French President Emmanuel Macron doubtless felt deep self-satisfaction in delivering a public rebuke to President Trump over the weekend. But his smug lecture on the dangers of nationalism ignored both the lessons of history and of today’s political realities.
It was also pretty arrogant of Macron to implicitly slam a US president at a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — a conflict in which France and its allies were saved by American soldiers, thousands of whom lie forever in French soil. Surely a “thanks” was in order.
After all, US troops also liberated France a generation later from the very fascist nationalism that Macron seems to ascribe to Trump, with his warning about “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.”
But Trump’s “America First” nationalism is not the same as the force that drove both world wars. It does not seek greatness by conquest, nor does it mean “only America.”
It does, however, expect Europe to share global responsibilities, and recognizes that the United States has not been well-served by multinational groups like the United Nations and the European Union — even as it foots so many of the bills.
And, for all the talk about Trump abandoning traditional alliances, this administration has taken strong action in Europe’s defense against Vladimir Putin’s Russia (even if Trump’s rhetoric sometimes suggests otherwise). This, even as nations like Macron’s France forcefully resist confronting Iran.
Macron and the fans of his rebuke of Trump also remain in denial on important social issues, including the rise of immigrant-driven anti-Semitism across Europe and particularly in France. Nor do dark warnings about nationalism make any less of a disaster German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 opening of Europe’s doors to unlimited Middle East migrants.
America’s brand of nationalism is not a “betrayal of patriotism,” as Macron suggests; it’s an affirmation. And it speaks to the American values and commitment that helped France remain a free nation.
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