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Claire Berlinski
Paris-based journalist, essayist, novelist, historian, and biographer
Paris-based journalist, essayist, novelist, historian, and biographer


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The first draft is by far the hardest part. Or it is for me, anyway. I’ve heard some writers love the blank page, but I don’t. The first draft is a nightmare of confusion, false starts, and self-doubt. But once I’ve got something to work with — as I now do — I can begin the part I like: refining the argument, fixing deficiencies of logic, supporting the argument with examples, re-writing every sentence, over and over, and getting rid of the boring stuff. From here on, it’s work I enjoy.

I could not have written any of this, and could not continue to write this, without your financial support. You — entirely — made this possible. From dawn to dusk, literally, I feel grateful to everyone of you who contributed, and every single contribution has helped. Some of you sent me sweet notes when you contributed, apologizing for “only” chipping in five or ten dollars. Believe me, ten dollars is not “only” ten dollars when that’s exactly the amount you’re short on the electricity bill. You’ve kept me afloat, and you’ve given me the chance to do something I simply could not have done otherwise.

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Why would we mock the British in the wake of a terrorist attack that killed seven innocent people on their soil? We know what it means to be the victims of terrorism. Why would we spit on our friends? What do we get out of it?

My answer: We get nothing out of it. So I suggest we not do it. It’s not in our interests to harm the friendship between the United States and Britain. And more importantly, it’s just not decent.

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The enthusiasm for Le Pen is a right-wing version of radical chic. The clueless celebrities who slobber over Hugo Chávez as the man who freed Venezuela from Yankee imperialism and speaks truth to neoliberal power met their opposite number in the Americans who slobbered over Le Pen as the woman who, I guess, would have freed France from Yankee imperialism and spoken truth to neoliberal power, but frankly, where this is concerned, I can no longer tell the difference between the so-called right and the so-called left.

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For those of us who feared Le Pen would do well enough to claim a moral victory, the relief was immense, and any American with his head screwed on straight should share in it. Le Pen’s most memorable line in last Wednesday’s debate may have been, “France will be led by a woman. It will be me or Mrs. Merkel,” but in truth, France under Le Pen would have been led by a man, and that man would have been Vladimir Putin. As has been widely reported, Le Pen is in hock to the Kremlin, which funded her campaign. During one of her visits to Moscow, Le Pen explained her views to Kommersant: “The economic crisis gives us the opportunity to turn our back on the United States and turn to Russia.” That many Americans found this fact irrelevant when asking themselves whether Le Pen’s victory would be in their interests reflects a new and strange species of geopolitical masochism. That members of Congress, including Steve King and Dana Rohrabacher, travelled to France to endorse Le Pen is both incomprehensible and unforgivable. ...

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My long-awaited article about France on the eve of yesterday's election is in fact eight short articles. My plan was to write each individually, as standalone pieces. But I would have needed another week to do that properly, and I would have had to rustle up seven more editors. So I knit them into one, instead:

1. Poudre de Perlimpinpin
2. Monkey Eyeballs
3. You, Madame, are no Margaret Thatcher
4. The Horseshoe
5. The Vice
6. The Champs-Elysées and the Pattons of Our Basement
7. May Day
8. The Knife

My predictions were -- slightly, happily -- off: Macron vanquished Le Pen. The pollsters underestimated Macron’s victory by about seven points. As Nate Silver noted on Twitter, this represents a bigger polling error than Brexit, and a much bigger one than Trump.

I am greatly relieved by the results (for reasons that should be evident from what I wrote). Vive la France.

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"The Fascist and Syndicalist species were characterized by the first appearance of a type of man who did not care to give reasons or even to be right, but who was simply resolved to impose his opinions. That was the novelty: the right not to be right, not to be reasonable: 'the reason of unreason.'”

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This article made no more than an average impression on my American readers. But to my surprise, it set light to a firestorm of Dresden proportions in Turkey, which you can see on Twitter. The debate and responses are a bit hard to follow, but not impossible, if you're willing to give it a few minutes.

It would be disingenuous for me to say I expected no controversy at all -- when you read it, you'll see that I obviously knew full well that I'd never eat lunch in D.C. again -- but I am surprised, and I guess gratified, that it set off as much debate as it did. I wish American readers would read the discussion it prompted. Many of the comments are in Turkish, but just as many are in perfectly limpid English. And the new (vastly improved) Google Translate will make the general tone of the Turkish comments clear enough.

I don't think what I wrote was so unusual. I guarantee you that anyone who lived there during that time would have said, and still says, the same thing. But perhaps it was unusual for someone to put it quite so bluntly, and I reckon the reaction it prompted among so many Turks is instructive. Many in the West -- especially foreign-policy experts-in-prospect -- would benefit from reading what they have to say. It hints that I may not have been exaggerating about the loathing and contempt in which we’re now held in Turkey. And this in turn, perhaps, suggests I might also be right about why.

Their reaction conveys, too, what I find so unutterably sad about the whole business. So many people in Turkey who should naturally have been our friends and allies, men and women who deserved our loyalty -- and whose friendship would have served us well, especially now -- are instead utterly disillusioned about the West. (I say this knowing that a unitary thing called "the West" only exists to a certain extent, but to that extent, that's what I mean.). They feel deeply betrayed by people they had long admired. This fills me with shame.

Young Western foreign policy experts who are only now beginning their climb up the greasy pole would do well to consider what they're saying and reflect on it a bit. Surely it can’t leave any of us feeling that we handled all of this as well as we might have.

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So it's down to Macron v. Le Pen. We avoided the nightmare: Le Pen v. Mélenchon. There's no cause for overconfidence, but certainly cause for relief. I wrote this in the hope that by today it would be irrelevant. It's not, yet -- although I hope it soon will be. For readers who've e been puzzled by my reaction to Marine Le Pen and asked me why I dread the prospect of her success, in this, you’ll find my answer.
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