Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands

So says Mark Steyn in today’s Chicago Sun Times. As usual he starts by patting himself on the back

Ever since 9/11, I’ve been gloomily predicting the European powder keg’s about to go up. ”By 2010 we’ll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations on the news every night,” I wrote in Canada’s Western Standard back in February.

Silly me. The Eurabian civil war appears to have started some years ahead of my optimistic schedule.

He continues with well thought out considered analysis like:

The notion that Texas neocon arrogance was responsible for frosting up trans-Atlantic relations was always preposterous, even for someone as complacent and blinkered as John Kerry. If you had millions of seething unassimilated Muslim youths in lawless suburbs ringing every major city, would you be so eager to send your troops into an Arab country fighting alongside the Americans?

So that’s the reason France didn’t think the war was a good idea. I thought it was their fingers in the Oil for Food programme, oh wait American companies were involved too. I thought it was that they supported the Ba’ath party and al-Qeada. But no, now it’s because of their Muslim populations.

Steyn then mentions in passing the battle of Poitiers, an era of Europe I coincidentally am studying at present, and a time that featured on a BBC documentary over the weekend. What he fails to mention was that the Muslim foothold in Spain at the time was the only Muslim colony that failed to remain permanent. Nor does he mention the civilising aspect of that Muslim world, their culture, architecture and inter-marriage with Christians in Spain – something that was written out of the history books by Christian families later on. But that’s all to complicated for Steyn, better to be black and white I suppose.

Europe vs America

This old argument has raised its head again. Andrew Hammel, an American living in Germany, praises how people on this side of the pond live, in celebration of July 4th. He was prompted by Matthew Yglesias writing about how French people live, and this prompted Kevin Drum to jump on the bandwagon. My turn.

Says Hammel, advising Americans on living in Europe:

*Don’t brag to other people about how hard you work. If you go up to someone in Europe and say “I work 10 hours a day, six days a week, 51 weeks a year. Look how much I achieve!” you’ll get the same reaction you would in America if you said “I wash my hands exactly 169 times a day. Look how clean they are! Look! Look!!!”

*Learn your environment. Take into account how much work you can really expect from Europeans. Don’t expect anything to get done in August, don’t expect a response to your email the same day. If you really need to get in touch with someone while they are on vacation, or on the weekend, you won’t be able to. Which means not that they are being irresponsible. It means you don’t really need to get in touch with them.

*Change your standards. Realize that when someone complains about being horribly overworked, even though you know they are working about 40 hours a week, accept it. By their standards, they are working very hard. Helpful thought-experiment: Europeans pay about $5/gallon for gas. Wouldn’t you want them to display compassion for you when you complain about paying $2?

Thoughts on this folks? I honestly think there is more to life to working every hour god sends, we all need time to blog don’t we? I have often had this conversation with cousins in the US, and they always envy the level of vacation time we get here in Ireland. Indeed when they visit it’s almost always for a very short time, because they have to get back to work. While here companies offer so much paid vacation time people sometimes don’t know what to do with it all.

I know it has been discussed at length before on BSD.

Poll: In wake of Iraq war, allies prefer China to U.S.

A little disturbing:

In Britain, almost two-thirds of Britons, 65 percent, saw China favorably, compared with 55 percent who held a positive view of the United States.

In France, 58 percent had an upbeat view of China, compared with 43 percent who felt that way about the U.S. The results were nearly the same in Spain and the Netherlands.

The United States’ favorability rating was lowest among three Muslim nations which are also U.S. allies — Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan — where only about one-fifth of those polled viewed the U.S. in a positive light.

Only India and Poland were more upbeat about the United States, while Canadians were just as likely to see China favorably as they were the U.S.

Why is China seen in such a good light?

The End of Europe

Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post argues that:

Unless Europe reverses two trends — low birthrates and meager economic growth — it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.

A weak European economy is one reason that the world economy is shaky and so dependent on American growth. Preoccupied with divisions at home, Europe is history’s has-been. It isn’t a strong American ally, not simply because it disagrees with some U.S. policies but also because it doesn’t want to make the commitments required of a strong ally. Unwilling to address their genuine problems, Europeans become more reflexively critical of America. This gives the impression that they’re active on the world stage, even as they’re quietly acquiescing in their own decline.

I agree with Glenn Reynolds on this one, it is too early to say. Any number of factors could come into play, especially with advancements in technology, changes in trade patterns, war, disease – just because it’s been like this for a number of years does not make it written in stone.

Catching up

I really have been very bad at posting lately, this is for a combination of reasons. I have noticed my monthly output has declined in May and now June, along with google crawls and visitor numbers. My reasons for not posting are not because I don’t want to, but usually because I have been either too busy, or too tired to get my thoughts together – or even read my regular reads.

I will be putting more effort into posting starting from next Monday – and will aim to boost my number of posts past my monthly averages.

A neocon no to Europe

Robert Kuttner, editor of the American Prospect, praises European developments while criticising neocons in the US.

Gerard Baker, writing in the current Weekly Standard, the neoconservative journal, criticizes the administration’s olive branch and warns that Europe is seeking to become a counterweight to the United States in world affairs. The real European goal, writes Baker, is to undermine NATO, America’s greatest source of trans-Atlantic influence, and to initiate policies of its own that are less bellicose than Washington’s.

A prime example is the joint German-British-French initiative on Iran, which would offer economic incentives in exchange for Iran’s agreement to dismantle nuclear weapons capabilities.

American conservatives have relentlessly disparaged the Iran initiative as naïve or opportunistic.

In fact, the initiative is actually making some headway and may spare us a military confrontation. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who provided crucial cover for President Bush’s effort to portray the Iraq invasion as the work of a broad coalition, is with the Germans and French this time.

Other neoconservatives take an even darker view of Europe. In National Review Online, Andrew Stuttaford attacks Europe’s proposed new constitution as “an unreadable mish-mash of political correctness” and faults Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being “either delightfully insincere or dismayingly naïve.”

Some on the right believe that the United States should explicitly oppose Europe’s new effort to have a common foreign and defense policy, as antithetical to American interests, and want to actively contain Europe.

Others applaud Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s effort to divide the “new” Europe of former Soviet satellites from the “old” Europe of major states that have been our most steadfast allies except on Bush’s dubious Iraq policy. (This divide-and-conquer tactic won’t work. It’s the new European nations that look most closely to Brussels rather than to Washington.)

Especially with EU structural funds on their way. He continues:

European integration has been a core U.S. goal since the Truman administration. President Harry Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall blessed the antecedents of Common Market, which eventually became the European Union.

The original policy goal was twofold. First, contain Soviet expansionism. Second, anchor Germany within a larger, democratic European collectivity. The policy worked, magnificently. Europe, viciously divided against itself for centuries, has knit together into a democratic and civil society.

Of course, Europe developed its own social institutions – universal health care, generous retirement systems, free or subsidized child care for working parents, less commercialized and more robust elections, far less extremes of wealth and poverty, less militarism. And much of the world sees this as a more attractive model than the one the Bush administration is promoting. America, statistically, is slightly richer on average than western Europe, but more than 80 percent of western Europeans live better than their U.S. counterparts because our wealth is so concentrated at the top.

How like the neocons to see Europe’s success as a menace! In the 1990s, the American right disparaged the project of completing a single European market, and the effort to build trans-European social, parliamentary and regulatory institutions. American conservatives ridiculed the idea of a common European central bank and currency, but the euro is a phenomenal success and Bush could take some lessons from Europe’s fiscal discipline.

But Bush has kind of been successful on Egypt, perhaps Syria in the future, and Libya with the help of the UK. Europe has been successful in taking in and 10 countries in one go. Yes the EU economy is semi-ok at the moment, but growth is slow, and the looming crisis with an aging population is not easy to ignore, while the US strides ahead with fiscal ‘indiscipline’, but has meant growth since Bush took office. The deficit now seems set to narrow in Bush’s second term. Europe isn’t getting any younger though.

Warming trends over the Atlantic

H.D.S. Greenway, a columnist for the Boston Globe provides this piece on the same subject as Dale. He does make some interesting points that I had not really read elsewhere, at least put in the way he puts it, for example:

Now that the given reasons for going to war in Iraq have proved bogus, the Bush administration has deftly turned the table away from weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s Al Qaeda links toward the new horizons of spreading freedom in the footsteps of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Thus the reason we went into Iraq is now portrayed as a fight for democracy. Osama bin Laden is seldom mentioned, and somewhere along the way the war on terror has become the war for freedom.

Deftly indeed. No longer is it simply an effort, as Richard Clarke would have wanted, to rid the world of al-Qaeda and stop the fundamentalist Islamic teaching in Saudi and Pakistan. But it is an effort to spread ‘freedom’, using either the threat of force, or actual force. I worry that Bush is using the word so much that it will make it a by-word, and therefore a useless word, for Republican or Neoconservative thinking. And perhaps then become a dirty word in the eyes of many.

Greenway continues:

Prior to the invasion of Afghanistan – which, unlike Iraq, was absolutely necessary for the struggle against Islamic terrorism – Bush told the Taliban he would not attack them if they disgorged Al Qaeda. In short, it was not a war about expanding freedom. It was a war against Al Qaeda. But you wouldn’t know that to hear the administration today.

President George W. Bush has found what his father used to call the “vision thing,” and it is being pulled like a rug over all the mess of Bush’s wars.

Right after the president’s inaugural speech, aides fanned out to say he didn’t plan to enforce too much freedom. And the president doesn’t seem ready to destabilize Pakistan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia for their democratic failings. The big question remains Iran, but Rice did her best to put European invasion fears at ease without taking the use of force off the table.

As did Bush today, saying that it was ‘ridiculous’ to suggest that the US was planning an invasion of Iran, but that all options were on the table. But with Syria and Iran increasingly on the PR radar of the administration, are we not likely to see at least the threat of military force on either country in the lifetime of Bush’s presidency. I would say so.

Rice's tour: Your turn, Europe

Reginald Dale, editor of the policy quarterly European Affairs and a media fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, with this piece from last week, yeah I meant to blog it, but it got lost in the list of things to blog. But it is relevant now that Bush is in the middle of his visit:

It is not necessary for France and Germany to send soldiers there if they do not wish. What is needed is that the Europeans raise the tone of the dialogue far above the nickel-and-diming over such issues as where NATO should train Iraqis, and whether a few more trainers should be added. It is time to show genuine, overarching political support for what Washington is trying to achieve in Iraq and the broader Middle East, without petty, nit-picking reservations.

Washington has now concluded it erred in building a coalition against Iraq by assessing the value of allies simply in terms of the number of countries participating and the number of troops contributed. It ignored the vital importance of winning broad political and psychological support, even from countries that did not send troops, so the world could see the West united behind America.

That is what France, Germany, Spain and other European critics of the United States must now offer. Their governments say they want to put past disagreements behind them. If they mean it, they should not be calling for better relations one minute, and fomenting anti-Americanism the next.

Elevating the discussion and supporting America’s broad goals, such as freedom and democracy, need not mean “pledging allegiance” to the United States, which Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, scornfully rejected this week. It means acknowledging that Europe and the United States face a wide range of common global dangers that they can best – perhaps only – tackle together.