Thursday, July 29, 2004

Europe and America reversed

Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune, reporting the start of the Democratic Convention in Boston, carried a big headline on its front page: "In Europe, passionate cheering for Kerry". "Really?" – I thought. – "Says who?" Well, says Timothy Garton Ash, Director of the European Studies Centre at Oxford and a leading perestroika europhile.

According to him Bush’s perceived unilateralist approach to international affairs has caused a "wrenching confrontation" between Europe and America, has plunged the world into crisis and made this election "formative" for the world.

May we suggest that Garton Ash, a supposed expert in the subject of European history (wot dat?) actually reads The Great Deception, as well as a few other pieces, including some on this blog, that show detailed evidence that one of the aims of the European integration and, particularly, of the common foreign and security policy has been a wrench between America and Europe (or, to be quite precise, the European Union as envisaged largely by French politicians)?

It might also be useful for Garton Ash and his colleagues and co-thinkers to acknowledge that more European countries supported the war in Iraq than opposed it and to look a little more closely at the motivation of those who stubbornly refused to see that there might be a problem with Saddam Hussein.

We have, of course, been here before. Or, rather, the American people have, since, no matter what Garton Ash and his like think, it is Americans who elect an American President, not some international cabal of the great and the good.

When it first became obvious that John Kerry would be the most likely Democratic candidate, he announced that he had had various assurances from leaders of many countries that they wanted to see him as President instead of the terrible Bush. When challenged by the understandably curious media to produce names and evidence, Kerry retreated.

So, who else is passionate about John Kerry (a most unlikely state of affairs, but let that pass)? Well, there is an unnamed West European diplomat in Washington, who is quoted by the Trib in the article that is reprinted from the Boston Globe:

There will be a sense of relief in Europe if Kerry is elected. He has a very different style than Bush [sic], and a very different instinct as an internationalist.

And in diplomacy, style is substance.The foreign policy establishment in the Democratic Party is not substantively different from that of the Republicans, certainly not in the Middle East. But with Kerry the feeling is that there will at least be a dialogue, an attempt at understanding.

This is actually much more revealing than Garton Ash’s grandiose waffle. No wonder the diplomat refused to be named.

It might be a good idea for all those perestroika europhiles, who think that one reason the EU is not going the way they think it should be going is American intransigeance, to remember that there are unlikely to be many changes in American foreign policy after the election, whichever way it goes. As far as the Americans are concerned, the issue is not foreign policy or international relations but the fight against terror, and in that it is substance that matters, even if style is the most important aspect of diplomatic dinners.

Interestingly, the article does not quote any of the Europeans who are going to be anti-American, no matter what, or any of those who are basically supportive, while perhaps diverging on details, of the war against terror. But we do get a few statements from that other great perestroika europhile institution, the Centre for European Reform.

What all these grand intellectuals demonstrate is a certain lack of understanding of real, as opposed, to seminar politics. They have not noticed, for instance, that Kerry's great weakness, as far as the American electorate is concerned, is his attitude to the war either against terror in general, or in Iraq, in particular. He has flip-flopped as political expediency dictated and has not come up with any coherent strategy.

On the other hand, there is a great deal of indication that what matters to Americans, as to all other people in all other countries, is domestic policy, in particular the economy and whether the upswing will continue. Bush is relying on that, while Kerry is trying to discount it, and Edwards makes mawkish speeches about poor little girls without winter coats (name and geographic position of little girl unspecified).

Those Europeans who are, supposedly, passionate about Kerry seem not to have noticed that he and Edwards are campaigning on a largely protectionist ticket. This plays well in some parts of the country, though they might find it hard going in those states, which rely on international trade.

The point is that far from being internationalist in his views, Kerry seems to be intent on cutting down imports, banning foreign investment and foreign expansion of American firms. Most probably, he will not succeed, even if he is elected, or will give up all those ideas, as Clinton did. But if he is elected and if he does turn his electoral promises into policies, there will be trade wars, the American economic upswing will stall and with it, any hope for an end to the extended recession in the world.

Possibly, Kerry will accompany it all with Clintonesque touchy-feely rhetoric, though it will come rather oddly from a man who has been compared unfavourably to Herman Munster. But his "passionate" European fans ought not let their hearts rule their heads.

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