The famous “return of war in Europe” has not only brought back buried specters of violence and barbarism. It broke all balances, on a planetary scale. The tectonic plates of the world order began to move faster. For France, there is no other choice, in these circumstances, than to go ahead of its former allies to consolidate the relationship, and to try to forge new pacts. The experts who announce, often with wicked joy, the end of globalization seem to forget that all the great challenges today are global. So you have to grab your pilgrim’s staff, and hit the road to dialogue, convince, reconnect, exhort, build new bridges…
In France, this is the task of the President of the Republic. He is working on it, aware that a large part of our future as a nation is being played out outside our borders. However, times have become tough for our Western countries. We had already given up talking too loudly about human rights. From now on, we must put in our pocket the moral superiority that we thought we would derive from our status as a liberal democracy. We must also take note of what it means, in the eyes of the new powers of the 21st century, a nation in debt, losing competitiveness, aging, when they pride themselves on being rich, advanced and young. The world shift has already taken place, and no ground is conquered in advance. We should therefore, as French people, follow the President of the Republic’s travels carefully, measure the extent of the challenges, understand the fragility of our position, go into detail about what we can or cannot obtain. Whatever opinion one or the other has of the president, it is the future of the nation that he will play outside every time he goes somewhere. This should call for a certain gravity, and perhaps even this form of communion: what soldier in the fire wonders if he shares the opinions or the beliefs of his brother in arms when it comes to uniting to win?
Our laughing disunity plays into the hands of those who wish us no good
Instead, one is amazed to note that these visits now give rise, in France, to vitriolic criticism, sometimes even before they are finished. Considering that these trips are patent failures has become the motto oppositions. Inventing diplomatic incidents from micro-sequences has become the favorite sport of journalists. It is absolutely necessary, for these spectators who laugh, that the French president leaves his travels empty-handed, covered with the irony of his interlocutors, guilty of who knows what faux pas. Otherwise it’s not funny. Otherwise it’s not interesting.
Certainly, it is legitimate, in our country, to discuss the priorities or the diplomatic strategy of the Head of State. But by making a mockery of the least of its efforts, its adversaries actually offer abroad the face of a disunited, cynical nation, weakened by its internal quarrels, incapable of measuring the reality of the new challenges that await us. It is as if these proud censors – retired diplomats, sly opponents, lollipop commentators – were secretly cultivating the annealed fantasy of a France triumphantly welcomed everywhere and contenting themselves with a nod of the chin to arouse the admiration of the world. However, these presidential trips have in fact become battles that we approach with many handicaps. Each of them must both draw lessons from the past and invent a future of new balances that our interlocutors do not always want or need. Analyzing Xi Jinping’s sighs or the length of a table is good for nations sure of their dominance. Collectively, we should be a little more lucid: the welcome given abroad to the French President, the real listening he benefits from, the answers given to him are not addressed to him personally, but to all of us, French. Any diplomatic or commercial victory won is ours; and any sign of disdain or impatience on the part of our hosts should strike us to the heart, make us understand that we are no longer the nation we believe ourselves to be, and that our laughing disunity plays into the hands of those who, many, wish us no good.