France likes to call itself America’s oldest and closest ally. Indeed, the American Revolution might never have succeeded without strong French military support.
However, France bankrupted itself supporting the American Revolution. This, in turn, helped ignite the French Revolution that cost poor King Louis XVI his head. The United States twice intervened in Europe’s wars to rescue France, amply repaying the debt. As US General ‘Blackjack’ Pershing nobly proclaimed on the arrival of US troops in France in World War I, ‘Lafayette, we are here.’
This past week, France’s new, young, president, Emmanuel Macron, came to Washington to give guidance to his American allies who are afflicted by farcical governance and chaos worthy of an unstable banana republic. He was greeted with fanfare by President Trump.
Diplomacy, like spring, is bursting out all over. In addition to Macron’s visit to Washington, mighty forces were at work in Asia. The meeting of Korea’s two leaders to discuss peace issues was a truly historic, even moving event that augers well for peace. Washington even played a positive role in this demarche.
India’s dynamic prime minister, Narendra Modi, met in Wuhan with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in a very important effort to defuse rising border tensions between the two nuclear-armed giant Asian rivals.
Only the bleeding Mideast was left out of the spring peace offensive.
Europe was hoping that Macron might be able to use French Cartesian logic and traditional French diplomatic skills to talk some sense into the flailing Trump administration.
After delivering kisses and hugs, Macron then went before the US Congress and threw down the gauntlet. He told America’s legislators tough truths they were not used to hearing in the Trump era. Namely: that the right’s political and economic nationalism is stupid and toxic; that Trump must stick to the nuclear treaty with Iran or possibly face a new Mideast war; that it’s essential for the US to join the Paris climate accord; and that the US must resume its role of multilateral world engagement.
Here was Europe – and much of Asia – telling Trump to stop acting like a petulant, amateur monarch and start acting like the president of the United States.
Macron also had other important objectives. His dramatic visit to Washington was designed to stake out his new role as Europe’s political and diplomatic leader, a traditional French conceit.
Macron’s timing was excellent. Britain, historically the counter-balance to French power, is off sulking in pre-Brexit confusion. London’s voice goes almost unheard. Most Europeans expect Britain to end up even more a forward base for US strategic power than it already is.
Europe’s other powerhouse, Germany, is also depressed and introspective. Its leader, Angela Merkel, arrived in Washington right after Monsieur and Madame Macron. The Macrons got a fancy state dinner, Merkel got little better than microwaved leftovers. The air has gone out of the Angel Merkel balloon. She looks tired, confused and demoralized.
Germans are moving to the right because they want new, younger leaders who are not so obviously under Washington’s thumb. They want to end the national guilt complex over WWII and become a normal, independent nation.
Voila! This leaves the youthful, dynamic Macron as Europe’s unchallenged leader. France, to steal a Trump slogan, will be great again. He will also spend more energy reforming France’s ailing economy, which shows signs of renewed vitality in spite of bitter labor strife, and re-ordering France’s post-colonial interests in Syria and Lebanon (the Levant), and the immensity of what was once – and largely still is – French West Africa.
The leaden spirit of what French called ‘la morosité’ that provoked a national depression may be drifting away. French are by nature either up or down. Under former president Francois Holland they were definitely down in the dumps. Macron now offers that prospect of highly intelligent, revitalizing leadership.
That is, at least until the abrasive nature of French politics, labor wars, and financial hanky panky derail his meteoric rise. No one yet understands where Macron came from or who is really behind him. The French Rothschilds, for whom Macron used to work as a banker, are the most obvious suspects. But we don’t really know for sure.
Think of another ‘stupor mundi’ President Barack Obama who, like Macron, emerged out of deep obscurity to amaze Americans and the world. Now, it’s France’s turn for another star, debut performance.