In a stunningly implicit rebuke to President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron decried the rise of nationalism at a speech marking the centenary of the armistice that ended the First World War this morning, labeling it calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” and warning against “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death,” according to an account in The Washington Post.
With both Trump and his Russian nationalist counterpart Vladimir Putin sitting in front of him along with more than 60 other world leaders, Macron gave his speech in Paris in front of the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to French soldiers who fought and died in wars defending that nation’s values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, values now under threat from the rising waves of nationalist movements around the world.
According to The Post:
“Macron emphasized a global order based on liberal values is worth defending against those who have sought to disrupt that system. The millions of soldiers who died in the Great War fought to defend the ‘universal values’ of France, he said, and to reject the ‘selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests. Because patriotism is exactly the opposite of nationalism.’”
Macron’s comments must have surely rankled President Trump who just a few short weeks ago proudly admitted to being an unrepentant believer in the philosophy of nationalism — joining such far-right authoritarian leaders and political figures as Viktor Orban of Hungary, Matteo Salvini of Italy, Rodrigo Duterte of The Philippines, Xi Jinping of China, Marie LePen in France, and his political patron, Putin — saying in a speech at a Houston rally:
“You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, “Really? We’re not supposed to use that word.” You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Use that word. Use that word,” Trump declared.
Trump may consider the word “old-fashioned,” but Macron pointed out why the concept of nationalism belongs in the dustbin of history in the 21st century. He praised the institution founded in the wake of the Second World War to prevent the world from once again falling victim to the forces of chaos and destruction, The United Nations, insisting that the “spirit of cooperation” has “defended the common good of the world.”
Macron decried the migration of nationalism and other ideologies from the fringes into the mainstream, unleashing a “sinister course once again that could undermine the legacy of peace we thought we had forever sealed.”
“By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values,” Macron said of the dangers of nationalist policies.
Trump has not yet responded to Macron’s remarks, choosing to stick to prepared remarks at his subsequent appearances on a day where he also met at a lunch with other world leaders gathered for the remembrance ceremonies.
While Macron made a forceful argument for the global system that has preserved peace in the majority of the Western world during the last 70 years, his main partner in maintaining the current order, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced that she will not run for reelection, leaving him soon to be the sole European leader fighting to keep the European Union intact and combatting the forces of nationalist destruction ripping it asunder.
Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that Macron’s eloquent and reason-based appeal against Trump’s signature ideology will have any effect whatsoever on the American president’s behavior on the international stage. One can only hope that the incoming Democratic-controlled House of Representatives can put a heavy check on the most damaging foreign policies that Trump intends to pursue.
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Original reporting by David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim, James McAuley at The Washington Post.