Macron: “I Must Admit Western Hegemony Coming To An End”

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EDITORIAL: By Saeed Naqvi, The India observer, TIO, NJ: Now that French President Emmanuel Macron has, in so many words, declared that “western hegemony may be coming to an end”, the conflict in Ukraine, the real fighting, may expand to theatres where US and Russian proxies may be available to attack and be attacked. If the conflict follows this pattern, strategists will have to sort out whether having more military bases is an advantage or a handicap?

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The fear that the conflict could spread increased after Ukraine, prodded by the US, attacked Crimea which Russia claims as its territory. The Russian foreign office has made it clear: any further US encouragement to extend the war to Crimea will mean that the US is part of the conflict.

Escalation of the conflict by either of the two principal combatants, (Ukraine is only the West’s chosen turf) would become imminent if any one side appears to be losing. Neither side can afford to lose the Ukraine war because defeat would imply an unfavourably altered world order.

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The French statement which would obviously demoralize the West was not made in public. But it will do even more damage because it was a detailed, cogently argued presentation by the French President before an audience of senior French diplomats and envoys in a closed door, internal meeting. Titled, “Macron surveys the end of western dominance”, this internal document has been leaked.

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France, the UK and the USA have made the West great for 300 years Macron said. In his view, the three contributed in the following way: “France is culture, England is industry and America is war.” Is he mocking at the US?

“We are used to this greatness which gives us absolute dominance over the global economy and politics – but things are changing.”

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He dwelt on “wrong choices” made by a series of US Presidents long before Trump “Clinton’s China policy, Bush’s war policy, Obama’s world financial crisis.” In this astonishing obituary of Western power, Macron then turns to “our underestimating the rise of emerging powers, not just two years ago but as early as ten or twenty years ago.” He insists that “that China and Russia have achieved great success over the years under different leadership styles.” In Macron’s world view, India looms too. “China, Russia, India, these countries compare well with the US, France and UK.”

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The political imagination of these countries “is far stronger than today’s Westerners.” He himself was shocked: China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty….. but in France “the market economy is increasing income inequality at an unprecedented rate.”

It is nice that almost a decade after publication, Thomas Piketty’s Capital In The 21st Century, a French statesman is taking note. Macron has candidly analysed, though not in these words, his own party having been trounced in the recent National Assembly Elections.

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Macron is at present hemmed in by the Left alliance led by the charismatic Jean-Luc Melenchon and the far right, Marine Le Pen. What Macron does not mention is that at the sight of a larger than life Melenchon making a bid for the Prime Ministerial chair, the centrists with him, helped the ultra right, Le Pen, to increase her seat share. This increasingly is a pattern in Western democracies: people’s demands articulated by the Left, threaten the Capitalists structure on which centrists stand. With their control over instruments like the media they divert discontent by raking up issues of identity which is the staple for the far right everywhere. This is the crisis of Macron style Centrism in France as elsewhere.

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This is not the first time that French exceptionalism has punctured the façade of Western unity. We do not have to go far into history. Charles De Gaulle’s exceptionalism once famously drove him to end his speech in Quebec (Canada) with the French trade mark Vive la France. Churchill and Roosevelt found him conceited. He was convinced they conspired against him.

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French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine would not tire in the late 90s describing the US as a “hyperpower” which needed to be contained by a stronger UN system. “The US supremacy extends to economic power, currency, technology, military, lifestyle, language and the products of mass culture that inundate our lives and which even the enemies of the US long for.” Is this admiration or envy?

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President Francois Mitterand was the most reluctant to join the “coalition of the willing” that Margaret Thatcher and President Bush Sr were drumming up for operation Desert Storm. He knew it was an operation to keep the Anglo-Americans on top of the post-Cold war world order. A reunified Germany was another anxiety. Commercial interests forced him to join.

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In 2003, on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, when the sole superpower moment shone bright, it was French exceptionalism which argued against the misadventure. The intervention by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is difficult to forget: his was the only statement against the strong current at that charged UN Security Council session. Later, Villepin, as Prime Minister was even more blunt: France knew Americans did not wish to pursue the inspections route to establish the presence of weapons of mass destruction. “They wanted to invade and occupy.”

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Macron has rolled up his sleeves when the US is in decline.

He has left room for deniability: he has, after all, only spoken to his officials in confidence. He must have known that the bombshell would explode. He has spelt out a new security architecture for Europe with room for Russia in it, a European army, a French strategy for the Indo-Pacific with the US. “France will promote a better integration of China’s new silk route with the European connectivity strategy.”

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The rapidly changing global situation has placed India at a sweet spot, opening new strategic options on all sides. US decline post Ukraine likewise, encourages France to see itself as a Western power, with options all around. In the French framework the US is only one among equals.

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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

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Saeed Naqvi

Saeed Naqvi

Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer. He has interviewed world leaders and personalities in India and abroad, which appear in newspapers, magazines and on national television, remained editor of the World Report, a syndication service on foreign affairs, and has written for several publications, both global and Indian, including the BBC News, The Sunday Observer, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, The Indian Express, The Citizen and Outlook magazine. At the Indian Express, he started in 1977 as a Special Correspondent and eventually becoming, editor, Indian Express, Madras, (1979–1984), and Foreign Editor, The Indian Express, Delhi in 1984, and continues to writes columns and features for the paper.

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