French politician André Maginot was born on February 17, 1877. He’s most famous as the man who pushed for a line of defensive fortifications between France and Germany after World War I while he was the Minister of War. He had witnessed France’s humiliation during the “Great War” first hand. His family home in Lorraine was completely destroyed, and he was determined nothing like that would happen again. When the invasion came, however, the Germans simply circumvented the Maginot Line and their tanks rolled in. As building and maintaining the Line was so expensive, France was generally underfunded and unprepared for modern warfare. Maginot’s name is synonymous with well-intentioned plans that go awry.
Today’s expression, battre la campagne (battrh lah campanyuh), literally means “to beat the countryside” but figuratively means to be crazy, or off one’s rocker. Maginot didn’t leave to see the failure of his brain-child, but it no doubt would have driven him off his rocker to see the French countryside overrun with German tanks. As Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”
- Blitzkrieg, 1940 (historychannelfromthewar.com)
- The Maginot Line Defence and moral imagination: climate change isn’t real; maybe it is; we should all give up! (watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com)