President Macron’s protests against nationalism this weekend stand in stark contrast with the words of France’s WWII resistance leader and the man who would then become president: General Charles de Gaulle.
Speaking to his men in 1913, de Gaulle reminded them:
“He who does not love his mother more than other mothers, and his fatherland more than other fatherlands, loves neither his mother nor his fatherland.”
This unquestionable invocation of nationalism reveals how far France has come in its pursuit of globalist goals, which de Gaulle described later in that same speech as the “appetite of vice.”
While this weekend the media have been sharpening their knives on Macron’s words, for use against President Trump, very few have taken the time to understand what really created the conditions for the wars of the 20th century. It was globalism’s grandfather: imperialism, not nationalism.
This appears to have been understood at least until the 1980s, though forgotten now. With historical revisionism applied to nationalism and the great wars, it is much harder to understand what President Trump means when he calls himself a “nationalist.” Though the fault is with us, not him.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism … By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others,’ we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values,” President Macron declared from the pulpit of the Armistice 100 commemorations.
Had this been in reverse, there would no doubt have been shrieks of disgust aimed at Mr. Trump for “politicizing” such a somber occasion. No such shrieks for Mr. Macron, however, who languishes below 20 percent in national approval ratings in France.
With some context applied, it is remarkably easy to see how President Macron was being disingenuous.
Nationalism and patriotism are indeed distinct. But they are not opposites.
Nationalism is a philosophy of governance, or how human beings organize their affairs. Patriotism isn’t a governing philosophy. Sometimes viewed as subsidiary to the philosophy of nationalism, patriotism is better described as a form of devotion.
For all the grandstanding, Mr. Macron may as well have asserted that chicken is the opposite of hot sauce, so meaningless was the comparison.
Imperialism, we so quickly forget, was the order of the day heading into the 20th century. Humanity has known little else but empire since 2400 B.C. The advent of globalism, replete with its foreign power capitals and multi-national institutions is scarcely distinct.
Imperialism — as opposed to nationalism — seeks to impose a nation’s way of life, its currency, its traditions, its flags, its anthems, its demographics, and its rules and laws upon others wherever they may be.
Truly, President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention, expounded by President George Washington in his farewell address of 1796:
” … It must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of [Europe’s] politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”
It should not have to be pointed out that the great wars of the 20th century could not be considered “ordinary vicissitudes”, but rather, that imperialism had begun to run amok on the continent.
It was an imperialism rooted in nihilism, putting the totality of the state at its heart. Often using nationalism as nothing more than a method of appeal, socialism as a doctrine of governance, and Jews as a subject of derision and scapegoating.
Today’s imperialism is known as globalism.
It is what drives nations to project outward their will, usually with force; causes armies to cross borders in the hope of subjugating other human beings or the invaded nation’s natural resources; and defines a world, or region, or continent by its use of central authority and foreign capital control.
Instead of armies of soldiers, imperialists seek to dominate using armies of economists and bureaucrats. Instead of forced payments to a foreign capital, globalism figured out how to create economic reliance: first on sterling, then on the dollar, now for many on the Euro. This will soon be leapfrogged by China’s designs.
And while imperialism has served some good purposes throughout human history, it is only when grounded in something larger than man; whether that be natural law, God, or otherwise. But such things are scarcely long-lived.
While benevolent imperialism can create better conditions over a period of time, humanity’s instincts will always lean towards freedom and self-governance.
It is this fundamental distinction between the United States’ founding and that of the modern Republic of France that defines the two nations.
The people of France are “granted” their freedoms by the government, and the government creates the conditions and dictates the terms upon which those freedoms are exercised.
As Charles Kesler wrote for the Claremont Review of Books in May, “As a result, there are fewer and fewer levers by which the governed can make its consent count”.
France is the archetypal administrative state, while the United States was founded on natural law, a topic that scarcely gets enough attention anymore.
Nationalism - or nationism, if you will - therefore represents a break from the war-hungry norm of human history. Its presence in the 20th century has been rewritten and bastardized.
A nationalist has no intention of invading your country or changing your society. A nationalist cares just as much as anyone else about the plights of others around the world but believes putting one’s own country first is the way to progress. A nationalist would never seek to divide by race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, or otherwise. This runs contrary to the idea of a united, contiguous nation at ease with itself.
Certainly nationalism’s could-be bastard child of chauvinism can give root to imperialistic tendencies. But if the nation can and indeed does look after its own, and says to the world around it, “these are our affairs, you may learn from them, you may seek advice, we may even assist if you so desperately need it and our affairs are in order,” then nationalism can be a great gift to the 21st century and beyond.
This is what President Trump understands.