Crumbling Firmament

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September 17, 2021 8:26 p.m.

France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in what amounts to a tantrum over the newly announced strategic partnership uniting the US with Australia and the United Kingdom. Critically, it means scuttling a deal under which France would provide conventional submarines to Australia for one under which the US will provide nuclear submarines to Australia. As a Great Power the US can do and provide what France simply cannot. And as tensions rise in East Asia, Australia feels it needs the real thing.

This is partly over losing a weapons deal but it seems more a fit of pique over France facing the reality that it is in fact no longer or a Great Power or a Pacific power. Most people have realized this for decades. The whole dust up is at once deeply stupid and yet feels far more consequential and significant than the meagerness of the actual controversy. It seems like one of those moments where the whole global firmament shifts, even though the trigger is risible, the hurt pride of a country which hasn’t come to grips with the 1950s.

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