclear submarines (meaning nuclear powered, they won’t have big missiles that go boom on them) to Australia, which essentially made France lose billions of dollars. Macron was not happy at all and the relationship between the allies was pretty tense. The point is that France would be happy to take America’s place as a military power in third world countries. For instance, Lebanon’s economy is absolutely obliterated right now, and as a new prime minister takes office, France is trying to push Lebanon to enact some economic reforms. Meanwhile, the Biden administration really couldn’t care less right now. 

So, what does it mean if France becomes a bigger player on the world stage? I’ve heard that it is possible that the relationship between West Africa and France might look a lot like the relationship between the Middle East and America in a few decades, or perhaps France will start a sort of Marshall Plan foreign policy in West Africa, with France investing in those countries, making them more stable.

However, I’ll leave you with this: big news channels like Fox News are painting American isolationism as some terrible thing that should be stopped at all costs. However, it won’t be the end of the world, because someone will simply take our place. Whether it be China, France, or Germany, it won’t matter tremendously. The only thing that might happen that will change our day-to-day lives is that our gas will become a few cents cheaper.