May 30, 2003

Evian Watch So, how is

Evian Watch

So, how is this G-8 summit going to go? Timothy Garton Ash sees the Evian summit occuring during a historical pivot point in U.S.-Euro relations. His two key questions, one for each party to the relationship:

"Asked to characterize Washington's current approach to Europe, a senior State Department official recently responded with one word: "disaggregation." That means favoring some countries, like Poland, and punishing others, like France. Or, as the Romans used to put it, "divide et impera," divide and rule. Today, with a single hyperpower and a larger, more complex Europe, the United States could certainly go on pursuing this classic imperial strategy. The question is, does it want to? [my emphasis, see below for some thoughts on this] Is it consonant with the values, history and habits of cooperation that Europe and America share? Is it in the United States' own long-term national interest, when the West as a whole faces such major challenges, in the Middle East and elsewhere?

Yet Europe also has to answer a hard question, and answer it frankly. Does it want to be a partner or a rival to the United States? There has always been a strong tradition in the mainstream of European integration, the Gaullist tradition, which saw a strong Europe, in close partnership with Russia, as a counterbalance to the hegemony of "les Anglo-Saxons." In the Iraq crisis, aided by a weak and confused German leadership, Jacques Chirac produced a crude, reach-me-down version of this Gaullist vision, in the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis of refusal. But there are deeper forces pushing in this direction too."

Meanwhile, the WaPo notes that Bush is issuing conciliatory statements regarding France (the French Embassy rushed to release excerpts of the statement even before the White House did), and the NYT (predictably) provides a gloomier dispatch regarding U.S.-E.U. relations.

Also, in the FT, Kemal Dervis, the former Turkish Foreign Minister, tries to walk a fine line between Europe and the U.S. offering advice on how to resucitate the transatlantic relationship in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 era.

Oh, and don't miss Dominique's post-Riyadh bombing missive to Colin Powell.

Highlights from the WaPo article:

"I'm not mad," Bush said in a French television interview yesterday. "I mean, I'm disappointed and the American people are disappointed" over France's successful efforts this spring to prevent the United Nations from authorizing the U.S. war against Iraq. Asked if he would forgive France, Bush said, "Sure."

....But Bush seemed to go out of his way yesterday to describe the dispute as over and done. "I can understand why some didn't agree with our policy in Iraq," he said, "but it's now time to move forward."

He said there are a number of ways the two countries could "work together to solve some really big problems," including assistance for Africa and the fight against HIV and AIDS. He complimented France "for joining in this fight against al Qaeda."

"The French intelligence service have been very good to work with," Bush said, "and we've shared intelligence, which has made France more secure and America more secure. And for that I'm grateful."

Given these Bush pronouncements, I think Ash's State Department source who described U.S. strategy towards Europe as one of "disaggregation" was being overly simplistic or hyperbolic. Some in conservative precincts have advocated a strategy of "cherry-picking" and the like and certainly many Rumsfeldian nationalist types probably want to punish the perfidious gang in Paris (and uber-pacifists in Germany) more severely while extending juicier carrots to varied precincts like Warsaw, Madrid and Bucharest.

But I'm getting the feeling that, while some necessary adjustments to U.S. relations with France are likely in the offing, nothing particularly draconian is in the air. The mood in Washington appears to be shifting to something along the lines of, let's put this very nasty spat behind us (though take some lessons from it going forward about the nature/extent of our alliance/friendship) and make stolid efforts to continue to cooperate in key areas like apprehension of al-Qaeda figures, AIDS, global economic policy and the like.

I believe, all told, that such magnanimity in victory is likely the best policy option at this juncture. As the unrivalled hyperpower, a little humility and forgiveness only enhances our power in the long term (and shows confidence) by quashing down some of the inevitable resentment of the hegemonic cowboys running roughshod through all the multilateral fora that has been painstakingly assembled in the post-WWII era (or so the disingenuous arguments go in Brussels Eurocrat quarters and Paris ministries).

All of this, of course, is contingent on France not really being hell-bent on folie de grandeur style resurrections of Gaullist projects. Also important, in this vein, that Euro-defense initiatives are designed to act as complements to NATO and not real rivals.

Note: Mea culpa on the last link--I, perhaps like some in Washington, was angrier at the French a month or two back than I am now. Is it just the passage of time, or does one sense a somewhat substantive rapprochement in the late spring air motivated by the confluence of mutual interests?

Posted by Gregory at May 30, 2003 08:08 AM
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