For example, when the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 put a question mark on the need for NATO, Margaret Thatcher, then on a trip to Helsinki, was asked by a reporter: Now that the Soviet threat disappeared, what was the rationale for British nuclear deterrence?
Thatcher replied “We still have a problem in the Middle East”. Subsequently, along with George Bush the elder, she began to put together “a coalition of the willing” ostensibly to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Saddam-in-Kuwait was the starting point, not the broader perspective against which Operation Desert Storm of 1991 was designed.
The English-speaking domination of the world order since World War II has faced a challenge. The Soviet collapse had brought about the reunification of Germany. This at a time when the Japanese economy was booming. It was easy to bring up the specter of AXIS, without actually mentioning the “A” word.
France, always ready with its own compass to navigate world affairs, initially dragged its feet on the US-UK-led coalition. President Françoise Mitterrand was among the last to join the “coalition of the willing”. It was the largest military coalition since 1945 – a grouping of 39 countries. Given their obsession, experts might be interested to know that Pakistan was part of this coalition.
As someone who has covered the history of Baghdad, I am perhaps the only Indian witness who can confirm that the show was run exclusively by the United States and Britain. There were two separate press briefings, for the US and UK media by their respective spokespersons. French journalists, like the lonely self, were outside. We can add in parentheses that the British media on this occasion were the poor cousins.
From the terrace of the Al Rashied Hotel, CNN’s Peter Arnett ushered in what would become global media. The war was brought live to the salons of the world. The BBC’s John Simpson, by comparison, cut a poor figure walking around with a satellite phone. It wasn’t until he was beaten by CNN in Operation Desert Storm that BBC World Service TV was launched.
To come back to AUKUS, yes the French fury is understandable. Not only was a $ 90 billion submarine order stolen, a world order dominated by English speakers was perpetuated. This is what infuriated President Emmanuel Macron. As it turns out, the turn of events also provided Macron with an opportunity to fall back on de Gaulle-style nationalism just as his odds plummet and all manner of candidates toss their hats in the ring for the next few. elections.
(The writer, a veteran foreign correspondent, is a seasoned commentator on international affairs. Views are personal)