On this day in 1831, the French Foreign Legion was established to — What else?! — fight to maintain their imperial dreams in Algeria. But what makes the French Foreign Legion interesting is that it is a part of the French military that is made up of foreign nationals. We have no such thing here in the United States, although I’m sure with all our private military contractors (mercenaries), we get more or less the same thing.
But to me, the French Foreign Legion means one thing and one thing only: it is what young love sick men went off to join in the films and stories of my youth. In fact, it seems to me, that Huckleberry Hound even joined the force to forget his lost Clementine. So that’s really the extent of what it means to me. But it makes sense. You know: running off to war is one of the primary stupid things that young men do when the women of their dreams do not return their affections. So it isn’t surprising that the French Foreign Legion would be used as a kind of trite plot device for low brow entertainment.
What’s most amazing is that the thing continues on to this day. There are apparently almost 8,000 people. Until 2000, women were mostly barred from being in the French Foreign Legion. But it isn’t clear that any women have actually joined since they’ve been allowed. It must be because women deal with being scorned better than men do. After all, the song is, “Oh My Darling, Clementine”; not, “Oh My Darling, Benjamin.”
But hey, this ought to change. There are always lots of Muslims in Algeria who need killing. And it really doesn’t matter if it is a woman or a man who is doing it. Supposedly, French Defence Minister Alain Richard said he wanted the French Foreign Legion to have 20% women by 2020. I think they’re going to miss that target by, oh, 20 percentage points.