Emmanuel Macron, the 39 year old president of France who has been in office for a few months, declared yesterday that “our world has never been so divided.” At the end of the G-20 summit, Macron intoned: “Centrifugal forces have never been so powerful; our common goods have never been so threatened.”
I don’t know what Macron’s 64 year-old wife taught him when she was his high school teacher, but I hope it wasn’t History. Maybe Macron was off rehearsing Kundera’s “Jacques and his Master” the day they taught World War I, World War II, and the Cold War at his school.
Macron was elected president of France because the adult candidate, Francois Fillon, was caught up in a scandal not long before the first-round of the election. In the second round, Macron had the good fortune of facing an extremist opponent saddled with the baggage of her even more extremist father.
But Macron is now France’s president, and this job has long carried with it the duty to bloviate about world affairs and to hawk France’s most prized product — diplomacy.
It’s a matter of national pride. The French find it hard to accept that the U.S., as befits the world’s strongest power, dominates world diplomacy. So its leaders are always on the lookout for gaps in our diplomacy which they can attempt to fill. Traditionally, the French expect this behavior from their leaders, upstarts or not, though I wonder how relevant the model is today to the general population.
The main “gap” in U.S. diplomacy that Macron wants to exploit is our withdrawal from the Paris Accord. Presumably with this in mind, Macron announced that there would be another climate summit in Paris in December to mark the two-year anniversary of the climate accord. Exactly what will be accomplished at the anniversary gala is unclear, other than to allow Macron to pose as a consequential figure and take indirect (probably) shots at the U.S.
The French elites will eat it up. Whether the event will distract the wider French population from the country’s deep social and economic ailments is another matter.
Regardless, to pretend that America’s non-participation in a climate agreement, one that offers no realistic hope of combating climate change, marks an unprecedented threat to “our common goods” is preposterous. If Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord is a “centrifugal force,” that’s mainly because Macron and Angela Merkel find it in their interest to treat it as such.
Macron’s pronouncement notwithstanding, as a centrifugal force, the withdrawal quite doesn’t measure up to Fascism (as the French should know) or Communism.
Is there anything else that backs up Macron’s degree of supposed alarm? He can’t plausibly harp on Trump’s alleged indifference to NATO any longer. Trump said the magic Article 5 words during his Poland speech.
But this didn’t stop Macron from puffing:
I will not concede anything in the direction of those who are pushing against multilateralism. We need better coordination, more coordination. We need those organizations that were created out of the Second World War. Otherwise, we will be moving back toward narrow-minded nationalism.”
Here, his quarrel is, or should be, with the citizens of European countries like Britain who are tired of being dictated to by elitists like Macron. What the young president of France doesn’t grasp is that the unwillingness of people like him to “concede anything” in this regard is the reason why the multilateral organizations he touts are failing.
It is the main cause of the “centrifugal” force Macron rails against.
Trump came to G-20 meeting disliked, if not hated, by the likes of Macron and Angela Merkel. He leaves disliked, if not hated, by them.
It wasn’t Trump’s goal to placate them — something he could only have accomplished by reversing course on the Paris agreement, coupled with a personality transplant. But from all that appears, Trump did nothing new to offend Western European sensibilities. He backed Article 5, criticized Russia, and reached some minor agreements about trade.
Trump said nice things about various leaders, calling Merkel “incredible.” He even praised World Bank leader, and former Dartmouth president, Jim Kim (I will be hard-pressed to forgive him for that).
If this sounds to you like a world divided as it never has been before, you must be a French politician.