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Monday, February 2, 2004

THE US AND EUROPE: A THREE-PART MINI-SERIES: #1 Why The Bandwagoning To Bush's America?

Four good articles on recent US-European relations --- two of them, an impressive series written by John Vincour of the International Herald Tribune, makes agile use of his extensive interviews in West Europe and the US with policymaking elites --- appeared in the last two weeks and serve as the jump-off point for this up-to-date review of US policies in the war on terrorism, and especially the improved relations within the Atlantic Alliance.

The improvement shows up especially in US relations with the three major members of the blocking-coalition organized last winter over Iraq: Germany and France, both members of the EU, and Putin's Russia. Russia, of course, isn't in the EU. As for NATO, it's half-in and half-out: it has a special relationship and is consulted on most NATO business, but the US and others oppose letting it have full membership until it shows more progress in democratic development --- far more, to judge by Colin Powell's recent criticisms leveled at the Putin treatment of human rights and the media (now under tighter clamps than it was years ago) when he visited Moscow last week --- and in displaying much more explicit evidence that it will live in peace with its neighbors. We'll return to Powell's unexpected knocks later on. They're in line with the new thrust in the Bush administration to push heavily for democracy in the Middle East, South Asia, and apparently now in the half-democratic, half-authoritarian Russia of 2004.

The third article that appeared recently isn't in Vincour's league. It lacks his analytical ambitions, the ranging sweep, and the interesting evidence gathered from his extensive interviews on the two sides of the Atlantic that mark his two IHT articles --- American investigative journalism at its best. Nothing surprising. The third article's only a wire-dispatch. Still, it's encouraging. It shows clearly that the high-point of the discord within the Atlantic Alliance is now in the past, thanks to mutual give-and-take by Washington and its critics in Europe, with most of the give on the European side . . . something we'll deal with at length here. Its encouraging news? The new Secretary-General of NATO, a Dutch diplomat --- an office whose influence isn't negligible, yet not comparable to the decisive role of the major state-member governments in the alliance --- says that in his view NATO would join the US in helping to transform Iraq once a sovereign government comes into existence there this summer.

Right now, 18 members of the 25 in NATO this year have troops on the ground there, but without any common NATO policy. For that matter, there wasn't one in the first Gulf War in 1991 nor over Bosnia --- only over Kosovo in 1999 and later Afghanistan in 2001.

All of which brings us to the fourth article, in many ways the most astute of the lot, as well as the most disconcerting in its conclusions. The writer? Josef Joffe , the Harvard Ph.D. who's the editor of the influential German weekly, Die Zeit and at ease in moving between the journalistic and scholarly worlds. Entitled The Demons of Europe, it appeared last month in the no less influential American monthly, Commentary Magazine. and is a probing study of the twin ideological scourges in European life, systematically festering anti-Americanism and the new hot-wire anti-Semitism --- the two usually going hand-in-hand, but not always, in European media, intellectual, and many political circles.


A few remarks about the Joffe argument --- by way of prelude, nothing more, to the more substantive buggy commentary that will unfold in a moment or two --- seem in order, especially since Joffe's conclusions overlap with those that appeared in three earlier buggy articles this last December (2003). on anti-Americanism and the new anti-Semitism in Europe one; two; and three.

One difference between Joffe's argument and the earlier buggy analysis is how he approaches the twin, politically charged cultural-demons in European life. In particular, though the thrust and conclusions of his argument chime with the buggy views, those views, recall, relied extensively on several academically informed surveys of public opinion in Europe and the US, including anti-Semitism and the prevailing public moods on both sides of the Atlantic: optimism and confidence in the US, gloom and pessimism in Europe. Joffe prefers a more general essay-like approach --- not that there's anything wrong with that. If that approach works in his Commentary article, it does so thanks largely to his first-hand knowledge of European developments.

That leads to a second difference. Joffe's analysis of the bursting demonic duo in West Europe is all-encompassing; his argument would have gained in rigor had he tried to trace how anti-American fervor in intellectual, media, and political circles varies across West Europe . . . less pronounced in Britain, Holland, and Denmark (ditto anti-Semitism) than in France or Germany or Spain. The same is true of the new, hot-wire anti-Semitism. Again, survey evidence underscores these differences, not to mention the foreign policies of their governments.
Two More Key Differences

The buggy analysis also differs from Joffe's in a third respect. He locates the root-causes of the politically charged cultural scourges in sheer prejudice, envy, and resentment in Europe, which leads in his view to racist-like stereotypes about Americans, Jews, and Israel. All three are demonized and understood by European bigots in severely negative terms, to which double-standards of morality are applied. To drive home his points, Joffe then systematically sets out some key differences between the strength of national identity and national purpose in the US and Israel, on one side, and its vague, post-modernist languishing in the same EU circles just mentioned . . . plus a firm determination, when it's deemed necessary, to use force to deal with clear security threats. That's well done. We'll expand on these points ourselves.

That said, the earlier buggy analysis --- taken up here again --- traces the root-causes of the two cultural demons back to different, more home-grown sources in European life these days: above all, the dislocating hot-wire changes that are being imposed against European will, popular or governmental, under relentless globalizing forces and technological turbulence. In the upshot, willy-nilly and with growing social conflicts already visible --- and bound to grow much worse --- governments are being forced to prune their welfare states, slim down their regulatory mechanisms, cut government spending, and make their economies far more globally competitive. The psychological and political backlashes among Europeans to those changes leads, in turn, to searching out scapegoats to blame them on: the US (the home of casino-capitalism and globalizing economic and cultural trends), Jews (who in many European minds control the US), and Israel . . . seen, believe it or not in a recent EU survey, as the greatest threat to world peace!

Not to forget, it needs to be added immediately, a fourth difference with Joffe's analysis: another home-grown source of anti-Americanism and anti-Jewish scapegoating in Europe. Specifically, the bursting growth of personal insecurity --- captured by survey data too --- as violent crime has erupted all over the Continent, leaving more and more of the citizenry exposed to assaults, burglaries, mugging, car-theft, fire-bombings, violence in schools, menaces in subways, and so on that the political and media elites pooh-poohed until recently . . . something, it was said, that plagues Americans, but not socially sensitive Europeans.

Wrong. Very wrong.

Just how much so is set out clearly in the careful UN International Crime Victims' Survey --- carried out every four years by a Dutch university team. The latest finds the opposite trends at work: violent crime is way down in the US since the late 1980s, and way up in Europe and Australia. As a result, the US ranks in the bottom third of industrial countries in violent crime --- way behind Australia and Britain and most of Continental West Europe; and Americans, it turns out, show the most confidence in our police and in going out into public spaces of all the industrial countries.

The political consequences are evident. For one thing, as those of you who've read the earlier buggy articles know, moreover, the surging violent crime in West Europe is also connected with the growing backlash fears --- a source of the big breakthroughs by populist right-wing movements in several EU countries --- provoked by the rapid growth of Muslim immigrant communities around the Continent: increasingly fundamentalist, alienated, and at direct odds with the secular nature of European life. For another thing --- more relevant to our concerns --- alarmed or frightened Europeans are all the more inclined to seek out scapegoats for their personal fears. (For some extensive buggy comments on the International Crime Victims' Surveys, see gordon-newspost.)

True Enough . . .

. . . the combination of dislocating economic changes, growing fears about personal insecurity, and backlashes against Islamic fundamentalism and alienation in the European midst aren't the only root-causes of the new anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, especially in the EU media and certain political parties and wings. The huge gap in power between the US and the EU is another source, as is the difference --- which we'll elaborate on in this new 3-article series on US-European tensions --- in diplomatic style between this country and the West European Continental countries. Britain itself, note, somewhere in between the two . . . and for reasons set out in a few minutes here.

One more thing before we get down to the business at hand. As the three earlier buggy articles noted and was mentioned again a few sentences back, the venom and popularity of Europe's cultural demons vary across countries in the EU: far more kinetic and high-pulsating in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Greece, and Portugal than in the other member-states . . . points that need to be kept in mind. There are 380 million Europeans in the existing EU of 15 member-states. In a few months, there will be seven more state-members adding another 70-80 million. Generalizations about these 380 or 450 million Europeans have to be unfolded with care and qualified with nuanced alertness which countries and groups within them they refer mainly to . . . and why. That's the main reason why survey data, which always varies in quality and usually captured fluctuating attitudes --- not necessarily strongly rooted beliefs --- is indispensable to such generalizing efforts.

But enough for the time being. We'll return to the Joffe article later on, as well as to the two stimulating articles by John Vincour of the IHT.



Note that the Secretary-General's comments are in line with the arguments the buggy prof has unfolded here over the last few months in several articles: the rift in NATO on the governmental level is being healed, and largely because even the three major dissenters over the Iraqi war last year, France, Germany, and Belgium, find that it's in their national interests to do so. That doesn't mean some hard feelings might not exist, between them and the US government, and even more, it appears, between them and other Europeans in NATO. Still, NATO went through divisive conflicts in the past --- for instance, in the early 1980s, though nothing like the blocking coalition those three tried to organize with Russia last year --- and survived.

Its survival and efficacy reflect the member-states' diplomatic and security interests, nothing less . . . at any rate, as judged by their governments.

What Is Uncertain

The main question here isn't whether NATO will survive this or the next decade or two. Very likely it will. The member-states' governments clearly see their national interests served by it. So, probably even more, do their military commands and intelligence services, which continued to cooperate with their US equivalents even in France and Germany during the brouhaha over Iraq.

The question lies elsewhere. Specifically, no matter how much the governments, militaries, and intelligence services of the West European countries themselves judge that their national interests dictate a close relationship with the US for security and diplomatic reasons, what's uncertain is how long they can go on sealing off that relationship from the general thrusts in West European public opinion, above all among the media and intellectual elites as well as in left-wing political circles and among the extremist right-wing populist movements like Le Pen's National Front, that are increasingly and stridently anti-American. For them, it's not a matter of Bush policies, let alone what is happening in Iraq, now or earlier. Rather,

* They don't like the US as a capitalist country standing strongly for globalization and an assertive set of policies in the war on terrorism;

* they resent and --- if Vincour and others he cites are right (as they most likely are) --- envy American power, influence, and wealth even as they deplore its alleged casino-capitalist sources and reckless militarism and presumably uncouth society;

* They are filled with rancor by the Bush Administration's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Treaty, which in any was was rejected earlier by a US Senate vote of 95-0 in the Clinton era (1997). Small wonder for festering resentments. The US position has thwarted the radical Green quest for a new means of controlling and overhauling capitalism, branch and root . . . only the latest utopian longing, it needs to be added, that marks the European landscape among both restlessly discontented and Panglossian movements unhappy with the status quo and hopeful of a leap into a bedazzling bold new world: 1) full-blooded socialism earlier, or maybe totalitarian communism or fascism for the extremes; 2) the peace movement of the 1980s; 3) the anti-globalzing movement of recent times; 4) multilateralism as an end-in-itself and a make-believe transcendence of power politics; 5) Europe-as-the-center-of-the-world again for the nostalgic; and 6) multicultural love-fests on the left for handling the Muslim communities in Europe even as the multicultural gestures boomerang and alienation and fundamentalist thrusts are the dominant result. And, of course, not to forget 7) the rampant anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism for the malcontented of all stripes, analyzed with skill by Josef Joffe . . the Harvard Ph.D. in political science who edits the influential German weekly, Die Zeit In Joffe's view --- the buggy prof's too, documented with lots of survey evidence that Joffe doesn't use --- the two almost always go together in Europe now.

What unites all this utopian longing --- the violent and revolutionary as well as the dreamy blissful --- is a refusal to come to terms with the realities of the world and try to improve on them in hard-headed pragmatic ways: in particular, the nature and problems of industrial society, the persistence of capitalism whatever its variant, the stubborn endurance of power politics, and the inescapable need to balance environmental risks and economic tradeoffs --- especially when the risks are embodied in climate-change models that can't predict retroactively (given what we know in 1000 A.D., can the IPCC model for global warming actually forecast the little ice-age after 1200 that lasted almost 7 centuries?) or that don't show up at all as a warming trend in satellite observations of temperature, taken daily around the world and verified by radio-sound balloons, hundreds of them sent daily into the atmosphere).

* They tend to blame the US, directly or indirectly, for their economic troubles, rising social conflicts, and European divisiveness . . . something likely to intensify in public opinion and particularly among the talky media and intellectual elites as the EU enters at least a decade --- and probably two or three --- of major dislocations in their economies as they strive to make them more competitive and dynamic, and rising social tensions and strife caused by backlashes to these changes . . . and also by something else: the surging violent crime in their countries and (something related to it) the rapid growth of alienated Muslim communities. The latter are increasingly inclined toward fundamentalism and opposition to the secular nature of European life everywhere, whether in Latin Europe or the Protestant North.

* As for the existing EU divisions, a question immediately intrudes: if the 15 member-states can't agree on a new Constitution for modernizing the EU's institutional apparatus --- at a time when Eurobarometer surveys show that less than 50% of the EU's population even think the EU, on balance, is a good thing --- why will a EU be inclined to reach agreement on such fundamentals when there are 22 or 25 member-states. The new members are generally much poorer and in need of far more regional subsidies. They are reluctant to have France and Germany --- or any of the big countries --- push them around. They are also more pro-American than almost all the existing 15 member countries, with Britain and Denmark something of an exception.


Earlier buggy articles have dwelt at length on these conflicts and dislocations --- economic, social, and cultural, all politically charged with harsh, hot-wire energy --- and what will likely happen in the years to come: within Europe and in US-EU relations. For the time being, we'll foreshorten our attention-span. Focus it specifically on the here-and-now, and the reasons for the improved relations within the Atlantic Alliance . . . all in line with the bandwagoning tendencies. [For the earlier buggy articles, see the three published in December 2003 and January 2004: one; two; and three.



If bandwagoning to the US as the far more powerful country marks the behavior of the dissenter-countries in NATO and even Russia, the term needs to be clarified . . . and of course documented. Tersely put, when middle-tier and small powers are confronted with a great power --- never mind the only great power in the world today, something the world has never experienced for a couple of thousand years --- international relations specialists distinguish between three policies they can pursue:

1) balance against it, by competitive arms build-ups and an alliance directed to offset the influence of the great power and deter it if need be from attack;

  2) oppositely, rally to the great power in a formal or informal alliance, either to protect their national interests against threats that they share with the great power, or out of fear, or out of a desire to gain influence over it (if possible), or --- should we be talking about an aggressive alliance --- seek to share the gains from successful aggression;

3) or seek neutrality if it's possible.

The Bush Administration's Role

The signs of bandwagoning to the US by the former members of the transient blocking-coalition last year --- especially Germany and France, but also to an extent Russia --- are numerous and of various sorts. Fortunately, too, intelligent diplomacy by the Bush administration the last two or three months has encouraged the trend thanks to several conciliatory gestures on the administration's part . . . even as it sticks to its major goals in the war on terrorism. The concilation shows up as an effort to bring back the UN to Iraq, a coaxing the organization away from its retreat of last summer; flexibility over the huge industrial contracts in the offing for the Iraqi economy, now and in the future --- which means opening them to the former dissenting countries; reassuring statements, face-to-face with their European counterparts, by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, and --- a stand-in for President Bush --- by Vice President Cheney, just back from a recent trip to West Europe; reaffirmations that Washington hasn't turned its back on 60 years of consulting its allies (something it didn't forget to do in six months of bargaining with them and others at the UN Security Council); and the pursuit of diplomacy over North Korea's nuclear program.

All the same, the conciliatory gestures by the Bush Administration --- welcome as they are --- don't underlie most of the bandwagoning thrust. What does is the obvious evidence, multiplying in several directions, that the war on terrorism --- even in Iraq, after some initial bungling by the administration --- is proceeding in directions that Washington generally finds encouraging. We'll return to that evidence in a few moments. For the time being, fix your mind on . . .

. . . The Concrete Signs of Bandwagoning?

  • 21 of the 26 member –states of NATO have forces already on the ground in Iraq. Japan has recently sent a peacekeeping contingent, and for that matter so has democratic Mongolia. (There are 34 countries in all with troops in the country.)

  • If the NATO Secretary General is right, then there will be a clear commitment by the rest of the NATO countries to join the peacekeeping operations, at any rate this summer after Iraq has a new sovereign government

  • The German government has stepped up its peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan, heading the NATO forces there.

  • The French, Germans, and other Europeans to whom Iraq owed debts going back to the Saddamite days have renounced those debts, as have the Russians for about 2/3 of them. The Arab states that Iraq owed money to are also beginning to renounce all or part of them. Those states balking at fully writing them off them will likely end up anyway with a flat repudiation of the debts by the new Iraqi government next summer.

The US, for its part, has wisely then agreed to open up the industrial contracts for rebuilding Iraq and access to Iraqi oil --- all of which will be owned by the new Iraqi government next summer --- to those countries that opposed the US-UK led war to topple the brutal regime in Baghdad and seek to transform Iraq into the first non-dictatorial Arab government --- ever.

Further Signs of Bandwagoning

The list runs on, almost all in an encouraging direction:

  • Even the French government --- as predicted in several earlier buggy articles --- has recognized that it once more over-reached, as it almost always does when it takes on the US, in trying to organize a European counter-blocking coalition to the US and UK over Iraq. Ending up dividing the EU, it also alienated all the new East European members --- including several slated to join in later years --- and found that its German partner, something also easy to predict, was already moving strongly to patch up relations with the US. That left the French more or less isolated in the EU, even as opposition to the showy French diplomacy of last winter and spring created a big backlash in France. The result? Under steady pressure from within France itself, Chirac and de Villepin, the Foreign Minister, are busy trying to improve relations with the US.

Chirac has gone even further in the last few days. In an interview with an American journalist, he has this to say about French-and-American relations and NATO: "You have to be realistic in a changing world. We have updated our vision, which once held that NATO had geographic limits. The idea of a regional NATO no longer exists, as the alliance's involvement in Afghanistan demonstrates. And we are not against a role in Iraq for NATO if it comes to that."

  • Relations with Turkey --- briefly disturbed during the run-up to the war last spring when the parliament there, dominated by a new moderate fundamentalist coalition rejected Turkey's joining the war even diplomatically --- have been patched together, even though the Turks continue to worry about an independent Kurdish state. . . a breakaway from Iraq that could revive the Kurdish independence struggle in eastern Turkey.

It's important not to underestimate this Turkish concern. More than anything else, it probably keeps the US government adhering to its proclaimed policy that we want a cohesive, consensual government in Iraq that includes all three of the main ethnic groups: Shiites in the South (about 60-65%), Kurds in the North (about 15-20%), and Sunnis in the center --- about 15%, plus some very small groups of Turkmen and Iraqi Christians. Otherwise, a simpler policy --- full of promise for stable and effective government that has some clear mass democratic support --- would be to split the country into its three main halves: an independent Kurdistan, an independent Shiite Republic, and a Sunni country. That would allow the US and its coalition members to focus more on the problems of dealing with the remnants of the Baathist regime in the Sunni triangle, while letting the North and South go their own ways without the tangle of ethnic suspicions, rivalries, and fears. Baghdad would present a particular problem, given its mixed ethnicity. So would allocating oil to the Sunni triangle, almost all the oil lying outside its ambit.

Call it a possible future in 15 years or so. For the time being, a unified Iraqi government of some sort will emerge this summer and represent the 25 million Iraqis in the UN.

  • Relations with Putin Russia seem to be where they were before the diplomatic fall-out in 2002 and 2003 over Iraq: half-friendly, half-wary. There is one notable change: when Secretary of State Powell visited Moscow earlier this week, he went out of his way to criticize the clamp-down on the Russian media by Putin, the efforts to jail businessmen financing alternative media, both signs of a lack of an effective rule of law. More generally, he explicitly criticized the rigged nature of Russian democracy generally --- Powell referred to "managed democracy" --- and its efforts at times to bully its neighbors . . . a reference mainly to Chechnya.

What the latter means in wider terms about US foreign policy is open to speculation. Is it a sign that the stress on democracy in the Middle East --- now the official policy of the Bush administration since last November --- also includes a new human rights movement that we will push against wavering electoral democracies that lack effective political institutions, a free media, and a vigorous civil society? That's what we said earlier. Otherwise, right now, it's too early to say with much certainty.

  • Finally, as we noted earlier, the new Dutch Secretary-General of NATO predicts that the alliance will have a coherent policy towards Iraq this summer. For that matter, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been reported --- no doubt accurately --- worried that if the UN doesn't get back to Iraq soon, it will have lost what relevance it still has for the Middle East: not just in that country but all over.

A strong UN diplomatic presence will help legitimize the new Iraqi government. And the UN Specialized Agencies have lots of experience in dealing with certain kinds of health and educational problems, at any rate the government of the home-territory where they are operating let's them do their work.


Replies: 1 Comment

There are two posts next to each other on the "innocents abroad" web log that may inspire you - http://innocentsabroad.blogspot.com/

The first is a review of Jean-François Revel's work, Anti-Americanism and the second immediately below it is an analysis of Chirac's foreign policy which seems to be explicitly designed to be a classic example of "what NOT to do"


Many thanks, as usual, for your tips and observations: always useful. Trained as a scholarly professor, then one of France's leading journalists, Revel has been combatting French and European prejudices against the US for decades. Recall that an earlier buggy article last February (2003) dealt with Revel's latest book on French anti-Americanism, a national obsession in his view --- full of envy and resentment and simplified stereotypes of the sort Josef Joffe takes up in his "The Demons of Europe" article. The buggy article also translated the provocative review of Revel's work that appeared in Le Monde: see http://www.thebuggyprofessor.org/archives/00000030.php

Posted by Francis @ 02/04/2004 07:26 AM PST