[Previous] [Main Index] [Next]

Sunday, March 9, 2003

The Dishonest and Strange Mental Worlds of French and German Diplomacy, and The Flight from Reality among the Post-Modernist Radical Avant-Garde

Some Background Theoretical Comments

Repeatedly, in our buggy commentaries, we've noted that the main issue pitting the French and German governments against those of the US and the UK --- plus 25 out of 28 members of NATO (which includes the 10 East European countries joining this year) --- is a far different reading of their fundamental national interests, especially security ones and the greatest threat to them.

No surprise. The diplomatic square-off over Iraq has only brought these tendencies to the surface, at work now ever since the end of the cold war and the massive shifts in the distribution of power --- economic, technological, military, and cultural --- that began a decade ago. The Iraqi controversy is itself, to put this more tangibly, the precipitant here of these open divisions, not the basic cause. Sooner or later, if the existing Iraqi controversy were to vanish overnight, the underlying security-laden, power-laden causes of the divisions within NATO and now engaging Russia would have flared

Why were these realigning forces inevitable?

Because, tangibly put again . . . security and power-infused concerns are built into the structures of international life, with the refusal of armed territorial states, over 190 now recognized, to submit voluntarily to a world government that would be in principle legitimate, effective in maintaining law and order, and full institutionalized. A system of power politics, essentially self-help in nature, is the result; now, just as it has been for 5000 years of organized territorial states. That doesn't mean there isn't some form of international order that exists in tension with power politics. It almost always has, just as its impact on producing effective rules of the game for encouraging cooperation and regulating conflict --- including rules embedded in international law for fighting wars (which may or may not be followed) --- varies immensely across different historical epochs. Think only of the 1930s and WWII as opposed to the last 10 years (or 58 years in the western world) to grasp this point. Still, the distribution of power and how major and second-tier states react to one another in their perceptions of threats to their basic interests, especially their security and influence, are the crux dynamic forces at work in the international system ---and especially when, as in the post-cold war era, flux and rapid changes mark that system.

These changes, uncoiling in a sharp rippling manner for little more than a decade now, are well know. Stripped to the bone, they reduce to the rapid emergence of a unipolar global distribution of power that has left the US with unrivaled power capabilities in the modern world (see the table below, taken directly from The Economist . . . together with no less rapid shifts in military technologies, economic and technololgical dynamism, globalizing capitalism, and novel and entirely unforeseen security challenges of a menacing sort like Islamo-fascist terrorisms that, among other things, have undermined traditional American invulnerability to attack and blurred the distinction between the home and distant war fronts. It is precisely amid such novel high-octane changes --- flux and turmoil the direct outcome across-the-board --- that realignments among the great and middle-tier powers are almost certain to occur, with the outlines of the ultimate fall-out still blurred for contemporary observers.

Immediately, by way of clarification, a couple of key theoretical points prompt themselves.


Point One: Democratic Qualms If international anarchy and a self-help system of power politics result from a refusal of the armed states to voluntarily submit to a world government --- remember, one that is effective, legitimate, and fully institutionalized, able to maintain global law-and-order --- the refusal itself is rooted in millions of years of of human evolution in small bands of kinship-clans, first primates and then hominids and then homo-sapiens just a 100,000 years or so ago --- the latter a blip on the evolutionary scale --- that create, it appears, hard-wired tendencies in our brains to prefer our group, whether ethnic, racial, or national, to others. In turn, as we've noted in a previous commentary, such them-us distinctions and the ethnocentrism that follow have been confirmed in hundreds of studies carried out by social-psychologists across dozens of cultures, the resulting work summarized under the headings of group-conflict theory and minimal group identity. Of course, to bring us close to the theoretical point here, world government could hypothetically result from conquest, by a super-Rome say. Leaving aside that remote possibility, the only way to create an effective and legitimate world government is by means of voluntary creation by all the great and mid-tier powers and maybe the other states too. And for democratic peoples, that hypothetical challenge is all the greater because they would insist, rightly, inevitably, that such a world government be fully democratic in the sense to which they are accustomed. The problems here are formidable. Note first and foremost that only about 20-25% of the world's people, roughly in 25-30 states, live in a solid democratic country of any meaningful sort.

What follows?

In effect, to repeat, no democratic people will voluntarily subscribe to a regional, let alone global, system of government that doesn't reflect their own political practices, values, and expectations. Americans would balk at living even under regulated regional institutions of the EU technocratic sort, statist in nature and inspired by German and French statist traditions --- finnicky regulations of every imaginable kind shooting up and multiplying faster ever day than even Australian rabbits can procreate --- let alone in a political system familiar to Arabs or to Chinese or to Taliban Afghanistan or fundamentalist Iran. Nor is that all. Of the 25-30 solidly democratic states that now exist, a rule of law in the US sense exists effectively in probably only two-thirds of them . . . an estimate brought out in comparative data, systematically gathered and analyzed, about the degree of corruption, nepotism, and lack of public accountability among democratic governments. When, for instance, three investigating French magistrates resigned last year at this time after several years of being stonewalled in their probes of the corruption and other machinations surrounding Jacques Chirac's political life, they proclaimed that in their view there are two rules-of-law in French life: one for the politically powerful, the other for all ordinary Frenchmen.

Would universal democracy in the sense even that prevails in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the continental EU countries overcome the problems of an anarchic international system --- a decentralized, self-help system in which power politics co-exists with varying degrees of rule-bound cooperation and order exist, creating major concerns with security and relative power among the policymakers in 190 governments?

It might make war less likely, given some strong but not unambiguous evidence that solidly democratic peoples and their leaders generally don't let their diplomatic conflicts escalate to war. Whether it would facilitate world government of a legitimate, effective, fully institutionalized sort is another matter, dubious at first glance and no matter how long you dig deeper. To see why, consider . . .


. . . The EU Itself, the Most Ambitious of Regional Integration, as an Pivotal Illustration

Even in the European Union, the existing 15 member-states disagree profoundly on any political future that goes beyond the existing levels of economic and financial cooperation, impressive as the latter happens to be.

To begin with, 3 of the 15 countries aren't even in the euro system. As for political unity, the big four countries differ sharply in their visions. Britain essentially opposes any breakthroughs in political unity that would further undermine its sovereignty that remains (intact in security and foreign policies). Berlusconi's Italy, surprisingly, seems to be close to this position. Come to that, so too is this the French position: Paris steadfastly refuses to create anything like a federal government, the German position at bottom, which would undermine its core sovereign powers; at best, it wants to increase economic cooperation and fashion --- or so it hopes, so far with dismal backfiring results --- a common EU foreign and security policy based on Franco-German dominance, with of course French views (not least concerning the US and the need to stymie and reduce its power and influence in Europe and globally) prevailing. The smaller countries, by contrast, balk at anything like a Franco-German condominium, never mind the resistance found in Britain, Italy, and Spain.

Small wonder that the one major effort to put some backbone in a EU foreign and security policy --- the creation of a EU Rapid Reaction Force of 60,000, able to be deployed anywhere and fight for 60 days --- remains a paper commitment, nothing more. The Germans, who are spending less on defense these days than, on a per capita basis, it seems, the NYPD (or close to it), notified their counterparts last year in March that they wouldn't be able to provide their 20,000 soldiers for the force --- not just this year or next, but for at least a decade or more. No matter. Both the British and French military commands publicly declared they didn't have any available forces for the EU RRF that wouldn't leave their governments able to use military power for independent operations (like the UK's deployment of 40,000 troops for the forthcoming war with Saddamite Iraq). Worse, from the French view, any such EU RRF wouldn't be independent of the US anyway. All the EU governments when they committed themselves formally to the RRF in December 2000 at Nice, France, agreed it would be prohibitively expensive to develop the intelligence, reconnaissance, planning, and logistic capabilities on their own . . . and that meant they would have to use NATO's, where of course the US has a veto power if it wanted to use it.

By contrast, the US has organized the European members of NATO into committing themselves to a RRF under direct NATO control thatf is becoming a reality, thanks to the US initiative and spending. It won't be 60,000 but it will --- assuming the French and Germans don't veto its use --- be able of operational deployment next year. And the 11 East European governments will be providing their own contributions to it.

All these problems of political unity that now beset the EU --- even in agreeing on a common and minimally effective foreign and security policy --- will be complicated next year by the commitment to bring in 8 East European countries, with several more hoping to join as soon as they can afterwards. As Chirac's temper-tantrum at Brussels two weeks ago showed --- he called the East European 13 countries that showed up who happen to be explicit supporters of the US-UK position over Iraq "badly reared and brought up" and hence unable to know when to "shut up" --- the French are alarmed at the prospect of diluting EU solidarity, or what exists of it in foreign and security policy, even more in a pro-US direction than exists now among most of the EU NATO members, with only France and Germany and a wavering Belgium opposing the US and the UK. Will Chirac then veto the membership of the East Europeans next year? It can't be ruled out. For the French --- to whom the quest after power and influence and above all prestige is the chief abiding preoccupation across all regimes and partisan governments, an ambition that has led them to see the US as the chief threat except when, at times, greater threats might take precedence --- a US-friendly EU even more than now would be the ultimate nightmare


The political and foreign policy upshots of all this?

Here are 15 countries, all democratic, all sharing a similar cultural heritage, all industrialized, all roughly at equal levels of prosperity --- heavily engaged for decades in economic and financial integration, including an ambitious central bank for 11 of them --- and yet they aren't much nearer to a common political unity in any formal constitutional sense than they were at the start in the 1950s. True, they have voluntarily given up a fair number of sovereign powers in economics and finance. For that matter, so has the US in joining the WTO and NAFTA, even if to a lesser extent, and to a greater extent by creating and leading NATO, which obligated the US to risk nuclear war to protect allies in West Europe during the cold war (out of self-interest to be sure). Even so, when it comes to shaping an effective foreign and security policy in common --- never mind a powerful legislature, executive, and universal elections that approximate even a loose federation like the Swiss (much less coherent than even the US federal system) --- the EU countries not only can't agree on their desirability, they are, if anything, less close to such goals than they were a decade agoIt all shows just how much deeper and more divisive security and power concerns can be --- compared to economic and financial and social influences and ties --- when the global and regional systems' distribution of power changes, along with perceived threats.

Specifically, Paris and Berlin perceive the main threats to be American power and influence, globally and regionally; and if that means, contrary to their protests, the undermining of NATO --- something the French seem to hope for desperately, with the naive moralizing Schroeder Green-SPD government probably more divided and full of wishful thinking here for some --- they will accept this consequence. By contrast, 25 of 28 NATO European countries' governments perceive the world and the US role in it far differently. There seems little hope these divisions within the EU will be easily overcome, if at all. Period.


The Second Point: Something Encouraging about Power Politics

So far, the utopian upsurges of the post-cold war era have been less influential and harmful than their counterparts after WWI in the 1920s, with the League of Nations, a robust paper commitment to collective security, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

The latter, created by the US Secretary of State and the French Foreign Minister in 1928, and signed by almost all the recognized governments of the world, banished forever war as an instrument of foreign policy. Here was constructivism at work in IR theory on a vast ambitious scale, a change apparently in the identity of states and their shared norms and ideas about international life (something, however, strangely neglected by our constructivist brethren who prefer, apparently, fantasized castle-chasing schemes of radically reforming international life to concrete analysis of the failures of similar schemes in the past). That was in 1928. In the 1930s, starting in 1931, we had Japanese aggression in Manchuria, then the Japanese invasion of China in the 1936, active rearmament by Nazi Germany and its reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936 and its annexation of Austria in 1937 and its conquest of Czechoslovakia in 1939 --- all without any protest or boo from the League other than tut-tut; not to forget Mussolini's attacks with poison gas (a forerunner of Saddam Hussein, call Benito that) on Ethiopia in 1936 and its earlier war against Albania, all with tut-tuts too and nothing else (save London and Paris reneging on commitments to punish Mussolini with economic sanctions). Then WWII broke out, 50 million dead. The League, believe it or not, didn't even debate the outbreak. In the fall of 1939, the Soviet Union attacked and conquered half of Poland, then attacked Finland, then attacked and conquered Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. What did the League do? Believe it or not, it actually condemned the Soviets, and Britain and France --- while at war with Nazi Germany --- tried to find a way to get French and British troops to go to the help of the beleaguered Finns. Only the refusal of the pro-German Swedish government to let them pass across Swedish soil to Finland aborted the scheme, which would have left France and Britain at war simultaneously with Hitlerian Germany and its allies as well as with Stalinist Russia.

Leave aside the utopian chimeras. If the German left wants to pursue them with the militant fervor of previous militarized aggression --- something we'll come back to --- that's a problem for German domestic politics, where, unlike in France with its nationalist enthusiasm across the political spectrum and in all the media for taking on the US, there are alarmed voices in the Christian Democratic party and among some of the newspapers. If others want to join in --- which means, in the present Iraqi case, as with the appeasers of the 1930s --- keeping a blood-soaked dangerous dictator in power, so be it. There is, oppositely, one benign trend at work in power politics that is worth stressing. Specifically, the general agreement among the major powers --- the US, the UK, France, Russia, and China --- that nuclear war is too dangerous and destructive for their governments to contemplate war as a way of handling their conflicts.

This shared interest in avoiding mutually suicidal nuclear war emerged decades ago in the Soviet-US cold war conflicts. Essentially, it created a common interest that overrode both geopolitical and ideological hostility, leading to a variety of policies like arms control, the hot line, crisis-control centers, and eventually confidence-building, that created a series of shared expectations about how to deal with their conflicts, even if one of them were at war with the other's ally or client-states. That common interest exists today. It is unlikely to fade in the future.

Note though. Does this mean nuclear war couldn't occur?

No, unfortunately. It could occur between neighboring nuclear powers like India and Pakistan: in fact, they drifted perilously close to war last year at this time, and probably only US mediation kept them from resorting to it (whether nuclear weapons would have been used is another matter). It could be precipitated by a reckless rogue state like North Korea using the weapons through miscalculation or even deliberately, provoking Japan to go nuclear or others with nuclear weapons (China, Russia, or the US) to retaliate. It could be caused by Russian free-lancing military commanders selling nuclear weapons to terrorists (the US and Russia are cooperating actively to deal with this prospect). It could also be set off by Iraq or Iran or Syria --- all actively engaged in WMD programs (Iran's nuclear advances caught the International Atomic Energy Agency by surprise last week, thanks to Russian disclosures) --- using them against one another or other neighbors who could be counter-arming with WMD programs of their own --- all in unstable states, despotic and with weak control-command-and-communications systems --- or by letting them slip into the hands of terrorists.

It is precisely these latter concerns that preoccupy the US and UK over Iraq, with the Iranian and Syrian programs to be dealt with after Saddamite Iraq is destroyed and a new and more cooperative Iraqi government is in place. And once Saddamite Iraq is dealt with, the serious problem of North Korea --- whose brinksmanship has so far not unnerved Washington (and rightly so) --- will have to be dealt with.

These two key introductory points made --- largely theoretical background of an indispensable sort --- we can now turn to the main concerns of our commentary: the US and the divisions within the EU over the US global and European roles, all brought to the front-burner, on high flame, by the Iraqi controversy itself.



If it's major differences about perceived threats that has caused the big and growing division among the NATO members of the EU --- 11 of the 15 member states (Ireland, pro-American, differs with the other 3 neutrals, Austria, Finland, and Sweden) --- then general theoretical principles derived from realist IR theory can go only so far.

What realism predicts is that states --- preoccupied with security and power-concerns when the international system's distribution of power noticeably changes (usually after major wars among the great powers, leading to the rise and fall of them as well as past empires like Rome's or the Aztec's or the Russian or the Chinese or the Persian or the Arab or the British) --- will generally seek to balance others and hence prevent global (or possibly regional dominance by one of the great powers. Almost certainly a sound prediction, one of the few policy guides that can be gleaned from any IR theory. But note: controversies about the meaning of balancing abound. Above all, for our purposes,

  • Will states balance superior power (as lots of realists claim) or threats? Threats aren't the same. In the EU today, most of the NATO members see the US presence in Europe as benign, a guarantee of their existing national interests and security. France and Germany and maybe Belgium see it as a danger, increasingly inclined to dominate them and prevent their aspirations, however much Paris and Berlin differ on these, from being realized.

  • What causes different perceptions of threats? Threats can be defined as a combination of geographical proximity (almost all wars in history have been between neighbors, or conquering empires that border one another), arms trends, arms technology (offensive weaponry is more dangerous than defensive, assuming these can be distinguished), and above all by gauging the intent of the potential rival or hostile state. The latter is the key. It can't be determined objectively: it requires inferences and information, with the two brought together by shared assumptions, theoretical or ideological or personal in the case of a powerful dictator, that are shared among the policymaking elite of a state and that will differ across states. Even, as in the EU, neighboring democratic states.


    The Limits of General IR Theory

    Specifically, the only way to find out why, say, the French and existing German governments see the US as a threat to their ambitions and interests --- again, their protests here shouldn't be taken seriously: their behavior in the UN with Russia over a major security matter with the US and UK and other NATO allies is a declaration of independence from NATO, nothing less (even if the Green-SPD government in Berlin is divided on this itself), is what counts --- while the other NATO allies don't, is to try to probe deeply into their policymaking processes, infer what the shared mind-sets and assumptions are, relate these to what information we have, and try that way to ascribe motives and make predictions on that basis.

    In doing so, we can be guided by certain limited psychological guidelines gleaned from studies in the past of decision-making in various states, along with what we know about their long-standing national styles of diplomacy and how it relates to both domestic politics and different leaders over time . . . all of which is useful theoretical help, but of a limited general value. What's needed is detailed study, a digging deep into what can be learned, say, about French national style as opposed to British style in diplomacy over the last century or so, how each relates to different changes of power and security threats over that period of time, how they may in turn be influenced by domestic politics, and whether differing leaders matter much here. Such study requires more and more focused work, individually with France or Britain, then comparative work as well. General IR theories are not much use here, and neither is any statistical modeling, let alone any hypothetical rational game-theory model.

    If anything, the latter are likely to be misleading.

    What's needed are specialists on European politics and diplomacy, with a good grounding in the history --- political and diplomatic --- of the countries involved, their languages, the trends in public opinion, and so on. The specialists, of course, can't just be historians. They need to be trained in comparative work and IR theory and above all what we have found from some good studies in foreign policymaking and behavior over the last 50 years . . . exactly, alas, the opposite of what is going on these days in most political science departments, what with their obsessive preoccupation with formal modeling and statistical tests.

    Needless to say, we aren't going to undertake such a detailed study here, and for obvious reasons --- not least the pressures of time and the space available, buggy as many of us might be. We have, fortunately, said enough in past commentaries that the following comments about certain trends in European politics and mental life across countries --- especially in elite and policymaking circles, with public opinion something that can't be neglected, but is secondary and fluctuating over time --- will not be hard to make sense of. These comments aren't intended to be comprehensive either. They do help Americans understand a certain kind of reality that flourishes in the EU, including on the mass public level certain trends in public opinion.



    As you'll see, we're talking about a minority in the EU --- probably, as some survey data and analysis have shown in the past, the best of which was carried out by the PEW research institute in the fall of 2001.

    [1] Specifically, in the late fall of that year, PEW with the help of US and European survey specialists carried out extensive surveys of "opinion makers" in various countries --- defined as "influential people in politics, media, business, culture, and government" --- and found the following: Whereas 68% of the European respondents thought that the US "has been too supportive of Israel," the corresponding figure among opinion makers was about half that in the US itself . . . 35% to be precise, a margin of two to one differences. Similar differences were found on other subjects.

    That said, the reason for the quotes is that only 40 interviews were conducted in the US and 10 in each of the 23 other countries around the world that were surveyed. That is obviously way too small. And the selection of those interviewed, carried out by the Princeton Research Survey Center, seems to have been less than a random sample. True, PEW is just beginning a long-term project here, and the numbers interviews and the sophistication of the interviews will no doubt get better. We also would like to have matching views among the "general public" in each of the countries. Similarly, 24 countries seems too small for the various regions defined in the study, and it would obviously help to widen the range here.

    Chalk up the deficiencies at the outset of the project here to some start-up problems, no doubts mainly pinched resources. The Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs regularly carried out far better surveys, though confined to the US.

    [2] Still, the results of the survey are in line with the general observations I've offered . . . as well as arguments that I set out last summer, sent in some memos, as to the causes of the gulf --- especially the studies carried out by Ronald Inglehart of the Univ. of Wisconsin, including several he led for the European Union Commission, over two decades now, about the emergence of a "post-modernist" vs. "traditionalist" and "traditional modernist" approaches to the world and social, cultural, and political life: the number of these found to be far greater in the EU than in the US, despite the much greater flexibility in American life, including upward mobility, than exists in the EU.

    To explain:

    Traditionalist approaches would refer to something like the dominant views in the Islamic world, never mind Islamist fundamentalism, and to an extent fundamentalists of non-Islamic religions elsewhere.

    Traditional modernists refer to those who adhere to the Enlightenment liberal/moderate conservative views of the world: beliefs in the value of science, technology, economic development, individual opportunity, economic and professional competition, and democratic rights. Modernists also believe strongly in progress and universal notions of human rights.

    Post-modernists reject much of the modernist world, especially the beliefs regarding science, technology, and economic development; find capitalism full of irreparable greed; think the environment is going to hell; find liberal democracy superficial and meretricious or in big need of direct participation and activism; reject progress in the modernist sense (linked to science and economic development and technology); see human rights in the Enlightenment universal sense as a cover for imperialism or neo-imperialism or whatever the chic slogan-word for this flourishes (such as American hegemony or globalization); and find Europeans and Americans and Australians as essentially racist, sexist, or homophobic. As it happens, though, they are divided when it comes to being pessimistic or optimistic about their chances of changing things.

    For a good table setting out Inglehart's findings --- which are that about 20-25% of the EU population subscribe to post-modern values heavily and about the same number to such values a lot as opposed to traditionalist and modernist values (the other two categories) --- see the following, based on Inglehart's book,
    Modernization and Post-Modernization.

    Another term he uses for post-modern is post-materialist, and he finds that large numbers in the US also subscribe to these findings. For further refinement, see the table of Inglehart's two categories --- modernist/materialist and post-modern/post-materialist --- that he used in later surveys in 43 countries: Inglehart

    [3] More to the point, relevant to the differences between the US and the EU, Inglehart's findings about the US have been challenged: the values people subscribe to in Inglehart's surveys (taken by his colleagues) don't seem to control behavior in the US nearly as much as in the EU. Inglehart himself, moreover, heavily endorses post-modern values, another reason for being skeptical about his overall findings. Above all, his findings are related to age: the younger the generation cohort, the more it should subscribe to post-modernist values. In the EU, that seems to be the case --- not least in the attitudes brought out in surveys about the US and the Iraqi conflict. In the US, however, the generational groups most favorable in their support of President Bush are younger people, 18-30 or so.

    This points to a methodological problem with Inglehart's overall approach: people's attitudes and statements about their values --- maybe to an extent their behavior too --- reflect major overriding events in their upbringing and early education. Specifically, good studies by Ernest May and his colleagues at Harvard on the foreign policy and international outlooks of policymakers in the US and abroad --- which have been collected for about 30 years now --- show a clear correlation between the determinant events in their early lives and early careers on the one hand and their interpretive frameworks for analyzing important international problems and threats later on. US and European policymakers who experienced the disasters of appeasement in the 1930s, for instance, were much more inclined in the 1960s and 1970s to see Communist challenges in Asia and Europe and elsewhere as threats than later generations who didn't experience the traumas of the 1930s and above all WWII. Similarly, the Germans and other EU populations that experienced American liberation in the years after WWII and through the Berlin Airlift and NATO's founding and the staunch defense against Soviet threats were, in the mid-1980s when they were 50 and over in age, much more pro-American generally than the generations of Germans and other Europeans who were in universities and started their careers during the Vietnam war years. It is this generation, especially in Germany and France and some other EU countries, that is now in power.

    Oppositely, one reason for the widespread support of the US throughout East Europe --- on the popular as well as EU levels --- is that the populations have lived through the collapse of the Soviet empire and communist tyranny and ascribe it mainly to the US efforts of opposing the Soviets and their communist allies steadfastly for decades. As a recent analysis of Polish views in the aftermath of Chirac's Head-Master's criticisms of them and the other East European governments that supported the US found, despite widespread opposition to war with Iraq itself:

    "Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism," the letter said. Support for U.S. Iraq policy from former Soviet bloc states, many now seeking to join the European Union, drew an angry outburst from French President Jacques Chirac, who called their behavior "irresponsible and not very polite."

    "They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet," Chirac added. He also brought up the possibility that EU expansion might not proceed as smoothly as has been hoped. Chirac's comments provoked a bitter backlash. Former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a prisoner at Auschwitz during World War II, observed that some people have short memories, intimating that the French should be grateful to America for liberating their country from Hitler.

    Poles' affection for America will not be affected by disagreement on war in Iraq, Wnuk-Lipinski predicted.

    "Those positive feelings are a result of something which is rooted much deeper," he explained. "Poles think of America as a country which is powerful, democratic, economically successful. The attitude of Poles toward America is almost mythological. In no other country in the world -- except maybe America itself -- is there such a strong belief in the American dream."

    [4] Still, Inglehart's findings for the EU --- the hard-core post-materialists and post-modernists --- appear more accurate, with about 20-25% not just subscribing to the values but reflecting them in their jobs in the media, schools, universities, institutes, left-wing parties, to an extent conservative parties in the EU, the social services, clerics and ministers, environmental and women's movements, and among the long-standing Marxist and formerly pro-Soviet radicals of older generations. (Remember, about 10% of Frenchmen still vote for the Communist party, the only CP by that name in the EU.)

    [5] All of which --- the payoff --- makes sense of the following survey of EU attitudes among the publics there of a negative sort toward the US, just published a few days ago:

    "Europeans think America does more harm than good " Andrew Osborn in Brussels Wednesday March 5, 2003 The Guardian

    "Anxiety about America and the way it projects its global power was exposed yesterday when an European commission opinion poll showed that half the union's citizens see Washington as a danger to world peace rather than a force for good. Citizens in all 15 member states believe it does more harm than good when it comes to promoting world peace, fighting poverty in the developing world and protecting the environment. The only sphere in which it was seen as a force for good by most of those surveyed (16,000 people in the the EU in October and November) was the struggle against terrorism: 54% said its role was positive, 28% felt it was negative.

    The responses in all other key areas were decidedly critical of US foreign policy, and will give President Bush's policy advisers pause for thought. On the crucial question of whether America is a force for good when it comes to promoting world peace just 32% concurred; 46% disagreed. Nor do America's environmental credentials seem to be held in high regard. Of those asked, 57% felt its role in protecting the environment was a negative one, compared with just 16% who felt it was useful.

    Officials say the response reflected widespread anger at Washington's forsaking the Kyoto climate change protocol, and deeply held suspicion that the US oil lobby has the White House in its pocket. America fared little better on the humanitarian scale: 49% felt that US efforts to combat global poverty were substandard, only 20% thought them positive. America's role as an economic powerhouse which helps spur global growth was, however, grudgingly and narrowly conceded: 38% said they agreed with that, 34% said they did not.

    The survey was the first in which the commission asked ordinary Europeans how they felt about the US. It provided a fascinating snapshot of where anti- and pro-American sentiment is at its most acute in the EU. Unsurprisingly, it shows that Britain is America's greatest admirer, recording the highest number of positive responses to all five questions; 68% backing the US war on terror. But even Britons had to admit that they were deeply sceptical about Washington's environmental and humanitarian credentials.

    When it came to the US role as a global peacemaker the most upbeat assessments (after the British) came from the Irish, the Danes and the Italians. The most hostile EU nation als to that notion were revealed to be the Greeks (73% felt the US role in this area was a negative one), followed by the French, the Spaniards, and the Finns. The poll also revealed that since September 11 2001 fear of international terrorism has become all pervasive. Eighty two per cent of Europeans said that that was their greatest fear, 72% said what they feared most it was the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and 57% said they feared another world war. " Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003


    AND SO?

    And so, against this background, we can now make concrete sense of the dominant world-views about IR, security, threats, the distribution of power, and the global and European roles of the US that prevail in the EU ---including, on the level of public opinion, the countries where conservative governments (which also means Blair's Labour government) are in power and support the Bush policies toward Iraq.

    Our Starting Point: The Influence of the Post-Modernist/Post-Material EU Avant-Garde

    Essentially, save for some media outlets in London and Die Zeit in Germany and a handful of other publications of limited following on the Continent, a kind of Pavlovian post-modernist conditioning has been purveyed for decades now in the dominant TV, newspapers, and radio world as well as in universities and schools and literally from pulpits. The result? A form of Alice-in-Wonderland mental world flourishes, at least among the post-modernist circles of media journalists, university professors, professional agitators, and left-wing politicos --- about 20-25% of the EU populations according to some survey data --- in which we get these topsy-turvy attitudes: George Bush, not Saddam Hussein, is the contemporary Hitler-on-the-scene; Tony Blair is the Mussolini lap-dog, not the French and German and Russian appeasers (two of which countries' governments at least are accustomed to going for the main chance when they see it and have a hold on a very opportunistic sort of reality); George Bush, who has used military force only once on a large-scale since coming to office --- against Taliban Afghanistan, approved by NATO --- is accused of genocidal warfare, not Saddam Hussein who has killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shi-ites in his own country with chemical, biological, and ethnic-cleansing techniques.

    Additionally, it's the Republican party -- not the Baathists of Iraq who have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their citizens --- that is said in screaming tones to be the contemporary Nazi elite. As for US motives in going to war, they are oil-driven, not security-motivated (80% of Frenchmen found in a recent poll to believe this despite repeated assertions by Bush and Colin Powell that the oil fields of Iraq belong to the Iraqi people, while France with a $40 billion oil contract that it just signed with Saddam is said to be acting on principle) . . . the Germans likewise convinced of this to the tune of 60% (though a German study found German industry the biggest supplier of industrial materials, including violations of UN forbidden imports into Iraq) during the last 12 years. It gets worse too. Bush is accused outrightly of contemplating the use of nuclear weapons, not Saddam, whose nuclear program goes back to 1976 when Jacques Chirac, the French Prime Minister, signed a contract with Saddam's government to build a nuclear reactor that even Saddam's closest ally in the cold war, the Soviet Union, had balked at doing. The Soviets balked because they knew Saddam, sitting on the second largest oil and gas reserves in the Middle East, didn't want to reactor for energy purposes; rather, to build nuclear weapons. The French government knew this too. It didn't care. (Fortunately, the Israeli pre-emptive attack on the Iraqi French-built and managed reactor in 1981 set back the program by a decade or more, otherwise the US and its allies would have faced possible nuclear attacks in 1991 during the Gulf war.)

    The Alice-in-Wonderland mentality in the post-modernist, politically correct elite in the EU and to an extent here runs deeper and further.

    Every effort of the US to convince other countries --- for months now in the futile sessions of the UN Security Council, where countries scarcely any of the peace-marchers could locate on a map (never mind tell you what their politics are like or their population or their ethnic breakdown) are courted by one camp and the other for determining whether a democratic country, whose leader has 60% of the population behind him (a figure that drops to below 50% without UN support), an overwhelming Congressional resolution, and 16 of 18 NATO democracies offering vigorous support (plus 10 other democratizing East European countries that will be joining NATO this year) --- every effort that doesn't lead to the decision that Paris and Moscow and Berlin know best for the world is denounced as unilateralism and a sign of American imperialism-run-wild. And yet 25 of 28 democratic members of NATO --- including the 10 East Europeans who are joining NATO this year --- have supported the UK-US position, leaving Paris and Berlin and Brussels (itself wavering) isolated in that institution. And even though, additionally, Paris and Berlin joined London and Washington and the rest of NATO in going to war over Kosovo against Milosevik's Yugoslavia in 1999 without any UN Security Council approval, with Moscow and Beijing threatening to block any UN approval by vetoes.

    Berlin and Paris

    Note, just in passing, that the present Green-SDP government Berlin digging in its heels on a suddenly discovered enthusiasm for moral principles --- to the point that it says it won't support a war even with UN Security Council approval --- was the same government in 1999, just four years ago this month, that supported a war in the Balkans and sent German troops into combat for the first time since 1945. Apparently, for the Schroeder government, it's ok to join the US and even encourage it in March 1999 to go to war where the Germans think their security is at stake, but to oppose it and the UK and 24 other members of NATO for going to war over Iraq, come what may, where we and the rest see our security jeopardized.

    In neither case, the French nor the German, is this the behavior of what you'd expect of allies. They have a right to disagree with the US and the UK governments. Outrightly opposing them signals in effect, for all their specious protests to the contrary, a serious break with 44 years of NATO solidarity and the beginning of efforts --- so far abortive --- of Paris and Berlin to organize a counter-coalition to balance the US and its allies.

      Leaves You Wondering, All These Mental Flights into a Fantasy World, No?

    Fortunately, most Americans aren't living in deluded world of self-righteous wonderland. And neither is George Bush nor Tony Blair. Which means that Saddam's days --- all that's left for him --- have about run out, even as the cynical French government, the moralizing hokum-laden German government, and the opportunistic Russian government demand that Saddam be given just a little more time, just a few months, chaps, and the world will be all peachy. The great dictator of the Gulf, of course, continues to chug along, cocky as ever. Convinced now that he has survived one more challenge, thanks to his French and Russian and German patrons, he has just called on the UN Security Council to do the right thing: end the sanctions against his long-suffering people. It must be a little too rushed, this call for Saddamite justice, for the sophisticates in Paris, Jaques "bien eleve" Chirac, and Dominique Villepin, the foreign minister who has just confessed to the New York Times reporters that "There is not a day that goes by without me feeling the imperious need to remember so as not to yield in the face of indifference, laughter or gibes" in order to "advance further in the name of a French ambition." Villepin

    In a few days, as they say, Paris and Saddam will both be in for a few "reality-checks." So will the post-modern ultra-chic radicals here and in the rest of the EU . . . along with their disillusioned followers in the media and left-wing or Gaullist politics there.

    Replies: 1 Comment

    Hey Professor Gordon,

    Like the website, although I actually miss the listserve a bit. I've been following the goings-on in the UN and international relations with interest and growing fear of a war (I'm still undecided about whether it's necessary at this point, but I'd hate to find out the hard way what Saddam may be capable of doing against the US). With that said, I also hate to join the French-German anti-war camp with their transparent reasons for opposing a US led war. For France, as you've said repeatedly, it is merely an attempt to remain a player in international power politics. Otherwise, they're irrelevant, something they are very reluctant to admit or even accept. One former UN weapons inspector even suggested that after this whole thing plays out that France should be removed from the permanent UN Security Council. Besides the fact that France hates to see their business transactions with Saddam be scratched if he's ousted. For Germany, it's hard to understand their reasoning for opposing a war, except that perhaps Schroeder is attempting to still ride the anti-American stance that won him re-election. Also, I think Germany still feels the stigma of the dubious reputation of starting not one, but two world wars. They may have become the voice of peace to disassociate their country from its past.

    Right now it feels like there's more media attention and international focus on the UN than there ever has been before. It's funny because I never felt like the UN had much power in international relations, and what power it does have derides from the United States as a founding and active member. I wonder what happens if they're resolutions become nothing more than paper, without any real threat behind it? Would it become another League of Nations, that no one takes seriously? It made me wonder what would become of this international body if the US did something drastic, like withdraw from the UN. Although it's highly unlikely and certainly not an option to the Bush administration, I just wonder how much authority the UN would retain without its primary member? I think it would piss the French off something awful because then they would have no official forum in which to counter US power. I know this: the only reason Saddam Hussein is showing any sign of compliance is because he has close to 300,000 American troops in his backyard. The anti-war camp is delusional if they think his compliance comes from anything other than US pressure, and not from international pressure.

    As for Turkey's refusal to allow US troops into the country, I read an article that says the Turkish have a less than stellar reputation themselves. Although they are a democracy, the article claimed they have been rather unfair to their large Kurdish population and have committed atrocious acts towards Cyprus and Armenia. I wonder if you could clarify what you know about Turkey's history and whether they really are a good ally.

    Link to the story:



    Posted by Amber Ingels @ 03/11/2003 02:02 PM PST