The notion that the French are cowardly and prone to surrender is just plain absurd. France surrendered in 1940 not because of the nation’s cowardice but because the Wehrmacht had outflanked the French Army in all senses, and the only way to save the army and Paris from physical destruction was to give up (or so it seemed to France’s politicians). Russians or Germans would have probably fought to the last man in that situation, but even Field Marshal Paulus surrendered when he realized he got trapped. And who do you think fought in WW1? The French lost the bloom of their army and their youth, and never really recovered from the sacrifice. But for 120 years before WW1, France was a great military power. Its only major defeat was a consequence of Napoleon’s ill-conceived invasion into Russia. Wellington, you say? He didn’t have much luck against Napoleon until Waterloo, where he won only with considerable Prussian support. Mosquito bites in Iberia don’t count. For all Nelson’s greatness, naval campaigns only succeeded in containing Napoleon’s conquest. In short, Napoleon had the best army in the world at the time; where is the Old Guard now that France needs it so?

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