No longer the cheese-eating surrender monkeys of yesteryear, the French have unveiled a new butch side by flying to the rescue of Libya’s rebels. Some cynics, however, have suggested that Sarkozy’s keenness to batter his former buddy has less to do with his love of world peace than with his love of winning elections at home.
It’s always sad to see old friends fall out, but distracting your disgruntled subjects with a foray into foreign warfare has long been a tactic of leaders the world over. After all, if we’re thinking about a bunch of freedom-fighting intellectuals firing guns in the air on the outskirts of Benghazi, we’ll be less likely to notice that none of us have jobs or a hospital to go to when we’re ill. Here are some of the rulers Sarkozy has learnt from.
Margaret Thatcher – The Falklands War
It's 1982, and lion-hearted Socialist Michael Foot is busy capturing hearts and minds in the UK. No one knows where the Falklands are, no one really thinks they're British, and no one knows about the oil that had secretly been discovered off their shores in the late 60s. But, people are beginning to question the logic of letting a woman lead the country. Maggie has to show herself to be more than a woman – she has to become the Iron Lady. So, in the ultimate Good vs. Evil battle, a bunch of Argentine teenagers are efficiently destroyed by some British warships, and back home Maggie romps to an election victory over that crazed, Commie pacifist Foot.
Isaias Afwerki – Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict
The official war may be over, but Eritrean leader Afwerki will not let his people forget that all their country's problems (torture, unexplained disappearances, persecution of Jehovah's witnesses, a love of funding terrorists, the lowest ranking for press freedom in the world, half-blind maidens who love Pete Doherty) are directly attributable to Ethiopia's existence and its occupation of borderlands. What more could you expect from a guy who recently headbutted one of his aides at a local press conference? Unsurprisingly, this incident did not find its way onto YouTube.
Richard the Lionheart – The Crusades
Having deposed his father, Henry II, who’d carefully built an empire up over many years and died wishing brutal revenge on his legitimate sons (but not the bastards, whose company he enjoyed), Richie left England and set off on a ego-driven trip of glory. His quest bankrupted the state and resulted in absolutely nothing. In spite of fucking everything up, the Lionheart was venerated as a hero, an image that was only strengthened by the propaganda-filled Disney cartoon of Robin Hood in which Richard is a noble old Lion who only went to the crusades because he was hypnotised (why didn’t George Bush think of that one?).
Stephen Malkmus and Billy Corgan – The Great American Alt-Rock Wars of the 1990s
When you’re pissed off with your band for fucking up your songs, nothing eases the tension like hating on a weird dude in another band. After Malkmus' typically half-hearted “Range Life” put-down, that wailing little pipistrelle Billy Corgan hit back with the “no-one wakes up humming a Pavement song” line. What are you talking about man? “Fillmore Jive” is all I ever wake up singing. Weird Billy can’t seem to let go, though, and spent last year talking about how Pavement “represent the death of the alternative dream” while scouring MySpace for 19-year-old goths to rope into his latest session musician-stocked version of the Pumpkins.
Various – The Cold War
Millions dying of starvation? Blame it on Americans. Huge racial problems tearing your country apart? Blame it on the Russians. Didn’t get to the Moon first? Curse those damn Americans and their little Yankee pig-dog ET. Hippies? All Russian spies. Cold all the damn time? Americans are stealing the sunlight from us. Can’t go to the Olympics? It’s because the Russians are mean and will try to put drugs into our bodies.
The Founding Fathers – The American War of Independence
A beautiful and noble fight for freedom, right? A mighty stand against the forces of British oppression? More like a deviously planned exercise intended to crush the economic levelling movement and keep the people from bitching about how poor they were! Take that, conventional history!
General Galtieri – Guerra de Las Malvinas
M-Thatch wasn’t the only seadog trying to extract popularity from the battle for the island that history forgot. Rumour has it Galtieri was wandering the deserted halls of his palace for weeks before he came up with the idea of invading the Falklands as a way of re-igniting his country’s faith in his shattered and murderous regime. Needless to say, Britannia ruled the waves – even the ones they weren’t technically meant to fight in (*Belgrano*) – and Galtieri’s reign came to an end.
Nero, Caligula and Tiberius – Various Roman Escapades
Most Roman wars were carried out with the bottom line in mind: more riches, more land, more hot foreign ass. But when you’ve married your sister (Caligula), revel in schizophrenia (Nero) and enjoy a retinue of young boys swimming around you nibbling your balls (Tiberius), the odd extra war to keep the salivating mob from thinking you’re a total fucking asshole doesn’t go amiss.