Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Transatlantic disposition and the gang rape"Summit"

In today's edition of The Wall Street Journal's, Victor David Hanson takes a hawkish American view of this weeks trans-atlantic tango. It was just what one would guess it would be: Mr. Bush versus a hive of national leaders, each with their own political problem, and accomodations to accept.

Since The United States' position is known, the only unpredictable element is what for the Europe's emotional disposition will appear to be. What face do they have to present the population of this dark cloud, the multi-headed political non-entity of the EU?

That Europe's "big dogs" get to choose from a multitude of their own platforms where they are double represented does not make it any easier to take them seriously. Are they speaking as a NATO member, and EU member, on behalf of the EU, or on their own this week? Or as one of their two UNSC seats?

This must be their idea of a multi-purpose weapons platform. What isn't obvious in this weeks media hubabaloo is the complexity of the American approach.

Writes Hanson:

Recent books have raved that the European Union is the way of the future. In contrast, a supposedly exhausted, broke and postimperial United States chases the terrorist chimera, running up debts and deficits as it tilts at the autocratic windmills of the Arab World.

That caricature framed the visit of the president to Europe as trans-Atlantic pundits demanded a softer George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Stop the childish bickering and the tiresome neocon preening, we are lectured ad nauseam by Euro and American elites. Don't divide Europe, we hear endlessly. Even though the European press, EU leaders, and their wild public have dealt out far more invective than they have received, American circumspection is the order of the day, the expected magnanimity from the more aggressive (and stronger) partner.

The adage goes that the European Union counts on a more sophisticated and nuanced "soft power." In reality, that translates to using transnational organizations and its own economic clout to soothe or buy off potential adversaries, while a formidable cultural engine dresses it all up in high sounding platitudes of internationalism and multilateralism. Everything from idly watching Milosevic and the Hutus butcher unchecked to unilateral intervention in the Ivory Coast or no action in Darfur usually finds either the proper humanitarian exegesis or the culpable American bogeyman. Yet contrary to the mythologies of Michael Moore and the high talk of Kyoto, most of the international sins of the recent age--selling a reactor to Saddam, setting up a new arms market in China, whitewashing Hezbollah, or subsidizing Hamas--were the work of European avatars of peace.

Such opportunism and its accompanying rhetoric were also predicated on the convenient specter of the bad-cop America. We all knew the fall-guy script: Try as they might, the more sober Europeans could still fail to
restrain reckless Americans--or so they used to warn everyone from Saddam to the mullahs, especially more recently in the case of scary George, smoke-'em-out, Bush. Deal with, or buy from, a sane France or Germany now--or run for cover from the crazy Americans later. When the Europeans did occasionally intervene from Kosovo to the Ivory Coast, there was usually an American supply ship or C-130 somewhere to be found in the shadows.

After September 11 all that one-sided way of doing business is in jeopardy, well aside from eroding American public support for either bases in Western Europe or NATO itself. George Bush turned out to be not just a bombs-away Texan, but a visionary of the Woodrow Wilson and FDR stripe, who risked his re-election, the American economy, world oil markets, and his entire legislative agenda on spreading democracy throughout the Middle East, well beyond the wildest dreams of any European utopian.
Hanson also identified something which in the U.S. feels quite real and is presently welling up - american emotional exhaustion in dealing with Europe:

What happens if a newly aroused United States takes seriously the anti-American rhetoric of the European masses and media rather than the triangulating reassurances of their diplomats? Our elites may lament being cold-shouldered on their hajj to European Oz; yet red-state America is no longer afraid of the suave wizard's booming voice and image on the big screen, but instead has spied out the tiny functionary with his ridiculous levers and dials behind the curtain at the side.

Such a rapprochement can work only with a candid United States willing to drop both the obsequious praise of Europe's vaunted Third Way and the bluster of Euro-trashing. ...the removal of Milosevic, and the liberation of Afghanistan--the U.S. took the lead in near unilateral fashion under the cover of acting soberly under paternal European guidance? Dishonest, yes; sustainable, hardly.

So we are in a dilemma. Until postmodern Europe rightly assumes a role commensurate with its moral rhetoric, population, and economic strength, out of envy or pride it will often seek to undercut and occasionally embarrass the U.S. ...So go to it, Europe--one voice, one army, one U.N. Security Council seat!
So there we are. I think he sums it all up quite nicely. We are hardly any further along before the "summit" - no worse for the wear, and only slightly less confused about intentions. The opportunity to show either some moral bravery, or a clear explanation of their past position or future intnetions were completely missed.

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