Macron Hopes WWI Ceremonies Warn of Nationalism’s Dangers. Is Anyone Listening?

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, hoped his carefully orchestrated centennial of the Armistice would bolster his vision for “more Europe.” But it may underscore his increasing isolation.

Comments: 33

  1. I fear the retrenchment of the nations of Europe, and I wish Macron success. He is indeed isolated at this moment in time, but hopefully it will be just that: a moment.

  2. Those who forget the mistakes of history are bound to repeat it.

  3. When they were younger and played amateur sports, I always told my sons: "Always be nice to the other team, because, if they don't want to play, you can't either." It's a crucial lesson for Macron, if he is to survive, and one that Merkel forgot.

  4. There is much that could be disputed about this article's characterization of Macron as the liberal savior of all that is right & true in Europe, but the easiest is this: that he takes "a moderate stance toward immigrants against flag-waving populists." This is decidedly not the case. He has slammed the Italian-French border shut to migrants (I know this from personal experience) and has almost certainly done the same on the French-Spanish border. Further, and much more under the radar, is the way he has also helped slam the door shut at the southern Sahara to migrants coming up from west Africa (with French troops aiding local police in stopping migrants in Mali, Niger, and Chad). I think he is wise to have done this. But he (Macron) wants to have it both ways: be seen as the hero of "liberal" Europe while underhandedly being as hard-nosed as any so-called "populist." His commitment to the supposedly "liberal" issue of open borders is as deep as the threads of his shiny, tailored suits.

  5. @Purity, I agree with you. Macron is a Clinton Democrat compared to US Republicans. He is far more liberal than the RN (LePen) and more liberal than the french Republicains. Macron simply wants to loosen up the existing labor laws in favor of employers so that France can be more competitive in attracting business, and why not, as Brexit looms and the Brits set themselves up for an exodus of brains and talent. The business climate in France is suffocatingly dismal for employers and yet the average french worker/citizen has no clue that their “worker protections” are the root cause of their massive youth unemployment (youth defined as under 30). The French are some of the most change averse people I have ever encountered. Macron’s plans are relatively tame and very practical, and yet you would think he was dynamiting the entire system based on the reaction in the streets. That said, a little humility on his part would be helpful right about now...

  6. @Purity of - "Imagine that, a politician who is not a conservative, or a socialist, but who is also, nevertheless, a realist and a pragmatist..." Yup, that's about all we can do, "imagine" such a person. Because you wouldn't get much support from the readers of the NYT. They prefer the cuteness of Alexandra O-C, with breathless visions of a Socialism where all we have to do is close our eyes, hold hands and sing "We are the World" and all our challenges will go "poof." If Macron does go down in flames, you'll get nothing but thumbs-up from the Commenters here.

  7. @Lotzapappa Macron is 1000 times right to take a firm stance on immigration. It is indeed "moderate", normal or just plain common sense to curtail mass immigration at a time unemployment structurally hovers on either side of 10% and when tens of thousands of people are tagged S-file for security risk in France. But Macron refuses to condemn all or most Muslims as terrorists or Islam as a terrorist religion, as the extreme right wants in France. And by extreme right, I include the present leadership of the so-called "Republicains". Macron wants to encourage the economic and social integration of immigrants and, just as important, the still segregated offspring of immigrants. I'll take Macron's approach any day to that of the self-annointed moralists on a very self-interested French left or the closed ideology of the hard right!

  8. I hope the European leaders turn their backs on trump. Please don't smile at him or look at him. You might ask him how it feels to lose the House of Representatives only 2 years into reign. He is just over there to see another big parade so he can come back & order one for himself.

  9. It would behoove us all, especially those who wish for a more peaceful, judicious and just world, to see "nationalism" as a concept other than an epithet or accusation, something to be wiped out to the highest extent possible. Given its robustness, particularly in Europe and it's history there, where it was important in the creation of some of the most progressive ideas (for their time), in addition to its more terrible recent history. It is also best if we consider the various level of nationalism (or at least their equivalent) where nations were formed by confederations of ethnic groups who once were incessantly warring with one another. The current bete noire of European nationalists, the idea and powers of pan-Europeans, will inevitably run into the conundrum of make a concept of European consciousness without creating a higher level of nationalism. It would also be helpful to understanding nationalism here in the US where the issue is having an open diversity but still allowing the creation of some national consciousness.

  10. Nationalism developed in Europe & spread far afield. It slept until the 19th & 20th C. whose Socialism, Communism, Fascism & Nazism found fertile soil alongside Nationalism. France became a unitary state in the 15th C. but many monarchies, like the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg dynasty, had diverse ethnic populations which differed in language, religion, & culture. The desire to be united with one's “family” was a powerful motivator for uprisings, civil wars, & revolutions. From the Irish & Scottish peoples to the Tsars' subjects, there was ferment everywhere to create a new nation united by language, religion & cultural & political practices. The American colonies & post-Revolutionary USA were a homogeneous community of white European Protestant Christians. However, Europe's failed 1848 revolutions & the Irish Famine brought many struggling people to North American shores. The labor demands of growing American industrialization opened the doors to waves of immigration, the largest being from 1880 to 1920. Those immigrants fled poverty, religious persecution & political repression to join a new country which promised “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Nationalism took root in the USA under the guise of Populism in response to the new immigrants. We were a nation of immigrants from the very first. The new Populism of the 2000s is a revival of old fears put to rest by the success of the earlier immigrants. Given a chance the new immigrants will be as successful.

  11. Where would the world be without Macron? Along with Merkel (who is sadly disappearing from the world stage), he is the only world leader who is committed to the freedoms, dignities, and rights that gave so many of us in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand freedom and prosperity in the 20th century, eventually spreading to Eastern Europe near the century's end. In place of these leaders, we have loudmouths, bigots and no-nothings, exemplified and led by the most vain, narcissistic, corrupt, dishonest liar of them all -- Donald Trump. And we have so-called experts that embolden and expand this troubling turn of events, with comments like these: “Macron wants to polarize the debate,” said Dominique Reynié, a political scientist at Sciences Po and a specialist in populism. “How can you imagine that Europe is in the 1930s now?’’ he said. ‘‘Countries like Hungary are disappearing demographically. No, on questions like immigration, the Europeans are simply demanding more protection.” How exactly is Hungary disappearing demographically? That's an absurdity. Hungary is not disappearing in any way, and has in fact let in almost no refugees. For this French political scientist to make such a provocative, non truth based comment, is part of the failure of West to understand its history. We need to be nurturing M. Macron -- and thanking him. I only hope the good people of France understand that as well. Bon Chance et Bon Courage, M. Macron.

  12. Say what you want about globalization, youth unemployment, income equality or whatever, but this rise in nationalism and populism is all - all of it, down to the last little bit - totally due to immigration. Europeans look south and east, they read about the forecast of four billion Africans by 2050 and they dread an endless stream of economic and climate-change refugees from the middle-east and beyond and they feel very, very threatened. They will support any leaders who promise, or seem to promise, protection.

  13. The forces of populism in Europe are not as strong as this article indicates. True, there's Orban in Hungary, some saber-rattling in Germany and Poland, and Italy's a "hot mess", given their massive debt. But, I cannot stress enough that the majority of Europeans want to be part of the E.U., not see it collapse. The majority does not feel they are losing their national identities. Despite the press's attempts to portray Europe as overrun with populist sentiment, it's not. The majority of Europeans disdain the far right. Europe has worked hard to achieve its essentially socialistic worldview, after centuries of cruel suppression. Most EU countries pay higher taxes to elevate their societies. Some EU countries, like Greece, don't pay taxes. Some are fiscally disorganized, like Italy. They are in debt to the EU. The EU Parliament wants an EU budget plan, which asks sovereign nations' commitment to play by the same, consensually established, fiscal rules. The unemployed, and non-tax-paying, poor countries resist, with the Far Right's support. Seeking power, they play the "loss of sovereignty" card. They offer nothing. France has moved a little toward the right becasuse of Macron's conservative political beliefs on small government and union crushing. He's not following the French constitution, which has made him less popular here. He's distanced himself from voters. But, he is sincere about the EU. Only more time is need to develop an EU budget plan.

  14. Macron as the leader of Europe would be a very good idea. However, there are very strong cultural differences within the EU. Maybe it is time to acknowledge that the East expansion especially the Southeast expansion, was nothing but a horrible rush out of which the superificiality of ties that we see know resulted. Maybe it is time to reconsider the EU in its current formation. A better situation might be a hard-core old EU, comprising Germany, France, Benelux, Scandinavia and Spain. And join the rest into an Eastern EU or a Southern EU, at least for another 20 to 40 years, until ties within these areas are deep enough to move forward. Eastern EU countries, in particular states like Poland, still have a lot of history to address; recent laws in Poland e.g. smack of refusal to accept responsibility. The way in which states in Eastern Europe fail to handle historical questions, in particular around anti-semitistic sentiment, is tale-telling and harrowing and simply not acceptable with the values that the old EU or EG was founded on. Seriously, it is time to reconsider the EU, to consider reforming a hard-core EU, and a looser federation around it for states who no longer qualify or do not really want to comit to democracy or EU laws. If Macron can create a model that binds core EU states even stronger, while leaving the periphery in the East and South (except Spain and Portugal) out, then he would indeed be saving the EU long-term. And no more asylum-tourists heaven, please!

  15. @Lala I think splitting the EU is a horrible idea. The last thing the EU needs is to divide up into different coalitions which, I think, will create nothing but more division. The idea behind the EU is to create connections not divisions as in the past.

  16. Nationalism, Globalism - How about Common Sense and compromise. This all or nothing approach isn't working for anyone.

  17. The children and grandchildren of those who laid how their arms on the 11th month, the 11th at the 11th hour are now all but dead. The great grandchildren are doomed to repeat the mistakes. The lessons learned only seem to last through the children or perhaps grandchildren of those who learned them.

  18. Macron battles the scourge of Nationalism marketed by the Haves to provoke the Have Nots - just as Trump the Nationalist is on his way to France. I hope Macron sticks to his principles and calls Trump out for his Nationalist boasting. Trump is the consummate Have who cons Have Nots out of their tuition money, their social security, their constitutional right to vote, and their hope for a decent living wage. Bonne courage, monsieur!

  19. To look at WWI and conclude "nationalism kills" is erroneous. "Imperialism kills" is more like it. The root cause of the conflict was oppression by imperialist, plutocratic elites who denied the wishes of their subjects to live in self-governing, culturally coherent nations.

  20. Mr Nossiter claims that Macron is "weak politically" and basically calls him an amateur, but the favorability ratings of ALL recent French presidents go into the red after their first year in office, be it Chirac, Sarkozy or Hollande. President Macron has an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, which enables him to pass his legislation. He still has 3 1/2 years to produce convincing results. In the meantime, he still has a sold core of supporters, including me, who support his reforms on the whole but not in every instance. I am open to reading opinions critical of Macron or anyone else, but why does the Times continue employing a write who is obvious very, very full of himself and who nothing of real substance to offer?

  21. He does have time to produce the results, but question is could he deliver? so far, his achievements were not impressive. He may had his solid core supporters, but how big this core is? He got 24% in the first round. It probably defined his core support, so 76% is not his supporters and they are not impressed by him. Right?

  22. Nationalism does kill, all in the name of "we're the best and only". Instead of thinking about how this message is not resounding, perhaps NYT and other media could publicize this rising tide on a daily basis. There are reasons former Secys of State Clinton, Powell and Albright [while on "Madam Secretary" program] spoke of nationalism as the most pressing problem.

  23. Unfortunately, Macron, at least domestically has provided nothing but fodder for populists and nativists. His economic policies have only meant massive transfers of wealth from the striving middle classes to the 1% He has called retirees welfare recipients and has mocked and castigated job seekers as lazy and unworthy. His arrogant demeanor and disdain for anyone who is not part of the elite has turned the French against him and since there is no real left wing alternative they have only the extreme right to turn to.

  24. There may be a twisted logic in Macron's efforts to distance government from the people & destroy the labor unions. If successful in this plan, the hordes of potential immigrants from the Middle East & sub-Saharan Africa may just decide to stay home as living conditions in France begin to resemble those of their home countries with the same despotic social abusers in positions of power. Exaggerated, yes, a grain of truth as well.

  25. Macron’s gamble is as old as the “center” (center-right). It’s nothing new. The center in France is not a power of its own. Macron’s ploy is thus deeply national, and unbelievably dangerous. By positing that the new forces in Europe are no longer the left and right, but the progressives (Meaningless. Is weakening workers’ rights progressive? Macron says so.) and the nationalists, he wants to Americanize France, creating a Democrats vs. Republicans paradigm. But it won’t work, because the left cannot abide by Macron’s social and economic policies, even if his societal views are permissive and his stance on immigration moderate (and more right than Democratic by American standards)—and which many on the left in France find too harsh anyway; and the right cannot accept his societal views and his positions on moderate immigration, even if they like his social and economic policies. But by creating this false dichotomy, Macron hopes to neutralize the left and right as opposition to his center-right (and economically just right) movement, which is a gamble to remain in power in France, with no larger ideological narrative behind it. This position is also extremely dangerous, for when the liberals fail, and they will as everyone else has, what will be the alternative? The radical right. Marine. If the left is no more, and the right is no more, when the Democrats lose, the Republicans will come to power. Due to Macron, France might yet have its own Trump.

  26. This analysis neglects to mention is that E. Macron himself this week fanned the flames of nationalism and antisemitism by lauding the memory of Marshal Pétain, an extreme right French nationalist who first sent millions of Frenchmen into the meat grinder of trench warfare and later put his beliefs into practice by actively collaborating with Nazi Germany to transform the French state into a fascist entity that first disappropriated its Jewish population though 'hygiene' laws and then rounded them up to send them Eastward to the death camps.

  27. News flash! Europe has always been nationalistic. That was a concern before the EU was even developed and ranked up their with currency concerns over the Euro. This will not change for a while. French see themselves as French, Germans appear to be more 'global' than Italy, Spain, the UK, but that's only because a) they are rich, and b) they feel guilt over Hitler. But make no bones about it, they too are nationalists. PS Nationalist is not a negative term, it depends on one's definition which up until a month ago was one from Webster. It is the NYTimes and progressive media that have changed the meaning to 'supremacist' as part of their constant and divisive resistance to the man that recently tweeted it - Trump.

  28. @Ma Thank you, for the reality sandwich!

  29. Nationalism is a dirty term because it is looking to elevate one nation above all, what cause the resentment and unrest.

  30. He's a rationalist in an irrational time. Fight on Manu... ooops, President Macron.

  31. If he wants to be against nationalism, then he shouldn’t be sitting next to a guy that supports it, Trump, during the parade in Paris, next July 14th. Trump can just lie and say that he was too busy. Macron doesn’t need to publicly say that there was no invitation. But Trump should not be there, in any case.

  32. Read "The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923," Robert Gerwarth

  33. Whether you like Macron or not, he is nobody’s puppet; he isn’t a mouthpiece for special-interest groups; he has the courage of his convictions; he speaks his mind; and he isn’t a liar. You know what you’re getting with him - which was also true of de Gaulle - and there’s a lot to be said for that.