Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity

The small towns and countryside aren’t the “real” country. They’re half the country.

A farm in the south of France, June 1, 2014
A farm in the south of France, June 1, 2014 (Harmish Khambhaita)

Andrew Sullivan is always worth reading, but, in the case of his latest column, I do think Noah Smith has a point and Sullivan falls into the trap of conflating Brexit and Donald Trump voters with “real England” and “real America”.

This is a mistake conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic make. The small towns and countryside aren’t the “real” country. They’re half the country. Or, in the case of Trumpists, a third of the country. Their views deserve to be taken seriously, but so do those of big-city liberals.

Or as Smith puts it:

What we should NOT do is elevate one segment of the populace to Special Real American status, simply because they fit a certain classic stereotype or because they are more intolerant and angry than the rest.

Related to this discussion is Nabila Ramdani’s argument in UnHerd for retiring the label “Gaullist” in France. (Charles de Gaulle is to French politics what Ronald Reagan is to American conservatism.)

De Gaulle’s base consisted of white, Roman Catholic conservatives who had a quasi-mystical faith in their rural nation. There was no place in Gaullism for the millions of immigrants from France’s former colonies, nor did it adapt to globalization and the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Emmanuel Macron’s project is a belated attempt to reconcile these facets of modern France and it meets strong resistance in La France profonde.

Merkel puts Germany first

Philip Stephens wonders how different Angela Merkel and Donald Trump really are. Both, he argues, put their own country first.

In Merkel’s case, that means resisting sweeping French proposals for eurozone reform. Times are good: the German economy is booming, unemployment is low, the budget is in surplus.

Mr Trump exploits the grievances of poor white America; Ms Merkel’s parochialism reflects an unwillingness to disturb Germany’s present good fortune.

Weak transatlantic solidarity

Andrew A. Michta argues in The American Interest that NATO’s biggest challenge is the weakening of transatlantic solidarity. Only in Canada and the United States would a majority of people support going to war anymore if an ally were attacked: the fundamental, Article 5 security guarantee that underpins the alliance.

Michta blames internal division; “the progressive fragmentation of the mainstream culture and common identifiers.”

Maybe, but I wonder if this isn’t simply the “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus” problem. Americans accuse the Europeans of not spending enough on their own defense. Europeans fear being drawn into an(other) unnecessary war by trigger-happy Americans.

What happens if Trump leaves Iran deal

Ilan Goldenberg and Arian Tabatabai write in Slate what would happen if the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran probably wouldn’t kick inspectors out, nor leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, overnight.

Instead, they are much more likely to incrementally resume the sensitive nuclear activities currently limited by the [deal] — such as operating more and more advanced centrifuges and surpassing the limits on their enriched uranium stockpiles. And they may not submit to the same intrusive inspections that they have been complying with…

The two point out that would be a huge blow to the international community’s knowledge of Iranian nuclear activities.