September 29, 2004

No Kerry Honeymoon in Old Europe

Or, at least, not one with any real legs to speak of:

A participant on the sidelines of talks in Berlin between Chancellor Gerhard Schršder and Richard Holbrooke, a would-be secretary of state in a John Kerry presidency, told a story about the meeting and the theme of how a Kerry-friendly Europe would leap to America's aid in bringing stability to Iraq. (Or maybe hide under the bed.)

"Schršder," the American said, "asked Holbrooke what Kerry would do if he were elected. Holbrooke replied one of the first things would be to get on the phone and invite him and President Jacques Chirac to the White House. The chancellor laughed out loud. Then he said, 'That's what I was afraid of.'"

The participant recalled the moment as very jolly. Everybody in the chancellor's office, including Holbrooke, a former ambassador to Germany, joined in the chuckles.

That was in June, when the subject was still handled elliptically. Early in September, a German official, asked privately by a visitor if Kerry's claim of good relations with Europe could get him a German military presence in Iraq, stifled a guffaw; an explicit response, but wordless, and difficult to transcribe.

Read the whole thing. It's pretty damning.

(FYI, I'm on the road--blogging may be intermittent over next few days).

Posted by Gregory at September 29, 2004 02:59 AM

I'm not really an admirer of President Chirac, Chancellor Schroeder, or Prime Minister Zapatero.

On the other hand, I'm quite surprised at the outright hostility many Americans (including some posting comments on this website) feel towards "Europe".

First of all, many European countries, including Britain, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Romania, Denmark, Ukraine and others, have troops in Iraq. Shouldn't the U.S. be grateful to "Europe" for its assistance in the Iraq endeavor?

As for France and Germany, neither country will send any troops to Iraq, as is well know, but these countries are still U.S. allies, and each of these countries has troops in Afghanistan.

I'm not in favor of weakening or disbanding NATO. Regardless of our disagreements, Europe and the United States are natural allies. We share cultural heritage (not in my case, perhaps, but in the case of most Americans) and most importantly, liberal democratic ideals.

I'm puzzled by the idea of a European challenge to American "hyperpower", and I'm also puzzled by American fears of European integration -- Europe and the U.S. are, and ought to be, on the same side.

Posted by: Arjun at September 29, 2004 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kerry's performance is shades of Jimmy Carter. No wonder Helmut Schmidt detested that little weasel and that the allies were unanimous in wanting to see him trounced in 1980.

Note to Hubert Vedrine: we understand your game well enough. Above all we recognize that your nation's hand is getting steadily weaker. Third way in the middle east? More like taking the other side. There is no "third way" regarding the fascists in Iran or elsewhere.

Btw, Arjun, what annoys Americans today is the prospect of the French running around the middle east, telling every jihadist, ba'athist, and pan-arabist or other thug that France opposes America and is actually on their side. Or the sight of the French selling advanced weapons to China, which will in turn share military technology or weapons with nightmare states like Syria. Or the sight of France signing sweetheart multi-billion $$ oil deals with Saddam (W. Qurna, Nov 2002) in violation of UNSC sanctions.

This growing hostility has nothing to do with EU expansion or further integration and everything to do with the fact that France in the middle east is not on our side.

To be frank, as regards Iran, Blair's government too is undermining our efforts to thwart the nuclearization of Iran.

There is a clear and growing divergence of perceived interests in that part of the world as regards us and the Europeans, and NATO will not overcome this. The notion of "the West" as a coherent entity that can and will attack and destroy islamist fascists does not exist. NATO's pretty much useless outside of Afghanistan, and even there it's not worth much.

Posted by: lex at September 29, 2004 10:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't think you have to worry about any President Kerry. Check the internals of the ABC/WaPo poll on the "Commentary" sidelink of

Posted by: exguru at September 30, 2004 10:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My wife doesn't understand why anyone would want to read my opinions, and I must admit, she's got a point. But it's been fun commenting on this wonderful weblog.

As a "parting shot", I'd like to say that although the U.S. is the best country in the world, we cannot and should not "go it alone". Allies are immensely important, especially given the immense difficult of America's tasks. The U.S. ought to have enough patience, enough humility, enough diplomatic "sensitivity" to listen to and work with its allies.

These good qualities are in short supply in the Bush Administration, which is why I wanted to vote for Mr. Kerry. Unfortunately, I see no guarantee that electing Mr. Kerry will lead to a resurgence of multilateralism and diplomacy. On the contrary, as far as I can tell, Mr. Kerry has never expressed an iota of gratitude to leaders who continue to stand with the U.S. I don't take such allies for granted, and neither should Mr. Kerry.

Posted by: Arjun at October 1, 2004 01:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Are you really sure that it was the Bush administration's diplomacy that was fault? What about the Europeans? For example, wasn't Schroeder being undiplomatic when he ran on an anti-American platform in the 2002 elections? I would suggest that the Bush administration turned sour on Germany and France because of what they were doing.

Posted by: ATM at October 2, 2004 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Posted by: pai gow at October 8, 2004 07:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Damn! I must be the worst flip-flopper in the world! I still think my wife was right (my opinion is not worth reading) and I really did intend to cease making comments on the "internets", but I just can't resist the temptation to bore people!

(Did anyone see Mira Nair's Vanity Fair? I'm like that guy who keeps trying to find someone to listen to his latest dull "treatise"!)

Posted by: Arjun at October 10, 2004 11:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I really hope B. D. will eventually find the time to read Matt Bai's article in today's New York Times Magazine about Senator Kerry's foreign policy vision. This is because I haven't yet seen any interesting commentary on that article.

From one side, I hear that the article proves that John Kerry is an incredible genius who will achieve peace on earth within the first 100 days. From the other side, I hear that the article proves that John Kerry doesn't understand the need for the U.S. to wage war against all Arabs and all Muslims in the entire world.

To me, the Matt Bai article is interesting because it offers a glimpse at Mr. Kerry's opinion about democracy promotion.

After careful consideration of personal familial repercussions (i.e., if I don't vote for Mr. Kerry, no one in my entire family will ever speak to me again) I think I'd better vote for Mr. Kerry. (Er, the issues are important, too.)

Mr. Kerry obviously believes in democracy. However, I don't believe that Mr. Kerry believes in democracy promotion as a strategy in the war on al Qaeda terrorism. This is illustrated, I believe, by Matt Bai's article.

John Kerry favors the approach Richard Kerry would have favored: skillful diplomacy in order to enhance U.S. security by preventing terrorist attacks through improved international cooperation on law enforcement. There's something to be said for this "realistic" approach, obviously -- terrorist attacks on the U.S. ought to be prevented by any means necessary.

Still (and here is where I begin to resemble that silly man with his treatises) shouldn't the U.S. fight terrorism by transforming the entire world, with vigorous promotion of economic prosperity and political liberty?

I want Muslims to "just say no" to radical fundamentalist terrorism, but don't Muslims deserve something to say "yes" to? Won't development and democracy allow Arab Muslims, for example, to reclaim the richness of Arab culture, including Islamic aspects of Arab culture?

Yes, I realize that most Americans advocating democracy promotion for the broader Middle East are not as Arabophilic or Islamophilic as I am. Still, I don't see any contradiction in my position. I'm pro-Arab and pro-Muslim; therefore, I believe that Arabs and Muslims deserve liberal democracy instead of despotism.

Posted by: Arjun at October 10, 2004 11:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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