Last week, Corrière della Sera reported something that was broadly ignored by mainstream media: France rewarded a Saudi Prince, Mohammed ben Nayef, with the Legion of Honour. The whole thing, apparently, was done very hush-hush by the French government which not only raised the ire of the Gaul across the aisles of the political spectrum but it also raised some serious questions about François Hollande's true intent. Therefore, we are going to look into the meaning of honour and to see why the need for such a deference towards the Saudis.
Reflections on Honour
Honour: "nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness. Privileges of rank or birth" (Dr Samuel Johnson, 1755)
There are quite a few definitions of this abstract concept but they all agree that honour implies merit, great privilege and good reputation. More refined minds, obviously, take the concept to loftier levels such as nobility of the soul, despise for low behaviour, scorn of evil, righteousness, and good standing. However, when we look at the world today, we easily conclude that refined minds are scarce and honour is no longer what it used to be.
Today, honour means ego. Nowadays, honour may still mean 'privileges' but these are granted to haughtily losers; to people with very low behaviour, to individuals who thrive in relativism; to folks who loath ethics as something pertaining to the fool; to sub-humans who work with the “Dark side of the Force” and to creatures who creep through the mud of bigotry – of all sorts.
Honoré Balzac was so correct when he moaned that men of character “tired of giving without receiving, they remain at home, and leave fools to reign over their territory”.
Legion of Honour
The Legion of Honour (or la Légion d'Honneur, in French) is the highest-ranking order and decoration in France. It was created by Napoleon Bonaparte, in May 1802, as a general military and civil order of merit "conferred without regard to birth or religion provided that anyone admitted swears to uphold liberty and equality." (in Britannica)
In 2016, France confers such an honour to people who do not uphold neither liberty or equality. France justified granting the Legion of Honour to Prince Mohammed ben Nayef for his “fight against terrorism and extremism” - how quaint, given the known fact that Saudi Arabia sponsors terrorism and extremism, in particular. France now pretends to have forgotten that it suffered numerous terrorist attacks (in 2015 alone it suffered five attacks in January and six coordinated attacks in November) by groups that profess Wahhabism, an extremist Islamic school of thought that is mainstream in Saudi Arabia.
François Hollande's people deemed it fit to honour a Prince whose country is the very antithesis of “liberty and equality”. So what exactly is the deal here?
Quid Pro Quo
Enough has been said about the French weapon-trade with Arab nations, so we don't need to get into that. Enough has been said about the good old French Arab Policy, so we do not need to get into it either. Enough has been said about France collaborating with despotic states and fomenting civil wars for its own immoral reasons, so we definitely do not need to get into it. But not enough has been said about the intelligence trade that France carries out with Arab nations.
France wants to be a huge influence in the Middle East – we get it, after all they are co-architects of the Sykes-Picot Agreement; and to achieve that goal it is willing to do anything (including derailing Israel). Furthermore, the Gaul are losing Africa to the Americans so, again, we get it. But what Dissecting Society does not want to get is how a nation that gave birth to the rights of men; a country that fought for liberty, fraternity and equality, can now sacrifice those values so blatantly. DS cannot understand how France dares to propose itself to trade the life of European citizens with information, with a false notion of power. No wonder the Americans may not have been totally forthcoming regarding terror attacks in Gaul: it seems the French cannot be trusted.
Without wishing to sound Machiavellian, I must present a different scenario where France bestowed the Legion of Honour to a Saudi Prince for a more straightforward reason: as a message that Arab Royal Families are the only ones France is willing to recognise, accept and work with in the Middle East. If so is the case: be careful with what you wish for (as Merlin would've said).
[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]