Tag Archives: France

French Elections, or, Macron’s deuxième quinquennat?

Further to this April 9 AP story, one day before the first round of the French presidential elections,

In France, a nail-biting election as Macron’s rival surges

excerpts from a superb major article by an excellent Globe and Mail columnist; the best single reviews of tomorrow’s vote I’ve read (many photos at orginal);

France’s presidential election will make divisions worse, whether Emmanuel Macron wins or loses

As voters take stock of a centrist leader’s five years in office, challengers Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour are fighting for control of the far right – and creating new frictions that will take the next government a long time to reckon with

Konrad Yakabuski

…after a chaotic five-year mandate, known in French as le quinquennat, that has played out against the backdrop of the threat of Islamic terrorism, a populist uprising against Paris-based elites and the pandemic, Mr. Macron is poised to win again. War has something to do with that.

Paris, in all its spring glory, feels about as far away as you can get from a war zone. Even if COVID-19 case counts have been rising again in recent weeks, the French appear to have decided to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. Restaurants, patios and bars are brimming, and maskless patrons live it up as only the French know how. Yet, no matter whom you talk to, the topic inevitably turns to war.

The Feb. 24 outbreak of a bloody conflict in Europe awakened a desire among famously contrarian French voters for continuity at home. Mr. Macron’s stature on the European stage suddenly made him somewhat irreplaceable. French pollsters attributed the rise in his approval rating after the Russian invasion of Ukraine to l’effet drapeau, or the flag effect. But the effect appears to be wearing off as the shock of the war subsides. Mr. Macron’s lead in the polls has narrowed substantially in recent days. One wonders whether, in the absence of war, he might have faced a similar fate as his two immediate predecessors, the centre-left Mr. Hollande and the centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy, both of whom ended up as woefully unpopular one-term presidents.

For sure, France is more polarized than when Mr. Macron took office. If he wins a second term, his margin of victory stands to be much narrower than in 2017, when he won 66 per cent of the popular vote on the second ballot. This time, polls suggest, almost half of French voters will mark their first ballot for a candidate on the far-right or far-left…

Another cause of division lies in the fact that smaller parties are only weakly represented in France’s National Assembly, a function of the country’s electoral system, which requires candidates to garner 50 per cent or more of the second-ballot vote to win a seat…

At the heart of the divisions in France today, however, lies the question of what it means to be French. Terrorist attacks in late 2015, when Islamic jihadists gunned down 130 people in central Paris, and the beheading of a high-school teacher in 2020 after he showed caricatures of the prophet Mohammed to his students, have hardened attitudes toward immigration and religious accommodation within French society. Mr. Macron has attempted to strike a balance; his rivals accuse him of complacency in the face of the threat posed to the French identity by a growing Muslim population that they say does not believe in the secularist values of the Republic [see this February post: “Macron et les Musulmans en France, cont’d“].

No candidate has beaten this drum as loudly or effectively as Éric Zemmour [note his “background as an Algerian Jew of Berber stock“], a poison-tongued right-wing essayist and former cable news agitator, who has attempted to usurp Ms. Le Pen’s mantle on the far-right with a zero-immigration platform and promise to deport illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and criminals.

Until Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, it looked like Mr. Zemmour might finish second on the first ballot. His previous encomiums to Mr. Putin have now come back to haunt him. But no matter how he performs on the first ballot, his influence on this campaign, and French politics, cannot be understated.

Ms. Le Pen, despite having once also been in Mr. Putin’s thrall [see the 2017 photos here, just before the last French presidential elections], remains the candidate most likely to confront Mr. Macron on the April 24 second ballot, thanks to her solid support among working-class voters. The candidate for France’s traditional centre-right party, now known as Les Républicains, Valérie Pécresse, has struggled to crack double-digits in the polls, reflecting Mr. Macron’s success in drawing moderate Républicains toward him and Ms. Pécresse’s failure to stanch the exodus of others from her party toward Mr. Zemmour and Ms. Le Pen.

There is a chance that far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a politician given to fiery tirades against the rich and entitled who wants France to leave NATO, could surprise everyone. But he would first need to persuade French progressives to stop infighting long enough to prevent Mr. Zemmour or Ms. Le Pen from making it to the second round. The French left is weaker than at any time since the end of the Second World War…France appears set to emerge from this presidential election more divided than it went into it. Mr. Macron’s second quinquennat promises to be more agitated than his first. He will need all his chutzpah, and a bit of luck, to keep the populists at bay.

The question [below] is meant to provoke.

How many immigrants,” says the message on the giant LED screen set up at the front of the arena in Metz, a city of 400,000 near the German border, “has France taken in during President Macron’s five-year mandate?” When the figure of 1.8 million appears, the crowd boos, then breaks into chants of “Zemmour Président.”

The correct figure is closer to 1.25 million, based on the number of permanent resident visas issued to non-Europeans since 2017. No matter. When he takes the stage in front of 4,000 supporters, Éric Zemmour tells the crowd that this presidential election is the last chance to save France from Le Grand Remplacement, or Great Replacement. Mr. Zemmour has made the conspiracy theory hatched by French polemicist Renaud Camus the central conceit of his candidacy. It posits that Muslim immigrants and their descendants are gradually “replacing” white Christians as France’s dominant culture, all with the complicity of the country’s Paris-based elites.

“I will stop immigration, I will terrorize the terrorists, I will restore order,” Mr. Zemmour tells the crowd. “I will do everything to ensure that jihad never again is waged on our soil.”

The top two finishers on the April 10 first ballot will face off in a run-off election on April 24. Unless he is one of them, Mr. Zemmour warns nothing in France will change..

Mr. Zemmour…accuses Mr. Macron of using the war in Ukraine as a pretext for avoiding a debate on immigration during the 36-day-long campaign. He dismisses Rassemblement National Leader Marine Le Pen – who is in her third campaign for president – as an “eternal loser.”..

For weeks leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Zemmour appeared to be stealing Ms. Le Pen’s thunder as the French far-right’s preferred candidate.

Her own efforts to soften her image since 2017, emphasizing economic security rather than immigration, had led many hard core National Rally voters to switch their support to Mr. Zemmour.

But Ms. Le Pen’s strategy began paying dividends as voters grew more concerned about rising inflation. In contrast to Mr. Zemmour, she has promised a mix of protectionist and welfare state policies. She has vowed to hold a referendum on reducing immigration levels.

Still, polls show that as many of 80 per cent of Mr. Zemmour’s supporters would back Ms. Le Pen on the second ballot, helping her to significantly close the gap with Mr. Macron. That gap, which stood at more than 30 percentage points in the 2017 election, could be only a few percentage points this time around, according to some late campaign polls…

Emmanuel Macron dominates French public life like no President since Charles de Gaulle,..the powers inherent in the French presidency, along with the implosion of France’s traditional parties since 2017, have enabled him to govern without effective institutional opposition…

France’s once chronically high unemployment rate fell to 7.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021, its lowest level since before the 2008 financial crisis. Mr. Macron’s reforms have made it easier to fire full-time workers and freed up businesses to determine local working conditions. The result, as counterintuitive as it might seem, has been impressive full-time job growth. Average disposable income has increased 5.3 per cent since 2017, the fastest rate in two decades. The gains have been even higher (7.5 per cent) for middle-income earners.

Mr. Macron has played the European card at every opportunity. He has taken advantage of Angela Merkel’s departure last year as German chancellor to push for greater economic integration and foreign policy co-ordination among the union’s 27 member states. His calls for an independent European defence policy – in 2019, he said NATO was in a state of “brain death” – have been superseded, however, by the Western alliance’s renewed sense of purpose in the face of Mr. Putin’s aggression…

Mr. Macron’s energy policy has undergone a 180-degree turn since he took power. In 2017, he embraced Mr. Hollande’s post-Fukushima plan to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear electricity to 50 per cent from 75 per cent by 2025. He now vows to extend the life of France’s existing reactors for as long as possible, and to invest massively in the construction of six new French-designed EPR2 reactors by 2050. France’s overall nuclear energy capacity would increase by 40 per cent. Mr. Macron has cited Germany’s ill-fated decision to close its nuclear power plants, exacerbating its dependence on Russian natural gas, to justify his own U-turn.

On economic matters, Mr. Macron leans mostly to the right, at least by French standards…

…he has vowed to take another stab at pension reform, raising the retirement age to 65 from 62. Mr. Mélenchon and Ms. Le Pen each vow to lower the retirement to age to 60 in most circumstances. Mr. Macron may have underestimated the depth of opposition to raising the retirement age and could still suffer for it on election day.

Still, pension reform is a fight France cannot avoid having. Spending on public pensions accounted for 13.6 per cent of gross domestic product in France in 2019, compared with an average of 7.7 per cent for countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Over all, public spending surged to 61.4 per cent in 2020, the highest ratio among OECD countries – a result of a “whatever it costs” approach to getting through the pandemic. The ratio is expected to fall to about 56 per cent this year – a better, but still eye-popping, level…

Mr. Macron’s penchant for showing off his intellectual chops – he earned degrees in politics and philosophy before graduating near the top of his class at the elite École nationale d’administration (ENA) – has been a double-edged sword. If he has a blind spot, it relates to working-class voters, who see him as elitist and do not believe he shares their concerns…

No Western leader spoke more often, or for as long, to Mr. Putin in the weeks leading up to the Russian leader’s decision to invade Ukraine. French diplomats, who had voiced skepticism about prewar U.S. intelligence pointing to an imminent invasion, were critical of President Joe Biden’s Feb. 18 declaration that he was “convinced” Mr. Putin had made up his mind. They felt Mr. Biden undermined Mr. Macron’s efforts at diplomacy.

“I think people recognize that he tried,” Mr. Lescure says of Mr. Macron’s entreaties to Mr. Putin. “There was a bit of a ‘good cop, bad cop’ thing with the States.” Still, Mr. Macron was poorly served by his own country’s faulty intelligence. The head of French military intelligence was subsequently fired.

Mr. Macron has continued to speak regularly to the Russian leader since the invasion and has held himself up to French voters as a potential peace broker. But he has also warned of possibly darker days ahead…

But Mr. Macron has shown uncommon confidence in his ability to charm his opposites on the world stage. There has been almost no international crisis during his first term that he has not run toward. Whether he has much influence outside of Europe remains unclear. France’s relations with its former colonies in Africa, especially Algeria [note this Jan. 2021 post: “France still trying to come to Grips, almost 60 Years later, with its “Savage War of Peace” in Algeria“], have deteriorated on his watch.

In February, Mr. Macron also announced the withdrawal of 4,600 French troops deployed in Africa’s Sahel region since 2013 on a mission to combat the Islamic State, citing a lack of collaboration from Malian military leaders who seized power in a 2021 coup, the second such coup in less than a year. Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group moved in as France withdrew its troops…

His 2017 election was a watershed moment. Until then, France had been suffering the same institutional sclerosis and gridlock as many Western democracies. The main political parties had become so beholden to their increasingly narrow bases that they lost sight of the public interest.

Mr. Macron blew all that up…

My assessment is that he has succeeded more than he has failed. But where he has failed – in underestimating the depth of the anxiety that has sent voters into the arms of Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Zemmour – his failure could have grave consequences….

Aux urnes, citoyens!

Other posts, on a variety of matters, based on pieces by Mr Yakabuski are here.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Putin vs Ukraine and the West? When will Europe Wake Up?

Julian French-Lindley opens this piece with a horrifically graphic account of the start on an all-out war begun by Russia and follows with three scenarios as to how the current crisis may go. He then discusses the X factor of the PRC and the dilemma presented by ongoing major threats in both the Indo-Pacific and Europe. The following in his conclusion:

Frozen War: The Whiff of Munich?

Ukraine, Europe and the fall of Singapore

Eighty years ago today British Imperial and Dominion forces surrendered to their Japanese conquerors.  It was perhaps the worst British military defeat in history.  Much has been written about the fall of Singapore and the incompetence that led to it. The real reason was that by 1942 Britain was heavily engaged in multiple theatres from the Atlantic to North Africa and was simply unable to defend the eastern Empire [and Australians have never forgotten and have relied on the US for security back-up ever since–see this piece at the Australian Strategic Policy Instute]… 

Singapore became a metaphor for decline and marked the real beginning of the end of the British Empire which by 1942 had become a hollowed out façade of power. Ukraine? In late 2010, I sat on a podium next to British Minister of Defence Philip Hammond at the Riga Conference. In my hand was an empty tube of Pringles crisps (chips in American) which I held upside down. David Cameron and Hammond had just slashed the British defence budget right in the middle of a major campaign in Afghanistan in which British forces were engaged in perhaps the most dangerous province, Helmand. The empty tube was to demonstrate the fate of European defence if Western European powers continued to load tasks onto their hard-pressed armed forces whilst slashing their budgets.  Five years ago I made a short movie for the Johann de Witt Conference in Rotterdam to demonstrate to the politicians and others present what a major war in Europe would look like.  Last year, I published a major new Oxford book Future War and the Defence of Europe which warned of just such a crisis.That Putin is even contemplating such a war – frozen or hot – is due in no small part to the strategic illiteracy of too many Western European leaders. Yes, there was the 2008-2010 financial and economic crisis and, yes, we have just faced the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is the disastrous pieties of the post-Cold War which for too long Britain, France and Germany have clung to, which has led Europe into this new age of danger which has just dawned.  It is the profoundly mistaken belief to which for too long political leaders have clung that geo-economics will trump the dark side of geopolitics.  That they need recognise only as much threat as they thought they could afford politically or financially. It is the absence of leadership in Europe which has created the opportunity for Putin to impose his fiat on other Europeans. One can only hope that if Russia does force such a dreadful war upon Ukraine it would finally begin the long overdue bonfire of strategic illusions that has underpinned the denial which has afflicted Western Europe and its leaders. 

The West will not intervene with force in Ukraine but Putin must be seen to pay a heavy price and that means real sanctions and the strengthening of NATO’s defence and deterrence posture so that there is no Alliance bluff Putin can also call. If President Putin succeeds in destroying Ukraine do not for a moment think his ambitions will stop there. Ukraine may be not be the whiff of Munich, but it has the scent of Singapore. It is time for democracies to stand firm, and together.

Plus a related post from September 2021 also based on a piece by Mr French-Lindley:

NATO, the EU and the US in the Not-So-Brave New World after Afghanistan (note UPDATE)

British strategic analyst Julian Lindley-French (his rather impressive “About me” is here) takes on Western European elites in his latest piece. You will note that Canada receives (deservedly in the circumstances) no mention at all; I would hold that what is said about those Euro elites applies to ours in spades…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Macron et les Musulmans en France, cont’d

Further to this post almost a year ago,

Macron and Muslims, or, Marianne et les Musulmans en France, Part 3

with the presidential election looming President Macron ups the integration (of sorts) ante–at Deutsche Welle:

France launches new body aiming to reshape Islam

Dozens of influential Muslim figures were handpicked by the government to take part in the new Forum of Islam. Critics say it is an attempt by French President Emmanuel Macron to gain right-wing support.

France will host the first summit of the Forum of Islam on Saturday [Feb. 5], a new body that aims to reshape life for Muslims in the country and rid the religion of extremism.

The body, meeting in Paris, is made up of clergy and laymen and -women who will help to lead the largest Muslim community in western Europe.

They include imams, influential figures from civil society, prominent intellectuals and business leaders.

France is still reeling from attacks by Islamist extremists that killed hundreds of people over the past decade.

The country is still coming to terms with how hundreds of French Muslims went to fight with the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

But critics worry that the body is an attempt by President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party to attract right-wing support by controlling the Muslim community [emphasis added].

What is the Forum of Islam?

The body, which will meet annually and split off into four working groups, is mirrored on the German model of the Deutsche Islam Konferenz (DIK).

The working groups will focus on the training of imams (prayer leaders), clerics employed in prisons, hospitals and the military, as well as mosque security, and discrimination against Muslims.

Muslims in France have long complained of stigmatism in daily life, and they say discrimination gets noticeably worse after Islamist terror attacks.

All of the members of the forum are handpicked by the government, and women will make up at least a quarter of its members [emphasis added], according to French media reports.

The body replaces the French Council for Muslim Faith, which was set up in 2003 but has been wracked by infighting.

Reducing foreign influence on Islam

“We want to launch a revolution by putting an end to (foreign influence) on Islam,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is set to partly attend the summit, said in a recent interview with Le Parisien daily.

Islam is not a religion of foreigners in France, but a French religion that should not depend on foreign money and any authorities abroad [emphasis added, bonne chance],” Darmanin said.

Several Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have funded the construction of mosques in Europe , some of which have become hotbeds of radical Islam and extremism [and lots of Saudi links to Muslims in Canada–see here and here].

Supporters say the new body will ensure that Muslim practices in France adhere to the country’s cherished value of secularism in public life [emphasis added, how realistic?].

Macron’s attempt at reaching right-wing voters?

Critics see the efforts as a political ploy to lure right-wing voters to Macron’s party ahead of April’s presidential election [see post noted at bottom].

Macron, who has yet to announce whether he will run for a second term, faces stiff competition in the first round, not only from far-right leader Marine Le Pen, but also two other conservative candidates.

Others say the initiative is another example of institutionalized discrimination that holds the whole community responsible for the violent attacks of a few.

Some Muslims are worried that the government is going too far in trying to control their faith.

Last year, the French parliament approved a law to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard them from radical Islamists, and to promote respect for secularism and women’s rights.

Plus a December 2021 post on the April election:

France: 2022 Presidential Election Preview, or, how far Right and any Left left?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The Algerians who Fought with the French: ‘”It’s all France’s fault. France abandoned its children. And by abandoning them, it sentenced them to death,” he said’

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Harkis are Muslim Algerians who fought on the side of France during the Algerian war of independence”.)

Further to this post on what the French did to those seeking independence from France,

France still trying to come to Grips, almost 60 Years later, with its “Savage War of Peace” in Algeria

now this on those Algerians who helped them a got left behind. Not pleasant. Exceprts from an article at Deutsche Welle (the title of the post contains the final two sentences):

Confronting France’s colonial past: Harkis eye reparations

President Emmanuel Macron has apologized to the tens of thousands of French loyalist fighters whom France left behind when it exited Algeria in 1962. But some of the fighters, known as Harkis, say more needs to be done.

When Algerian-born Serge Carel joined the army of colonial power France during the Algerian war of independence in 1957, he felt incredibly proud.

“My whole family was working with the French — we’ve always loved France,” Carel told DW, while sitting in an armchair in his home 50 kilometers south of Paris. 

Joining the Algerian National Liberation Front, known as FLN, would have been a “betrayal,” he said, “as I’d have had to shoot at my own family.”

By turning his back on his Algerian roots, he had hoped to adopt a new, French identity. He became a so-called “Harki” (Arabic for “movement”), an Algerian auxiliary in the French army.

But little did he know of the pain that this decision would entail throughout his life.

In Algeria, the French army employed the 20-year-old as a translator and intelligence advisor…

Many ‘Harkis’ left behind — at the mercy of the nationalists

The war ended over seven years later, in 1962, when France exited its colony in North Africa — after more than 130 years of colonial rule. It also left behind most of its Algerian army’s auxiliaries like Carel. Only about 40,000 of them were brought to France, and another 40,000 made it across the Mediterranean Sea on their own account.

Up to 400,000 auxiliaries worked for France [emphasis added] during the war, according to historians.

Most of them were left deeply traumatized by what happened next. A trauma that even a recent apology from Emmanuel Macron — he’s the first French president to say sorry to the Harkis — won’t heal.

Those who were taken to France were interned in camps with poor living and sanitary conditions. Many of them would later struggle to build a normal life [emphasis added].

In 2018, the country’s highest court of appeal condemned France for the first time in history to pay €15,000 in compensation to the son of a Harki who had grown up in such a camp, as compensation for the psychological after-effects of the “appalling conditions.”

Many of those left behind in Algeria were tortured and killed by the nationalists [emphasis added]

Macron apologizes, vows recognition

President Macron’s words at a recent ceremony at the Elysée were to soothe some of Carel’s and other Harkis’ pain.

“To the combatants we abandoned. To their families who were sent to camps or prison. Given our denial, I am asking you for forgiveness. We shall not forget,” Macron said.

The French leader then promised a law of “recognition and reparation.” The legislation is to reach Parliament in December and be rubber-stamped before February.

But details of the new rules are not yet known [emphasis added–on verra, eh?]...

“It’s all France’s fault. France abandoned its children. And by abandoning them, it sentenced them to death,” he [Serge Carel] said.

That “Savage War of Peace” was indeed savage. Misery for Muslim Algerians. From both sides.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The Indo-Pacific, or, Euros Caught (sort of) between AUKUS Anglos and the Dragon

Below is the latter part of a piece at the UK’s International Institute of Strategic Studies:

What does AUKUS mean for Europe’s Indo-Pacific strategies?

For European powers, AUKUS raises uncomfortable questions about their willingness and capacity to contribute to a hard-power response in the Indo-Pacific. As Tim Huxley and Ben Schreer argue, their policies of strategic ambiguity will become increasingly difficult to sustain.

About Ben

About Tim

…the signs are that this understandable continental European impulse to avoid making hard choices in this era of sustained and growing great-power competition [between the PRC and US] will become increasingly difficult to sustain. Hard power increasingly matters in the Indo-Pacific strategic equation, and the sudden and unexpected announcement of AUKUS [more here] threw this challenge for France, other European states and the EU into even sharper relief.

France will continue to play an important role in Indo-Pacific security as the only European power other than the UK with significant military power-projection capabilities, and will seek to strengthen its defence and security links with India among other regional states. Moreover, Germany is already seeking incrementally to strengthen its defence activities with Australia, Japan and others – as was evident, for example, in the letter of intent on ‘military space partnership’ signed last week with Australia.

That said, AUKUS confronts European powers with uncomfortable questions about their willingness and capacity to contribute to a hard-power response to the Indo-Pacific’s increasingly tense strategic circumstances. The UK’s involvement in AUKUS will be consequential as British forces will now be integrated more closely and synergistically with those of Australia and the US. The UK is also likely to enhance further its defence cooperation with Japan. The new reality created by AUKUS will thus cast an unfavourable light on the lack of hard-power substance in the regional strategies of other European states and the EU.

Reality check in store

The broad remit of AUKUS beyond the development of Australia’s SSNs to include cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea domains could act as a magnet for cooperation by European powers that wish to ensure that their contributions to Indo-Pacific security are part of a purposeful strategy, well-coordinated with that of the US. Yet, it remains to be seen whether European governments will be able to resolve a first-order strategic conundrum regarding their Indo-Pacific engagement: the need to reconcile their desire to avoid hard choices between the US and China with the realities of a deteriorating Indo-Pacific regional security environment.

Tellingly, France’s diplomatic activism in courting India as an enhanced security partner within days of the AUKUS announcement signalled an intention to engage with a notionally still ‘non-aligned’ major Indo-Pacific power. But, not least through the ‘Quad’, New Delhi has been moving closer in strategic terms to Australia, Japan and the US, driven by a far-reaching reassessment of China’s challenge. In this new strategic dynamic, Europe’s equidistant approach towards Indo-Pacific defence engagement will increasingly face a reality check.

To my mind it is noteworthy that the authors fail to mention that for Euro NATO members Russia is the defining, immediate defence/security threat–which makes it rather difficult to think in those terms about the Indo-Pacific. Unless one is a former great imperial power retaining certain pretensions such as France and the (for now) UK. Then there’s that pesky matter of America-first reliability these days.

Remember also that Canada is not an anglo state, was not invited to be part of AUKUS, and has a government under PM Trudeau that is concerned to put relations with the PRC back on some sort of track following the release by Beijing of their Canadian hostages, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, immediately following the dropping in Vancouver of the US extradition case against Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou.

Relevant posts:

Canada and the Indo-Pacific Century: A Military/Naval Role? [2020]

The Indo-Pacific, the Birth of AUKUS…and Canada, Part 2

Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Compradors just Can’t Stop Loving the Chicoms

Note also this post based on a piece by the British strategic analyst Julian Lindley-French:

AUKUS and what Way Ahead for the West?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

AUKUS and what Way Ahead for the West?

British strategic analyst Julian Lindley-French (his rather impressive “About me” is here) has at the subject–excerpts:

An AUKUS moment

Why are the French so upset?..it is the subterfuge used by three ostensibly close strategic allies and partners which is why Paris is so angry.  As late as August 30th at the Inaugural France-Australia 2+2 Consultations, the two countries issued a statement saying that “These first discussions in such a format reflect the very high level of France and Australia’s strategic and operational cooperation. The ministers discussed our joint strategic analysis of the Indo-Pacific environment and signalled France’s wish to act jointly with Australia to achieve an open Indo-Pacific area based on upholding national sovereignties and international law, particularly the freedom of navigation….They agreed on the next steps for strengthening our bilateral defence cooperation as well as our industrial partnerships with the aim of maintaining this momentum and deepening the enhanced strategic partnership that has united France and Australia since 2017.

The meeting also committed Australia and France to strengthen industrial and capability-centred cooperation and re-stated the importance of the future submarine programme. The two countries also launched negotiations focused on strengthening and diversifying military cooperation in support of the posture of French forces in the Indo-Pacific. As the Australian ministers sat down at the table with their French counterparts they would have known (unless they were not in what was a very tight loop) that AUKUS had already been agreed in principle at the June meeting of the G7 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, and that discussions had been underway for some eighteen months.  Hardly cricket [rather bodyline bowling]

AUKUS and the British

The British situation with the French is the most complicated, not least because of the proximity of the two old European powers and because of the already toxic political relationship between London and Paris. There will certainly be a certain degree of schadenfreude in parts (not all) of London’s body politic over AUKUS, in spite of Boris Johnson’s claim that the Franco-British relationship is “rock solid”.  As one senior German colleague said to your correspondent there can be no question some element of retaliation is involved on the British side for France’s hard-line over Brexit.  These kind of periodical Franco-British bust-ups are hard-wired into an ancient relationship. The strange thing is that Paris really does not believe (remarkably) it has taken a hard-line over Brexit which reveals the level of political dissonance that exists between London and Paris.  Some in Paris even suggest that Brexit is now merely a legal-technical matter to be handled by the European Commission. That is pure Gallic nonsense because in Paris everything is political, even if it pretends to be legal.

The French are also again being rude about Britain. Ho hum. With the voice of de Gaulle again echoing through the Elysée Palace France has again accused Britain of being a wholly-owned strategic subsidiary of the Americans…

AUKUS and the French

Where does France go next? With the French presidency of the EU about to begin in January Paris will make much of the need for European strategic autonomy in the wake of the Afghanistan fiasco and now AUKUS. The irony is that France is right about the need for more European strategic autonomy because a more capable Europe is vital for the future of both Europe and NATO, but the paradox of such autonomy is that it will only ever be realised outside the EU. Autonomy is a function of military power not words. In the European context any such vision will only ever be realised if Britain is party to it and yet France has done all in its power to alienate Britain in recent years over Brexit (which incredibly they deny). Whatever happens in the forthcoming German federal elections there seems little chance that Berlin is going to become a defence-strategic actor worthy of its economic power anytime soon [see this post: “NATO, the EU and the US in the Not-So-Brave New World after Afghanistan (note UPDATE)]

AUKUS and China

Of course, all the above is a strategic sideshow to the main event of AUKUS – China.  The single most important change factor is China’s growing maritime military power projection capability which is shifting not just global geopolitics, but the very shape and structure of Western alliances, coalitions and regimes. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) now has more ships than the United States Navy (USN) and, critically, unlike the Americans the overwhelming bulk of the Chinese force is concentrated in the eastern Indo-Pacific.

Power is like a light to moths.  Whether they want to or not moths are irresistibly drawn to it and in the Indo-Pacific there are two lights that shine bright – America and China.  US-China strategic power competition in the Indo-Pacific will be the defining geopolitical contest of the twenty-first century and AUKUS is the first real step in realigning American-led Western strategy with power and threat…

France thus has a choice to make about whether it wants to be part of this US global strategy or stand apart from it.  Indeed, far from post-Brexit Britain being strategically isolated, as some have suggested, it is far more likely that France is in danger of becoming strategically-isolated from where the West’s real defence power lies. 

The future of AUKUS

Could France have been part of AUKUS? For all the current tensions AUKUS must be seen in the context of a massively bigger strategic power picture and France must at some point be part of it.  Not only is AUKUS in many respects the future of Western-led geopolitical networks, but the Americans and the British also need the French. Proof?  Interestingly (or perhaps not), just as Canberra, London and Washington were announcing AUKUS, Brussels was launching the EU Indo-Pacific Strategy.  No-one noticed because to paraphrase Hobbes covenants without the sword are but words and of little use to any European. At some future point it would be in London’s interest to find ways to associate Paris with AUKUS, possibly as a party to the technological developments, but then it takes two to tango, possibly four…

Is AUKUS the first real evidence of a profound split in the West between an Anglosphere and a Eurosphere? It is highly unlikely [one is not so sure]. Few other Europeans have come to France’s defence over AUKUS and so many other Europeans are determined to prevent just such a split from happening to keep the Americans and British engaged in continental defence…

But note this on the EU:

And have a look at the tweets at this post yesterday:

France/AUKUS Update (with maps)

What I find so striking in how the Biden administration has been conducting its foreign policy/national security strategy is how much at root it is like Trump’s in its American First unilateralism–just not conducted with such offensive language in public.

It seems critical to me that the Euros and the US stay coupled in order to face both Russia and the PRC, and not split seriously apart as a result of spiteful conduct of relations in response to events. But Euro trade interests still pull strongly towards Beijing, especially in Germany (see the posts here and here); and how many in the EU are prepared to mourir pour Kyiv? And how much longer will the US be prepared to tolerate the tortoise-like pace of many NATO members in seriously strengthening their broad defence capabilities? Not exactly a fair wind ahead.

It will also be important to have Japan and India cooperative with AUKUS to the extent possible; the former should not be too difficult but the Indians, with their historical suspicions of the US and their good defence relations with France, may well look askance at how the French have been treated.

More on Japan:

Japan urges Europe to speak out against China’s military expansion

Exclusive: in the first piece in a new Guardian series on China and tensions in the Indo-Pacific, Japan’s defence minister says the international community must bolster deterrence efforts against Beijing’s military

UPDATE: Note this from Germany’s Europe minister (SPD, just before the Sept. 26 election):

Deutsche Welle story on above:

German minister: Submarine dispute is ‘a wake-up call’

Germany’s European Affairs minister said it will be difficult to rebuild trust between the EU and its allies as the US, UK, and Australia insist that long-term relations with France won’t be affected.

And see first “Comment” for India, SSNs, US and France.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

France/AUKUS Update (with maps)

Some tweets on French reaction and also possible broader effects (note the Indo-Pacific maps at the latter part of the post):

First post on AUKUS:

The Indo-Pacific, the Birth of AUKUS…and Canada (note “UPPERDATE”)

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The Indo-Pacific, the Birth of AUKUS…and Canada (note “UPPERDATE”)

The US and UK have reached an agreement to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs, not fitted with nuclear weapons) and well as to deepen cooperation in a number of key emerging defence technologies. The Australians will ditch their existing agreement with France’s Naval Group to build twelve large conventional subs (SSKs) in Australia based on a design from that company. The French are hopping mad, saying that is “a stab in the back” and that “trust has been betrayed” by Australia.

The plan is for eight SSNs to be (largely) built in Adelaide, South Australia, based on either the Royal Navy’s Astute-class or the larger US Navy Virginia-class. It is hoped the first sub might be delivered by around 2040 (what will the Indo-Pacific, indeed the world, look like by then?). From a story at the Sydney Morning Herald:

Australia will pursue long-range hypersonic missile technology and undersea drones while it builds a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new military pact with the United States and Britain, a partnership China has labelled an “extremely irresponsible” threat to regional stability.

The announcement of the partnership, to be known as AUKUS, has sent shockwaves around the world as the three countries look to provide a more assertive military posture in the face of Beijing’s rapidly escalating militarisation of the South China Sea.

China’s foreign ministry said the agreement “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.

…Australia will acquire long-range missiles – including Tomahawk cruise missiles on its Hobart-class destroyers, anti-ship missiles for the Super Hornet aircraft and hypersonic missiles that can travel at least five times the speed of sound – as well as unmanned underwater vehicles under the AUKUS pact…

The Canadian Forces can only dream of procuring such new, advanced and costly capabilities.

Plus another story at the Sydney Morning Herald on how the momentous pact came quickly to fruition:

Engaging the systems’: The secret only a handful of people were trusted to keep

It was a proposal 18 months in the making and a secret only a handful of people were trusted to keep for months. It would result in what the US has described as the “biggest strategic step Australia has taken in generations.” Morrison says it is now “probably the most important trilateral meeting Australia has had for the past 70 years”.

But note this UPPESTDATE:

And from an article at US Naval Institute News, note the other areas of cooperation mentioned at end of the quote:

Nuclear-powered submarines are largely regarded as the most survivable weapon against the Chinese fleet in the South China Sea, where U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officials expect a potential conflict with Beijing could occur. Nuclear-powered boats can travel much longer distances and operate underwater for longer periods of time than conventionally-powered submarines, making them ideal for the vast distances in the Indo-Pacific.

“Our first initiative as part of AUKUS is . . . a shared ambition to support Australia’s desire to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and we will launch a trilateral effort of 18 months, which will involve teams – technical and strategic and navy teams from all three countries – to identify the optimal pathway of delivery of this capability,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters today, noting that the U.S. has only ever shared this technology with the U.K. in 1958.

“We are adding – this is a unique set of circumstances – Australia to that deep partnership to explore the best ways for Australia to pursue nuclear-powered submarines. I do want to underscore that this will give Australia the capability for their submarines . . . to deploy for longer periods,” the official continued. “They’re quieter. They’re much more capable. They will allow us to sustain and improve deterrence across the Indo-Pacific. As part of that, we will work closely on efforts to ensure the best practices with respect to nuclear stewardship. I think you will see much deeper interoperability among our navies and our nuclear infrastructure people to ensure that our countries are working very closely together.”..

“Over the next 18 months, we will work together to seek to determine the best way forward to achieve this. This will include an intense examination of what we need to do to exercise our nuclear stewardship responsibilities here in Australia,” Morrison said during the press conference. “We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide, Australia in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States. But let me be clear, Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability. And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”..

The new AUKUS security agreement also includes broader technology sharing between the three countries and ongoing dialogue between defense and diplomatic officials, the senior [US] administration official said.

The arrangement will include initiatives “to spur cooperation across many new and emerging arenas: cyber, AI – particularly applied AI – quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well. We’ll also work to sustain and deepen information and technology sharing and I think you’re going to see a much more dedicated effort to pursue integration of security and defense-related science, technology, and industrial bases and supply chains,” the official said. “This will be a sustained effort over many years to see how we can marry and merge some of our independent and individual capabilities into greater trilateral engagement as we go forward.”

Meanwhile the alarm is raised in Canada–at the Globe and Mail:

Canada left out as U.S., U.K., Australia strike deal to counter China

The three countries, along with Canada and New Zealand, already share foreign intelligence through the Five Eyes partnership. It was not immediately clear whether the new alliance would serve purely as a vehicle for Australia to engage in additional defence projects with the other countries, or if the pact would supplant some of the work of the Five Eyes [I would think there will be little direct impact on Five Eyes sharing–this pact is primarily defence cooperation and research oriented–see following section of this post]...

Eric Miller, a political and business consultant specializing in Canada-U.S. affairs, said the agreement represents an alliance between countries more willing than Canada to take on China. He said the pact could represent a “three eyes” subset of the larger partnership.

“Those who are in the world of ‘we need to directly confront China, and use all of our assets and resources to do that,’ – they are essentially moving forward,” he said…

The British Thin Pinstriped Line blog has these observations:

…Its unlikely that this will do much damage to 5-EYES – for example New Zealand would never have been approached as the acquisition of a nuclear submarine would be vastly beyond the budget, or needs, of the small but incredibly professional Royal New Zealand Navy.

Canada may be feeling slightly raw about this – particularly those with long memories who recall the 1980s and the doomed plan to acquire nuclear submarines for the RCN [see “Sovereignty, Security and the Canadian Nuclear Submarine Program” by @adam_lajeunesse]

Given 5-EYEs is more than just an Indo-Pacific focus, it would be wrong to read much into this as a statement on the future of that Alliance. Rather it is better to see this as a subgrouping of a very successful international alliance…

In any event Canada has little serious in the way of naval or air assets to bring to bear to much effect in the Western Pacific–a post from 2020:

Canada and the Indo-Pacific Century: A Military/Naval Role?

But there is a bigger picture in all this as to how Canada now fits with the the three members of AUKUS. A tweet of mine:

Then this tweet from Vice-Admiral (ret’d) Paul Maddison of the Royal Canadian Navy, subsequently our High Commissioner to Australia:

A friend well-versed in defence matters and international affairs has this reaction, along similar lines:

Since World War II, Australia has always made it a strategic priority to nurture its alliance with the USA, which they perceive as having saved them when the UK abandoned them during that war (that’s their “narrative”). The nuclear submarines, which are part of the very inner circle of defence intimacy (exceeded only by nuclear weapons) help cement that and if the good old, now Global, Britain wants in, so much the better.

What may be emerging is a Three Eyes alliance with Canada and New Zealand relegated to a peripheral, symbolic Five Eyes arrangement to keep the club intact for larger intelligence and foreign policy calculations.

Bottom line – serious countries are getting serious.  Suppliers of virtuous advice…may be invited to sit in a corner, where their incoherent mumblings won’t disturb the adults.

Ouch! And some final thoughts of mine, further to the earlier post of mine listed above:

One thing Canada usefully could do for our allies is very publicly to re-assert our focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) in the North Atlantic for NATO vs Russian subs with cruise missiles, in cooperation with the renewed US 2nd Fleet at Norfolk, Virginia which has this mission (see this post: “Subs and Russian Nuclear Weapons Doctrine, Note Cruise Missiles“).  All our frigates save three should be based in Atlantic Canada and some RCAF CP-140 maritime patrol planes should be permanently based in Newfoundland for greater range into the ocean (our eastern ones are now at Nova Scotia). The US Navy should have regular, agreed operational access to Canadian bases and ports (as the USN now has in Australia and Norway), as should USN P-8A maritime patrol planes–if the US wants such sea/air access on our territory.

But for some reason our government and and the RCN/RCAF do almost nothing to highlight the North Atlantic ASW role, preferring to stress drug busting in Caribbean and enforcing UN sanctions off North Korea. Very odd, especially as both Norway and the UK are putting serious public emphasis on their (sometimes joint) contribution to that ASW role and on their cooperation in it with US.

Something like the above would hardly be as striking as AUKUS but at least it would offer something of real utility for allies and also public backing for them.

UPDATE: The CCP’s Global Times mouthpiece, in top Wolf Warrior mode, unleashes the hit “The Return of the Running Dogs”:

Swell folks, those Chicoms.

UPPERDATE: As was suggested above in this post–for government officials to say such things as these suggests a whole lot of dissatisfaction with PM Trudeau’s government:

Canada caught off guard by new security pact between U.S., Australia and Britain

Three officials, representing Canada’s foreign affairs, intelligence and defence departments, told The Globe and Mail that Ottawa was not consulted about the pact, and had no idea the trilateral security announcement was coming until it was made on Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The defence ministers from the U.K. and Australia reached out to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to inform him of the decision shortly before the late-afternoon announcement. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau received a call from his Australian counterpart. Daniel Minden, a spokesperson for Mr. Sajjan, said Ottawa had been kept in the loop on talks between the countries.

One of the Canadian officials referred to the pact as the new “Three Eyes” and said it’s clear that Canada’s closest allies consider Ottawa to be a “weak sister” when it comes to standing up to China. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the officials because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly…

We are indeed a “weak sister”. Plus on same story a re-tweet from former high-level Liberal insider Warren Kinsella, who has turned violently against PM Trudeau:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

NATO, the EU and the US in the Not-So-Brave New World after Afghanistan (note UPDATE)

British strategic analyst Julian Lindley-French (his rather impressive “About me” is here) takes on Western European elites in his latest piece. You will note that Canada receives (deservedly in the circumstances) no mention at all; I would hold that what is said about those Euro elites applies to ours in spades. Key excerpts from the piece:

Summer Essay: A Failure of Will and Competence

The US is tired, politically divided, mired in debt, and in urgent need of reinvesting in itself, its people, and its infrastructure. Europeans are increasingly isolationist word junkies, addicted to irrelevance, as the latest iteration of EU hope over experience will attest, the forthcoming and absurdly named EU Strategic Compass and the Initial Entry Force (IEF) will attest. European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) redux? At least back in 1999 Britain was still in the EU and without Europe’s most high-end capable expeditionary power it is hard to see quite where the initial entry bit will come from. The so-called (missed) Headline Goal and the ERRF was a political exercise to mask Europe’s failings in the wake of the 1999 Kosovo campaign. The IEF is another such exercise to hide Europe’s embarrassment in the wake of the Afghanistan defeat, simply because the forces of EU Member-States are now so weak they are incapable of securing one airport [Kabul].

NATO faces another problem, a lack of leadership from the Alliance’s three major Powers, Britain, France and Germany.  There is no disrespect intended to the likes of Italy, Poland, Spain and others but NATO’s European pillar has always been built around these three states. Liberal Western European high political and bureaucratic elites have shown themselves to be incapable of dealing with ultra-conservative transnational and ultra-nationalist state threats because to do so would require them to abandon their delusional ‘world as they would like to be’ beliefs that have so undermined their competence as security actors [emphasis added]. Enhanced ‘political cohesion’ would be meaningless if Western European leaders continue to lack the essential strategic and political will to properly confront the threats they and their Allies face?

The abandonment of competence in Berlin, London and Paris has been masked by American power but it can no longer be hidden.  Their political and strategic shallowness has now been laid bare together with the obsession with optics over substance and the 24 hour news cycle.  The lazy globalist ideology of such elites also stubbornly refuses that globalisation has a dark side that undermines the very political cohesion and resiliency which is the foundation of any credible NATO defence and deterrence posture or security engagement. Their steady erosion of what might be termed a European strategic culture for fear that some despot somewhere or other shouts ‘imperialism’.  Their deliberate confusion of moderate patriotism with nationalism and the offense it causes to millions of decent citizens who live outside the closed echo chamber of European elites [see this post: “Holey moley! Poles will Pole“].  Ultimately, this break down in trust between increasingly distant leaders and their citizens reveals Europeans leaders who no longer to trust their people, and European peoples increasingly contemptuous of their leadership caste.  Ancien regime?..

What European leaders really mean when they say they are not able to afford Europe’s defence is that they do not value security and defence highly enough as a public good to properly invest in it [emphasis added, sound familiar Canadians?}]  As long as the Americans feed their addiction they will continue to claim defence poverty so that they can spend on the very things that get them re-elected but which Americans now also need to invest in: education, health, social care, infrastructure etc [emphasis added].

Europe also suffers from a profound political crisis over the role and utility of military power in international affairs.  London has all but abandoned the land defence of continental Europe in the wake of Brexit and retreated behind its nuclear deterrent, whilst literally ‘showboating’ Global Britain by sending one of its new but under-equipped and under-protected aircraft carriers into the Indo-Pacific. Paris is forever grandstanding with its hypocritical calls for ever closer European defence integration and ever more European strategic autonomy, even though  Paris is neither willing to give up sovereignty over its armed forces to add substance to such vision nor invest the money required to match words with deeds. Worse, Franco-British relations, the core of any meaningful European defence, are at their worst since at least 1966 and France’s then withdrawal from military NATO.  With Macron’s France pushing the EU hard to subordinate post-Brexit Britain that critical relationship is likely to get far worse before it gets better.

However, for all the strategic pretence of London and Paris the real problem is Berlin which is fast becoming a pacifist, mercantilist power which wants the benefits of leadership without the responsibility, partly out of fear of itself [emphasis added].

…Europeans must ask themselves what is it they need to do to enable the Americans to continue to provide a security guarantee through NATO.  That means Europeans actually recognising the threats they face, as opposed to only recognising as much threat as they think their social welfare states can bear. Europe’s defence can no longer simply be paid for by what’s left after social security [emphasis added]

In the end, for all the many challenges posed by Afghanistan the defeat therein was ultimately a failure of political will and that will be the most difficult thing for Europeans to change. Years of avoiding hard choices has left the European political elite strategically illiterate…

Edward Gibbon, were he alive today, might well have written that when Europeans finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Europe ceased to be free and was never free again.

UPDATE: From an article at The Atlantic along similar lines:

Europe Should Drop the Act on Afghanistan

The region is stuck believing in a past that never was and a future it doesn’t have the will to bring about.

By Tom McTague

Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, questioned whether a country that wasn’t prepared to “stick at something” was any longer a superpower. Tony Blair accused Biden of basing his foreign policy on “imbecilic” campaign slogans. In Parliament, Theresa May demanded to know whether her successor as prime minister, Boris Johnson, had spoken with the secretary-general of NATO about the possibility of putting together an alternative coalition capable of continuing the alliance’s presence in Afghanistan without the United States.

On the continent, there was a similar outcry. In Germany, Angela Merkel said the collapse in Afghanistan was a “bitter event,” while the chair of the German Parliament’s foreign-relations committee said Biden had made a “serious and far-reaching miscalculation.” The European Union’s high commissioner for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, wrote in The New York Times that Europe should stand on its own two feet, free from its American nanny, whose attention seemed to be drifting…

Of all the complaints in London—which include that Britain was not fully apprised of the speed of the American withdrawal, that insufficient heed was paid to the risks of a Taliban return, and that the U.S. could and should have stayed longer once it became clear the Afghan government could not cope—the most absurd is the idea that Britain might have corralled a coalition to continue NATO’s presence in Afghanistan without the United States. Britain did not have the commitment and wherewithal to make a success of its own, smaller interventions within the wider American invasions, let alone the international clout and public support to take over where the Americans had failed. Only Britain and France are serious military players in Europe. And even working together, they couldn’t topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi without American hand-holding.

Which brings us to gripes from the continent. European complaints about American commitment are just as hard to swallow as those emanating from Britain. French combat troops pulled out of Afghanistan by 2012. For Germany, just being in Afghanistan was a major step, but the country was hardly a central player. Even now, as they talk about commitment, the French are pulling out of their own mission in the Sahel.

To read Borrell’s piece in the Times is to understand the paucity of ambition that still dominates in Europe. Although the U.S. has certainly retrenched over the past decade, following the failed years of intervention after 2001, Europe remains trapped in a state of Peter Pan–like infancy. Borrell’s declared goal is for the EU to create a pan-European force of 5,000 capable of securing an airbase. Implicit in the ambition is the acknowledgment that today, there is no coordinated European force capable of such a limited objective.

The truth is that Biden didn’t screw over the Brits and the Europeans; he just brutally reflected the reality of the world he inherited, one in which 20 years of American commitment had failed. By ending the war the way he did, he is also part of that failure. But it is Europe, so fond of trumpeting its own sophistication, that is living in a made-up world: stuck believing in a past that never was and a future it doesn’t have the will to bring about.

Ouch. Plus this UPDATE:

By the way, Mr French-Lindley really does not like President Putin, see this post:

Take that, Bad Vlad! With both Barrels

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Our Progressives, or, “It Was Self-Flagellation, You Know”

Much of what Lord Black of Crossharbour says in this piece is, natch, disputatious–if not the work of a downright fissiparous miscreant–but these excerpts are bang on the Loonie I think:

Conrad Black: As China looks outward, the West looks inward

It may be that this Chinese challenge is fortuitous. Only complacent countries can afford the luxury of wallowing in such ludicrously exaggerated self-loathing as much of the West now is

Canada, like other Western countries, is facing the challenge of responding effectively to the still-rising wave of self-loathing that is engulfing and distracting the whole Western world, as historically pre-eminent classes are made out to be oppressors and asked to atone for the alleged sins of their forefathers. This painful process is occurring simultaneously with China’s corresponding push for global dominance…

When the Cold War ended, in the immense, bloodless strategic victory for the West of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of international communism as a coherent political challenge, American cultural historian Frank Fukuyama expressed a widely held opinion when he declared “The end of history,” by which he meant that an almost Hegelian dialectical-materialist act of producing the ideal form of human political and economic organization had been confirmed by the triumph of democracy and the free market over totalitarian Marxism. Indeed, a powerful support for the accuracy of this thesis was provided by the premier surviving ostensibly communist power, the People’s Republic of China, which has staged the greatest feat of self-liberation of any underdeveloped country in the history of the world. Albeit, it has done so by recourse to state and private capitalism in a continuing totalitarian regime, but China has become the first recycled great power: a once great power fallen into decay and resurrected by its own efforts to resume its status as a mighty nation.

The West was late to appreciate fully the implications of this challenge, partly from the complacency of its great Cold War victory, and partly from the subtlety of Chinese leaders in pursuing their national objectives. In the great dynasties of its past, China only aspired for regional hegemony and, only briefly, in the Middle Ages, maintained diplomatic and commercial relations with South Asia and East Africa. Obviously, the world is now a smaller place and China’s celebrated Belt and Road program envisions China’s pre-eminence not only on the Eurasian landmass and among powers assisting the underdeveloped and developing worlds, but globally. Though the Han Chinese tend to feelings of superiority and managed to do so even when China itself was enfeebled and victimized, the overt Chinese program asserts no racial motive as Nazi Germany did, nor any ambition to sweep the world with an ideology as the Soviet Union did. As a result, it seems and probably is less threatening…

It may be that this Chinese challenge is fortuitous. Only complacent countries can afford the luxury of wallowing in such ludicrously exaggerated self-loathing as much of the West now is. The consequences of the leadership of the world passing to a non-Western country with a radically different cultural tradition is troubling, and China should not be underestimated. But it is not a rich country, has no institutions of any integrity, is a ruthless dictatorship that does not publish a single statement or figure that can be believed, is still largely a command economy and almost all of its neighbours, starting with Taiwan, would like the West to help them contain it. We can certainly meet this challenge, which should be refreshing, since we have so conspicuously failed to respond to those among us who defame Western civilization. When a young Abraham Lincoln said that America “will either flourish as a democracy or perish by suicide,” he may, as he often did, have spoken for the Western world generally. Our endless self-flagellation has become as boring is it is painful and unjustly exaggerated.

Now, if you want the hour of maximum woke (for now that is, quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat) consider this:

Revenge of the Gods

California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum urges students to chant to the Aztec deity of human sacrifice.

Holy shoot, Montezuma-man. Meanwhile a lot of the French want nothing to do with this Western self-loathing movement, a development of which the oh so progressive NY Times seriously disapproves:

Can France’s Far Right Rise to Power? One Mayor Shows How.

[President Macron’s government] have turned to identity politics, ordering an investigation into “Islamo-leftism” at French universities and other so-called American-inspired ideas that they say threaten to undermine French values…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

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