The myth of de Gaulle is all the more remarkable considering the number of contradictions it has absorbed. The French Army commander who grew up in a Catholic household spent most of his career squaring off against the military and the church. The leader who desperately clung to the French empire in the 1940s vigorously dismantled it in the 1960s. The patriot who evinced skepticism toward supranational institutions is now sometimes hailed as a visionary of the European Union. Consider, too, the array of admirers de Gaulle has attracted: men of the left like Régis Debray, who converted from Guevarism to Gaullism in a Bolivian jail; men of the right like Henry Kissinger, who has told Americans to become students of the French statesman; Osama bin Laden, who liked to quote from de Gaulle’s War Memoirs; Newt Gingrich, who compared his time in the political wilderness in the 2000s to de Gaulle’s retirement to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises in the 1950s; and Yasir Arafat, who at diplomatic summits made a point of sporting the Cross of Lorraine sent to him by de Gaulle.
more from Thomas Meaney at The Nation here.