Well Houellebecq That!

You may have to go all the way back to the late 20th century to recall an article in Harper’s magazine that was worth reading, but the current issue features an article from the controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq that defends Donald Trump (“Donald Trump Is a Good President“) in ways that will drive just about everybody out of their minds.

Houellebecq is the author of, among other works, a novel called Submission, which describes what France would be like in the year 2022 under Islamic rule. (Tellingly, and quite plausibly, the Islamists come into power in coalition with the French Socialist Party, which right now looks more and more plausible by the riot.) You can imagine the critical reaction. The most favorable response is that he was writing a droll satire.

That’s how some people may react to his Harper’s piece, and it is hard not to entertain that possibility. But even if it is, the earnest reaction it will provoke, especially from the left, is useful. Let’s take in and comment on some samples:

The United States of America is no longer the world’s leading power. It was for a long time, for almost the entire course of the twentieth century. It isn’t anymore. It remains a major power, one among several.

This isn’t necessarily bad news for Americans.It’s very good news for the rest of the world. . .

Obama’s attempts at racial reconciliation were less successful, and I don’t know your country well enough to understand exactly why; all I can do is regret the fact. But at the very least, Obama can be congratulated for not adding Syria to the long list (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and others I’m no doubt forgetting) of Muslim lands where the West has committed atrocities.

Ouch for the neocons!

The Americans are no longer prepared to die for the freedom of the press. Besides, what freedom of the press? Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve watched the range of opinions permissible in the press steadily shrinking (I write this shortly after a new hunting expedition has been launched in France against the notoriously anti-liberal writer Éric Zemmour).

Ouch for the liberal media!

But what’s most remarkable about the new American policies is certainly the country’s position on trade, and there Trump has been like a healthy breath of fresh air; you’ve really done well to elect a president with origins in what is called “civil society.”

President Trump tears up treaties and trade agreements when he thinks it was wrong to sign them. He’s right about that; leaders must know how to use the cooling-off period and withdraw from bad deals.

Unlike free-market liberals (who are, in their way, as fanatical as communists), President Trump doesn’t consider global free trade the be-all and end-all of human progress. When free trade favors American interests, President Trump is in favor of free trade; in the contrary case, he finds old-fashioned protectionist measures entirely appropriate.

President Trump was elected to safeguard the interests of American workers; he’s safeguarding the interests of American workers. During the past fifty years in France, one would have wished to come upon this sort of attitude more often.

Ouch for free traders!

President Trump doesn’t like the European Union; he thinks we don’t have a lot in common, especially not “values”; and I call this fortunate, because, what values? “Human rights”? Seriously? He’d rather negotiate directly with individual countries, and I believe this would actually be preferable; I don’t think that strength necessarily proceeds from union. It’s my belief that we in Europe have neither a common language, nor common values, nor common interests, that, in a word, Europe doesn’t exist, and that it will never constitute a people or support a possible democracy (see the etymology of the term), simply because it doesn’t want to constitute a people. In short, Europe is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up. . .

Logically enough, President Trump was pleased about Brexit. Logically enough, so was I; my sole regret was that the British had once again shown themselves to be more courageous than us in the face of empire. The British get on my nerves, but their courage cannot be denied.

Ouch for the anti-Brexiteers and other “globalists.”

It seems that President Trump recently declared, “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist!” Me too, precisely so. Nationalists can talk to one another; with internationalists, oddly enough, talking doesn’t work so well. . . In summary, President Trump seems to me to be one of the best American presidents I’ve ever seen.

At this point, you can almost hear the blood pressure levels of Upper West Side residents spiking. And he’s still not done poking the Outrage Machine. He goes on to speculate that maybe Ted Cruz will follow Trump as president. That Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and China, will all be humbled to some extent. But read the whole thing.

To paraphrase Mel Allen’s trademark expression about big plays in baseball, “Well, Houellebecq that!”