Part Three: THE TRIO EXAMINED
Theme One: EU Diplomatic Huffing-and-Puffing, Official or Otherwise, Clarified
As the two previous articles on the national styles in diplomacy tried to show --- the US largely pitted against the prevalent style throughout the EU save in Britain and France (each with its own national twists) --- European diplomacy, especially when coordinated at the EU Summit levels, seems to float somewhere in fleecy clouds of self-illusion, lofty rhetoric, and hot-air pronouncements that influence no foreign country but may ring nicely in domestic European audiences. Then, too, there's the long line of high-sounding EU commitments like the European Rapid Reaction Force, signed with lip-smacking solemnity each time, that remain --- in reality --- confined to verbal fluff. Consider them the EU equivalent of teasing love-making, all foreplay and no consummation. That was once confined to American adolescents. It now seems to be the bottom-line of EU diplomacy.
And if none of these diplomatic edicts and verbally hyped proclamations lead to any concrete results --- anywhere in the world, mind you --- there's always room for an exalted, puffed-up claim that more multilateral chit-chats with vicious dictatorships in Iran or the Middle East or elsewhere will eventually work their wonders . . . a form for the most part of self-induced European hypnotism, usually called diplomatic and economic engagement, that leads to little reciprocity from these dictators, full no doubt of contempt for European weakness, other than lip-service concessions of the flim-flam sort.
Not to worry though. You can then blame the failure on American rapacity, stupidity, and aggression, along with the other turnip-ghost scapegoats of choice in the EU media: Israeli menaces to world-peace, or Frankenstein-like globalizing forces, or conspiratorial world Jewry, or the neo-Con Jewish manipulation of the lame-brain Texan Toxin in the White House. Or, another choice-plum these days, all of them scrambled together in hodge-podge fashion.
A Couple of Key Clarifications Rear Up Here
(i.) Domestic Problems Too in the EU
Observe that though these comments about fluff-filled EU Summitry and other public hoopla are directed at diplomatic theatricals, they apply as well to most of the Summit meetings of EU governments that also deal with domestic politics too.
Witness last week's Trio-Summit of Britain, France, and Germany, announced with the usual whoop-de-do in the media, to deal with the huge problems that overhang the EU's development in economics, unemployment, laggard technologies, and large, unresolved institutional problems. The sole concrete outcome of that meeting --- denounced publicly, as you might recall, by all the other EU governments, some very vocally and with anger, for the trio's high-handed arrogance in speaking for all 15 member-governments? Well, cut through all the self-congratulatory rhetoric and ballyhooed farfaronade, and it amounted to even more small peanuts than ususal: a call for more commissions and studies to deal with the major political and economic problems that mark the EU today, plus a fanfared cancellation ---strictly for the benefit of Jacques Chirac's France --- of an increased EU tax on restaurant meals!
And even that triviality, observe further, was a verbal commitment --- nothing else. The decision about taxes of this sort, you see --- VAT, a sales-tax that can range as high as 20-25% on certain sold goods and services in the EU --- is something that has to be decided by a qualified voting majority in the Council of Ministers, where all 15 member-states, plus the 10 joining soon, will decide whether Frenchmen and well-heeled visitors to the country will have to pay more for their wine-and-guzzling than otherwise. On all this, see The Scotsman
(ii.) The US, Not the EU, Is Now Committed to Democratic Change
in the Arab World.
Has US diplomacy been much better in the Arab world since 1945 than the EU pursuit of diplomatic favor with the Arab dictators, plus lavish industrial contracts?
No, not really --- not anyway as far as promoting democracy in the region goes. Bribes have also been passed, as in the EU, though as with Britain and Scandinavia and Holland --- as opposed to the Latin countries in West Europe and probably Germany --- the bribes have to come after the officials and other policymakers leave office or their bureaucratic posts at State, Defense, or the Commerce Department. Then, the more avaricious ones who lack a sense of honor, can count on lavish contracts for the firms they work for or as political and economic consultants to the Saudi and other corrupt oil-rich Arab countries.
That said, quickly ponder two big differences with the EU:
- The US has played a far more active role in trying to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU countries, by contrast, have no influence of any note, not least because they have been so lop-sidedly committed to the Palestinian and wider Arab side of the dispute that they have, virtually, no influence over Israel and haven't accordingly been vigorously at work trying, ever since the Oslo Process started in 1993, to shepherding a realistic two-state peace.
The big change documented:
- No less important, since last year --- starting with Iraq --- the official policy of the Bush administration is to promote active democratic and human rights changes in the 22 Arab countries, each and every one a dictatorship full of rampant corruption, rife nepotism, self-serving clientelism as the only way to advance economically, politically, or socially; the highest levels of illiteracy in the world; marked economic and technological backwardness; and unemployment among men alone that averages around 25-30%.
No one less than President Bush himself has explicitly and candidly called for democratic changes in the region, including among close allies in the War on Terrorism: specifically, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. That was last November 6, 2003, when the President unveiled his significant policy-changes
at the National Endowment for Freedom, an organization formed backed in the Reagan era to promote democratic rights abroad:
"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe --- and in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty," the President said in his pathbreaking speech.
"As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish," he said, "it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo."
Agreed: there are always trade-offs in foreign policy between pushing moral or political changes of this radical and security concerns. No foreign policy, not even that of a super-power with full-fledged presidential commitment to a democratic line, can push ideological concerns --- however admirable --- to the top of its priority-agenda . . . not always anyway. The follow-up then has to be monitored, and any analysis has to be above bipartisan and other political bickering. That said, let's agree on something else: a huge sea-change in US policies toward the Arab world has been announced, complete with specific criticisms of the Egyptian and Saudi governments. And so far the follow-up is impressive:
1. Secretary of State Colin Powell directed even more vocal criticisms at the Putin Russian government's violation of human rights --- including free expression in a country's media --- when he visited Moscow last month. His criticisms, note, were not confined to chummy tête-à-tête chats with Putin, then leaked to the US press. He made them openly in a press conference in Moscow, where the representatives of the Russian media were fully present.
2. More important still, the Bush administration --- according to the Washington Post earlier this month (February 2004) --- a concrete set of proposals in the pipeline that will be made public at a forthcoming G-8 summit meeting of the US, Japan, the big EU countries, and Russia this June. It is a fully detailed plan, still being worked on, to promote democratic change throughout not just the Arab world, but all of Islam . . . including the Islamic countries of S.E. Asia.
Needless to say, almost all the EU governments consulted so far are skeptical. They worry, as always, it seems, about any changes in the diplomatic status quo. For the concreted differences, see the Washington Post article.
Theme Two: The EU Media and Intellectual Circles
Is the analysis in the last few paragraphs an exaggeration, even excluding (as noted in the sidebar clarification) Britain, Holland, and the three Scandinavian countries in the EU . . . at any rate when it comes to the media and hot-air diplomacy of the worst moneybags motives?
The answer: not by much . . . not when the major correspondents of German newspaper and TV media in this country admit, as they did at a Harvard-sponsored symposium
last fall, that they can't report on American news --- domestic or foreign policy --- in any fair professional manner. Their editors and readers back home won't tolerate it. Americans are stupid clodhoppers, greedy capitalists, and rapacious clumsy policymakers in foreign affairs . . . lacking in what the Germans would call Fingerspritzengefuehl
. . . tact and subtlety (literally, light-fingered feeling or intuition --- naturally of the sort that worked wonders in Europe before WWII). That, at any rate, is what the German readers and editors back home want to hear. And that is what they get.
Does anyone think it's better in French media reporting? In case you do, go to this interview with a French media specialist
, the author of Guerre à outrances: Comment la presse nous a désinformés sur l'Irak
. . . War of Wor[l]ds: How the [French] Press Lied about Iraq.
As he notes at the outset,
My book is based on articles published in 5 major French newspapers--Le Monde, La Croix, Le Figaro, Libération, Ouest-France—during the three week period from the beginning of the war on March 20th to the fall of Baghdad on April 9th. I studied the way these papers covered the war and I concluded that they misinformed their readers. As a result, readers couldn't understand how the Iraqi regime fell in three weeks. I think this misinformation can be explained by an extraordinary atmosphere of nationalism in France at that time, following on the diplomatic crisis in which France and Germany stood against the US and Great Britain. French people were unanimous on three points: they demonized the Bush and Blair administrations, approved the diplomatic line of Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, and communed with the pacifist movement. And journalists reported the war they would like to see rather than the war that was.
Two or three days after the operation began a few Americans were captured, wounded, or killed in action, and five days into the campaign the press was already talking about a quagmire, then about Vietnam. They said the Pentagon's plan was wrong, there weren't enough soldiers, the military equipment was too sophisticated for this kind of campaign and the Americans were stuck 80 km from Baghdad. Some said it would take weeks, months, some said they wouldn't start moving toward Baghdad before the summer. Of course what happened is that the Americans were at the gates of Baghdad by the 2nd or 3rd of April. The French press didn't explain why this happened; they began to announce that the battle of Baghdad would be a new Stalingrad. And of course that didn't happen either. After a few little raids in the city Saddam Hussein's regime fell. Journalists didn't explain why they had made those prophecies and announcements, and why it happened another way. They said the worst is ahead . . . .
Theme Three: To Generalize More Ambitiously about the EU Media
As the buggy professor has repeatedly argued in several articles
full of documented evidence, the EU media on the Continent are noticeably politicized and full of post-modern radical orthodoxies of an ideological sort. Age-wise, the editors are largely former student radicals of the 1960s and early 1970s generation; so are the reporters. Both groups are full of disillusion or angry resentment, especially as one utopian illusion of theirs after another --- full-blooded socialism, a halt to globalizing capitalism, the inevitable collapse of American "casino-capitalism," the mighty moral force of the European welfare state (properly radicalized), the emergence of global harmony and peace administered by the UN and the EU, or what have you --- has been punctured by slambang collisions with reality, over and again. The outcome? Easy enough to say. If, historically viewed, the levels of journalistic professionalism almost everywhere on the West European Continent were shaky and marred by make-believe reportage --- splash-full of the ideological lines dictated by their newspaper owners (Communist, Socialist, Anarchist, Reactionary, Fascist, ardent Clerical Catholicism, militant Radicalism, on and on) --- those levels have tumbled further, since 1990, into a twilight zone of bias and blatant nagging incompetence, with further built-in biases against Israel, the US, globalizing forces, Jews, and other pc-hobgoblins of the moment.
The exceptions in Germany, France, and Italy --- whose media the buggy prof looks at --- can be counted on one hand.
Elsewhere in the EU
Is it better in Holland or Scandinavia? The buggy prof cannot say. He can say this: a former Dutch student of his, now at Oxford, wrote shortly after Pim Fortuyn's assassination by a vegetarian zealot that he now agreed with my assessment about the EU media as it applied to the Dutch media. Beyond that, any readers with knowledge of Dutch or Scandinavia media reportage are invited to reply and enlighten us one way or another.
Yes, the levels of professional journalism are somewhat better there . . . thanks to a handful of big exceptions in London: in particular, the always admirable Economist
and Financial Times
, plus to an extent the London Times
despite its Robert Murdoch ownership. There's also the Daily Telegraph
, a citadel of vocal conservatism of the sort not found on the Continent, but little more in its journalistic standards than the mirror-image of the embittered pc-left-wing media. Come to that, even the left-wing Guardian
still shows some flicker of British fair-play, once a renown national tradition, by opening up its editorializing reportage now and then to editorializing reporters who dissent from the pc-pieties of the day. Then there's the BBC. Now openly discredited by its ideological thrusts of the last decade or so, plus make-up-your-facts journalism and endless assaults on the government-of-the-day --- both fully brought to light recently, summarized as "punk journalism" by a Guardian
reporter ---- it's finally undergoing a purge of sorts top-down . . . the worst crisis in its 82 year history, according to one British specialist. Notice the top-down direction of the purge. It's materializing only because of the revelations in the Lord Hutton report --- a credit to British politics --- about how the BBC reports on the Blair government and British intelligence over Iraq had turned into editorializing hyperbole and mean-mindedness. [For a good, up-to-date survey of the BBC's self-created plight, see this article
The New York Times
Now consider this example, back here in the US. The editorial heavy-handedness and ideological pitch at the New York Times
after new leadership took over late in the Clinton era led to reforms in a noticeably different manner, thanks to a revolt of its thousand-plus journalists: last spring, they demanded a meeting at a huge auditorium, voiced their documented grievances as professionals, brought out these grievances for display in the rest of the media, and quickly forced big changes at the top. This, in good American fashion, was bottom-up reform. That doesn't happen in the EU, not even in Britain.
But note: at least the BBC is being reformed. Not so for France's most prestigious paper, Le Monde
. Last year, for the umpteenth time in its 60 year history, new in-house scandals of its journalistic machinations erupted into public limelight when one of its reporters --- sick-to-the-stomach with the paper's ideological hectoring in the guise of reportage --- revealed all the sordid stuff to some fellow journalists elsewhere, and they in turn published a book. How did Le Monde's
top editors react? Predictably, they followed age-old French fashions for dealing with such dirty-tricks misbehavior when the lid over them is blown open: they denied any wrong-doing, claimed they're the victims of a nefarious conspiracy, and have tried to launch a suit for libel.
Part Four: US AND EU MILITARY SPENDING AND MAKE-BELIEVE POWER
Right now, US military spending is about 4% of GDP, almost $400 billion annually. The total in the West European NATO countries is less than a third of that.
Two years ago, when the EU Rapid Reaction Force was supposed to begin operation, the military leadership in both France and Britain warned that they didn't have enough men and material to fulfill their commitment. The German government outdid both. Committed to supplying 20,000 of the theoretical EU 60,000 RRF --- capable, it was said with the same self-deluding rhetoric at Nice, France, operating on its own for two months anywhere in the world --- it announced that it would take a little while for its military to live up to that commitment. Meaning? Oh, just 12-15 years . . . what the heck. Wait though. Cleverness in certain EU countries has come to the rescue. Last year, with the usual lip-smacking solemnity, the governments of Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland --- with a Finnish contribution --- assured the world this time they really mean business and a fully operational EU military force ready to fight somewhere besides Disneyland in Paris was now rushing through the pipeline. When, then, would it actually shoot out the end onto terra-firma and impress the world's dictators, terrorists, and Pentagon-idiots with its head-spinning capabilities?
Well, no firm date was announced. Probably before the next Y-2 millennial scare though.
And note. Say what you want about French diplomacy and hypocrisy, its government has at least broken with the EU downward trend in defense spending and slightly increased its own spending. Germany, by contrast, is a case-study all its own, a military basket-case even as its government takes on a new lip-smacking EU commitment. Right now, at less than 1.2% of GDP, its defense spending is so low that most of its troops don't have modern assault rifles, and morale in the professional officer corps has almost collapsed, droves of them resigning even if no alternative employment is available.
Odd about the Germans here.
Historically viewed, they either are the most militaristic country in modern Europe and threat to everyone else or now the most pacifist. You'd think there'd be some middle way for a democratic country to compromise on, wouldn't you? But then the media, the intellectual classes, almost all the left-wing parties, university faculties, and the clergy in that country are convinced in huge number, it seems, that the era of good-will, global harmony, and even peace would prevail --- with, of course, as a supplemental crutch, a little multilateral chattering as at EU Summit Meetings with this vicious dictator or that vicious terrorist leadership --- were it not for aggressive American capitalism and idiocy along with Tony Blair's obsequious lapdog role.
Apropos of all this flip-flopping, Winston Churchill once quipped that the Germans were either at your throat or at your feet. Amusing, no? And probably accurate before 1945.
Since then, that quip doesn't apply to its democratic political system these days; not fully. Still, you're left wondering whether the cultural traditions of excessive ideological and intellectual extremism --- whatever its substance --- have been entirely overcome. And you wonder more precisely how, even given the demagogy and anti-American tom-tom played by Gerhard Schroeder that won him the 2002 German parliamentary election, the government in Berlin can reconcile its new found love-affair for UN Security Council approval to make war and its enthusiastic participation in the Kosovo war of 1999. In that war, no Security Council approval was sought beyond the initial American trial-balloon. Small wonder. It soon turned out that China and Russia, adamantly opposed to any war, would use their veto power. Did that discourage the Schroeder government? Did it insist on six more months at the Security Council --- or possibly six more years --- to persuade Moscow and Beijing to see things differently? The question answers itself. Not only was the Schroeder government not deterred in its support for war with Yugoslavia, it actually sent German troops into battle for the first time since 1945. Imagine. Four years later, we have a very different sort of behavior. The very same coalition in power not only demanded that the US and UK get Security Council approval to implement 16 Security Council resolutions flouted pompously by the blood-soaked Saddamite regime in Baghdad, it went further and insisted that Germany wouldn't support a war with Saddamite Iraq even if --- please note --- the Security Council approved it in a new vote.
Can we make sense of this? Well, possibly --- conceivably --- there might be some consistent logic concealed in this topsy-turvy diplomatic behavior, hidden from ordinary mortal eyes and woefully inadequate brainpower on this side of the Atlantic . . . at any rate, above and beyond a mixture of self-serving hypocrisy, demagogy, and self-delusion; if so, please inform the buggy site, and Prof Bug promises, with lip-smacking solemnity, that he will instantly buzz-buzz the news near and far . . . yes, very far --- way out into the creepy, ink-dark reaches of interstellar cyberspace.
Part Five: SO WHERE DOES THE DOMINANT EU DIPLOMATIC STYLE LEAVE WEST EUROPE?
The simplest response --- and a fairly accurate, straightforward one --- is unveiled in a London Guardian article
today. It's entitled, "Europe has lost its leverage in all the places that matter: The EU's star is faint in America, Russia and the Middle East"
. No need for buggy analysis. The title alone is revealing enough.
Postscript Remark, Added late on Feb. 21, 2004.
For another outstanding, no-holds-barred British article on the vacuous hot-air pantomime that marks most EU diplomacy these days, recall this article from The Scotsman
that was mentioned earlier in the buggy commentary here. Note that it appears on that paper's editorial page, so its hard-hitting opinions are fully legitimate.
The op-ed writer focuses on the latest unofficial EU Summit Meeting --- denounced by all the rest of the EU member countries as high-handed and illegitimate, an effort to side-step their roles in the EU --- of the French, German, and British governments. Nothing of importance came out of the meeting earlier this week. The only concrete measure of agreement, besides the usual call for more commissions and studies as a substitute for policymaking initiatives to deal with major problems and challenges that overhang the EU's future, was an agreement between Chirac and Schroeder on letting French restaurants get away with their demands that they not be subject to the increase in EU value-added-taxes on their meals --- which requires the approval of a qualified majority in the EU Council of Ministers anyway. Was that worth while further antagonizing all the other EU governments, to say nothing of the 10 joining this year?