Excerpt from Idiosyncratic History: Part of Section on European Union

            France remained a roving gendarme in independent black Africa even into the 1990s and tried assiduously to extend her cultural and political influence in French-speaking territories and other, less promising (or, to put it more bluntly, totally disastrous) ones like Zaire and Rwanda-Burundi or Equatorial Guinea that had never been French but Belgian or Spanish, and in ex-colonies like Haiti (another perennial basket-case)  in the Caribbean, which had been lost in Napoleonic times. France claimed a special understanding of developing countries, presumably based on a shared, if often bitter, colonial experience and a desire for a prickly-proud independence. She showed a particular interest in wooing Arab countries as well as those other bits of the world which were once French, such as Indochina and Quebec in Canada, and tried to save them from  succumbing to the universal non-culture represented by Coca-Cola and Mickey Mouse and the English language, and such like horrors.
            In these ways, France provided the most striking or, probably, the only real example of the neo-colonial power, retaining an effective if informal influence over some of her former colonies, even though the tricoleur had been hauled down. Nonetheless, for all her global ambitions or global meddling, and freed from the Algerian quagmire, France concentrated on building her dominant position in western Europe. West Germany, like Japan, was still not quite respectable and confined to minding her own business and developing her economy.
            Britain was commonwealth or empire-minded and distracted by her interests, real or otherwise, all over the world. Her instincts were not continental. If the British identified with nations other than their own, they thought of other Anglo-Saxon powers overseas. Britain traditionally stood aloof from the continent and regarded herself as having a special relationship with the United States, an attitude not always reciprocated. The Atlantic, however, is somewhat wider than the English Channel. The British in the sixties became alarmed at their relative industrial decline. The obvious success of the European Communities began to change their focus.
            Unfortunately for them, General de Gaulle had a chronic distrust of matters Anglo-Saxon in general and a British presence in Europe in particular. If the British entered, the general believed, they would prove unreliable and disruptive. Their lukewarmness towards Europe, their earlier footdragging, indicated their lack of seriousness. They were too concerned with the effects of their entry upon New Zealand, Cyprus, the Gilbert and Ellis islands and God knows where else. Once in, they would yearn for the wide open spaces of empire and the United States. They would dilute the Paris-Bonn axis. They would speak English. Any single community state could keep out any applicant if she desired. The general applied the veto to both the 1961 Conservative and the 1967 Labour applications to join.
            Thus did de Gaulle try fend off the Anglo-Saxon threat to France's re-emergence as a (sort of) great power. He had already taken France out of the Nato command structure, though not out of Nato itself, because it was American dominated. He also tried to improve France's performance in the bedroom. The general, a little disappointed by the dimensions of his country and the size of her population, intimated that he would like there to be a hundred million Frenchmen by the twenty-first century, but the population, apart from immigrant North Africans, did not share the general's vision and obliged him not.
            The European Communities combined into one body in July 1967 which was styled the European Community, thus in the singular and without the adjective economic, indicating an intention towards greater political union as well. The general's view of Europe, however, was not one where national particularity would be subsumed but a grander, looser vision that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Urals including, remotely, the forgivable Russians but not the wretched British. Ironically, this outlook, which emphasised the need to retain the national identity of the member states, ran similar to Mrs Thatcher's view of Europe some years later. Thus, the British and the French were ultimately in agreement but not, unfortunately, in the same decade.


            To enable France to be truly independent, the general created the French nuclear deterrent, the first atomic bomb and the first hydrogen bomb being exploded in 1960 and in 1968 respectively. France was also to have the complete triage of nuclear weapon systems, ballistic missiles in silos in the Auvergne, long range bombers and missiles borne in nuclear-powered submarines. Without these, in Gaullist opinion, she could not be considered seriously as a superpowerlet. France developed all the systems herself, not a cheap undertaking. The British, by contrast, purchased their submarine-borne nuclear missiles from the Americans though they built the submarines and warheads themselves, and gradually phased out their three types of long range, nuclear  bombers and dispensed with land based strategic missiles altogether.

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