In a bizarre Washington Post op-ed, Max Boot said the Russians are behind the savage month-long protests roiling France. It is said there’s greater zeal in a convert, but even by that standard Boot’s op-ed was baffling given that he and a Liberal member of the EU Parliament both believe that Russians and the far right are behind the violence in France. Even French President Emmanuel Macron seems to agree, in a typical Napoleonic way, that mistakes were made. Remember, Boot wanted Macron to lead “centrists” in the United States last year.
Macron delivered a solemn message to demonstrate that he has the pulse of the movement after a week of being under siege. He increased the monthly minimum wage to an extra 100 Euros and cut the climate change fuel tax driving the mostly working-class protests, in an effort to assuage the widespread anger. His message followed a month of brutality that would invite a call for regime change from the likes of Boot if it were happening in any Eastern European, Asian, or Latin American country.
Macron shifted blame by saying that the malaise in France has been 40 years in the making, but said he accepts some responsibility, because he gave an impression of aloofness and didn’t reciprocate enough. Saying that the public anger is legitimate, Macron ordered all employers to provide a tax-free bonus to employees at the end of the year.
The violence de-escalated after more than 1,300 protesters were arrested in a single day, but the protests continued sporadically. The protesters have increased their demands to include a bafflingly contradictory list that includes decreasing taxes, increasing welfare spending, implementing a zero immigration policy, and an exit from both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The Pompeo Doctrine
U.S.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently hinted at this conundrum in a ridiculed speech that should have been regarded an era-defining speech like Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain proclamation at the dawn of the Cold war.
Speaking at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo pointed out that while underscoring multilateral institutions post-World War II was a bedrock of Western foreign policy, it has lately come at the cost of nation-states, which are often the most stable actors in world politics. The push to obliterate borders, he argued, has led to the lowering of standards of living and resulted in violent backlash and social chaos in these countries. Here’s the relevant excerpt:
After the Cold War ended, we allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode. It failed us in some places, and sometimes it failed you and the rest of the world. Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself. The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done. Was that ever really true?
For the business community, from which I came, consider this: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were chartered to help rebuild war-torn territories and promote private investment and growth. Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.
… But Brexit – if nothing else – was a political wake-up call. Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats here in Brussels?
The truth of these sentences is undeniable, but got the standard critical treatment from the usual establishment class. The hysteria was palpable in critiques from Daniel Drezner in The Washington Post to former Joe Biden staffer Julie Smith in Foreign Policy, to Edward Luce in The Economist. The critics of nationalism started ripped Pompeo’s speech in a seriously tone-deaf manner, right around the same time the working-class French were rioting for lower immigration and more welfare.
So, who’s wrong here? Is it Pompeo, who highlighted possibly the most pressing issue facing the global order, or the entrenched trans-national managerial class, whose policies led to this moment?
What Pompeo hinted at but couldn’t say explicitly due to diplomatic niceties is the simple truth that the EU is turning to a smiley-badge version of the sclerotic bureaucratic hell of the late Soviet Union. It doesn’t have the crushing military power (yet), but the EU has an equally dogmatic social-welfarist redistributive economy and ideology promotion, and strict rules formed and enforced by Brussels on member-states.
The EU is punishing Britain, threatening Switzerland and Italy, crippling Greece, and suing Hungary and Poland. Democratic elections in member states have little meaning within any country in the EU, as its purpose is to transcend national boundaries. Nothing is really consequential unless Berlin and Brussels agree to it.
There’s just one problem. The people are turning against it, including the French rioters and the Brexiters — something Pompeo and other conservative realists instinctively realize, but our liberal establishment fails or refuses to understand. Feeding the same food to the horse and donkey, so to speak, does not lead to the donkey turning into a horse, but leads to the horse’s death due to starvation, and the policy is unsustainable.
For decades a lie was sold to the people of Europe that free movement, social engineering, and cheap imported labor would be compatible with an ever-growing managerial welfare state. That falsehood now lies exposed, and the results aren’t pretty. The problems of Paris and, by and large, the EU, are only beginning.
Pompeo understands what other American liberal internationalists fail to comprehend about the EU. While some European nations might be allies, the European Union isn’t. Rather, it’s an empire in the making.
One cannot govern against his own people in democratic societies without using medieval authoritarian tactics and brutal crackdowns. And the only way to have good government is to have nation-states, where the people can elect their own leaders and choose their own systems and social policies. After all, as Kenneth Waltz once wrote, an aspiration of a global government would lead to a global civil war.
Macron, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is likely toast. Calling himself Jupiterian once, Macron claimed to be a new liberal hope against the tide of populism (or conservative-nationalism) sweeping across Europe.
For an imperial leader whose godlike image is contingent to his popularity, Macron has shown himself effete and aloof, more worried about climate change and liberal order than about his own people getting two square meals a day. That is, until his throne is threatened by a mass protest. Any weak leader who is afraid of a mass movement in a deeply troubled society finds himself inevitably in a line of more protests and hardships.
Jupiter is not supposed to bleed and, if he does, he is not a God.