An American in Paris: Diplomacy in the era of Freedom Fries

Images of Paris

About the Project

Editor's note: Undergrad Puneet Kakkar will be filing regular dispatches from Paris this summer. We'll publish his dispatches online here. This is Puneet's first report.

This summer, I will work as an intern in the United States embassy in Paris, France. I have been assigned to the Bureau of European Affairs, which is responsible for managing U.S. relations in Europe — handling political, economic, education, environmental, and other pressing issues.

France is America's oldest ally. The role of the U.S. embassy in Paris is important not only in serving as a representative of America to French leaders, but also in supporting U.S. businesses and citizens in France. Key topics facing the United States today also affect the role of the embassy in France, from the war on terrorism to the stabilization of capital investment funds.

What with the name-calling, slogans, and anti-American/anti-French campaigns, the war in Iraq has shown that France and the United States have more differences in how they approach international events than people believe. Emerging from the Cold War and the first Gulf War, much of the American public assumed that France and the United States were part of one coherent and consistent "Western bloc." For this reason, differences over events in Bosnia, Kosovo, and even Somalia were masked by popular belief that the United States and France were perfectly aligned in foreign policy.

However, the drastic divergence between France and the U.S. over the United Nations resolution regarding military action in the Middle East showed that the two countries do not comprise a monolithic bloc. I believe that this is where the current state of relations between United States and France lies: exploration.

Some argue that France has adopted a more internationalist view because of a lack of power, others because of its inherent culture and the drive to maintain to l'exception franšaise. The future will be determined by how the United States and France both formulate and articulate their intentions. I hope to gain a better understanding of the French exception firsthand.

— Puneet Kakkar