For some the French election was the third battle against the forces of globalism. After Brexit and Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen was to be the exclamation point on the nationalist resurgence across the West. If France, of all places, can tell the European Union to go pound sand, then globalism will truly be on the defensive. It was not meant to be, as Marine Le Pen lost and lost big. She lost from the Channel to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the old Maginot Line.
The fact that some are lamenting Le Pen’s loss is not only puzzling, but terribly concerning. Speaking of the Maginot Line, the line of fortifications that was supposed to keep the Germans out after World War I, the first problem with Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party is its history. Marine Le Pen has correctly been called out on her extreme policies, although the term “far right” is an unhelpful description. Still, she is not her father. Her father has said that post-war governments were “too harsh” with the Vichy regime and that their supporters have “their place” in the party.
Despite distancing herself from her father, Marine Le Pen is still no conservative and no friend of the United States. It apparently never occurred to any of these people singing the praises of foreign nationalism that Le Pen’s version of French Nationalism contains a good deal of anti-Americanism. Le Pen is a Putinphile who wants to pull France out of NATO, and an Iranian sycophant. Our number one ally in the Middle East, Israel, has an ongoing boycott of the National Front over its history of anti-Semitism.
France is crucial to NATO. France currently spends 1.8% of its GDP on defense, but President-elect Emmanuel Macron has pledged to raise it to NATO’s 2% guideline. More and more Americans are getting tired of freeloading Europeans when it comes to defense, but France is one of NATO’s most capable members. France possesses Europe’s largest warship, the nuclear powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle that has served alongside US carriers in the fight against ISIS. The French flagship will remain Europe’s most formidable naval asset until 2020 when the HMS Queen Elizabeth finally becomes operational.
Conservatives in the United States supported Brexit because it was a win for British national sovereignty, but crucially it had a pro-American sentiment and was still pro-free trade. The desire to tell Brussels to take a hike has clouded the judgement of some. They actively supported a candidate who would have been detrimental to the national security of the United States. They supported someone who has more in common with Jeremy Corbyn on economic policy than any conservative in the Anglo-American sense of the word.
Having an international movement for nationalism is oxymoronic. Part of the reason Marine Le Pen is a nationalist is that she believes that Paris’s close relationship with Washington has harmed French interests, hence the coziness with Iran.
Only time will tell how Macron does as France’s new president. He claims to be a centrist, despite previously being under the tutelage of socialist President Francoise Hollande. It seems unlikely he will be able to stop the rising sentiments that catapulted Le Pen into the international spotlight. However, Macron is a friend of the United States, and as far as a foreign election goes that is sometimes we all can ask for.