MACRON AND THE MARSHAL
Speaking of World War I, take a moment too to consider the controversy that erupted this week when French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Marshal Philippe Petain – the heroic commander of French forces during World War I who later disgraced himself by collaborating with the Nazi occupation. Macron acknowledged Petain’s “disastrous choices” in the Second World War but praised him as a “great soldier” in the First.
During the first war, Petain was justly considered a hero. Against formidable odds, he saved the French city of Verdun from a German assault and restored discipline to a crumbling French army. During the second World War, he led a French government in Vichy that collaborated with the Nazis.
Struggling from sagging approval ratings and a scandal-filled summer, Macron’s praise for Petain was an attempt to rally support among the conservative nationalists in France who still view Petain as a national hero. It backfired. The government’s decision to back away from Macron’s promise to honor Petain this weekend only furthers the sense that the young French president is out of touch and lacks direction.