Today French President Emmanuel Macron addressed a Joint Session of The United States Congress and delivered a fiery and rousing speech on liberty, France’s long and “special relationship” with the United States, and the “common struggle of dignity and respect.” Here is a link to the full speech via CSPAN.
The story of France and the USA is the story of an endless dialogue, the story of a very special relationship. pic.twitter.com/3YepcX4HW0
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 25, 2018
Macron played to both sides of the aisle referencing famous quotes from former American presidents like Ronald Reagan’s “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The speech was well-crafted, it understood its audience and was delivered almost flawlessly.
Surprisingly the loudest applause came when Macron emphasized “science” while listing America and France’s common tools to fight the world’s woes. “I believe that against ignorance we have education; against inequality, development; against cynicism, trust and good faith; against fanaticism, culture; against disease and epidemic, medicine; against the threats on the planet, science.”
Such optics will ruffle partisan feathers because American conservatives are no closer to buying into climate alarmism as they were under President Obama. They will, understandably, balk at the very mention of a global agreement centered around climate change regulations. In fact, it’s the quickest way to get conservatives to tune out
Despite the “science” bit, Macron’s only other flat note came after his most powerful one when he said “Iran will never possess a nuclear weapon. Nev. Er.” Congress answered with thunderous applause but that quickly faded when Macron said this goal could not be achieved through war. That is a mixed message to Iran at the expense of political optics and Macron knows all too well that Iran is determined to use war to expand in the Middle East.
There is no doubt that the regime in Tehran was watching the speech in Washington D.C. and will be furious over what Macron said about renegotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran Deal. This lines up with the moderate American view on the Iran deal that is so well laid out by Eli Lake. Essentially, stay in the deal, stay in the region and let time and circumstances allow the theocratic regime in Tehran to construct its own demise.
Not the sexiest of plans but this is geopolitics, not regular politics.
America and France are indelibly linked through history and culture and these bonds are not easily broken, but the two countries often clash over identity politics. The two countries are not forging a new partnership but rather polishing one that is very old and successful to tackle new problems. The key to successfully building a competent strategy on Iran and in new places like Sahel, or West Africa, will require barring domestic identity politics from playing a role in crafting strategy and policy.
Right now the American left is swooning over Macron, but many of them do not realize France has asked the United States to sustain another part of their aging colonial realm of influence like they did in Vietnam in the 1960’s. Surely, framing the facts on the ground in such a way will place a strain on the new love affair once the butterflies dissipate.