French President Emmanuel Macron, during a speech to the joint houses of the US Congress, spoke about the dangers of nationalism and isolation. His speech is being viewed as a thinly veiled criticism of US President Donald Trump’s ideologies.
In November 2017, Donald Trump retweeted a handful of anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy leader of Britain First. They were unverified and purported to show a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof. His actions evoked a rare condemnation from British Prime Minister, Theresa May. In January 2018, he made shocking comments regarding African countries during a bipartisan meeting on immigration with US lawmakers. He reportedly asked the lawmakers present: "Why do we want all these people from 'shithole countries' coming here?” He was referring to Haiti and African countries. The comment was first reported by the Washington Post and has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.
Historically, Trump is not the first President to be known for making crude remarks. During the Vietnam war, then President Johnson referred to the nation as “pissant country.” Former US President Nixon once referred to Henry Kissinger as “Jewboy.”
Nationalism is an ideology that gives the nation a sense of unity by imposing on them the same set of identities (for instance linguistic, historical, cultural). Especially peculiar to nationalism is defining the nation against an ‘Other’ inside or outside of the state borders. Nationalism has had an enormous influence upon world history, since the nation-state has become the dominant form of state organization. Most of the world's population now lives in states which are, at least nominally, nation-states.
President Trump has often evoked nationalist ideologies in the past by also trying to invoke fear of the ‘other.’ Critics of nationalism have argued that it is often unclear what constitutes a "nation", or whether a nation is a legitimate unit of political rule. Nationalists hold that the boundaries of a nation and a state should coincide with one another, thus nationalism tends to oppose multiculturalism. Historically, Japan of the early 20th century served as a role model for nationalism.
French President Emmanuel Macron during a recent state visit to Washington, addressed the joint houses of the US Congress. During his speech, he took the opportunity to denounce nationalism and isolationism. Some have suggested that this is a veiled criticism of President Trump’s approach to domestic and foreign policy.
"We are living in a time of anger and fear" because of "global threats", Macron told politicians. "You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything." He also warned against withdrawing from the world in fear. "We have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism but that will only inflame the fears of our citizens. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears.”
Trump has often been accused of stoking fears of the ‘other’, especially in context to Islam. In the past he has stated that immigrants from Mexico who came to USA were often “rapists” and “murderers.”
“Personally, if you ask me, I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom and the illusion of nationalism,” said Marcon in a speech that was frequently interrupted by applause and standing ovations. He added, “Closing the door to the world . . . will not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens. To protect our democracies we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news which exposes our people to irrational fear.”
Heather Conley, Europe director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, commented on the speech noting that this was not only a rebuke to Trump’s policies but also a “pep talk” to other liberal democracies of the world. “We have come a long way from the days of ‘freedom fries’ to a ‘rendezvous with freedom’,” she said. “It is unclear whether a one-person cheerleader for multilateral engagement can pull the transatlantic relationship through its current rough patch.”
US President Donald Trump has often espoused an “America First” ideology. He has noted that in an evolving geopolitical environment, the USA cannot afford to be the nation that spends the largest amount in foreign aid and protect the interests of the world. He has also highlighted that in order to keep the borders safe from terrorism, necessary policies had to be put in place.
Our assessment is that French President Macron’s speech was a masterclass in how diplomacy is conducted at the highest levels. He was respectful to his hosts but also used the opportunity given to him to put forth his own ideologies. There is growing concern in Europe, especially in countries like Germany, that isolationism, protectionism and anti-immigrant sentiments are rising. It is unlikely that this speech would sway any of President Trump’s own ideologies or the way he conducts foreign policy. As we had earlier stated, Trump is constrained by the compulsion of his populism. Populist leaders like Donald Trump will find it difficult to distance themselves from hate groups for fear of losing their vote base.