May 30, 2005

The Day After the Non: Some Initial Takes

John Vinocur:

In the end, democracy came and mocked the European mystique, its notions of ever-greater union, a European Us, its self-portrayal as the Righteous Power, its exalted but hollow pretensions to project to the world a will and a strength that is not yet and may never be its own. If anything, the massive rejection by France of the European Union's constitution in a national referendum, says stop. The EU can go nowhere, in its current phase, without the regenerated support of its voters, or a deep re-examination of its ambitions, largely pushed forward by elites - and ridiculously out of touch, we now know, with the electorate of its quintessential nation. France's no to this Europe, most likely to be joined by the Netherlands before the week is out, is not to be minimized. It was more than a crazy quilt of local grievances and obsessions, flecked with the normal dissatisfactions brought about by high unemployment and minuscule growth. Or the incoherent-sounding economics and politics of Jacques Chirac, telling France that the constitution assured both no inconvenient changes at home and big-hitter status around the globe. Rather, with the stakes perfectly clear - a French no would kill the European Constitution - French voters signaled that even at absolutely no real cost to them, when it came to matters of the heart, Europe doesn't matter enough to say yes to. Bam! Pow! After all, think of the context: a united, integrated Europe, acting largely as one, had been a near spiritual conviction for the generation that grew up after the tragedy of World War II. Now go and find that belief and sense of European mission today. France has laughed at it. Angry with Europe's refusal to adopt its questionable social model, and unwilling to meld French identity into a greater European whole, France said to hell with the noble undertaking stuff. Adding the rationale that it was all the elites' Big Fib anyway. But the truth is that this was no bolt from the historical blue. If the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's Humboldt University speech in 2000, advocating a genuine federalist future for Europe, is taken as a high-water mark for the ambitions of European integration, then the path since has been straight downward. Culminating in the referendum, the trail was one of dysfunction, hubris and delusion. Over the last years, Fischer backed off from his integrationist preaching. An EU draft constitution came to life, written not with a hand of a Locke or a Montesquieu, but as if slapped together during a six-week conference call by actuaries.
Ouch. This is all pretty harsh fare, but quite accurate. Let's take a quick step back--as the dust begins to settle ever so slightly--and take an initial look at the historic events of yesterday. We might begin by looking backwards a bit. Recall that French political elites have been intimately involved in cobbling together this project of European unification for over half a century now. I mean, it's not as if little Portugal or Denmark said no thanks. France did! As Vinocur says, perhaps the "quintessential" European nation. What a crushing (if not fatal, at least yet) blow to the European project. Think about it. The name Jean Monnet, for instance, is synonymous with the very cause of European unification. All this started way back in 1950, when the French and Germans agreed to put their coal production facilities under common administration. Adenauer had then told Monnet: "If this task succeeds, I will not have wasted my life." How crushed he'd be today (as Schroder must be, the leader for whom the "non" vote is doubtless the most devastating the day after--save Chirac himself, perhaps). Or Valery Giscard d'Estaing. This grandee of the French political scene, and the drafter-in-chief of the now failed Constitution himself ( "The European Constitution is as perfect as that of the United States, if perhaps a bit less elegant".) Heh. Giscard d'Estaing must have been thinking of provisions like the surely heavily negotiated Article III 184 concerning deficits linked here. All the talk about 'blocking minorities,' 'excessive deficit procedures,' 'reference values,' 'ratios'-these sound pulled more from a heavily negotiated merger document at Wachtell Lipton than from some grand Constitutional exercise meant to unify and excite a storied continent behind a major supranational enterprise.

Titans of French political life like Monnet and Giscard d'Estaing aside, the entire mainstream political class in France (excepting "non" advocates like Laurent Fabius) emerges discredited and spurned. None more so than Jacques Chirac, of course, his approval rankings already dismally low in the 30 percent range. But these figures are higher than Prime Minister Raffarin's (in the 20s!), however, and we will likely now see Chirac lamely sack Raffarin in a prime ministerial reshuffle. It is likely Chirac loyalist Dominique de Villepin who will get the nod and replace Raffarin, though the crisis is so grave one wonders whether Chirac might actually bite the bullet and hand the post to his former protege and now bitter rival Nicolas Sarkozy--in some recognition of the stunning scale of this setback (he's likely too petty to, however). Meantime, a schism may loom in the Socialist Party, with Laurent Fabius spearheading a rejectionist harder left flank. And, of course, nationalists like de Villiers and neo-fascists like le Pen emerge emboldened. Quelle mess!

What's more, it appears wider European elites, rather predictably, have been stunned into denial and are continuing forward somewhat divorced from reality. Witness:

The European Union's embattled leaders rushed to shore up confidence in European integration on Monday after France's overwhelming dismissal of the constitutional treaty pushed the EU toward a period of crisis and uncertainty. EU officials braced as well for a second rejection in a referendum Wednesday in the Netherlands. Saying the treaty's ratification process must continue despite the French no, Europe's leaders sought to deflect what appeared to be the referendum's strong message of gathering hostility toward the Union. "The treaty is not dead," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg and current holder of the European Union presidency, at an emotional press conference late Sunday night in Brussels. "The European process does not come to an end today," he said. [emphasis added]
Wasn't it another Luxembourgian, former Foreign Minister Jacques Poos, who had famously intoned in the early 90s that: "[T]his is the hour of Europe"? Except it wasn't, as all the Presidents, Ministers, Royalty and Assorted-Euro-Notables couldn't stop the genocidal violence occuring on their very doorstep. This task was instead left to a relatively lowly American Assistant Secretary of State, plugging valiantly away in a remote Air Force Base in remote Dayton, Ohio--far from the pomp and pageantry of the palaces of Luxembourg and Versailles. Well, ten or so years on, another memorable utterance by a Luxembourgian pol. No, perhaps the "treaty is not dead." But it is on life support now, and lame denial-ridden soundbites are not what will get it off the mat.

Finally, at least for now, there are the delicious ironies. Take French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier's comment to Eastern Europeans that they lacked a "European reflex."

The relationship between France and Eastern Europe has sometimes been compared unflatteringly to a professor and his students. Poles are quick to remember the infamous incident during the run-up to the American-led invasion of Iraq when Jacques Chirac, the French president, advised U.S. allies in the region to keep quiet. More recently, Michel Barnier, now the French foreign minister, lectured east European governments for lacking a "European reflex." So as reports of strong French opposition to the European Union's constitution have filtered out in recent weeks, the students have become restless, confused and smart-alecky. Some in Poland were baffled by the idea that Europe's constitution, a document that was drafted by a former French president and codifies laws in a Napoleonic style, could be undone by the French themselves. It was roundly defeated Sunday, with more than 57 percent voting against it, according to Interior Ministry projections. "This is beyond the possibility of understanding for the typical Pole," said Tadeusz Iwinski, a member of Parliament reached by telephone as he toured his constituency north of Warsaw. "They say, 'How can the people who invented the EU and even to some extent who imposed the text of the constitution on us, now be against it?

That's a very good question. The ultimate answer, at the risk of sounding too simplistic, is that not enough French people believe in a Greater Europe deep in their bones. Great leaders might have persuaded them through honesty and passion and charisma, but such leaders were manifestly not present. Now an era of confusion and flux looms for Europe. It is not a happy result, perhaps. But it is the reality that must be forcibly understood by European leaders if they can hope to turn around this debacle. If instead they insist on saying: "these were but French domestic troubles", "the show goes on after a spot of reflection", "it was but a plebescite on Jacques" and so on--it will mean yet again that no one is fundamentally addressing the basic issues that must be confronted head on. Why a Greater Europe? For what end? What does it mean, really, for the man on the street? Why should he support it? Because the old demons of intra-European wars could be resucitated if he doesn't? But this scare mongering falls flat. This is too unthinkable in today's Europe (though, of course, who knows what the future may hold...). To face off against the dastardly Americans and Chinese? Perhaps, but first how about a steady job, frank talk about crime and immigration issues, better than anemic economic growth, etc. etc. seems to be the retort.

Never in recent European history has the need for fresh leadership and real statesmanship cried out as it does today. It's well past time to shed the tired nostrums about "multipolarity," and "humanism" and the savageries of les Anglo-Saxons. What is needed now is courageous leadership, frank talk, significant economic reforms. But there are too few leaders willing or capable of bringing this about, I fear. In the alternative, then, more drift and discontent appear to loom. This can only really help the hard left and hard right, over the long term. No one should wish this. In the short term, I guess, many will simply keep their fingers crossed and await the emergence of potential saviors like Angela Merkel in Germany or Nicolas Sarkozy in France. Should they assume power in the coming months and years, they will certainly have their work cut out for them. The task of putting the European project back on track will be monumental (This wasn't a mini-hiccup. It was a massive setback). And must likely first start with putting right the stagnation afflicting the two continental European behemoths--Germany and France. Yes, all politics are local. Get your hands dirty and fix up here first, the voters seemed to say, before turning to the grand and utopic designs of constructing a 25 nation-bloc Euro-zone. They said this loudly, they said this in large number, they said this quite convincingly. Do the removed European political elites, huddled in conference rooms in Lisbon and Brussels and Strasbourg, do they get this? I'm not convinced they do, but I certainly hope so. If ever there were a time for reinvigorated, intelligent leadership--the time is now. And especially in France and Germany. The current leaders there have simply failed their peoples. They need to go. Soon.

Posted by Gregory at May 30, 2005 11:35 PM | TrackBack (5)
Comments

Yeah, well, for my part, I was never going to believe that the project was going to get off the ground as long as there were still Leopards and LeClercs booths across the hall from each other at EUROSATORY every other summer. I'll let you guys know next June if the situation changes.

Sometimes the answers are right in front of you - in 60 tons (err...tonnes) of magic-metal.

Posted by: Tommy G at May 31, 2005 02:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dude, really good piece -- clear and with overall argument and structure. UN-fortunately, I am on the way to the beach, and can't now give this the time for the treatment it clearly merits.

Briefly, I think you're right about the distance of the European political elites from what Hardt and Negri call "the multitude".

But that observation raises two questions:

1) How is that different from the US -- or Japan -- or any advanced industrial society ???

2) While I am relatively new to your thinking, you SEEM to have a strong preference for center-right politicians like Sarkosy, of whom I know relatively little, and Angela Merkl, of whom I know a lot.

You don't really think that these two are fundamentally connected to their "multitudes" in a way that Chirac or Schroeder are not, do you ???

That said, as you know, I'm less concerned with national issues than more "system" stuff -- altho I do NOT think any of this constitutes a "system" in ANY sort of STRICT sense.

And what I'd like to see is your analysis of how this event is going to play out in terms of making Europe -- now -- at MUCH more de-stabilized and dynamic / out-of-control situation than it has been until now ???

And what THAT would mean in terms of US foreign policy.

Sorry I have to be brief, but I'm now officially LATE ...

L8r.

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at May 31, 2005 02:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

France splintering into hard left and hard right. Doesn't this sound like the governments before WWII? Perhaps chaos is natural to France.

Posted by: Jerry at May 31, 2005 03:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't know that the "European project" can proceed, realisticly. It seeks to abrograte (whether its supporters will acknowledge or not...) national identities and sovereignty to create what, a bureaucratic superstate? For what end?

The French believe in France (most times, anyway) and others believe in their own nations, but this project went wrong in the late 80's. Far better for the Europeans to develop an economic confederacy to ease trade and travel, like...the Common Market.

Instead, their elites want to punch above their weight-class - and whiffed. Their reach exceeds their grasp. This had no credibility, they have no credibility, and now it is dead.

Not a moment too soon.

As for its effects upon US foreign policy? We'll pick and poach when and where necessary. If anything, we're stronger now, reletive to the "Euros."

Posted by: Tim at May 31, 2005 03:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Bush is VERY in touch with "the multitudes", and that isn't necessarily a compliment. His runaway spending is frightening.

The left would lead us to military defeat, which is the only thing that makes Bush the lesser of evils.

Andrew Jackson was also in touch with the masses, a strong military leader, and led the nation to financial ruin. I hope history doesn't repeat itself.

Posted by: In Touch at May 31, 2005 03:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the difference between us and the Europeans (France and Germany) is that we don't govern in quite as blithe and 'top-down' a manner as they do. European leaders - taken up with the need to define themselves in opposition to the U.S. (France primarily) and in exorcism of their old ghosts (Germany, of course) have adopted an idealist/moralist stance that is imposed from above by the well-off idealists who don't spend their days worrying that their safety net will dissappear and jobs will become even more scarce.
The French public - risk averse to begin with - will not gamble with their way of life if those who are asking them to gamble cannot even phrase the stakes in ways that would make sense to the working (or not-working) class.
Here we are accustomed to risk, and when politicians ask us to support changes, they are able to say why - in practical terms without preaching condescending or moralizing - or shall I say - alot less than the Europeans.

Posted by: Miriam at May 31, 2005 05:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I haven't read this constitution but the reporting is somewhat consistent with "vague and watery", just like their foreign policy. In which case Euro elite will continue to plot and usurp the lives of the masses.

I firmly believe that in the long term, economics tend to set political reality. In that regard the outlook for Europe is bleak in any case, but for the independence of each state vs the consensus of a supra state, there is some chance that individual states and the growth therein might carry the dead weight for some time, particularly if mobility becomes more prevailent in the economic sphere. But if supra state prevails I see even bleaker outlook because of the inaction and corruption that is sure to accompany the result.

Economic turmoil is generally followed by political and even civil unrest.

My conclusion is that the failure of the EU political state is a good thing, albeit not much consolation in what looks like an inevitable bleak economic and therefore political and civil future for Europe.

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 06:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tim:

Interesting thoughts, elegantly expressed.

Granting everything you say, my question to you -- if indeed the "European project" can NOT proceed -- is: what does that mean for the political / social / economic stability for a) national societies b) Europe as a whole ???

In that context, what do you think should be the policy lines -- again, national / European -- for dealing with the two most pressing problems: a) lack of jobs, both well-paying, and less so; and b) the dynamism of political Islam among marginalized Muslim communities in Europe ???

And, in this context, what about the future of the Euro -- should that be junked as well ??? If so, back to national currencies ???

Stimulating.

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at May 31, 2005 06:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In Touch:

Pithy.

What do you think is the nature of Bush's connection with the American multitudes: simply a willingness to spend money -- or is there something else for which that is a symptom ???

And is it only deficits that concern you ??? Or the combination of deficits and what some might call military adventurism ???

Clarification appreciated.

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at May 31, 2005 06:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Vanyogan:

Comprehensive.

So you don't share GD's view that Sarkosy and Merkl are going to be "saviors" in this situation ???

And if the situation is going to be bleak anyway -- a reasnable position -- then why is the failure of the EU political initiative a good -- as opposed to a bad or indifferent -- thing ???

Spenglerian.

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at May 31, 2005 06:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To repeat, I'm wondering what everyone thinks are the implications for the STABILITY of nation-states / EU

IF the "European project" really IS at a standstill ???

Seems to me to be a MAJOR concern -- for which, unless I'm mistaken -- NEITHER American NOR European national / EU elites have much of an analysis -- let alone a game plan for the future.

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at May 31, 2005 07:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have no way of knowing if Sarkosky/Merkl could turn things around but my take from the Euro press is that there is no grass roots will to take the pain of reform necessary to cure the ills of those countries. That does not preclude other countries, particularly Eastern bloc and free market entities with reasonable demographics or manageble populations to excel economically.

If the Euro state goes forward, I think the lack of discipline of such a simple rule as the deficit clause that was completely ignored by these same countries is just a precurser to reality in a Euro State. A contrast would be to examine the politics of USA in the last economic crisis where you had CA and some other states with serious deficts . It is tempting on the part of a fedral administration to bail these individual economies out, as it is to bail out industries. The reality is that when you do that you basically insure that these same entities will only repeat their behavior on a grander scale in the future. Thus they become like multinational banks or Japanese super companies where their failure becomes unthinkable therefore any discipline required to compete is not manageable by the state and the corruption of these entities leverage becomes prophetic.

So I agree in the sense that a common market with regulatory discipline is the best scenario absent a federal politique. In other words I believe the Euro political state would have all the effectiveness of say the UN.

En fin :)

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 07:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have no way of knowing if Sarkosky/Merkl could turn things around but my take from the Euro press is that there is no grass roots will to take the pain of reform necessary to cure the ills of those countries. That does not preclude other countries, particularly Eastern bloc and free market entities with reasonable demographics or manageble populations to excel economically.

If the Euro state goes forward, I think the lack of discipline of such a simple rule as the deficit clause that was completely ignored by these same countries is just a precurser to reality in a Euro State. A contrast would be to examine the politics of USA in the last economic crisis where you had CA and some other states with serious deficts . It is tempting on the part of a fedral administration to bail these individual economies out, as it is to bail out industries. The reality is that when you do that you basically insure that these same entities will only repeat their behavior on a grander scale in the future. Thus they become like multinational banks or Japanese super companies where their failure becomes unthinkable therefore any discipline required to compete is not manageable by the state and the corruption of these entities leverage becomes prophetic.

So I agree in the sense that a common market with regulatory discipline is the best scenario absent a federal politique. In other words I believe the Euro political state would have all the effectiveness of say the UN.

:)

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 07:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

my apologies for the double post.

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 07:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bi-lateral trade agreements w/the US.

NAFTA - North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement

for starters.

That will bring some stability.

But what will The Bear do?

Posted by: Sandy P at May 31, 2005 07:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure what NAFTA has to do with Europe. I don't see bilateral agreements with the USA as a good idea in fact the EU currently precludes that I believe and for good reason. It prevents the USA from picking off individual countries for that very purpose so I see the EU economic union as a good thing generally for competing with America, given that it is regulated and fair. The biggest problem I see for the Euro/American relationship is the inevitable weakening and eventual elimination of NATO. Given the behavior of NATO and the EU in the Iraq and even Afghan campaigns, it becomes increasingly thin and weak in the intereset of the USA. The Euros don't know it but I believe that NATO is a myth already and at some point the USA political winds will eventual face that reality and make it a skelital facade if not already. I believe the uSA utility of NATO is to pre-empt any rearming of Europe rather than maintaning some grand alliance!

This is bad for Europe and gets to maybe the question being coyly bantered about which is what happens if or when the economic and political failure is realizd in some critical Euro states. We know for a fact that if the EU goes forward politically that they will eventually build up arms. If not, what happens when the reality of the NATO myth is exposed n Europe. My take politially is that in the USA, onservtives have given up on any Euro geopolitical alliances which means practically speaking any real NATO defense pact is superficial at best. WHen the uSA really neded NATO the past four years, they were not there in any significant role beyond meager political will by some states. Who if anyone in Europe would under take to arm? It seems politically unpaletable to me at this point and I would say that's true of the Bear as well.

Besides the long standing relationship, for the USA, Britain is the only Euro entity with any size military, albeit waning with every passing day, followed by Poland and some support in the East, but as far as real serious force numbers it ain't there in Europe. Nor is the will to actually use it.

I think there is hope for the Euro economy but only in the scenario that they can unite economically and utilise the competitive nature of the Eastern Bloc labor and as of yet small welfare burden to compete in both manufacturing as well as a possible distribution hub(similiar to USA/Mexico) from West to East. There is a foundation for a natural integration including Russia. This is another reason why Turkey should be considered as well, and why the Euros should shut the hell up about Iraq and help make The Middle East a market rather than a threat and Turkey is the perfect gateway for such a venture.

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

vanyogan

I didn't get far into your post when I realized that you, along with most other Europeans, simply don't understand what is wrong with your economies. You said:

I don't see bilateral agreements with the USA as a good idea in fact the EU currently precludes that I believe and for good reason. It prevents the USA from picking off individual countries for that very purpose so I see the EU economic union as a good thing generally for competing with America, given that it is regulated and fair.
It is that typical European mindset of regulation and government control that is strangling your economies. The E.U. will not be able to compete with the USA or the world because of regulations like this. Simplistically put: massive regulations, taxation, bureaucratic control-bad. Free trade-good.

The E.U. economic union cannot legislate this problem away. They are the problem. Competition is the answer, not bureaucratic regulations.

As for your views on NATO, well, mostly I agree with you. However, Europe can't and won't rearm until they choose between a massive welfare system and defense. They can't have both.

Posted by: Sean at May 31, 2005 02:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Grok,

In short, status quo for now and the near future for Europe as a whole, but significant developments in political, social and economic arenas just below the surface that will become much more apparent within the next five to ten years. The inherent problem of the “EU” is that it seeks to abrogate national sovereignty in a supra-national confederation designed to 1) enhance economic power and 2) political (inc. foreign policy and military) power globally while 3) effectively walling off “fortress Europe” from the adverse effects of global economic competition and military conflict. In other words, this utopia is rent with insurmountable contradictions that render it completely unworkable. As to what this means for individual European nations, my guess is initially significant angst both internally and externally, especially toward each other (although the US will undoubtedly be a scapegoat as well…) as we’re seeing with the “Polish plumber” demagoguery in the recent French referendum. The Poles will respond in kind, as will everyone else under similar conditions.

As to policy lines, I’m anti-Socialist, so I’d prefer freer labor and capital markets for economic growth and job creation, which some nations will embrace more enthusiastically than others – and will be, consequently, more successful than those that don’t (esp. France and Germany). Cultural and political assimilation of Arab Muslims has been a long-standing problem (and indicative of the EU’s inherent contradiction – if the French cannot make Arab Muslim immigrants “French,” (and repeat for all other European nations), how does anyone think for a moment that the E.U. can make the French (or all other European nations) “Europeans”? The “EU” passport makes the immigrating Arab Muslim issue more problematic. Tighter immigration control coupled with realistic assimilation programs (probably impossible, given European racism) would be the way to go, but I’m not at all optimistic. I fear we’ll see more Bosnia and Kosovo-like “ethnic cleansing” in Europe’s future than not, esp. as the social welfare state begins to recede (as it must, due to unstable finances).

As for the Euro, well, if the EU is scaled down to a rational continent-wide economic zone, then it can surely survive. Otherwise, who knows?

Posted by: Tim at May 31, 2005 02:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sean,

First I'm Texan, not European. Second the EU policy I refer to is simply the fact that the EU regulates trade in the same way the USA regulates trade vs allowing individual states to raise and lower tarifs on their own. The EU can't retaliate against Texas any more than the USA can retaliate individually against France. This IS the advantage of a trade union or in our case a Union.

If you read the Federalist Papers you find Hamilton making trade a principal argument for the passage of the USA constitution. Of course the primary argument Hamilton makes for the USA constitution is the advantage of import taxation and regulation as a means to raise and maintain a standing army for the national defense so in fact as an American, I make the same fundamental points in my argument as Hamilton made in his for the American constitution. Bone up on economic facts sir...

Since we are on this tangent, I would also point out that by limiting the EU to an economic entity with continued leveraging of USA expenditures on NATO and generally the international defense, the EU actually gains advantage over raising a political entity which is sure to add an additional layer of taxation and political regulation to what is in most cases overburdened individual economies of the EU. This leveraging of USA defens expnditure is not unlike whtat Canada is doing to us now as well.

The point I make about NATO is that the USA is not going to be long on the notion of both funding NATO and the international defense along with Euro vetos over it's use as has been the case over the last four years.

It's untenable...

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sean,

First I'm Texan, not European. Second the EU policy I refer to is simply the fact that the EU regulates trade in the same way the USA regulates trade vs allowing individual states to raise and lower tarifs on their own. The EU can't retaliate against Texas any more than the USA can retaliate individually against France. This IS the advantage of a trade union or in our case a Union.

If you read the Federalist Papers you find Hamilton making trade a principal argument for the passage of the USA constitution. Of course the primary argument Hamilton makes for the USA constitution is the advantage of import taxation and regulation as a means to raise and maintain a standing army for the national defense so in fact as an American, I make the same fundamental points in my argument as Hamilton made in his for the American constitution. Bone up on economic facts sir...

Since we are on this tangent, I would also point out that by limiting the EU to an economic entity with continued leveraging of USA expenditures on NATO and generally the international defense, the EU actually gains advantage over raising a political entity which is sure to add an additional layer of taxation and political regulation to what is in most cases overburdened individual economies of the EU. This leveraging of USA defens expnditure is not unlike whtat Canada is doing to us now as well.

The point I make about NATO is that the USA is not going to be long on the notion of both funding NATO and the international defense along with Euro vetos over it's use as has been the case over the last four years.

It's untenable...

Posted by: Vanyogan at May 31, 2005 03:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And must likely first start with putting right the stagnation afflicting the two continental European behemoths--Germany and France.

Greg,

Can you please elaborate on what you mean by "stagnation"?

Posted by: Guy at May 31, 2005 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tim,

I find myself in agreement with your well written points on the EU. I can't sensibly comment on the EU social fabric or immigration and assimilation. I think the EU 's principal task at this point should be to construct and implement a favorable monitary policy.

I'm in no means an informed purveyor of monitary policy but lower interest and increased money supply seems necessary but of course that has the effect of diluting the purchasing power of the welfare state which is of course is politically untenable as well. However the net effect of such a policy would be to increase the tax revenues by pushing more individuals and entitis into higher tax rate structures. By the sam token it has th net effect of lowering the net overall cost of the welfare state at the expense of the recipients but it is one way to usurp the political debate on the issue. AN example of this would be the effect of the economic malaise of the USA in the 1970's caused principally by inflation and exacerbated with the moronic wage and price controls that effectively spun the entire situation out of control. But the net effect on the debt ratio of the federal budget was to substatially reduce it.

Thus when you hear the argument of deficit spending being a cause of economic weakness in itself, one only needs to compare the meager USA budget deficits of the 1970's to the overall economic health of the same period.

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 03:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The discussion about NATO pushes a button for me. As a former NG officer and participant in numerous NATO exercises in the 80's I can assure you that NATO has been dead for about 20 years. Even by the 80's the alliance was totally dependent on the US nuclear deterrent since any idea of US getting sufficient troops to EU to slow the Russian hordes was a joke. The indigenous NATO forces were totally inadequate. A common question was how many hours it would be before the French surrendered. We used to laugh at the war game scenarios as we were playing them.

I have seen no reason for over a decade for wasting our money subsidizing Euro defense. Russia, since the demise of the SU, is not a natural foe of the US. Let the Euros deal with them on their own. We are in the process of restructuring the military so we don't need the bases for staging any more (rem Turkey) and our money, and the money spent by our poorly treated troops, is not well spent in these countries (I exclude Holland).

Yes they can produce second line tanks, like Leopard and LeClerc. They just can't afford to buy any of them. Few foreign countries will buy them either, since for the price they can get better US stuff, if they're allowed to buy it. The tech gap between the US and the Euros militarily grows every day. The new weapons developments in the US are two generations ahead of the best Euro stuff. Witness the shock, and ignorance, of the Italians who could not imagine that the US had film of checkpoint incidents. The unspoken reason we don't do joint operations with the Brits is that they can't integrate into our systems. Their stuff is not capable.

In the political arena, sooner or later a result like the recent one in France had to happen. The French and Germans can't support the socialist state they have promised their people unless they are subsidized by the rest of the EU. That the other nations will put up with that for an unlimited period was never in the cards.

Posted by: ronnie at May 31, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Grok:

"What do you think is the nature of Bush's connection with the American multitudes ..."

To paraphrase Osama bin Laden, Bush is the "strong horse" and that's why we elected him.

Bush is strong in the face of a press that hates him, strong in the face of "pacifist" governments corrupted by the Oil-for-Food Scandal, strong in the face of a U.N. controlled by dictators, and most importantly strong in the face of terrorists.

What some would call "military adventurism" most Americans would call "The War on Terror", and most of us are prepared to continue fighting.

These wars may go on for decades as Al Qaeda and related organizations find new sponsors and sanctuaries, or our decisive handling of Iraq may have convinced other nations that harboring terrorists is a regime death sentence.

But they'll only believe that if America's stand on the issue is unequivocal. Those of us who take the war seriously know that, and that's why we back Bush.

"And is it only deficits that concern you ?..."

The deficits are the only thing that concern me about Bush, but it's a big concern. It is unwise to hand out pork in a time of war. He should be asking us to make sacrifices, not telling us we can have our cake and fight terrorists, too.

Posted by: In Touch at May 31, 2005 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In touch,

I sincerely do share your concern over the deficit, but on the smaller point, pork spending last year was a record 20 billion I think. But on a scale of importance that is still less than the differential between the budget estimate and the actual result.

The way to resolve the deficit problem is to hold descretionary spending constant in real or spendable dollars, reform liability risk, implement a real energy plan which I believe is on the way, as well as hold the line on overall spending growth. We should be able to substantially grow our way out of the deficit, with those caveate and in addition I truly believe the President will hold Congress to the fire on spending in his second term. That in turn will help extend his political clout with the American people.

Consider how close the 2004 election was, how could he have possibly applied budget economic pain to the equation and on?

Posted by: vanyogan at May 31, 2005 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Agree with ronnie. NATO is a dead letter. The EU as a political force in the non-European world is a dead letter. Long past time that Americans recognized that all of the threats and all of the opportunities for us in this century arise from Asia ie the near and far east. The axis of history no longer runs (as Kissinger put it to Allende) from Moscow to Bonn to London to Washington. It now runs from Washington to Tokyo to Beijing to New Delhi and Tehran and Baghdad.

The EU nations cannot seriously help or harm or hinder us in those regions. About time we shifted half or more of our Europe-based diplomatic and military assets out of the has-been region and into the region that is already defining the trajectory of our age. 2005 will be seen as the end of the American elite's foolish, outdated obsession with Europe.

Posted by: thibaud at May 31, 2005 07:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mark my word: Merkel or no Merkel, the EU Three will wobble on Iran. Sarkozy will not attain office before Villepin has sold the mullahs everything they seek. No better way to appease that 70% or more of the implacably anti-American French public than to score some quick and highly public contracts with the mullahs and with the Chinese.

The only question is which venue that bombastic ass, he of the flowing silver mane and the purple prose, will choose for his grands gestes. Maybe a signing ceremony with the mullahs under the grand obelix in the Place de la Concorde?

Posted by: thibaud at May 31, 2005 07:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

*Obelisk.* j'ai Asterix sur la tete

Posted by: thibaud at May 31, 2005 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Vanyogan:

I think in a time of war you can ask the mainstream American to make sacrifices and they will respect you for it.

Remember that in a time of war what most people want is to be stronger than the bad guys. If that means not creating any new entitlement programs for a while, that's the price of 9/11 and we bear it.

If the President says, "We can't afford to weaken ourselves with increased domestic spending in a time of war," that should, to people who take the war seriously, be seen positively, a reason to vote for him.

People who don't take the war seriously -- or rather don't take 9/11 seriously -- aren't going to vote for him anyway.

I'm making the big assumption here that the election was a referendum on the War on Terror. If that is an oversimplification, maybe that's why Bush is President and I'm an anonymous blog commenter.

Posted by: In Touch at May 31, 2005 09:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read some interesting comments at Winds of Change and The Third Rail about the New Mini-Me or MNME, the Nato Rapid Reaction Force giving NATO nations the ability to train with U.S. forces.

It seems to me that such training will permanently elimininate all future European Union Joint forces because why should they settle for inferior French equipment, or leadership on anything.

The other countries in Eastern Europe are NOT STUPID. There are even some intelligent Germans and a few French as well, believe it or not!

Anything that eliminates the totally evil influence of Chirac and Schroeder is a Blessing for humanity.

Posted by: leaddog2 at May 31, 2005 10:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tim / In Touch / Vanyogan:

VERY interesting responses, which I will address in a few hours. Am out here in California, so on a bit of time lag :-).

In the interim, let me refer you to a couple of pieces that you may find of SOME -- albeit not total -- relevance in this context:

re Bush economic policies, especially their international dimensions:

http://www.grokyourworld.com/louisxiv/2005/03/bush_policies_f.html

re the relation between Iraq and 9/11 -- which I think is a key issue, In Touch

http://www.grokyourworld.com/louisxiv/2005/02/iraq_will_never.html

Re some POSITIVE developments in German society -- whatever the larger political issues ...

http://www.grokyourworld.com/louisxiv/2005/05/germany_however.html

Get back to you in a few hours.

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at June 1, 2005 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In touch,

my response goes to fundamental budget policy during a recession, and the case of 911, an absolute imperative to get the country on a strong footing. This case is not about a war in the short term, it's going to be a long hard slog and we can't begin to contemplate all the things we will have to invest in to win. None of that is possible without a strong vibrant GROWING economy.

I think the First rule of a recession is to cut taxes and interest rates. The other somewhat less celebrated move is federal spending. One man' pork is another man's public job or economic program. In any event federal spending is an accepted means of an economic stimulous plan. Bush did all three, cut taxes, cut interest rates, increased federal spending(at least don't cut it). The other thing is that if you examine the first two years of his criticised record, the unemployment benefits and homeland security budgets combined to represent the bulk of the increases over prior years plus the huge increase in education spending. Increased defense/war spending largely accounts for the rest of the budget excess. In retrospect the education increase seems to have been useless politically and practically, but probably helped some states that were cutting into education due to state deficits.

SO I don't criticise the President's budget except 2004. I felt like he should have cut the budget during the election year(fiscal 2005), or at least throw down a marker, possibly veto a budget, just for effect. But on the other side of the coin you had the anemic job growth during the same period. Bush's father lost re-election largely on perception, the economy was recovering and jobs were growing as he was being booted out of office. Bush did not want to make the same mistake.

To this point I believe he has struck a decent balance, but I agree that now the economy is growing he needs to hold the line. But you also have to look at the big picture, which is class action tort reform, which he was able to pass, and now he has his sights set on social security reform. If successful those two initiatives will far outweigh any possible budget cuts he may have made during the same period with respect to the long term budget health and economy of the country.

Respectfully,
Vann

Posted by: vanyogan at June 1, 2005 02:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Europeans take responsibility for their defense, they have the engineering ability to match us militarily. All they need is the desire to do so. The question is whether it is in our interest or theirs for them to do so independently. If NATO dissolves, Europe will either federate or revert to militaries under national control. Would either outcome be an improvement over the present situation? NATO has existed for half a century and the future of North Atlantic security should really be assessed in terms of the next half century, not just the tensions of recent years.

Posted by: David Billington at June 1, 2005 07:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Grok:

Read your essay. I've heard your argument before, many times: "If we fight them, we'll only make the terrorists madder."

No, we'll make them deader.

The problem with your line of reasoning is that it ignores the number of terrorists created by inaction, retreat, and appeasement.

Osama bin Laden did his most successful recruiting after we pulled out of Somalia. His message of a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism sweeping away the decadent and cowardly Great Satan swelled the ranks of Al Qaeda while we quibbled about the relative merits of "nation-building".

I won't argue that killing terrorists doesn't create more. What I will argue is that as a matter of historical record NOT killing terrorists creates more as well.

Since we're going to get terrorists either way, we might as well choose the option that promises to ultimately reduce terrorism by virtue of attrition. The number of potential terrorists is a finite quantity which cannot sustain the losses we're inflicting.

The impact of democracy on the War on Terror depends on the electorate. In Iraq democracy is producing a government sympathetic to the war effort, or at least hostile to Al Qaeda.

Kuwait is decidedly pro-American, although that may be because we liberated them from Saddam, not because they are, having just enacted women's suffrage, a democracy.

It remains to be seen whether Lebanese democracy will result in reduced support of Hezbullah, but pro-American sentiment runs deep thanks to our uncompromising position on Syrian withdrawal.

Democracy is a very powerful idea, but America doesn't get to bask in the reflected glory unless we contributed in some way to making it happen. I wouldn't expect Egypt, even after full democratic reforms, to wake up one morning wildly pro-American.

Posted by: In Touch at June 1, 2005 01:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe the uSA utility of NATO is to pre-empt any rearming of Europe rather than maintaning some grand alliance!


Pretty much, yeah. The primary goal of NATO has never been securing military allies. WW1 and WW2 were both the result of European governments trying to achieve supremacy on the European continent. NATO settled the question- the answer is "the US".

While the arrangement is far from ideal, it has kept the peace for 60 years and counting- a remarkable achievement, considering the average interval between wars in Europe between WW2 and when the Pax Romana ended. Those who describe today's situation as the Pax Americana have more than a little justification for doing so.

.....

2005 will be seen as the end of the American elite's foolish, outdated obsession with Europe.

I wish. Maybe by 2050.

Posted by: rosignol at June 1, 2005 01:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

2005 will be seen as the end of the American elite's foolish, outdated obsession with Europe.

How long until the end of American conservatives' foolish, outdated obsession with Europe?

Posted by: Guy at June 1, 2005 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Guy, I believe you've encountered one of those unexplainable phenomona of human psychology: whether liberal, conservative, or indifferent, most people will stare at a train wreck for hours.

That's not "obsession", it's just one of those idiosyncracies of human nature.

People might've cried real tears and wailed "Oh! The humanity!" when the Hindenberg blew, but the one thing no one did was avert their eyes.

The EU just went up in flames like that wallowing hydrogen-filled Euroblimp of yore, and y'know people are just gonna hafta stare.

Posted by: Train Wreck at June 3, 2005 01:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In Touch:

Just saw your comment -- didn't realize you had left it -- sorry for the delay.

That said, dude, I think you've fairly severely mis-construed my position on things. Indeed, if you check my long response to BD's Berman's Bases piece, you'll see that my take on political Islam is QUITE different than what you assume it to be.

Where I WOULD imagine we differ is whether the invasion of Iraq does ANYTHING to de-crease the power of political Islam: on the one hand, there's no doubt that Bush in Iraq confirms all the most insane ideas about the US that Osama and his buddies broadcast around the Arab / Muslim world; on the other hand, the invasion of Iraq itself is CLEARLY a (sadly successful) effort by Bush to divert Americans' attention from his complete and cowardly ABDICATION of the struggle vs. political Islam.

http://www.grokyourworld.com/louisxiv/2005/02/iraq_will_never.html

You might also want to check out this piece on the bizarre Bush reaction to the Newsweek / Koran fiasco:

http://www.grokyourworld.com/louisxiv/2005/05/ides_of_may_iii.html

And please feel free to comment on GYW ... I actually prefer comments from people who DIS-agree with the general line I take ... more fun, don't you think ???

Posted by: Grok Your World.com at June 4, 2005 07:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure there is -- or should be -- a "struggle against political Islam."

I don't believe that Islam is our enemy.

Fortunately neither does Bush, and the war in Iraq reflects that. He didn't so much set out to "decrease the power of political Islam" as unleash and enlist it. This is the real genius of the Bush Doctrine:

http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/2005/04/hello-ameriki-from-kurds.html

We've managed the impossible: we've parlayed 9/11 into a simultaneous victory for Muslims and defeat of Muslim terrorists -- and in the process attracted loyal allies.

Muslim Iraqis are now fighting the War on Terror on our side. Iraqis -- Muslim Iraqis -- are fighting Al Qaeda on the same terms as America, both as a democracy and as victims of Islamic terror themselves.

Thus your belief that the Iraq War will not "decrease political Islam" is one I share, but where you see this as sinister I see it as reassuring: why would we set out to destroy "Political Islam", the real purple-ink kind, when those who practice it are our allies?

Posted by: In Touch at June 7, 2005 03:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We've managed the impossible: we've parlayed 9/11 into a simultaneous victory for Muslims and defeat of Muslim terrorists -- and in the process attracted loyal allies.

We've got allies, sure.

I would not assume anything about their loyalty for a while yet, though. It is easy to be loyal to something that is acting in your best interest.

Posted by: rosignol at June 7, 2005 11:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Allies of self-interest, loyalty, of the "strong horse", I'll take whatever we get. It's more than we had on 9/11.

You'll recall Palestinians dancing in the streets, cheering the deaths of the Great Satan. Across the Middle East, Anti-American protesters led by apocalyptic Muslim fanatics carried posters of their great hero and mass murderer Osama bin Laden (and Evil Bert looking over his shoulder, hee hee.)

Those same bunch who hate us are still there, but there's a new bunch who not only don't hate us, they actually LIKE us, some enough to risk death fighting side-by-side with us in the War on Terror.

There is a kind of chicken-or-egg question here: did everyone hate us until we showed up, or was the assumption that we were universally hated faulty?

Left and right disagreed on the answer to the question, "Why do they hate us?" but not on the frame of the question itself. Bitterly divided, one side saw us as rightfully hated Little Eichmanns who deserved to die whilst the other side claimed the problem is that Muslims hate freedom, but both were unanimous in the assumption that America was universally hated by Muslims. (Left and Right also agreed, incorrectly, that the War on Terror would result in mass carnage, "Another Vietnam" to the Left, "Another Imperial Japan" to the Right.)

Only those infamous shadowy Neocons everyone loves to hate really understood. "The real problem is a deficit of Democracy," they said, and they were right. Who knew?

The chicken-or-egg question explores why they were right: in which order did it happen? Did all Muslims in the Middle East hate us until we decided to show up, or were most of us, Left and Right, ignorant of a reality more complex than "they hate us"?

To get at your question, if our going to war is in another faction's best interest, wouldn't that faction have to be a natural ally of ours in the first place, or at least not or no longer an enemy?

Now to tie the two ideas together, the degree to which our allies were made rather than ready-made -- your scenario, indirectly -- is the degree to which ANY level of alliance that includes fighting terrorists represents success in "winning hearts and minds".

Conversely, the degree to which we were wrong about the complexities of loyalties of Middle Easterners represents the degree to which we have liberated our allies who in turn are helping us fight Al Qaeda.

Either way, from the starting point of "they all hate us" the mere existence of Muslim allies on the battlefield is truly remarkable.

Posted by: In Touch at June 8, 2005 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The chicken-or-egg question explores why they were right: in which order did it happen? Did all Muslims in the Middle East hate us until we decided to show up,

I think that's a big part of it.

Prior to our 'showing up', what most of the people knew about the US was that 1) we were best buddies with Israel (cue nightly tv report on how horrible the Israelis are on state-controlled tv), 2) we had a track record of either feeble responses when challenged (Iran Embassy) or cutting and running (Beiruit, Mogadishu), 3) we were the guys keeping Iraq under sanction and occasionally bombing them for the hell of it (no-fly zones), and 4), despite all this, we are somehow an insanely rich nuclear superpower.

If all you know about the US is what is above, you'd probably conclude that Americans are insane, brutal cowards with a lot of money and nuclear weapons.

Not a whole lot to like there.


or were most of us, Left and Right, ignorant of a reality more complex than "they hate us"?


Oh, there are complexities that both sides are unaware of. But it's difficult to express a complex situation in a way that will attract popular support for a particular agenda, so things get simplified.

Posted by: rosignol at June 9, 2005 08:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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