The US is never humble for long: a month after its rout in Afghanistan, the imperial order has been restored. Hence Washington’s recent snub to Paris.
Not even a month. No sooner had the Taliban taken control of Kabul airport than the neocons re-emerged from the shadows. Now that the West has ‘lost’ Afghanistan, they argue, it needs to reassert itself elsewhere to teach its strategic rivals, China and Russia in particular, that it will not back down from the next fight. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney summed up: ‘The war is not over. We are in a much more dangerous position and are going to invest, I am afraid, more resources to keep ourselves safe’ (1). After sowing chaos in the Middle East, the US is turning to the Pacific and its navy is heading for China. Clearly nothing to worry about…
The key issue in the diplomatic squabble with France is not its pique at having lost a juicy contract for submarines, but how Europe reacts to the anti-Chinese military alliance the US has just formed with the UK and Australia.
As for the rest — the spectacular public humiliation, the disloyalty of its ‘allies’, the lack of consultation before any major geopolitical decision — France has got used to US insults over the last 15 years, from spying on French presidents (revealed by WikiLeaks) to General Electric’s dismantling of Alstom (using legal ploys akin to highway robbery) or the eye-watering fines imposed on French businesses and banks that failed to apply sanctions against Cuba or Iran decreed in contravention of international law by the US (2).
Instead of recalling — for barely a week — France’s ambassadors to Canberra and Washington, Emmanuel Macron could have responded to the Australian-American slap in the face by granting immediate political asylum to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, who revealed the US’s dirty secrets. Now that would have made the world sit up and take notice.
While successive presidents have done nothing but take punches and talk, France’s status has declined. It has re-joined NATO’s integrated military command structure, led by the US; it has surrendered a large part of its sovereignty to an EU populated by vassals of the US; it has maintained sanctions against Russia that make an entente ‘from the Atlantic to the Urals’ impossible — though that’s the only way Europe can escape US or Chinese domination. If it is not to vanish into obscurity, France urgently needs to show not only the US, but also China, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, India and Indonesia, that it is not about to accept the war in the Pacific the US is gearing up for (3).
Translated by Charles Goulden