Tuesday, February 01, 2005

You can sail the seven seas

A correspondent alerts me to this amazing story, of peculiarly French tsunami relief efforts: ABOARD JEANNE D'ARC - The naval ship's pantry is stocked with wines, baguettes and pate, and its casual dress code is shorts and sandals. There's even an artist — a painter to keep an illustrated record of the trip. With a panache all its own, France's military is delivering aid to tsunami-battered Indonesia — and showing how a small force can make a difference. I'm sure the Indonesians are happy to know that French seamen are not only few, but pampered and undisciplined as well: But French sailors aboard the Jeanne D'Arc pick from wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks, and their ready-made meals come with pate. On deck, they sunbathe in the muggy heat in shorts and sandals. Tactfully not noted: The Marine Nationale sent one ship to the relief effort. A creaky old training ship, launched some forty years ago. American forces in the region include the USS Abraham Lincoln (a recently-refitted nuclear supercarrier half the Jeanne d'Arc's age) and its entire strike group: The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group deployed [on Oct. 19, 2004] with the following San Diego-based ships: the cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), commanded by Capt. Joe Harriss; and the destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65), commanded by Cmdr. Don Hornbeck. Other ships deploying with the Lincoln Carrier Strike Group include the Everett, Wash.-based destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86), led by Cmdr. Alexander T. Casimes; the Pearl Harbor-based attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), under the command of Cmdr. David Kirk; and the fast combat support ship USS Rainier. This has of course led to some professional jealousy disguised as holier-than-thou "concern": "The feeling we had in France was that, as usual, the Americans were rushing in force to Indonesia and boasting about it," said flotilla spokeswoman Cmdr. Anne Cullerre. "For some people, it seemed outrageous. "How can you really boast of doing something from this tragedy? People were saying, 'They are doing it again. They are showing off.'" As soon as France contributes an aircraft carrier's massive facilities and capabilities (say, the Charles de Gaulle's - how's having a fully-fledged nuclear navy working out for you, guys?), you're allowed to bitch about the USN taking the credit without it being (by default) a pathetic display of sour grapes, Commander. No sooner. France's help is welcome, and relieves some pressure on American forces. But, as ever, French military aid teeters just on the edge of "more trouble than it's worth." (Via Steven K.)

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