How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese? ~Charles de Gaulle
People tend to give me odd looks when I tell them one of my heroes is Charles de Gaulle. Okay, they give me odd looks anyway. I guess we're not supposed to like the French much these days but then it seems that CdG didn't either!
Anyway, our view of le grand Charles (or Big Chuck) has been filtered through some decidedly pro-British and pro-US views over the years. Look at many of the English-language movies and books about WW2 -- de Gaulle is portrayed as obstructionist, arrogant, ineffective...as are, too often, the French people as a whole. News for you: more Frenchmen died fighting against Germany than British. Without Free France and de Gaulle's obstinance in refusing to accept defeat by the Nazis, not only would the war have been much more difficult...it might never have been won.
And when or if it had, France might well have been a Stalinist nation without CdG's leadership. The Resistance was riddled with communist cells. A very different post-war Europe! His insistence upon the recognition of his wartime government in exile and its treatment as an equal partner had much to do with the stable (by French standards) post-war situation. And, ultimately, we have his handling of Algeria where he managed to extricate France honorably from a decidedly nasty civil war. Yeah, he made some blunders and certainly some unfortunate remarks along the way. Who doesn't?
Of course, de Gaulle is considered a conservative (and I guess I'm a liberal of sorts). A rather moderate one, however -- he certainly was never the right-wing reactionary his enemies liked to paint him as. Hey, he was not really very far from his wartime compatriot, Eisenhower, and waaaaaay to the left of our Mr Bush. Maybe actually serving in the military would have benefited the latter...nah, probably not.