Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Speaking in Paris at the centenary of the Armistice, French president Emmanuel Macron (caricatured above) made some silly comments about nationalism. Recycling tired clichés about nationalism’s guilt for both World Wars, he called nationalism the “betrayal of patriotism” and warned about the “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.”
Apart from the ideological prejudices and historical ignorance on display from a globalist watching the “rules-based international order” tottering even as he speaks, Macron was also aiming his barbs at President Trump, who identifies himself as a proud nationalist. Macron punctuated his point by later calling for the creation of an “EU army” because “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”
For NeverTrump globalists from both parties, a scolding from a European, even one accompanied by preposterous threats, is the QED of their indictment of Trump’s numerous offenses. But contrary to such naïve admiration, long before Donald Trump, the European ruling elite, especially the French, have looked on the U.S. with resentment, contempt, and envy.
The history of just the last 27 years illustrates how little Trump has to do with European attitudes towards America. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Europe and its dreams of ever-closer integration into a larger transnational federation was a few years away. Suddenly there was geopolitical space for a new “superpower” freed from the old Cold War strictures. Though belonging to NATO and a committed ally of the U.S., increasingly by the early 90s the European elite often appeared to comprise a “non-aligned” movement committed to peace and global development. It also was open to transcending the old, Manichean communist-capitalist dichotomy that had long fretted European communists and socialists, not to mention more recent leftist parties like the Greens. Even before the collapse of the Soviets, “third way” alternatives were touted such as “Eurocommunism,” or frauds like “communism with a human face” were proposed and implemented. Of course, the Warsaw Pact peoples living under communism knew every human face had a boot eternally stamping it.
With the Soviet Union off the table, Europe could find space for greater independence and autonomy, and get out––though not completely––from under dependence on its powerful, arrogant American protector and its capitalist excesses.
Some saw dangers in this new arrangement, however. The collapse of one of the two poles suddenly left a new world: not one with two equally destructive nuclear powers precariously balanced by Mutually Assured Destruction, but one global “hyperpower,” as French foreign minister Hubert Védrine fretted. It was one thing for European elites to tolerate America’s outsized power and influence when posing as an equal partner in a defense pact to which one contributed little more than what NATO chief Lord Robertson called “military pygmies.” It was another to lose an adversarial counterbalance to that overbearing ally, some ideological leverage to use against the American bully when he got too arrogant or too inclined to go his own way. Europe needed an alternative to “American conditions,” the old anti-American shorthand for everything Americans do that Europeans don’t like, such as working too much and earning too much money, or sacrificing social justice and equality to greater profits and economic inequality.
This predicament created much angst among some European leaders in the 1990’s. But the opportunities seemed greater. The “international rules-based order” was given new authority by the disappearance of MAD, and by the U.S.’s binge of military cuts, the so-called “peace dividend.” Nor was the U.S. a “hyperpower” to worry about, for the Europeans claimed America still had a rival in the E.U. As French President Jacque Chirac instructed the world: “The bipolar we have known is finished, and the world of tomorrow will be multipolar. One of these essential poles will be Europe.” That didn’t mean, of course, spending billions on creating militaries that would give credibility to a boast like “essential.”
Then was when we started hearing more about Kantian “postmodern” foreign policy that had progressed beyond the Cold War balance of apocalyptic power. These non-lethal policies inflated the importance of Europe’s “soft-power” like culture, wealth, diplomacy, international institutions, multilateral covenants, and transnational agreements. With no existential Cold War threat, the soft-power tail began to wag the hard-power dog. The misbegotten multinational agreement on Iran’s nuclear development program remains of the best example of such “postmodern” naivete that ends the in appeasement of aggressors.
This “postmodern” dream, however, was quickly exposed as a chimera. From 1992 to 1995 in Bosnia, then 1998 to 1999 in Kosovo, two vicious conflicts provided Europe with gruesome footage of horrors not seen since World War II. And the “essential” European “pole” of the new European postmodern order was helpless to stop the slaughter that Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Poos confidently had said, “If one problem can be solved by Europeans, it is the Yugoslav problem. It is not up to the Americans or anyone else.”
Except whether the Europeans liked it or not, it was also America’s problem; camouflaged, of course, with the usual NATO fig-leaf. First the non-lethal, postmodern solution of “engagement” and diplomacy were tried, and failed. U.N. “safe areas” in Bosnia became cruel Orwellian jokes, as rounding up refugees for “space spaces” made it more convenient for their enemies to slaughter them. U.N “peacekeepers” were compelled to watch as thousands were executed. European contributions to NATO forces faced stiff political opposition at home, and even the willing were hard-pressed to contribute, given their scant supplies of materiel and men. England, the biggest military in Europe, could provide only 4% of the aircraft and munitions used in the operation. It was once again the Americans who had to fly the bulk of the sorties, provide most of the precision-guided munitions, and generate the intelligence.
This humiliation on Europe’s doorstep created even more resentment against the U.S, as high-flown rhetoric collided with Europe’s conflicting political, cultural, and ethnic identities; and with its failure to match its geopolitical pretensions with sufficient military resources. Two decades later nothing has changed. Macron’s and Merkel’s recent threat to create a “European Army” is as empty as Jacques Chirac’s boast that Europe would be an “essential pole” in the post-Cold War “multipolar” world.
Finally, for a last example of rank hypocrisy on the part of those touting a “postmodern foreign policy” and the “rules-based international order” that supposedly trump national interest, consider the months George Bush wasted in 2002-2003 in the run-up to the second Iraq War. A member of the “rules-based international order,” neocon division, Bush tried for months to cajole the U.N. Security Council into authorizing the war that the Senate approved, even though the U.S. already had sufficient casus belli under international law in Saddam Hussein’s serial violations of the terms of the first war’s settlement. Of course, despite his diplomatic efforts, Bush was still accused of being a “warmonger” and “failing miserably at diplomacy,” as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle put.
Even more unseemly was that Germany and permanent Security Council member France lobbied several other non-permanent members of the Council to block the Resolution. Worse yet, along with Belgium the two countries formally objected to Turkey’s request for NATO defensive materiel, and as a result, Turkey did not allow the U.S. coalition to attack from Turkish territory.
At the time, of course, like their Democrat ideological cousins, France and Germany justified their behavior with appeals to the magical power of “diplomacy” and the “rules-based order” to reign in a psychopathic butcher slowly squirming out of the loosening sanctions “box” by using the corrupt U.N. Oil for Food Scandal. In the case of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder was in a tough reelection campaign, and German voters are reliably pacifist and anti-American, so poking the U.S. in the eye played well on the hustings. For France, its arms manufacturers and oil developers were eager to go back to the lucrative business they had enjoyed for years with Hussein, who at one time single-handedly subsidized half of France’s arms industry. The tottering sanctions regime promised a return to the good times of big profits and fat bribes.
In the end, the greatest champions of the “rules-based international order” embodied in the U.N. actively subverted endorsing the punishment of an outlaw regime that had flouted with impunity 17 earlier U.N resolutions, instead of restoring credibility to that failed and corrupt organization.
Nothing has changed, by the way. The Europeans today are scrambling to find some way to keep doing business with Iran now that Trump has reimposed sanctions. Only those who still take seriously the lofty rhetoric of moralizing internationalism should be surprised. As George Washington wisely said, “It is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind, that no nation can be trusted farther than it is bound by its interests.”
Despite the “rules-based international order,” the nations of Europe have always pursued their interests, and if necessary at the expense of ours. That’s what sovereign nations do in the real world. What has ended is the American voters’ patience with haughty foreign elites who simultaneously despise, lecture to, and fleece us––all while watching some Americans grovel before a dying culture without enough gumption to reproduce or defend its civilization and values.
Trump isn’t the cause of the resentment and contempt European elites have held for Americans for years. He just violated their codes for manners and decorum, and refused to tolerate their arrogant hypocrisy. But across Europe millions of people are rejecting their elites and pushing back against the globalist technocratic utopia. Trump’s straight talk and braggadocio might just represent the last chance for the magnificent civilization that birthed our own to recover its nerve and former glory.