The Slow Art of Whole-of-Government ‘Warfare’

Simple survival may become more pressing than addressing Macron’s speculative musings about the EU becoming a Third Force

The Washington Post tells us that President Macron’s China jaunt has created an European ‘uproar’. So it seems. Though on the face of it, his geo-strategic recommendation that Europe should keep equidistant from both the U.S. behemoth and the China colossus, is scarcely so very radical. Yet, whatever Macron’s underlying motivations, his comments seem to have touched raw nerves. He is accused of something approaching ‘betrayal’. The betrayal of America curiously – rather than a betrayal of ordinary Europeans.

Perhaps the irritation reflects our habitual love of comfort, normalcy, and a desire to ‘not rock the boat’. This normalcy bias keeps people frozen in a state of status quo, as if some inner voice intrudes to say: ‘things will be somehow ok. This will pass, and things will again be as they were. “Everything must change, for everything to remain the same”, in the famous quotation pronounced by Tancredi, Prince Fabrizio Salina’s beloved nephew in The Leopard.

On the other hand, Malcom Kyeyune, writing from Sweden, detects a more profound shift under way – an agony writhing within European Atlanticism:

“The war fever that swept Europe in the summer of 2022 made discussion impossible. Ritual denunciations of “Putinists” and even supposed Russian spies became commonplace on social media, and chest-thumping about the immense power of the West and NATO became obligatory. Again, there was a huge pressure not to notice things:

“The only acceptable position was maximalist: Suggesting that a peace deal would likely involve coming to some sort of compromise marked you out as a “Putin loyalist” and “Russian agent.”

“But once again, the fever is starting to break. Few still post about Ukraine on social media; people by and large prefer to pretend it isn’t happening. The chest-thumping has gone away, replaced with a sullen, bitter silence. People aren’t quite ready to admit that the sanctions were a failure and that the West overplayed its hand, but many know these things are true, and that the economic and political consequences of these failures are only really beginning to be felt.”

Is Macron picking up on these ‘vibes’? That is to say, the self-deception, by which we feel the illogicality of going about our daily lives with ‘darkening clouds’ looming ever closer, yet never questioning why Europe is being de-industrialised; why its industry is relocating to the U.S. or China; or why Europeans have to import Liquid Natural Gas at three or four times its going price.

Are Europeans then beginning to notice things again? Are they asking ‘how come’ the economic paradigm has been so drastically eclipsed, or ‘how come’ the fall into mad fervour for incipient wars with China and Russia?

Macron’s equidistant prescription is entirely aspirational. He gives it no substance; he gives no explanation of how strategic autonomy would be achieved, nor does he address the issue of ‘the empty stable’. There is no point in shutting the stable door now after the autonomy horse’ has long fled; It ‘fled’ with the war fever of 2022. We are therefore, where we are. Can the autonomy horse still be led home? That seems improbable.

So much of the ‘uproar’ no doubt reflects the warding-off of uncomfortable admissions, as things begin to be noticed again. Macron at least has opened the issue (however sensitive it may be); He is an outlier for the moment, but is not alone.

EU Council chief, Michel, in an interview, said: “Some European leaders wouldn’t say things the same way that Emmanuel Macron did”, adding: “I think quite a few really think like Macron.” And SPD chair in the Bundestag, Rolf Mützenich, said “Macron is right” and “we must be careful not to become party to a major conflict between the U.S. and China.”

There are multiple revolutions afoot everywhere across the globeAnd Macron asks where does the EU fit in, which is fine. But he doesn’t give the answer. To be fair, though, at this point, maybe there isn’t one, for now.

Equidistant from the U.S.? Does Macron mean equidistant from specifically the Neo-con strategy of maintaining U.S. global hegemony through aggressive projections of military and sanctions power? If so, this needs to be made explicit.

For America, too, is undergoing a quiet revolution, and the Macron prescription could need nuancing in the case that the Ukraine war marks the final collapse of the Neo-cons’ short-lived ‘American Century’. There has been a noticeable tone of desperation to western MSM reportage this past week. Ever since the Intelligence leaks, it’s been doom, gloom and panic. The leaks have made uncomfortable truths unmissable (even to those who preferred not to notice) – that the vast ‘optics’ construct that is the Ukraine project is slowly coming undone.

The ‘Saving Ukraine for Democracy’ project was supposed to underwrite the legitimacy of the U.S.-led World Order. In reality, Ukraine has become the “harbinger of terminal crisis”, Kyeyune suggests.

The political path likely to be followed in America however, is far from straight-forward. It is possible though that today’s ‘Other Project’, the ‘western class war’ inversion ‘project’ may similarly collapse in the crisis (in this case) of U.S. societal schism. The Woke ‘project’ is an unlikely one – a strange neo-Marxist construct, in which an ‘oppressed class’ actually is composed of élite affirmative-action intellectuals (who lay claim to the mantle of being redeemed oppressors), whilst Americans, working in industry and in the low-paid service industry, are conversely denigrated as racist supremacist, anti-diversity, white oppressors.

China, too, is undergoing transformation: It is preparing for the war which the American ‘uniparty’ China hawks increasingly clamour. Meanwhile, its ‘political warfare’ strategy is to use geo-political mediation, underpinned by a powerful economy, as the non-intrusive means by which to pursue the Chinese operational art. This project already has re-shaped the Middle East –and its geo-strategic appeal is spanning the globe.

President Putin’s slow, long-term practice of political warfare (as opposed to China’s operational ‘art’) is clearly conceived with an understanding that the slowly-building disillusionment in the West with woke-liberalism – requires time in the chrysalis. In the Russian perspective, this Sun Tzu approach (overcoming the western paradigm, without militarily fighting it) calls for the ‘economy of military application’ within an all-of-system, holistic political ‘war’.

Russia’s is perhaps then, the more complex and more revolutionary: Embracing reform and efficiencies in all areas (cultural, economic, and political) of Russian society too.

China disavows the explicit aim to force a change of behaviour on the West, but for Russia its security is contingent on the U.S. fundamentally changing its military posture in Europe and Asia. This objective requires both patience and employing allcomplementary means at Russia’s command, (i.e. effectively ‘weaponising’ non-military tools such as financial ‘warfare’ and energy) to overcome the enemy – yet staying at some threshold, just short of all-out war.

The West, by contrast, conceptually separates the military from the political means, which perhaps explains why western analysts misconceive Russian ‘switching’ between military procedures to diplomatic or financial pressures as reflecting some deficiency or stumble in the Russian military machine. It is not. Sometimes the violins play; other times the cellos. And sometimes it is the moment for the big bass drums to sound; It is up to the conductor.

Julian Macfarlane has commented that Russia has started a veritable ‘revolution’, with China now joining in. To make his point, Macfarlane adapts Thomas Jefferson’s “we hold these truths to be self-evident …” speech and glosses it to say “… that all States are equally entitled to sovereignty, undivided security and full respect”. He contextualises this in terms of a Jefferson focus on the tyranny of the British Crown, whereas Putin formulates his multi-polar order doctrine, as versus U.S. hegemonic ‘Rules’ tyranny.

Xi Jinping says it straight: “All countries, irrespective of size, strength and wealth, are equal. The right of the people to independently chose their development paths should be respected, interference in the affairs of other countries opposed – and international fairness and justice maintained. Only the wearer of the shoes knows if they fit or not”.

It is a doctrine winning support across the globe. The EU would be unwise to discount its appeal.

So, back to Macron and the equidistant concept for European Union ‘strategic autonomy’: It is hard to see what space might comprise a median ground between homogenous, ‘Rules Hegemony’ and the Sino-Russian declaration of heterogenic ‘National Rights’. It will have to be one or the other (with perhaps a little ‘betweenness’ just possible, should the U.S. drop its “with us; or against us” dogma).

Equally, Macron warns the EU against the extra-territorial reach of the U.S. dollar (and therefore of sanctions and Third Country sanctions).

Yet, the EU cannot escape the U.S. dollar. The Euro is its’ derivative.

Europe has little autonomous defence manufacturing infrastructure. NATO is the political, as well as the military, framework in which the EU operates. How does it escape from a NATO framework that is so closely meshed in with the EU political one?

The EU is deeply divided on its future path: Macron wants more strategic autonomy for Europe (and Charles Michel says this is supported by not a few member-states), whereas Poland, the Baltic States and certain others want more America and moreNATO and a continuing war to destroy Russia. Poland has proved to be a vociferous critic of Western Europe’s perceived softness toward the Kremlin.

Indeed, the war in Ukraine has ushered in a kind of geopolitical shift in Europe, Ishaan Tharoor writes, moving “NATO’s centre of gravity” – as Chels Michta, a U.S. military intelligence officer, recently put it – away from its traditional anchors in France and Germany, and eastward to countries such as Poland, its Baltic neighbours and other former Soviet Republics. In Central and Eastern Europe, wrote Le Monde columnist Sylvie Kauffmann, “the weight of history is stronger … than in the West, the traumas are fresher and the return of tragedy is felt more keenly”.

The EU is deeply divided on structure as well: Warsaw, nervous about a general election due this autumn, is encouraging anti-German paranoia. Its propaganda suggests that Polish opposition politicians are secret agents in a German plot to take control of the EU, and to force degenerate western permissiveness on heterosexual Catholic Poland – a ‘bastion of western Christian civilisation’ – unlike Brussels, which is viewed as a as a “Germanised” conspiracy to overrule the right of independent nations to make their own laws.

Jarosaw Kaczyski, leader of the PiS party, plays with an alternative future for Europe. This would be a Europe des patries, almost on de Gaulle’s model: an alliance of fully sovereign nation states, within NATO but independent of Brussels, which would include post-Brexit Britain, rather than just the EU’s present members. (No EU Third ‘Empire’ there).

In a major speech, the Polish Prime Minister has emphasised that now is the moment to shake up the status quo further West and dissuade those in Brussels who would “create a super-state government by a narrow elite. In Europe nothing can safeguard the nations, their culture, their social, economic, political and military security better than nation states”, Morawiecki said. “Other systems are illusory or utopian”.

Elections are due this autumn in Poland, and polls suggest that the outcome will be close.

It seems that Macron has opened a veritable can of worms. Possibly, this was his intent; or maybe he just didn’t care – his objective being primarily domestic: i.e. to shape a new image in the context of a changing, and turbulent, French electoral landscape.

But in any event, the EU is caught in the midst of a maelstrom of geopolitical change at a moment when it faces the possibility of a banking crisis, high inflation and economic contraction. Simple survival may become more pressing than addressing Macron’s speculative musings about the EU becoming a Third Force.

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