It is sad when old friends quarrel. Often when two lovers break up, one returns a token to the other, such as a ring. Or the Order of the French Legion. And this can happen not just between two human beings, but also between countries. Which is what happened between two great nations, namely France and Syria. We begin with this story, in which Syrian President Assad returned a gift to France. A gift received from the French nation back in 2001: The Order of the Legion of Merit.
This medal was created by the great Napoleon Bonaparte himself, and only given out to the most outstanding recipients. Any Arab leader would be proud to rank himself among the Favorites of Bonaparte. What could induce Assad to return such a choice piece of bling? Well, it turns out that he was miffed when his old friend France launched rockets at him last week, tried to kill him and his family, tried to overthrow his government and replace it with American puppet jihadists. France is no longer even a free, sovereign nation any more, Assad complains. Not like back in the glory days of Napoleon. Nowadays France is just a sad, sorry vassal of the United States. Therefore, its medals are worthless, and no amount of jewelry, no flowers nor roses nor magnum of champagne can paper over this fundamental rift.
In a related story, I have this piece by reporter Yury Zaynashev. Apparently the French media and chattering class are aghast that they lobbed 16 rockets in the general direction of Syria; but only a handful of these winged marvels actually flew. And these were brand new rockets of domestic design, called MdCN, receiving their baptism under fire in the Syria war. The rockets were launched from three frigates in the Mediterranean Sea: the Aquitaine, the Auvergne, and the Languedoc. Of which only the latter was actually able to launch anything.
According to the French press, the failure to launch was caused by a bug in the computer software controlling the systems. These frigates are said to have skeleton crews — only 108 men — due to the high level of automation. In addition to the MdCN rockets, the frigates are equipped with MU-90 torpedos, MM-40 rockets and also artillery guns. A Ukrainian blogger going by the nik “Diana Mikhailova” claimed that the lack of crew played a part in the weekend’s fiasco; there weren’t enough men on the job to help fix things when something went wrong.
Ironically, in a show of professional solidarity, a source in the Russian military, speaking in confidence to the reporter, came to France’s defense. He stated that such failures are common when testing new systems; and also pointed out that France is the only nation, besides the U.S. and Russia, which makes its own winged rockets: “The Brits, for example, use American Tomahawks. The French rockets are of a relatively new design. They were first used against Libya during (Colonel) Gaddafi’s overthrow. Hence, as a technology which has not had decades to iron out all the bugs, the result was not really all that bad: 12 rockets out of 16.”
This same commentator went on to point out that American and Russian systems face similar issues when put to the test: “When the Russian ships first launched the Calibres from Syria in the fall of 2015, judging by everything, not all of those rockets reached their targets either. And the American rocket launches of the 1980’s were by no means among the most successful, either. If even a half of the rockets reached their targets, that was considered a good thing. By which criterion, in principle, the French showed a normal result.”
Despite this objective view of their relative success, the French public were apparently not impressed with the performance of their navy; and reacted with irony to President Macron’s Syrian adventure. Political pundit Andrei Rachinski, who lives in Paris, recounted the general reaction of ordinary French people: “Everybody laughed at it, saying the rockets destroyed three empty barns. Everybody gets it, that an understanding was reached the day before, as to the exact targets [on the French list], so that nobody [in Syria] would actually get hurt. Nobody takes any of this seriously, the general opinion is that France is not capable of effecting anything in this situation.”