Macron’s Fumble

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It is no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron considers himself the heir apparent to the European Union throne of influence now occupied by Angela Merkel. With the Merkel’s influence diminishing in Germany, and across the continent, the EU is coming to terms with the reality of life without Merkel at some point in the not-so-distant future. Once she does depart the scene permanently, the EU will find itself at a fork in the road. Down one path is a future where the EU rallies around a strong leader and continues on much like before. The alternate avenue is a future where the EU wanders aimlessly in the wilderness without an effective, charismatic leader to guide, and nurture it.

Macron wants to be that leader. The man who succeeds Merkel and takes the European Union to dazzling new heights with a fresh, progressive vision for the future.

This past weekend’s festivities celebrating the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s end  seemed to be the perfect opportunity for the French leader to showcase to the world his brand of leadership. Instead, Macron dropped the ball and reminded the world why the European Union is so dysfunctional.

Macron chose to take a major swipe at France’s most powerful ally, and closest friend, the United States.  He called for the creation of an EU army to defend Europe from threats posed by Russia, China, and possibly even the United States. He pressed Europe to denounce nationalism, and become “a more sovereign, a more united and democratic power,” curtailing the historical alliance between Europe and the United States in the process. President Trump called Macron’s proposal ‘very insulting’ and rightfully so.

Macron was not sincere about his desire to see an EU army formed. The proposal acted as a political reaffirmation of his ‘Europe First’ values, as well as a reminder of the similarities between himself and Merkel.

Unfortunately for Macron, the play did not work as planned. The ‘EU Army’ proposal made Trump feel more estranged from his European counterparts and supposed allies. The festivities surrounding the 100th anniversary of World War I’s conclusion were ruined. Macron picked up no political capital at home or abroad.

The plan he’d set in motion for the weekend, packed of sound and fury, ended up signifying nothing when all was said and done.

The July Crisis: Moving Towards The Abyss

Alliances

 

It is widely accepted that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the catalyst for the First World War. While this is unquestionably correct, the origins of the war are more difficult to trace. To the surprise of nearly everyone in Europe with the exception of a handful of generals and statesmen, an amalgamation of miscalculations, ineffectual diplomats, military doctrines, treaties and alliances came together and produced a war that, in many ways, shaped the twentieth century. Analyzing the events of July, 1914 in contemporary times, historians, and political scientists have an overabundance of factual material to base their conclusions on, as well as the benefit of hindsight. The thought processes of the diplomats, generals and monarchs, as well as the fateful decisions they made have been examined and scrutinized to no end. A general consensus is that the events in Sarajevo during June, 1914 did not have to lead to a major war. Looking back now, that is a simple deduction to make. In July, 1914, though, it would have been impossible.

Now, with the 100th anniversary of the July Crisis upon us, it is important to remind ourselves of how consequential a miscalculation or false impression can be in a time of heightened tensions. July 1914 is a classic example of Brinkmanship oscillating dangerously out of control. More than one party aided in pushing events to the edge of disaster for the purpose of obtaining the most advantageous outcome for their respective side. When the desired outcome did not come to fruition, they continued to push closer to the edge. By the time it was realized that there was no more room left to maneuver, it was too late to pull back.

The crisis that led to World War I did not strike as a bolt out of the blue. In 1914, Europe was a pressure cooker with a faulty release valve. Decades of tension, numerous crises, inferiority complexes and a host of other variables helped bring about a situation where war appeared to be the only logical choice remaining. It was not a question of if war was coming, but when. Think of Europe as a game board in the early summer of 1914. The pieces were in place. All that was required was for the game to begin. It did on June 28th in Sarajevo, yet none of the players were fully aware of it for another week. In some cases longer.

I know there is a lot happening in the world right now. Iraq, Ukraine, the South China Sea, and a half dozen other potential hot spots waiting to flare up at a moment’s notice. The world is a very dangerous place. In light of that, and with my genuine passion for the lead-up to World War I, I want to use Today’s DIRT to write about the July Crisis for a couple of weeks. I will present in the same informal manner that I have since this blog’s inception. I’ve tried, with success, to keep it informal and non-academic for nearly two years now. With a little luck, I can continue that. J

I hope you all enjoy the 4th of July, and if you’re down along the North Carolina coast, please stay safe.