By: Patrick McNamara, Reporter
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State
Speaking at the Oscar Iden Annual Lecture on American foreign policy in a talk entitled “The US, France, and Europe: Where Do We Go From Here,” former US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley criticized President Trump’s foreign policy and support of Marine Le Pen in the French Presidential election, saying that Trump’s actions posed a potential challenge to America’s relationship with President Macron. Amb. Hartley, who served as Ambassador under President Obama from 2014 until Trump’s inauguration in January, also raised concerns about President Trump’s approach to diplomacy, though she was optimistic about the ability of President Macron to become an effective leader in Europe and partner for America through his firm commitment to NATO and the European Union.
Amb. Hartley centered her talk on the experiences of her time as Ambassador, focusing primarily on the terrorist attacks in France by ISIL that she described as the dominant challenge of her tenure. She said that the shootings of November 2015 that killed 137 in the Bataclan theater and other locations around Paris were an attack against all of us and rejected the notion that these events represent a “clash of civilizations” or war between religions. Instead, the Ambassador attributed the terror threat to the disenfranchisement of a small group of unemployed youths living primarily in the suburbs of Paris and other cities.
The other major theme of her remarks concerned the potential benefits of effective diplomacy and cooperation between countries, with comparisons drawn between the policies of the current administration and those under President Obama. Amb. Hartley drew attention to an “exodus of talent” from the State Department, calling President Trump’s neglect of the department “deeply concerning.” In her view, the President’s approach to the Department has undermined the United States’ ability to lead and made the world less safe, citing Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s quote that, “if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.” This contrasted with her view that President Obama and Secretary Kerry had shown the power of diplomacy, most notably in their implementation of sanctions against Russia and in helping to craft the Paris Climate Accords, from which President Trump announced his intention to withdraw in June, sparking international condemnation. Amb. Hartley also criticized Trump’s approach to the Iran nuclear deal, described as being critically important to world peace.
Amb. Hartley emphasized the role of information sharing in fighting terrorism and argued for as close as possible cooperation between European and American intelligence services, stating that she believed this process had prevented further attacks occurring during her time in Paris and saved lives. America’s reliability as an intelligence partner was questioned in Europe last May following the leaking of critical intelligence after the Manchester bombing by the American press, which resulted in UK police briefly suspending the sharing of information about the attack with the United States.
In discussions of President Macron and his vision for Europe, Amb. Hartley’s praise was more effusive. President Macron’s election victory last May over the “brash populism” of Trump and Le Pen was welcomed, as was his commitment to NATO, the European Union and the fight against ISIL. She described the speech given by President Macron on the 26th of September, in which he proposed major reforms for the EU, as a “bold statement” indicative of the new President’s desire to lead. She cautioned that the feasibility of these policies would first hinge on the successful passage of his proposed labor reforms, which have come under significant criticism in France. Of the European leaders, President Macron arguably has the greatest potential to lead the process of reforming the EU following the victory of his new party, La République En Marche!, in the French National Assembly elections, in contrast to Chancellor Merkel who has been weakened by the recent German elections. In his speech, President Macron had laid out his vision for the EU, criticizing the institution as being “too slow, too weak, too ineffective” and arguing for the “the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united and democratic.” His proposed reforms include the creation of a common European border police and asylum agency, a European Monetary Fund, and a shared military force.
Despite acknowledging present challenges, the Ambassador’s overall tone was one of optimism about the future of France’s relationship with the United States. Though negatively contrasting the current US president’s foreign policies with those of the previous administration and President Macron, she made sure to reference the many common ideals that have bound the two nations in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Amb. Hartley articulated her belief that current problems in France and America can be overcome with policies that accord with the ideals of equality and liberty that the two nations have always valued.