It didn’t take long for the central feud of the 21st century to rear its head amid the 100th World War I anniversary Armistice Day ceremony in a wet, dreary, overcast Paris, as French President Emmanuel Macron laid-down the gauntlet on the nouveau dirty word of international politics – “nationalism.”
With 60 world leaders present, the attack on nationalism was intended as a rebuke to President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But, as George Orwell knew, it’s all in the way you define your terms.
Here is the way the key terms involved in the debate are still defined in 2018 – nearly 100 years after they came under attack by those who favor the one-world globalist alternative:
- nationalism: (1.) “spirit or aspirations common to the whole nation;” (2.) “devotion and loyalty to one’s own country; patriotism;”
- patriotism: (1.) “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty;”
- globalism: (1.) the attitude or policy of placing the interests of the entire world above those of individual nations.
Yet, here is the way Macron attempted to redefine the terms on the fly in Paris today.
- “By saying, ‘Our interests first,’ we erase what a nation holds dearest … its moral values.”
- He called nationalism a “betrayal of patriotism.”
- He deplored the “selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests. Because patriotism is exactly the opposite of nationalism.”
- He denounced rising ideologies that have warped religious beliefs and set loose extremist forces on a “sinister course once again that could undermine the legacy of peace we thought we had forever sealed.”
In other words, the central feud of the 21st century is being fought over morphing definitions, not stable ones.
Never far back in the shadows is the specter of Nazism – certainly one hideous form of national socialism.
Then there is the ugly tinge of racism, which is something of a non sequitur in the debate between globalism and nationalism.
Macron warned of “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death” – just days after President Trump openly and proudly called himself a “nationalist” at a highly charged White House press conference. He did so in contrast to labeling himself as an anti-globalist.
Macron did, however, bow to the tradition of standing at attention as a choir sang the national anthem rather than taking a knee.
“The worst can be overcome as long as we have men and women of good will to guide us,” Macron said. “Without shame, let us be the men and women of good will.”
On Saturday, Macron offered up the idea that “we have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”
President Trump tweeted back: “President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!”
Macron tried to backpedal from his earlier comments, saying he had been misunderstood, and that what he really meant was the Europeans needed to spend more on their own defense and be less dependent on America to defend them, as President Trump has called on them to do.
Whatever is happening in this gathering in France Sunday may seem inconsequential. It is not. It is, rather, an expression of the central divide in the world. Do we govern ourselves as sovereign nation-states and sovereign citizens or as interdependent global communities of world citizens?
“Let’s add up our hopes and not our fears,” Macron said. “Let’s reject the fascination for turning in on ourselves, violence, and domination.” He listed climate change, poverty, hunger, inequality and “ignorance” among the global challenges to be tackled jointly.
Germany’s Angela Merkel echoed the theme at a Peace Forum Macron hosted later in the day, an event that Trump skipped.
“I want to speak of my concerns that are mixed in with today’s commemoration, the concern that national blinders are spreading again, that actions are taken as if to simply ignore our mutual dependencies, relationships and binding ties,” Merkel told the forum. “We’re seeing that international cooperation, a peaceful balance of interests, even the European peace project are again being called into question.”