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Wednesday, February 18, 2004


To follow the commentary here, you need to have read the previous article --- the two arguments going hand-and-glove, forming a tightly knitted mini-series on the clash between the traditional US diplomatic style and the prevailing style in the EU. The first version of the series combined the two articles and unfolded one long argument. Why the change? Quite simply, on a web site like this, it's not a good idea to uncoil a demanding argument of the original length at a blow, just the contrary . . . with lots of studies showing, among other things, that the readers of web sites have less patience with an article than they would if it were in a newspaper or journal. So voila!, the first version was split apart, and the two articles appear in its place.

The second article here, please note, continues the same divisional sections: parts one, two, three, and so on. The first article unpacked parts one and two; the current articles starts with part three, then continues through part six. The argument in those initial two parts boils down, in shorthand terms, to this claim minus the supporting evidence: an entangling alliance like NATO --- despite its regained unity among governments since last spring, when the high-tension disputes over Iraq flared --- has entered a period of increasing flux and related problems, all caused by big differences in public opinion and the media, not to mention political circles, over contrasting US and most West European views on three related matters. All three deal with the current war on terrorism, specifically:

  • What the nature of the threat from Islamist extremism boils down to;

  • What the threat's root-causes happen to be . . . not least whether they are embedded or not in
    Arab societies as currently constituted, politically and economically;
  • And how to deal with those root-causes, above all whether it's necessary or not to kick-start democratic in economic changes in those Arab countries, plus Iran, in order to offset the prospects of tens of millions of young men --- angry, alienated, and unemployed, with no prospects and inclined to fundamentalist paranoid interpretations of their misery --- that will otherwise emerge over the next generation.

Remember here: a good half of the 300 million Arab peoples, plus a similar percentage of the 70 million Iranians, are under the age of 15. The ongoing population explosion will double their numbers in the next two to three decades. Right now, unemployment averages 25% or so across all 22 Arab countries, and almost half the Iranians live in near or outright poverty. What might these figures be in two decades without massive changes in their societies?

Something else to remember: There are no built-in domestic motor-forces within the Arab countries that can transform and modernize them on their own. None; Nada; Gar Nichts! Only powerful stimuli from without --- as in post-Saddamite Iraq today --- can open up the prospects of the Arab peoples and the Iranians overcoming their failed states, economic backwardness, and the worst literacy levels in the world. Is it a risky undertaking? Yes. So was President Carter's human rights initiatives in the late 1970s; so were Ronald Reagan's to go on the offensive against the Soviet "evil empire" in the 1980s; so was Bill Clinton's campaign, no less contested by the EU governments and derided by the EU media as naive and dangerous, a provocation to Russia, to push vigorously in the mid-1990s for NATO's expansion right up to the Russian borders.


The main disputes over each of these high-pulsating issues, to repeat, pit the US against almost all the EU countries, especially on the West European continent . . . both on the level of governments and in intellectual and media circles and left-wing political parties with their combined impact on public opinion in West Europe. True, all the EU NATO members --- including Germany and France, the two leading opponents of the US-UK initiative to destroy Saddamite Iraq last year --- are currently bandwagoning to the US, striving to put the dispute behind them. Even so, the tensions between the US and those two governments --- plus a couple of more in the EU that also belong to NATO --- persist and are likely to continue.

The major reason why?

Tersely put, no matter what the governments in West Europe are currently doing in their relations with the US, these Transatlantic tensions will endure because all the members of NATO, on both sides of the Atlantic, are democratic governments that can't afford to continually ignore domestic attitudes. In particular, in West Europe, those attitudes that prevail in the media and left-wing parties, now and very likely way into the future, are full of charged anti-American sentiments of one sort or another --- grounded in a variety of sources that we will return to here --- and, taken together, mightily shape public opinion in almost all European countries. Sooner or later, such domestic trends are bound to influence the cohesion and efficacy of NATO as a military alliance. This isn't just speculation. We already have evidence of this. Specifically, last year, neither Aznar's Spain nor Berlusconi's Italy --- two EU governments that vigorously supported the Bush-Blair initiative to topple the blood-soaked Saddamite regime (which had used biological and chemical warfare on its own citizens, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of them by means of vicious repression, showed continued contempt for the UN, had invaded a free sovereign country Kuwait in 1990, and was actively engaged in nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare programs) --- dared back up their diplomatic resolve by sending Italian and Spanish troops into battle last year. Public opinion in their countries was too adamantly opposed.

Of the European governments besides Blair that did enter the battle, both were in East Europe and are entering the EU this year: Poland and the Czech Republic. Australia, half way around the world, also send noticeable military forces at the time. No other NATO countries followed suit at the time, and almost certainly for the same reasons of staunch domestic opposition on that count.


What Are the Crux Causes of the Disputes over
the 3 Major Issues in the War on Terrorism?

Stripped to the bones, the answer is a couple of underlying contrasts between the US and most EU countries:

1) domestic differences --- cultural, economic, and politica 2) and distinctively different diplomatic styles in the US and around most of the EU, not all of it.

The domestic differences have been the subject of several buggy articles up to now; a little more will be said here about them, but not much. (See the first of these articles here. All the others can be found by clicking on the left sidebar for the archives links to American Politics and Foreign Policy.) As for the contrast in national styles --- the main concern of our mini-series --- it will be spelled out in a few moments in part four below; no need then to say anything about it right now.

Note one thing though. As you'll also soon see, both Britain and France have distinctive twists in their diplomatic styles that are at odds with those that mark almost all the rest of the EU countries . . . at any rate as manifested over the last few decades.

Come to think of it, one more thing to note at this point: last November, an EU-sponsored survey found that 59% of West Europeans ranked Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, and only a slightly lower percentage (53%) the US, tied with Iraq and North Korea. Do these outcomes reflect only European discontent with the Bush administration and the Sharon government? Far from it. Anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiments, which usually overlap, have been on the upswing in West Europe ever since the end of the cold war. Several buggy articles have dealt with these trends, at length and with lots of different kinds of evidence, not least survey data of the sort just mentioned.

Enough. The next four parts in the mini-series now follow, starting with a question left dangling at the end of the previous article:

"All of the above comments about NATO's divisions prompt a pivotal question, our key concern: what causes the major disagreements in the alliance about the nature of the threat in the War on Terrorism, its root- causes, and most of all, the best ways for dealing with it?"



(i.) Domestic Currents As Obtacles To NATO Cohesion.

The answer to this question, on the domestic level, is easy to spell out: Public opinion in West Europe, and much of East Europe, was powerfully opposed to the war over Iraq, and the EU media in large part remains full of anti-American sentiments . . . an animus not born with the Bush administration in 2001, but long in the making and, come to that, a source of tensions in the cold war period: for instance, during the massive peace demonstrations in the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s, especially in Northern Europe.

Nothing new here, just the contrary.

At the time, public opinion surveys showed that in West Germany alone the population was increasingly critical of the US, not just its policies, but as a society. The responses did vary by age. Germans over 50 were generally friendly to the US, remembering the benign occupation and the Berlin airlift; those under 40, growing up in the 1960s and 1960s era of protest movements, were increasingly hostile. Gerhard Schroeder and the other members of the Social Democratic and Green Party running the existing coalition came out of the latter milieu. Joska Fischer, interestingly --- the Green head ---- was well known in the winter and spring of 2003 to have been a more moderating influence on Schroeder's hard-line toward the Bush administration.

Earlier buggy articles, connoisseurs will recall, have dealt at length with the domestic sources of this anti-American outlook, which does vary across EU countries ---- much less resonant in Britain than on the Continent, and there much less so in Denmark and Holland than in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Greece. The anti-Americanism is lodged much more strongly in the media, among intellectuals, in left-wing political circles (save in France, where it's all-encompassing), and in right-wing extremist circles such as Le Pen's National Front; and less strongly among average people without their necessarily being pro-American. In the end, it really wouldn't matter --- these currents of opinion --- were it not for the fact that NATO's members are all democratic. Since they are, it follows that, sooner or later, European governments will find their room of maneuver for supporting the vigorous use of military force abroad in the war on terrorism --- even for peacekeeping ---- hemmed in by their publics' attitudes at home.

Note that this is hardly speculative. We already have hard evidence. In the Iraqi war last spring, neither Berlusconi's Italian government nor Aznar's in Spain --- despite strong diplomatic support for the US-UK position --- dared send troops into battle. Since then, it's true, they have committed peacekeeping forces, along with 18 other NATO European members (this year or next), but save for the Polish multilateral division, they're fairly small. Come to that, the same is true in Afghanistan . . . this despite a full NATO endorsement of the war to topple the monstrous Taliban regime. There are only 5000 NATO troops in all of that country, and for the time being, despite some promised changes, all are confined to Kabul and the surrounding area. South Korea has already agreed to send 3000 peackeepers to Iraq: aside from the British forces and the Polish division, that is larger than any NATO European force on the ground.


(ii.) Different National Styles in Diplomacy, Often Clashing, On The Two Sides of the Atlantic

Not surprisingly, the major differences here pits the traditional diplomatic approach to security problems that US administrations resort to --- and have since 1941, when we entered WWII ---- and that shared by almost all the EU countries save Britain and France. The US's traditional diplomatic sytle, as we'll see, is far more assertive and willing to challenge the status quo to promote big change. The dominant EU style can be called damage limitation: accept the status quo, deal with authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, negotiate and engage them diplomatically and economically, try to find multilateral conferences for such engagement (if possible), and avoid major challenges. There is, it seems, an inbuilt reluctance to use force --- even when, as in the Iraqi case, the regime was in blatant violation of 16 UN Security Council resolutions that did not stop at finding Saddam Hussein's government in "material breach" over disarmament. The original resolutions also stressed systematic human rights violations, problems in the treatment of Kuwaiti prisoners, and reparations.

All of which brings us smack up against our major concern here:



US-EU differences in diplomatic style --- with Britain in between, closer to the US in practice but with its governments more mindful of larger critics at home than exist in the US over most key security issues --- have been a source of contention in US-West European relations for decades now. They have their ups and downs, but they existed during the cold war, and they still separate the US and almost all the governments on the Continent except for, probably, outspoken conservative Prime Ministers like Silvo Berlusconi in Italy. The concrete differences in style and traditions, which reflect a far different history of nationalism, warfare, patriotism, the lack of an alienated intelligentsia, and a different political system, interact with the domestic differences that separate the US and most of West Europe (save Britain really) and create a gulf of an anti-American thrust in EU intellectual, media, and certain political circles ---- especially on the left and the far right (like Le Pen's National Front in France). And in France, almost all these circles --- intellectuals and politics and media --- have an ingrained anti-Americanism that you are now familiar with.

Here are the major differences in national styles:

1. A strong sense of national identity in the US contrasts with a generally post-nationalism in the EU. In turn, a strong national identity and patriotism lead to a strong sense of national purpose in foreign policy, as Josef Joffe, the Harvard Ph.D. who edits the influential German weekly Die Zeit notes about the US and Israel alike. See his recent Commentary article, The Demons of Europe. That sense of purpose and identity, to repeat, is generally lacking all over the Continent, save in France; and in France, again and again --- as over Iraq last year --- the national purpose leads to the government overreaching and producing then backlash criticisms. No surprise. French governments overreach because French power is so limited and falls far short of French ambitions. Last fall, a whole slew of books and articles appeared stressing France's decline and the charade of Chirac-Villepin diplomacy last spring.

  2. Compared to almost all the EU countries since 1945, traditional US diplomatic style is much more assertive, much more willing to push for changes in the diplomatic status quo and use force if need be, all of which tend to worry most EU European governments and diplomats. Their speciality can be called damage-limitation: the management of power and diplomatic relations with others, even hostile countries, while engaging them and trying to produce marginal improvements in their foreign policies and their domestic human-rights travesties. The improvements may or may not materialize. They usually don't.

Take the Iranian clerical-fascist regime's recent dislosure last fall that it did indeed have a secret nuclear weapons program --- this despite signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty that allowed Teheran to import nuclear technology from West Europe, including enriched uranium. That gross violation was in existence for two decades, during which time the EU's engagement of Teheran did not uncover one violation of the regime's commitments under the NPT. When the clerical-fascist regime did finally own up to the violations last fall, the EU governments were quick to point to the success of their engagement diplomacy. Oh? Most of the rest of us think it had to do with Teheran's realization that the Middle East power configuration had drastically changed, once and for all, owing to the US-UK toppling of Saddamite Iraq and the stationing of 140,000 American troops on Iran's borders with that country.

Even then, note, Teheran tried to continue its secret nuclear programs after that admission. The International Atomic Energy Agency, with inspectors on the ground, found that the clerical-fascist regime was seeking to continue secret enrichment and centrifuge programs, both intended to build nuclear weapons. Engagement and pronouncements, apparently, mean nothing to vicious authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. Their cynical rulers, with copious blood on their hands, respect essentially one thing: superior power and credible threats, nothing else. Only they, coupled with effective negotiations and clear demands for change, will make a difference. The diplomatic record here is clear. It is now almost 70 years old, stretching back to the futillity of appeasement policies with Hitlerian Germany and militarist Japan in the years before WWII.

Note quickly a follow-up clarification. The US-pushed changes in the diplomatic status need not entail the use of force by the US --- or new threats --- to worry most EU governments. Jimmy Carter's human rights program, a big novelty in the late 1970s, was denounced widely as naïve and a threat to the cozy relations that many EU governments thought they had with the Soviet Union: AKA, détente even as the Soviets were on the offensive elsewhere. Bill Clinton's decision two decades later, against almost all EU governments' inclinations, to push for an expansion of NATO eastward was also widely denounced as dangerous, a threat to good relations with Russia in the mid- and late 1990s.


3. The US has far more power --- economic and military --- to back up its risk-laden innovations and follow-through. Not so the EU. As a group, its governments mainly confines themselves to lofty public pronouncements, with little financial, military, or any other follow-through. Hence the European Rapid Reaction Force, agreed to with fanfare in December 1999 at Nice, France, has remained a fantasy: the German government, among other things, said in 2001 that its 20,000 troop contribution couldn't be funded for 14 or 15 years. Defense spending is way down elsewhere in West Europe save in France, to its credit. And generally, on all major topics --- including relations with the US --- the EU is usually marked by divisions, weakness, and pleas.

The internal divisions within the EU, remember, pull strongly against an effective common foreign and security policy. Come to that, even as 10 to 15 new East European countries begin joining this year, the 15 member-states couldn't even reach agreement on voting rights within the Council of Ministers, the major decision-making body in the EU. More graphically yet, the days of Franco-German coordination to dominate the EU on key issues are long over, something even Chirac and Villepin now grasp. Last year, their bullying tactics --- an accurate word in the view of almost all the other EU countries, the 15 member-states and those from East Europe about to join --- antagonized almost every other government and population. It's one reason, this fear of Franco-German bullyboy stuff, that the other EU countries in NATO rallied to the US and still do. They much prefer a closer relation with the US than submitting to Chirac's schoomarm hectoring or Schroeder's grim angry menaces about European weakness.

The recognition of this, in Paris and Berlin, is another reason for their bandwagoning to the US too, however reluctantly.


4. American governments are more inclined to use force than the West Europeans, Britain a notable exception here. Recent polls show, though, that whereas most Americans continue to support force, if necessary, to deal with hostile states or groups, even in Britain public support was much lower. Most of the EU publics seem to incline toward pacifism or the most reluctant use of force. Peacekeepers may be sent somewhere, say to Bosnia, in the early 1990s, but aren't supposed to use force even if attacked. (Fortunately, the small European NATO peackeepers in Afghanistan, only 5000, will fight if attacked).

Even if the West Europeans do seem ready to use force --- as over Kosovo in 1999 (when neither Paris nor Berlin complained that the UN Security Council was being circumvented) --- they have little to offer. Thus US forces dropped about 90% of all bombs on Yugoslavia in that campaign, and fired 95% of all the cruise missiles.


5. The US, even the Bush administration, is more willing to act on its own or with a small NATO group if, after consultation and persuasion, too much resistance occurs.

Bush did spend 6 months, as did Blair, trying to persuade the Security Council to back up its positions --- 12 years old by then --- on Iraqi compliance with its 16 resolutions on WMD, and for that matter on human rights violations and reparations for the aggression of 1990 in Kuwait, and the return of hundreds of prisoners. Bush and Blair also rallied four other West European NATO members to support war, and 13 East European candidates for membership.

When the war began, Australia and Poland and the Czech Republic, all democratic, joined the UK-US forces. 20 or 21 NATO members of the 26 this year now have forces on the ground in Iraq. The Japanese 1000-man contingent just arrived. Mongolia has forces there too.

Still, the US probably would have acted on its own last year without others. That's what super-powers do. The charge that the EU governments prefer multilateral talk --- endless --- may be overdone, but that preference is strong on the left all over the EU, and in the media and among intellectuals.


How do British and French National Styles Differ from the Rest of the EU Countries?

Two countries that are at odds with the traditional EU preference for non-stop multilateralism as an end-in-itself, or utopian pacificism, or damage-limitation and caution above all else when the US, oppositely, agitates for big changes in the diplomatic status-quo where European interests are at stake.

(i.) Britain's national style is much closer to the US's: more assertive, more willing to challenge the diplomatic status quo, more supportive of its military and the use of force if need be. The British style also overlaps with the US's in its preferences for organizing a global economic system, rule-based, along market lines. What keeps the British national style still different from the American is located in two domestic sources: far less power than the US to go on the offensive, and much greater domestic opposition in public opinion and the media. In a recent poll, for instance, the British public's attitudes about the use of force in foreign policy was much closer to the EU Continentals than that of the US's: this, even when a clear security threat emerged in the questionnaire. In this country, the overwhelming majority favored the use of force if a clear security threat developed.

(ii.) The French style has a twist of its own: strong nationalism across the political spectrum that is decades old --- maybe older than that ---- and a desire to find ways to use the EU as a means of leveraging French power and influence in order to make France something of a great power again. All of this leads to collisions with the US off and on, and with Britain and some other EU countries that shy away from French ambitions. The specific French schemes can vary: organize a third-force between the US and Russia flirted with in the early years of the 4th Republic after 1945; lead the small European Economic Community (the forerunner of the European Union today) while keeping out Britain, a potential rival, two times in the Gaullist era of the 1960s; or work closely with Germany in a partnership, a scheme now vented in some French circles again, believe it or not . . .even though no German government, not even the Schroeder, has shown any willingness to break ties with the US in adhering to French ambitions, however rationalized. The independently targeted French nuclear force ---- a Gaullist strategy, announced with fanfare in the 1960s --- meant that France did not necessarily see the Soviet Union as an enemy or the US as a friendly ally. The latest scheme was, of course, to lead a counter-coalition against the US and UK with Germany and Russia as the other two major members.

Did it succeed? No. Worse --- as the buggy articles predicted --- French overreaching happened to backfire, as it almost always has, and leave the French government isolated in West Europe while accentuating the divisions with all the other EU countries that fear a Franco-German condominium. Those who fear it, observe, include all the new East European members in the EU this year. That said, whatever else will happen in France this year or next, and whichever party holds the presidency, you can be sure that French diplomacy will still be seeking to find partners and dupes in order to enhance French prestige and influence --- a style decades or even two centuries old now, going back to Napoleon's days and France's steady decline from the most powerful country in Europe into the ranks of a second-tier country that suffered two decisive defeats at the hands of German invaders and lost its overseas empire in futile wars against nationalist forces in Indochina and North Africa.


Hypocrisy and Mulitlateralism

As for the sudden enthusiasm of France for multilateral diplomacy --- at the UN Security Council anyway, not in the EU itself --- it's the too-clever-by-half effort of Gaullist nationalism to counterbalance the US by giving France a veto over US actions. Not surprisingly, the French show no such restraints on unilateral action when it comes to their own security interests in Africa or economic interests in the EU. For the third or fourth year now, the French government has been condemned by the EU for violating the Stability and Growth Pact that specifies a clear limit on government fiscal deficts: 3.0% of GDP. The French government response: in effect, drop dead. It failed for several years to also open up its protected market to British beef after the mad-cow scare: the EU Commission certified that the beef was free of e-coli and ordered Paris to lift the boycott. It refused. As far as I know, it only concurred after three or four years of being condemned by the EU Commission.

France, by the way, isn't the only maverick-country giving the EU Commission a drop-dead reply. That other great voice of multilateral restraint at the UN Security Council last year --- the German government --- has also been condemned for three years of violating the same EU pact, an agreement that the same German government, led by the Greens and Social Democrats, happened to be the motor-force of back in the late 1990s in the run-up to the eurozone. And both the French and German governments went to war over Kosovo without obtaining any UN Security Council approval in 1999. That approval wasn't forthcoming. Russia and China opposed the war and would have veto any resolution supporting it. Does anyone recall French and German politicians fretting over the lack of UN support in those days?

By contrast, Bush and Blair spent 6 months at the Security Council seeking to obtain their support over Iraq last year. You tell me, which governments are guilty of hypocrisy here?



That dominant EU style, as we've just seen, doesn't create tensions with the more assertive, risk-taking US tendencies to go on the offensive diplomatically only when force is at stake --- just the contrary. This is a key point. It's worth fleshing out and explaining, starting with these examples;

(i.) In the late 1970s, all the EU governments in NATO --- Britain's included --- criticized Jimmy Carter's human rights campaign. It reflected, the charge went, American naiveté; it would antagonize the Soviet Union and undermine the détente the West Europeans thought they enjoyed in a privileged with Moscow; it would further upset their dealings with Shiite Iran and the dictatorships in the Middle East and in North and Tropical Africa.

(ii.) In the 1980s, a similar tussle occurred over a different US initiative --- this one instituted by the Reagan administration. Throughout Northern Europe, and in parts of Latin Europe, West Europeans engaged in large cat-calling demonstrations for three or four years to protest the deployment of Cruise and Pershing-II mid-range missiles to counter Soviet SS-17 missiles that the Soviets first deployed. It didn't matter that the Social-Democratic, Liberal coalition in West Germany led by Helmut Schmidt had been the first to draw attention to this new Soviet missile threat and to call for NATO counter-weapons. In the end, it's true, the various European governments in NATO stood by the deployment, but the demonstrations ended only because the Reagan administration --- on the offensive against the Soviet Union in weaponry (the missile deployments, anti-missile defenses), in supporting anti-Soviet and anti-Communist guerrilla movements in Soviet client states everywhere in Africa and Asia, and in denouncing the regime as an evil empire --- immediately sought to engage the new Gorbachev government in Russia after 1985 when it combined economic and some political reforms at home with détente in diplomacy abroad.

Until then, the pressures placed on the Soviet Union by the Reagan administration had added to Russian over-extension around the world and further strained its already derelict economy, reinforcing Gorbachev's changes in Soviet domestic and foreign policies.

(iii.) The post cold-war period accelerated the tensions that pit the US national style against the dominant EU's.

There was no NATO policy for dealing even with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and its condemnation by the UN Security Council. Only a handful of West European governments participated in the war. When, in the mid-1990s, Bill Clinton then pushed for the rapid expansion of NATO eastward to the borders of Russia, that initiative repeated the same sorts of criticisms that the Carter human right policies had provoked two decades earlier: it was naïve, it would antagonize the Russians, it would create havoc in traditional realist management of relations with Moscow. Over Bosnia, both Paris and London ---- though sending peacekeepers there --- refused to consider the use of force proposed by Clinton off and on to deal with Serbian aggression; and US policy in NATO after 1993 until the use of that force in 1995, when the whole UN peacekeeping mission was falling into disarray, was preoccupied with how to rescue the French, British, and Dutch peacekeepers when force was used. Only over Kosovo did the alliance have a united policy. By then, with the exception of Greece --- an Orthodox country whose population sympathized with the Serbian Orthodox Christians --- all the EU members of NATO agreed that turmoil and violence would prevail in the Balkans unless Milosevik's regime was punished severely. And the use of force was greeted by the EU publics with generally the same sort of media and intellectual protests about US aggression and wanton bombing.

(iv.) As for the war to topple the vicious Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the US did use force of course --- but this time with a full endorsement of the UN Security Council and NATO. Yes, official endorsements in both cases. Did it make any difference?

For the EU governments, yes. In the media and public opinion, no. Repeatedly, the most lurid stories of American extermination-bombing and other gross war-crimes were vented in the EU media almost everywhere. Der Spiegel, a windy bible of the politically correct left and intellectual circles in Germany, ran a cover story in October 2001 featuring pictures of bombing that look like they might have been taken from aerial bombardment of German and Japanese cities. Naturally the quagmire theory was immediately invoked once war began, again almost ubiquitously. Systematic torture of all the Guantanamo Tablian and Al Qaeda prisoners was repeatedly and luridly invoked too --- this despite the visit, very early on, of British and other official EU delegations that could find no such torture at work, or any inhumane treatment of any sort.


The upshot?

It's familiar to you by now. We mentioned earlier here; we mentioned it at greater length in several former buggy articles; and we will briefly mention it again.

We are dealing, evidently, with a hopelessly politicized form of journalism that has roots in ideology, utopianism, envy and resentment --- with little commitment of the professionalism that marks American journalism, including a sense of fair play --- that was always defective with a few exceptions (in Germany, say, Die Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung, or a handful of notable publications in London like The Economist and The Financial Times) compared to American journalism, but that has grown much worse for two reasons: the huge gap in power, wealth, and dynamism between the EU and the US since 1990, and the dominance in media circles of the 1968 radical generation of students who now man the editorial staffs and reportage all over the Continent. Even in British journalism, according to a former Oxford professor who was a journalist in London before coming here, reporters will make up facts at will in order to push an argument that matches their biases. For all this, see the buggy article and links.

As for the BBC --- once justifiably renown for its professionalism and accuracy --- it became hopelessly politicized in the last two decades, and recently has had to undergo a purge at the top in order to deal with its blatantly attack-dog journalism and contrived stories about the Blair government and British intelligence last year. That purge was long overdo. The New York Times underwent its own purge last spring, but not under pressure of a Presidential Commission --- the equivalent of the Lord Hutton Commission in that country that uncovered BBC machinations; rather, because of a rebellion of a thousand of its reporters, unhappy with its politically correct drift the previous three years or so. And, in good professional American fashion, the New York Times voluntarily then reformed itself. That's not the case with the BBC.

Even less is it the case of Le Monde, France's most prestigious newspaper and so blatantly biased and ideological that when a former member of its editorial board leaked information to journalists outside the newspaper and they in turn wrote a book last year on Le Monde's systematic distortions and manipulation of the news --- not, by the way, the first such book by a former insider there --- its editorial board, in typical French fashion, claimed that it had been travestied, undertook no self-examination, and launched a libel suit. It's all very French, this shrugging off of responsibility. You can expect to find charges of a conspiracy directed at Le Monde's integrity in the polemics that have followed.



(i.) A Reminder.

Don't fall for the journalistic cliché, or even Democratic candidates rhetoric who naturally are going to try to discredit the Bush foreign policy, rightly or wrongly, that there is some huge gap between the US and Europe . .. . Europe write large. There was an article in The L.A. Times last week about the NATO meeting of Defense Ministers that repeated this cliché several times ---- something that is at odds with reality.

• For one thing, the writer presumably meant West Europe, but Europe was the catch-all phrase. Funny. East Europeans --- 70 million of whom will be joining the EU this year, with another 150 million in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Rumania, Latvia, Lithuania, and the former Yugoslavia contenders for future membership --- don't seem flattered if confused with West Europeans. Then too there's Russia, 150 million people. It may be far from being a member of the EU in this or the next decade, but it is part of European history and culture and contributed mightily to both.

• For another thing, you'd never know that the gulf last winter and spring over Iraq pitted 5 EU governments in NATO supporting strongly the UK-US position --- the UK, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Holland (a total of 175 million people) --- against 3 outspoken critics, the French, German, and Belgian governments. The latter total 150 million. Greece and Portugal are members of NATO, but kept a low profile. The Portuguese Prime Minister is known, though, as a pro-American generally, having lived and worked in this country (Greece and Portugal each have 10 million people). The other four members of the EU --- Ireland (4 million), Sweden (9), Finland (4), and Austria (9) --- are neutrals, not in NATO.

• For a third thing, ALL the East European countries joining NATO this year or soon ---- about 13 in all --- expressed strong support for the US-UK position. Period, So why does Europe mean two large EU countries, and a tiny one.

• As a final twist, all the major critics last year --- the German, French, and Belgian governments --- are actively trying to mend fences with the US. Even Chirac is talking about possibly sending troops to Iraq this summer. And the deuxieme TV channel has obviously been ordered to improve the US image in French viewers' outlook: hence lots of making nice now, such as showing last week how American paratroopers made huge sacrifices on the night of June 4, 1944, to rescue several French villages from occupying Germans.


(ii.) NATO Still . . .

. . . exists though. It is being repaired. Predictably, the counter-balancers of last year, Germany and France above all, are bandwagoning to the US, reluctantly or not. The ties that bind all the governments are easy to spell out: they lie in security, diplomacy, and shared democratic systems, together with vast economic entanglement: trade, multinational investment, and the like. There is also good cooperation among intelligence agencies and on the military level (France an exception of sorts). What has changed are three things;

  • The US and UK are pushing hard to expand NATO's missions for the first time outside Europe.

  • The disagreements here are all the more intense because EU public opinion and media and intellectual circles, plus most of the political left and the extreme right, disagree with American opinion and leadership on the nature of the threats that NATO and the US face, their root-causes, and how to deal with them . . . all subjects of this argument up to now.

  • The growth of strong anti-American sentiments in the EU media and intellectual circles --- which Joffe and others discuss, along with anti-Semitism in way too many circles (around a third of the EU overall in different surveys) --- raises doubts how long the EU governments on the Continent can seal off their cooperation with the US from strong popular currents.

As we argued earlier, the surge of social conflicts and strife in the EU --- which has to be expected as the economies undergo big upheavals and violent crime grows and tensions and conflicts with the rapidly growing Muslim communities there snowball --- will very likely lead to backlashes and scapegoating of a more worrying sort. This will vary across countries: more powerful in Latin Europe and Germany than in North Europe or Britain. Holland, traditionally renown for its human rights, is problematic: there is a strong upsurge of conflicts with the growing Muslim communities. The scapegoating, bad as it is now --- Josef Joffe's article The Demons of Europe (linked to earlier) is a good beginning guide here despite some problems with nuances and evidence --- will almost certainly get worse. It's built into much of European cultural life. No one need fear a new explosion of fascist and Nazi regimes as occurred in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, and Rumania (with large fascist movements in pre-WWII France and Belgium, not to mention the collaboration of these and other European governments with the Nazi occupiers after 1940). Democracy seems more solidly rooted, everywhere.

The conspiratorial scapegoating will nonetheless continue, intensified in line with the growth of new social strife and conflicts, including left-wing and right-wing terrorism and Islamist terrorism of a new sort too, in many of the EU countries. Possibly, come to think of it, most of them. Call it a prediction.