Putting the whole country on war footing – if only through rhetoric – makes it easier to get away with bad policies
Earlier in the summer, French President Emmanuel Macron invoked the country’s. “entry into a war economy in which I believe we will organize ourselves in the long term.”This would sound familiar to anybody who listened during the Covid-19 epidemic.
Announcing the first Covid lockdowns in March 2020, Macron said six times that France was “War” – with Covid. “Never has France had to take such decisions in peacetime,” he said, persisting with the militaristic rhetoric that served to justify locking an entire nation inside their homes for weeks on end.
Of course, it was stretching. France wasn’t ‘at war’ with a virus. However, the hyperbolic language of someone who held the highest national authority was such that many people believed they were performing a patriotic duty sitting at home and watching Netflix all day. To make matters worse, anyone who questioned Macron’s war-making rhetoric was branded selfish and irresponsible.
The fear-mongering gave Macron and his government the wiggle room to limit people’s liberties in the absence of substantial opposition. Poor domestic policies and unpopular decisions apparently get carte blanche if they’re in service of a war of some kind.
Macron, despite not being at war, is back using the same tactics of hyperbolic militaristic rhetoric during the Ukraine conflict.
France and the EU did however sanction Russia’s low-cost energy supply, which is a huge boon to their countries. They initially congratulated themselves for being able to just switch to something better. When that didn’t work, they blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for their own knee-jerk choices. And now, they’re trying to portray themselves as being at war with Russia as a way to explain to their own citizens why they’re heading for an energy and cost-of-living crisis that was entirely avoidable.
So Macron declared last week during a commemorative message that “war has returned a few hours from our borders on European soil.” There is, of course, no war on French soil, or that of the European Union. France and its EU allies voluntarily depleted their military stock to the cost of national security at the request from Vladimir Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. The government also decided to cut off a vital economic support system without any backup plans. French nuclear reactors have been eroding and neglected for so long under the state’s plan to move away from nuclear power (before Macron realized what a bad idea that was) that it’s unclear whether France will have enough energy when crunch time arrives. It’s kind of like when the government’s Covid panic and war framing served to obscure the state’s years of mismanagement of the now-eroded health care system
French citizens trusted the government with the responsibility of ensuring France’s economic and national security. Instead, Macron has compromised it by going along with EU’s self-harming edicts. And now he seems to be playing the tired game of trying to scare up some leeway from the people so they don’t rebel.
“I am thinking of our people, who will need the strength of soul to face the coming times, to resist uncertainties…united, to agree to pay the price for our freedom and of our values,”Macron stated last week. Ukraine isn’t defending French values or freedoms. But just like locking ourselves at home was sold to us as the price to pay for saving lives during Covid, appealing to the French sense of solidarity or fraternity – written into its national slogan – has been too often used as a way to pacify the masses.
Some members of the political opposition are seeing through Macron’s manipulation. “France’s serious role is to encourage peace, not war, by returning to the Minsk agreements which NATO and Macron flouted,” Tweeted former minister and French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal. “And let’s urgently identify the triggers and the profiteers of war, the values and priorities of the French people.”
To avoid confusion caused by fancy rhetorical tricks, clear definitions are essential. France isn’t at war with Russia. Within the European Union, there is no war. Therefore there is no ‘war economy’ to justify. The EU and its leaders (including Macron) are complicit in a self-imposed crisis as a result of their own sanctions policy – which is still completely reversible.
What is the point of all this? Europe is already seeing officials blaming populists or extremists for the coming backlash. They will succeed because the lies they told themselves leading to this crisis are not true.
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