The USA and France, or Their Remnants
The United States of America Today: A Dialogue
Truth: Donald Trump, with his self-seeking demagoguery, fear-and-lie-grounded radicalization of millions of his supporters, and open praise and normalization of tyrants and tyrannical methods at home and abroad, has done catastrophic and possibly irreparable harm to his country.
Tribalism: But what about Biden, Hillary, and Obama!
Truth: Fine. In that case reason affords you two possible avenues, if justice is your goal. Reject and condemn all of them, including Trump, or absolve and stop condemning all of them, including Biden, Hillary, and Obama.
Tribalism: I wish you would die.
Truth: I presumed so. But I am afraid the best I can do is become invisible.
I do not claim to know which of the above rational implications is the better path. But I know that the paths that will be chosen by the entire American electorate will be neither of these rational options.
France Today: Two Monologues
From the Center-Left: Emmanuel Macron, Europe’s most consistently milquetoast, Putin-appeasing, cowardly leader over the past fourteen months, has now taken his risk-avoidance-as-bravado crusade into the wider international arena, using the occasion of an official visit to communist China to announce, (a) that he does not believe Europe’s best interests are served by taking a firm rhetorical stand in support of the Taiwanese people’s right not to be enslaved by a communist dictatorship, and more generally, (b) that Europe should make distancing itself from America on the global stage a priority. That slapping sound you hear in the background is Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping sharing a delighted high five at the French government’s full return to active duty as official glue-dissolver in the newly adhered Western alliance against totalitarianism. In any case, whether he be acetone or merely asinine, it is certain that Macron is decidedly micro in his aspirations and attitudes, thinking, as a typical French politician of this era would be expected to do, entirely with his electoral finger in the winds of mass opinion, in a nation famous for endless and violent union strikes and the shortest workweek on the planet, aka a land of self-absorbed, whining idlers. (That it was once the land of Tocqueville and Bastiat is no more than a sad reminder of how far civilization can fall.)
From the Center-Right: Marine Le Pen, the best-known and most serious non-socialist contender for the French presidency, has amplified and defended Macron’s isolationist and anti-American position on China, though for her own ideological, rather than Macron’s spineless and pragmatic, reasons. As a longtime supporter and admirer of Vladimir Putin — imagine Trump evolved beyond the brain stem — she uses her distaste for the anti-nationalist concept of a united Europe as a soapbox of convenience for serving as Putin’s most faithful, if convoluted and dishonest, French apologist.
“If Russia wins the war, it will be catastrophic because all countries with a territorial conflict will think that they can solve it with weapons,” she says. “If Ukraine wins, it will mean that NATO has entered the war, because I am convinced that Ukraine, without the power of NATO, cannot militarily defeat Russia. And this means that World War III has been unleashed.” Third option: “If we continue to slowly deliver weapons to Ukraine, as we are doing now, then we are facing a new Hundred Years’ War, which, considering the human losses, is a terrible drama.” Pressed to specify how she would resolve the conflict, Le Pen retorts: “I’m not going to give you a peace plan right here, on a coffee table.”
Notice how deftly she slips in, right there in the first option (Russian victory), the standard Putin apologist’s absurdity that his war of aggression and annihilation against Ukraine arose out of some kind of legitimate “territorial conflict,” which Russia has merely mishandled by seeking to “solve it with weapons.” Remind yourself that there was no real territorial conflict to solve, apart from the conflict over Russia’s previous occupation of Crimea, and the entire edifice of Le Pen’s mock-moderate argument for a peace plan collapses.
Notice, further, how her second option undermines her pretenses of opposing Russia’s aggression by declaring, in the standard illogic of appeasers everywhere, that a Ukrainian victory would somehow be a terrible outcome, in that it would mean “World War III has been unleashed.” (Le Pen’s alt-right, pro-Putin counterpart in America, Donald Trump, has echoed this WWIII fear-mongering in an interview with Putin’s top international media mouthpiece, Tucker Carlson.) But think that through for a moment. If Ukraine in fact won the war, this would necessarily mean that Russia had lost the war, would it not? — in which case the war (whether one wished to name it World War III, Doomsday, or The End of the Universe) would have ended, and ended with the optimal result, namely the absolute defeat of the tyrannical regime that started it. Apply Le Pen’s reasoning retrospectively to the analogous case of Hitler’s aggression against Poland in 1939, and you immediately see how horrendously disingenuous or utterly ignorant she is, even regarding her own nation’s recent history.
As for her third option — slowly delivering limited support to Ukraine, which she claims would lead to “a new Hundred Years’ War” — consider that if one rejects the false premises underlying her first two options, then this third one amounts to nothing but the most obvious argument for giving Ukraine more sincere and full-bodied support as efficiently as possible, in order to ensure that Russia cannot win, and that Ukraine can end this “World War III” before it spirals out of control, as it surely would if a reality-deprived dictator, in his final, failing years, were emboldened by the bloodlust bred of a brutal and unjust victory in Ukraine.
I do not claim to know the best solution to Putin’s war against Ukraine and the West. But I know that the appeasement of tyrants, whether out of cowardice or sympathy, has never been a successful option before, for the simple reason that success is not appeasement’s intention.