November 03, 2004

Bush's Re-election, the Transatlantic Divide, and Related Musings

There are times in commercial transactions when the deposit money put down by the prospective purchaser is said to have gone "hard", ie. your due diligence and other outs have expired, and you're on the hook for your full deposit--even if you don't ultimately pull the trigger and close the deal. Today was the day Robert Kagan's thesis about Europeans from Venus and Americans from Mars went "hard."

A brief explanation. Doubtless, of course, the broad, European masses in France, Germany, Spain and (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in my experience) Italy and the UK were hoping for a Kerry win. Bush's three post-9/11 years could then have simply been chalked up as some fearsome aberration. Sanity had returned to les Etas-Unis! A transatlantic rapprochement could proceed apace. Jean, Gerhard and Jacques would clink glasses and make nice nice. And so on. Instead come hard reckonings--especially on the European side of the pond. The American people, and quite decisively, have voted George Bush a second term. No Florida 2000 repeat here--despite the "echoes" of Florida the NYT espied in Ohio earlier today. Bush sizably won the popular vote, and similarly handily, the electoral college. Europe's hugely anti-Bush sentiment was therefore strongly rebuffed by the American electorate. A leader many Europeans view as a crusading, messianic, simpleton--indeed, a man they often view as representing a real danger to global order--has been re-elected with some enthusiasm by the world's leading democracy.

I don't sketch out these painful realities re: transatlantic discord with any happiness. The transatlantic alliance has been one of the most successful in history. And, note too, it is far from dead. Indeed, I would urge that we be more cautious in too frequently employing a 'cherry-picking' strategy of dividing Old and New Europe--at least if Old Europe is willing to shoulder more of its international responsibilities in a Bush II. Regardless, and as I've argued in this blog these past weeks, a Bush II will moderate some of its, shall we say, more Rummy-esque tendencies. As Aznar had once pleaded to Bush: "More Powell, less Rumsfeld." Specific figures and bureaucratic intrigues aside (of which, of course, much more at a later date), I trust the tenor of this Administration will take on at least some of Aznar's admonition in the months ahead.

After all, victory can be a humbling thing, as wise victors well know defeat can lie around the next corner. Thus better to dampen tendencies towards full-blown, chest-beating triumphalism. Put differently, Bush will not see this election as a vindication of all the excesses of his first term. Revolutionary zeal has abated somewhat, amidst the cold, hard realities of Iraq, and something of a Thermidor awaits (though an Iran crisis remains an unpredictable, and incendiary, variable in all this).

But make no mistake. A majority of Americans believe we are in something of an existential struggle with a radical jihadist foe that aims to massacre us, indiscriminately, however possible, and in as large numbers as possible. In the face of this, the electorate sought, despite its misgivings about elements of Bush's Iraq policy, a leader they believed would prove resolute in squarely staring down this threat. I believe, despite my suspicions of the 'moronic inferno' that can prove the large, brawling body politic--I believe in my head and heart there is a deep wisdom in the collective voice of the American people. Well, the American people have spoken--and their verdict was clear yesterday. They decided this post 9/11 era is a time for moral clarity and the robust prosecution of American interests on the international stage. And they are right.

Also, and in so doing so, they have reinforced Bob Kagan's famous words quoted below:

It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.

Contra Kagan, let me say I think we do "occupy the same world." We just see it very differently at this juncture. But a French intelligence agent knows well that a Salafist cell is worth tracking down and combatting as much as a guy at Langley does. But there are differences in approach, strategy, tactics, the willingness to use hard power, and so on--often starkly different ones. So while Kagan's language can ring a tad hyperbolic--he is certainly right that the American hyperpower and the Brussels Euro-cracy see the uses and employ of power in materially different terms today. Some of this, of course, stems from the horrors of 9/11. But memories have cooled some, and a lot has happened since the Towers fell. The American public was not in the grips of some mass hysteria yesterday--when they returned Dubya to power. They were, in the main and some in the evangelical wing aside, exercising their vote through the employ of their reason. They rightly perceive major threats continuing to gather on horizons near and far--and seek rock-ribbed conviction in seeing such perils through. Of course, the fact that the election was not fraught with mass hysteria only makes the Euro-American divide all the deeper, at least in the near term. (We will be returning to how to better broach the divide in the coming weeks here).

Bush must now act, if he seeks to move towards greatness, to unite the American people (and the world, hard as it is to imagine!) in his second term. This means, in my view, that he must begin to marshall all the resources of American power (hard and soft) in this struggle against radical jihadism. He must act with more subtlety, at times, but still with the strength and conviction that were the hallmarks of his stewardship of the Oval Office and which gained him a second term. But he must better realize that military action alone will not win this conflict. He must now move to resucitate the moribund peace process (especially with Arafat incapacitated), he must better explain America's intentions to the Arab and Muslim worlds, he must coax, cajole, badger and occasionally force the Saudis and Egyptians to democratize further--in organized and disciplined fashion--using economic reforms as an initial lever perhaps. But always, in all of this, the hard currency of American power cannot be doubted by our enemies. We will therefore need to soldier on, militarily, in Afghanistan and Iraq and perhaps points beyond. The road ahead is fraught with peril; but the rewards of peace and prosperity, however elusive they may seem today, remain great indeed. Tonight I congratulate President Bush and wish him godspeed during the inevitable crises that await him and this great nation in the four years ahead. "Here buildings fell and here a nation rose." Onwards!

UPDATE: Exhibit A.

Posted by Gregory at November 3, 2004 06:50 PM
Comments

Greg, dude, how do you pronounce your last name? How is one supposed to recommend your blog to others if we can't even pronounce your name?

Posted by: Curious at November 3, 2004 09:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a noble post, but I'd be surprised if Bush takes your suggestions. The evangelical wing is not so much a "wing" as it is The Republican Party. And they will demand their pound of flesh.

Posted by: praktike at November 3, 2004 09:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The following is an extract from an e-mail I sent to Oliver Kamm, and I'm too tired to reword it:

"Having taken the grand strategic decision to move from containment to pre-emption, I do hope the American government and military now think hard on what form the pre-emption should take. I was very much in favour of huge American forces being stationed in Iraq, not, alas, for the legal/humanitarian reasons you [Oliver Kamm] espouse so lucidly, but simply to make it easier for them to strike against threats from other countries in the area. Even for America, it is not going to be possible for them invade and hold down another nation but it can and should consider pin-point raids by air, sea and land. They should make it clear that notions of sovereignty are now in abeyance, and if they perceive a threat, they will scotch it at source. Terrorist HQs and training camps, and potential nuclear sites, should be dealt with on a hit and run basis with no attempt to hold territory – except Iraq. I have been very impressed with the Israeli tactic of pin-pointing Hamas leaders based on first class intelligence. That should be the model, I suggest."

Posted by: David Duff at November 3, 2004 09:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

curious:

heh.

the D is silent. so JE-RE-JIAN. the "JE" is pronounced as if you were starting to say Jersey, as in the state. The "RE" is like the beginning of Reagan. and then "JIAN" like, er, "gin".

does that help? it's quite a tongue-twister. alternately, B.D. might be an easier way to describe it...

Posted by: greg at November 3, 2004 09:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
A majority of Americans believe we are in something of an existential struggle with a radical jihadist foe that aims to massacre us, indiscriminately, however possible, and in as large numbers as possible. ... the electorate sought, despite its misgivings about elements of Bush's Iraq policy, a leader they believed would prove resolute in squarely staring down this threat.

The FMA also seemed to have been a mobilizing issue for Republican voters. Bush may see that as a mandate for an assertive social conservative agenda. It's going to be interesting to watch, from a safe distance. :)

Posted by: Ralf Goergens at November 3, 2004 10:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I sure hope you're right, but already early indications are that the Bush camp is viewing this as vindication, as a "mandate", as a "broad national victory." I don't see any evidence that they will dial back the extremism, except as dictated by the limiting factors of what has been laughingly called "reality" by some. As far as I can tell, they're prepared to drive us even harder in the direction they've been driving us already.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 3, 2004 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"He must now move to resucitate the moribund peace process (especially with Arafat incapacitated), "

I disagree nothing will happen until Arafat is dead. He can make noises to that regard but he must lay the groundwork of this by eliminating the diversion of aid funds to terrorist activity. The Palestinians must have their civil war and hopefully the native Palestinians will win out over the "Tunisia" crowd. The U.S. can't signal who we want to win because that person will die. Arafat will see to that.

Posted by: Jeff Schaeper at November 3, 2004 11:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

You wondered, in an aside, whether "Europe is willing to shoulder more of its international responsibilities in a Bush II." What conditions could make this happen? What activities or signals on whose part?

Posted by: Hovig at November 3, 2004 11:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

he must better explain America's intentions to the Arab and Muslim worlds

Well, I suppose he could say "your culture is a pathetic failure focused on accomplishments in the far distant past. You need to dump it and replace it with something capable of succeeding in the moder world. Your governments are pathetic dictatorships that suffocate your societies. They must be overthrown, and replaced with governments that allow individuals to succeed, rather than turning them into cripples that have lives empty of everything except for hatred of Jews and other foreigners."

But, while true, I don't think those comments would be very diplomatic, or successful. So I think he should stick with what he's currently saying, while working to reform them anyway.

As for "More Powell, less Rumsfield", Powell is the reason why we dicked around with the UN, and put emphasis on Saddam's WMDs. Less Powell, more Rumsfield, is a far better path. The UN is the home of the crooked, and the dictators. Screw it, and them.

Posted by: Greg D at November 4, 2004 12:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Powell is also the reason we attacked Afghanistan first. Were it not for him, we'd have gotten ourselves embroiled in Iraq, giving Osama far more time to prepare for an invasion of Afghanistan.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 4, 2004 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The europeans have had the luxury of the USA defending them for 60 years so naturally they think that self-defense is not necessary. They think the rougher elements of the world will gently cooperate with them after a little tea and cookies. Are they blind to the post-soviet chaos in the former ussr, and yugoslavia, or the post-colonial mayhem in africa, or the erupting chaos in the middle east (not the chaos caused by america but the chaos america is responding to.) There are gangsters and warlords everywhere in those regions. I think their citizens have been massaged into slumber by 60 years of welfare state and peace.

Posted by: jeff meyer at November 4, 2004 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's a simplistic hawk-dove analysis. Warfare, well-executed, is not simply a matter of deploying berzerkers everywhere (that was a failing of the Japanese Imperial Army) or mindlessly following aggressive battle plans (Napoleon and Hitler getting bogged down in Russia). You've got to be strong AND smart. Granted, the Europeans are too dovish, but there are many more alternatives than just mindless dovishness or mindless hawkishness.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 4, 2004 01:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

mitsu: Touche. You are right. But it is very hard to show all sides of an issue in one paragraph. And I am not the best writer.

Posted by: jeff meyer at November 4, 2004 01:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I neglected to mention the much aforementioned Cheney factor. Go read Cheney's speech introducing Bush. It was not conciliatory. He said he had a mandate. Bush said he had a broad victory. Hold on to your hats, folks.

Posted by: praktike at November 4, 2004 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu -- The Japanese planned to hold onto their gains as the Americans counterattacked, hoping that enough casualties would produce a negotiated settlement favorable to the Empire. Guys like Yamamoto weren't berserkers, and Japan knew their more limited industrial base would not produce a winner in a war of attrition. They just rolled the dice and lost.

As for Hitler and Napoleon, well Russia *was* weak. Only vastly over-extended logistics and the capacity for taking ungodly casualties coupled with brutal winter saved the day. Nevertheless Hitler came *very* close to knocking Stalin out of the war and capturing Moscow.

I'd agree however that American Power is not unlimited, we have to pick and choose our fights carefully. We don't and won't have any majorly useful allies however, no other nation has the ability much less the will to project military force in the Middle East.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at November 4, 2004 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu,

Your support for that claim is?

Posted by: Greg D at November 4, 2004 02:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Guys like Yamamoto weren't berzerkers

Yeah, that's certainly true --- but Yamamoto was opposed (correctly) to the Pearl Harbor attack. He, famously, predicted that he could hold off the U.S. for four years, but after that ... he was of the opinion that Japan ought not engage in full-blown warfare with the U.S., but he was overruled by his superiors.

But on the whole the Japanese Imperial Navy was a lot smarter than the Imperial Army. I'm not sure if this is because the Navy was patterned after the British, and the Army after the Germans... but for whatever reason, the Army was undisciplined. Junior officers would frequently order unauthorized aggressive attacks, overextending the supply lines, etc. Eventually this led to their defeat.

>Your support for that claim is?

History. Warfare isn't just a simple game of attack, attack, attack. Sometimes you have to hold back, sometimes employ misdirection, marshal your forces, etc. Excessive hesitation is bad, excessive zeal is bad. I should think this is pretty obvious from even a cursory examination of history, as the abovementioned examples illustrate.

For example, consider the invasion of Normandy Beach. We spent a LOT of effort trying to convince Hitler that we were going to attack at Pas de Calais, and it worked. Etc. You've gotta have brains to win a war, not just bluster.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 4, 2004 03:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This post began with a lot of throat-clearing that cashed out with relatively superficial and marginal stuff like "reviving the peace process' (yeah-yeah) and doing better public diplomacy in the Arab world (sure-sure).

Not to sound belittling, Greg--I agree with you that intelligent and sharp-eyed actions on both those fronts are worth pushing even as we keep killing terrorists and Jihadi Joes in Iraq and elsewhere--but they're not the big game at this point.

The really urgent emerging problem in the broader MidEast is Iran and its nukes, not the Pali-Israeli thing (the Israelis are smothering the 2nd intifada and the Palis will have to have a multisided tong war of indefinite duration after Arafat finally kicks off to hell anyway) or the public-diplomacy thing.

The looming prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is now the 800-lb gorilla on the agenda, maybe even bigger than Iraq. And frankly, I don't think any kind or amount of diplomacy is gonna make those mad mullahs give up their major missiles.

I like an earlier commenter's concept of putting everyone on notice--just in case they haven't figured it out already--that "sovereignty's in abeyance" when it comes to us smiting what or whom we need to smite, when we need to smite them.

I don't know if you can sugarcoat that with diplomacy, or if you should even try, as it might just make us look as if we lack resolve.

Posted by: Phil in VA at November 4, 2004 04:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's interesting to see that over here in Europe hope occurs that Bush "can't go on like that", how he will be softer, more diplomatic etc. You can see it in press commentaries everywhere.
I guess it's the same wishful thinking that made us Europeans believe that Kerry will surely make it. Bush is not know for admitting errors. In the election he won the public vote and his position in the congress is better than ever. Recently i was asked to make a bet what will come next: Iran, North Korea, Syria?

Posted by: OrwellWasRight at November 4, 2004 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Le Monde, 5 Nov 2004 : I don’t know how often this happens, but obviously disasters like the one that has just occurred in the US don’t happen every day. ‘J.-M. C.’ (Jean-Marie Colombani, President du Directoire) has written an opinion piece.

They also quote Michael Ledeen as saying (on Iran) ‘We will not get anywhere as long as Colin Powell is Secretary of State’. (Obviously this has suffered a double translation).’

Posted by: DavidP at November 5, 2004 10:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Le Monde, 5 Nov 2004 : I don’t know how often this happens, but obviously disasters like the one that has just occurred in the US don’t happen every day. ‘J.-M. C.’ (Jean-Marie Colombani, President du Directoire) has written an opinion piece.

They also quote Michael Ledeen as saying (on Iran) ‘We will not get anywhere as long as Colin Powell is Secretary of State’. (Obviously this has suffered a double translation).

Posted by: DavidP at November 5, 2004 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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