With less than a month until the next big NATO meeting, scheduled for the first week of December, France’s Macron has jumped into public relations mode to prepare the public for some big changes on the horizon. Indeed, Macron’s major interview with the Economist on November 7th on the question of the US’s alleged wavering commitment to NATO is a stunning sign of the times.
Cutting through a lot of intentionally confusing messaging, is that France and Germany are just fine with any end to NATO because it helps justify the coming European Army – one that they want, and believe they need anyhow. It only happens to be part of the same reality that US hegemony, and its ability to finance NATO in turn, are coming to an end. In sounding more like a radical post-structuralist international relations theorist than a fiscally conservative leader of a capitalist democracy, Macron shocked the world when he stated in no uncertain terms that this period we are in marks the end of ‘Western Hegemony’.
The real facts of motives behind big changes have an odd way of ultimately making themselves known for what they are at the end of the day. Often these are cloaked in the underlying framework of the politics of the time. Revealing these in the case of France and NATO can show some top-level word salad at play: justify independence not on the basis that being controlled isn’t fair, but rather that those doing the controlling aren’t doing it well enough and don’t seem committed to it as much as they ought to be. Macron is doing this very well, and mirrors Trump’s own discursive games.
Occupiers aren’t doing their job – the End of Trilateralism
Imagine if you will a French argument against the Nazi occupation not because it placed Germany in control of France’s fate, but rather on the basis that the Wehrmacht was decreasing its troop presence in France, or conversely appeared to be wavering on the Eastern Front, and as a consequence France was worried about Germany’s commitment to the Reich. This is, in short, what Macron is arguing today regarding the US and NATO.
Imagine likewise, that the Wehrmacht said it was considering abandoning its occupation of France not because it had to move resources to the Eastern Front, but because France wasn’t giving enough to the war effort. This is the crux of Trump’s argument for public consumption.
Under any other prior historical iterations, the US’s moves to reduce its NATO commitments to Western Europe would be hailed by progressives in the Democratic Party in the US as a step in the right direction. Yet now in this exciting time, one in which the US Empire is down-sizing and adjusting itself to its real force potential, progressives in the US are making geopolitical realism into a partisan issue: since the most obvious or observable stage is happening under a nominally conservative, Republican administration, it must therefore be a Democratic Party talking point to oppose this in principle.
The matter is of course deeper than this, and the Democratic Party’s investment in the trilateralism (US + EU + Japan) of Rockefeller and Brzezinski has been at odds with the unilateralism of the neoconservatives. We will recall when President George W Bush attacked Iraq, it came not long after moves by the Iraqi government to do their oil dealings in Euros. The Europe-wide hatred for Bush’s war on Iraq seemed to the politically naïve as an expression of social-democratic pacifism, but in reality was an expression of Europe’s sovereign financial interests versus dollar hegemony. These questions really have not gone away.
When NATO came onto the stage, it was couched in terms of protecting Western Europe from the growth of the Soviet sphere of influence which the latter had won from its victory over Germany in WWII.
The idea that NATO was not a collaborative and mutual effort of freely-acting European states in defense of market freedoms and Western values, but instead more like a US led and sustained military occupation in Western Europe, in the past could be criticized as either Communist or even neo-Nazi propaganda. Against this view the entire media-academic industry was mobilized, assuring the public that all the European countries of NATO were members of their own accord and will: an outgrowth of the democratic mandate from the peoples of the member states, arrived at through fair parliamentary processes.
Macron still needs to make everyone look good
All this places Macron in an odd position. NATO is the military component of economic Atlanticism, but this transatlantic relationship experienced a major breach of trust in the years following the US market crash in 2007. This was because US based banks and government colluded to deceitfully push a significant portion of its liabilities onto the EU all the while claiming these were investments – who in turn placed an undue burden in PIIGS countries, in particular Greece. This all in turn has fueled a marked increase in Eurosceptic and ‘exit’ movements across the beleaguered EU.
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