France A U.S. Friend Or Foe?

Paris arch arc
Is a making trip to Paris equivalent to taking a glimpse behind enemy lines?

The French have been called the enemy by many Americans since the weeks preceding the war in Iraq, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips.

First they opposed the war, or so the thinking goes, and now French President Jacques Chirac is trying to undermine the U.S. effort to keep the peace.

Chirac's call for the U.S. to hand over power to the Iraqis soon and to give the United Nations a central role in that process may be seen as obstructionism in the White House — but in France, American stubbornness has been the problem.

"The U.S. was in danger of becoming an autistic country because the U.S. refused to listen to others," says Guillaume Parmentier of the French Center on the United States.

France sees itself not as an opponent of U.S. policy but as a former colonial power which learned the hard way not to stay where it wasn't wanted.

One woman told CBS' Phillips the U.S. is being massacred in small bunches, just like the French were in Algeria. "Get out now," she says.

There's more to the French criticism of U.S. policy on Iraq than just the feeling that the Bush Administration got both the war and the occupation wrong.

For the French, the world would be a better place if it weren't so dominated by the U.S. And they say Europe should head that counter-balancing force, with France in the lead.

Some in both the U.S. and France have said this sounds a little ungrateful from a county that owes its survival in two World Wars to American intervention.

Author Yves Berger has become the voice of a new movement — anti-anti-Americanism. What, he asks, if France were the next terrorist victim?

"Suppose the Tour Eiffel is destroyed just behind me. We would ask America come and help us," he says, walking before the towering monument.

President Chirac says true friends can tell each other hard truths. But the French version of the truth, is once again testing that friendship.