Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Spain Goes to War: Spanish Navy Boards North Korean Ship Carrying Scuds

On Monday, off the southern tip of India, the Spanish frigate Navarra and its accompanying ship Patiño, on patrol in the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, were informed by the American navy that a North Korean ship, flying no flag, was approaching. The Navarra ordered the North Korean cargo ship, which claimed to be carrying cement, to stop. It refused and the Navarra sent its speedboats out to prepare a boarding. The North Korean ship again refused to stop and the Navarra fired warning shots. Then the cargo ship stopped and was boarded. According to Defense Minister Federico Trillo, the ship contained fifteen Scud missiles with fifteen high-explosive warheads and various chemicals, which have apparently not been analyzed yet. The ship was bound for Yemen, whose government has alleged that it was buying the missiles legally. Yeah, right. As Trillo said, "We've caught them red-handed." (con las manos en la masa, literally "with their hands in the (bread) dough".) The crew and officers were arrested and turned over to the Americans. I guess we get to keep the cargo ship as a prize of war, or have I been reading too many eighteenth-century British Navy novels?

I highly recommend that President Bush make a big deal out of this. One of the main causes of European resentment against the US is that America is arrogant and prepotent. What that really means, of course, is that they feel ignored, disrespected, and underappreciated and this turns them against the folks who they think aren't appreciating them enough. That's perfectly reasonable. Remember that happiness is caused by others giving you your props, shame is caused by not being able to live up to the props that you know you're going to stop getting pretty soon if you don't shape up, and anger is caused by not getting the props you think you feel you deserve. When the Europeans think about America they feel both shame and anger, shame at the fact that they've lost the importance they had only twenty years ago and the props that go with it, and anger because they still feel they deserve the props they've lost. This is not infantile behavior, it's natural human behavior.

Well, one way to improve the situation is by giving the Spaniards some props for this one. They did their job well and made an important contribution. American appreciation for this show of military solidarity would decrease some of the shame and anger felt around here with regard to America.

Here's how important American approval is to the Spaniards. The Vanguardia is a conservative newspaper, which doesn't prevent it from printing a good bit of Marxist crap, but it's socially very conservative, very pro-monarchy and pro-Church. It's owned by this nobility dude named the Count of Godó, and the Count of Godó has set up this thing called the Count of Barcelona Foundation in honor of the father of the current king of Spain, Don Juan de Borbón, one of whose titles was Count of Barcelona. I suppose that King Juan Carlos now holds the title. Anyway, the Count of Barcelona Foundation has set up this award called the Count of Barcelona International Prize, and the very first one was given to...get this...drumroll...the New York Times! At the very moment when the Times is at the darkest moment of its history, when Howell Raines's editorship has made the paper nothing more than an American Guardian!

The specific excuse adduced was the exemplariness of the Times's reporting after 9-11. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. showed in person to collect the prize, which consists of a small, ugly bronze statue and a hundred thousand euros. The Vangua devotes FIVE full pages to this, including a front-page color photo of Sulzberger, his wife, the Count of Godó himself (squeezing into the photo, which is focused on him), the Queen, the King, and Princess Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarín. They also put out a special TWENTY-EIGHT page Culture supplement on the relationship between Barcelona and New York, which I wasn't actually aware existed, but if they say there's one, all right, I'll go along. Most of the supplement consists of five New Yorkers kissing up to (haciendo la pelota a) Barcelona opinion and a bunch of Catalans kissing up to New York opinion. This whole episode, a piece of manufactured news if there ever was one, is something that is very important to them. It means respect, it means attention, it means that Barcelona and Catalonia and Spain are significant.

Note: Juan Carlos officially calls himself Juan Carlos I. Somebody needs to tell him that you don't get to be a I until there's a II. That's why, in, say, English history, King John is just King John and King Stephen is just King Stephen because there was never a second king with one of those names, and why Elizabeth I was never I until the current Elizabeth II inherited the throne. This drives me right straight up the wall.

No comments: