How the Dreyfus Affair Gave Rise to the Tour de France

Feb. 28 2019

France in the 1890s saw both a bicycling craze and the Dreyfus Affair, in which the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus was framed for passing military secrets to Germany, sparking an intense controversy. In 1899, a few years after Dreyfus’s conviction, Emil Loubert, known to sympathize with him, became president of France. Nick Gendler writes:

On June 3, 1899, the French supreme court overturned the original court-martial judgment against Dreyfus and ordered a retrial. Tensions were high when, the following day, Loubert accepted an invitation to watch horse-racing at the Auteuil Race Course. Unlike the Longchamp racecourse which was frequented by the lower classes, . . . Auteuil was the playground of the wealthy, monarchist, anti-Republican, and mainly anti-Dreyfusard classes. Loubert’s presence was seen as provocative and he was confronted by hordes outraged by the order for a retrial. The demonstration turned violent almost as soon as the president took his seat. Among those who were arrested following the fracas was the wealthy industrialist Jules Albert Compte de Dion. . . .

Pierre Gifford, the editor of the [sports] newspaper Le Vélo [“The Bicycle”], criticized the demonstration. . . . Politically, Gifford was on the left and wrote scathing articles criticizing Dion and other anti-Dreyfusards, despite many of them being important advertisers in his newspaper. Gifford’s reporting of the demonstration incensed Dion and other industrialists such as Eduard Michelin, a vigorous anti-Semite, and Gustave Clement. . . .

Dion and his allies decided to withdraw their advertising and to launch their own rival paper, L’Auto-Vélo. . . . In November 1902, as the newspaper, [now simply called] L’Auto, struggled with circulation at consistently around a quarter of that of Le Vélo, . . . a young reporter by the name of Geo Lefevre, allegedly desperate to suggest something, spontaneously floated the idea of the Tour de France as a promotional enterprise.

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More about: Alfred Dreyfus, Anti-Semitism, France, French Jewry, History & Ideas, Sports


A Better Syria Strategy Can Help Achieve the U.S. Goal of Countering Iran

While the Trump administration has reversed much of its predecessor’s effort to realign Washington with Tehran, and has effectively used sanctions to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, Omar Hassino argues that these measures might not be enough:

Iran and its militias control more territory and natural resources in Syria and Iraq than before President Trump took office. . . . The U.S. should back the low-cost insurgency approach that has already shown potential in southwest Syria to bleed the Iranian forces and increase the costs of their expansion and [of Tehran’s] support for the Assad regime. It makes no sense that Iran can fund low-cost insurgencies to bleed American allies in the region, but the United States cannot counter with the same. The administration should also consider expanding support to the proxy forces that it currently works with—such as the Revolution Commandos near the [U.S.] al-Tanf garrison in southwest Syria—for the purpose of fighting and eliminating Iranian-backed militias. This limited escalation can curb Iranian expansion and put pressure on the Assad regime in the long term.

Furthermore, in this vein, the U.S. should empower peaceful Syrian civil-society groups and local councils operating outside Assad-regime control. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated assistance for stabilization in Syria, including funding going to secular anti-Assad civil-society groups that were also combating al-Qaeda’s ideology, as well as the Syrian [medical and civil-defense group known as] the White Helmets, before quickly [restoring] some of this funding. Yet the funding has still not completely been resumed, and if this administration takes an approach similar to its predecessor’s in relying on regional powers such as Turkey, these powers will instead fund groups aligned ideologically with Muslim Brotherhood. This is already happening in Idlib.

The United States must [also] jettison the Obama-era [strategy of establishing] “de-escalation zones.” These zones were from the start largely a Russian ruse to help the Assad regime conquer opposition areas, and they succeeded. Now that the regime controls most of Syria and Iranian proxies are dominant within the regime side, support for de-escalation is tantamount to support for Iranian expansion. The United States must [instead] prevent further expansion by the Assad regime and Iran in parts of the country that they still do not control.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy