Gongol.com Archives: May 2024

Brian Gongol

May 7, 2024

Threats and Hazards Persuasion in the face of danger

In an interview with The Economist, French president Emmanuel Macron has warned that Europe faces security risks, economic risks, and social risks to its traditions of liberal democracy. "Things can fall apart very quickly," he warns. ■ Macron is right to be alarmed. As a general rule in life, things are rarely as bad as they seem but they can get much worse much faster than we realize. We tend to over-estimate present pain while discounting too heavily the possible rate of deterioration. It's a rule just as applicable to human affairs as it is to the maintenance of working equipment. ■ Reasonable people can hope that Macron is wrong about Europe's condition, but level-headedness requires taking him seriously. Macron can be provocative from time to time (after all, he once called NATO "brain-dead"), but he also sensed the mood of his own country well enough to revolutionize the entire party order when he was first elected. Macron may be labeled many things, but "smart" needs to be near the top. ■ That intelligence makes two other interview comments stand out. The first is his blunt assessment of Europe's challenge in confronting Russian lawlessness on its eastern borders. Macron doesn't hesitate to use language like "war crimes" and "war of aggression" -- blunt language that confronts the reality. ■ Nor does he mince words when he says "Deterrence is at the heart of sovereignty." It's why Finland embraces the "porcupine" strategy of national defense, and why it's so important for defense commitments to be credible. ■ Macron's other noteworthy comments are enduring in nature: "Politics isn't about reading polls, it's a fight, it's about ideas, it's about convictions". The populist moment has punched hard against ideas, seeking to replace them with personalities -- so it's reassuring that someone with power sees the matter otherwise.

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