Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Vinocur III: Zapatero's Rewards for Rejoining "the Community of the Just" Are Hardly of the Earthly Kind

I remember very clearly what a Spanish socialist party official said prior to the bombings in Madrid, when it seemed clear that José Maria Aznar would win the Spanish elections. What had Spain gotten from its role alongside Uncle Sam and Britain? Miguel Angel Moratinos (Madrid's future foreign minister) asked rhetorically. His own answer: "We've gotten nothing."

Anytime a national leader follows U.S. policy (whether it's Blair, Berlusconi, or whoever), it seems that opponents always ask what good the nation got out of it, suggesting that whatever the case might be, it is nothing or at least nothing tangible. The implication is that U.S. leaders are a criminal lot, or that their policies are at best misguided, and anybody following them have sold out (hence, the ubiquitous poodle/vassal charge).

As it happens, one country did get something out of its support, and although it may not seem like much, it — along with the simple knowledge of living up to one's obligations to one's friends (i.e., fraternal nations) and being in the right along with them — fills some Danish hearts with pride (albeit of the quiet kind).

What nobody ever seems to ask is what leaders who follow those opposed to Uncle Sam get out of that.

Still, the International Herald Tribune's John Vinocur provides an answer in his weekly Politicus column (which will probably start becoming a mainstay on this weblog).
The detoxed Spain of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, it was pledged, was going to rush back into the family-like warmth of the European Union, and rush home its troops from Iraq. In a whoosh, it would rejoin the community of the just, and end what the new Socialist government called the country's miscast role as superpower-adjunct of the Americans.

Promise keepers, the new guys did what they said they would in their first full week on the job. For which they got something short of an international standing ovation.

The big hello from Europe on Thursday in Luxembourg was an EU decision that overrode the self-characterized Good Spain's vote in favor of subsidies and blocked scores of millions of euros in potential payments to support Spanish production of cotton, tobacco and olive oil.

The big embrace from the forces of global moral leadership was mostly silence — and a statement from the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace saying it did not share the thinking behind the new Spanish government's decision to begin immediate withdrawal of its troops from Iraq.

The big show of understanding and solidarity from John Kerry, the man Zapatero said he would go to America to campaign for, was a comment marking disapproval of the pullout and noting that European countries with a view on Iraq needed to share in the risks and burdens of its stabilization. For good measure, if the difference between U.S. Democrats and Zapatero Socialists wasn't clear, the Democratic candidate for president described Israeli attacks on Hamas leaders as justified.

Beyond Spain's borders, for all the government's rhetoric and its lionizing by Spain's leftist press, there was no novice's state-of-grace for Zapatero. Instead, his government learned of its non-hero status in cash-conscious EU give-and-take, and seemed at least to some to fall over itself in haste to get out of Iraq before the United Nations might complicate its cover story for not staying.

Interestingly, it fell to the Vatican to point out first in Europe one of the troubling things about Zapatero's withdrawal. While Germany, which clearly did not approve, chose the coldness of declining to speak to the issue at all, Renato Cardinal Martino, president of the peace council, commented, "The new Spanish government is trying to keep its electoral promises, but there's a time for fulfilling them."

No stooge of the Americans, having accused them of humiliating treatment of Saddam Hussein after his capture, the cardinal insisted that leaving Iraq implied abandoning it to civil war, and possibly to an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Then he stuck the needle in. He said, "It isn't wise to rush the United Nations, knowing that it won't assume its responsibilities for the Iraqi situation before June 30."

That appeared to be exactly the Zapatero government's problem. A diplomat who served for four years in Spain said that it appeared the UN Security Council would pass an enabling resolution, that it would get a key role in Iraq, and that Spain saw an onrushing embarrassment in the new circumstances because they resemble those Zapatero set out for his troops to stay on — UN political and security control of Iraq after June 30.

Indeed, Zapatero's pullout announcement came on April 18, a Sunday. Two days before, the UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, had unveiled a plan to establish a caretaker government to replace the Iraqi governing council. ...

Although they are no longer talking the same language, Kerry and Zapatero appeared to get snarled in the same predicament: George W. Bush's new willingness to offload large parts of the United States' burdens to the United Nations.

For Kerry, this pre-empted a chunk of his argument that the best means for America to deal with Iraq is through internationalization. For Zapatero, it forced him to keep an election pledge in a way that raised questions about how acute Good Spain's sense of responsibility was going to be as an international grown-up.

As for the Bush Administration, according to another diplomat, it told Zapatero's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, that the decision to withdraw was a blunder. The language actually may have been harsher. In a dispatch from Washington on Sunday, Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, foreign editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that congressmen he spoke to last week regarded Zapatero as a modern day Neville Chamberlain.
Zapatero, you silly afrancesado. Don't you realize that the reward for being in the ranks of the just is exactly that? Being in the ranks of the just.

There is no reward for following Paris and Berlin. Being
el caniche de Chiraque is reward enough in itself! It is reward enough to know that you are as naturally intelligent, as naturally peaceful, as naturallement solidaire, as naturallement lucide, as naturally humanistic, and as naturally filled with wisdom as the French lovers of peace.

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