Saturday, January 25, 2003

According to La Vanguardia, the State Department has announced that Americans living abroad should be prepared for a possible evacuation. I'm not too worried, but I am going to call up the consulate and let them know where we are just in case. You never know.

The Vanguardia's take on the current diplomatic turmoil is that the Americans and British are willing to wait a few more weeks for the UN inspectors to continue inspecting between now and the eventual attack on Iraq, which everybody seems to have decided sometime during the week is now inevitable. There's definitely a feeling in the Spanish media that the decision has been made and the war is on, that it's only a question of when. The purpose will be to do a little more convincing and arm-twisting on Congress and American public opinion while giving Germany and France another chance to get on board. Meanwhile, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana de Palacio met with Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday in Washington and backed the American position in the press conference afterward. Madrid "is considering" a second Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. That means Spain, with a seat on the Security Council (though no veto--we're not a permanent member, only on for two years) will vote yes should the Americans and/or British introduce such a measure. The Vangua mentions that the NYT reported that a White House source says that Bush talks with Aznar more often than with any other European leader. Good. Aznar deserves recognition for his gutsy stand with the US and UK and Australia and Canada against terrorism.

I suppose you've all heard that Donald Rumsfeld referred to Germany and France as "the old Europe" and Ari Fleischer emphasized that the US was by no means "going it alone", that we have the support of the UK, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, and several other Eastern European nations. Boy, did the Axis of Weasels ever get mad. Said elegant, sophisticated Roselyn Bachelot, the French minister of Ecology, "Merde." That was also the title of the lead editorial of Libération, the French Socialist newspaper. Jacques Derrida said "It is a shocking, scandalous, and typical statement. (Rumsfeld's) words do no more than underline the importance of European unity." Derrida, therefore, seems to wish that the US and Europe were enemies rather than friends. Jürgen Habermas said "Rumsfeld is responsible for a security doctrine that laughs at international law. The criticisms of his European friends trip over the American ideals of the 18th century." Romano Prodi said, "It's not age that makes Europeans oppose the war, but prudence. The Europeans are not old, they are wise." Jorge Semprún said, "We could turn the question around and say: the problem is Bush. While Europe tries to prevent an unjust and absurd war it will be, whether old or young, in the correct position." Le Figaro called Rumsfeld's words "an insult to Europe" and Le Monde said "Old Rumsfeld's words reveal the incapacity of America to tolerate an independent ally that will be called Europe." Régis Débray, who got himself thrown in jail back in the sixties for helping Che Guevara start a failed revolution in Bolivia and who probably should have been shot then, said, "The joint opposition of France and Germany against America and their rejection of war make me happy and fill me with hope...At last Europe has a dimension of foreign policy."

Huh. These Europeans are mighty sensitive. Who was it who said the Americans were simplistic or cowboys or warmongers or crudely imperialistic? Who called Israel a shitty little country? Whose newspapers are full of vicious anti-Americanism every day? Seems that they can dish out insults but can't handle the truth. The truth is this. Europe was the most important place in the world from about 1500 to 1945. In 1945, America and Russia took over as most important, but between 1945 and 1991, Europe was one of the most important places in the world in American eyes--remember we all thought that if war with the Russians came, it would be triggered by Soviet economic weakness and come in the form of a Soviet conventional invasion overrunning Germany? I remember thinking that until about 1988. We needed the Europeans then, not only for diplomatic support, but to fight.

What happened, though, is that when the Warsaw Pact collapsed everybody cut defense spending hugely. America did, too, and hawks repeatedly claimed that Clinton had been underfunding the military for eight years. But the Europeans, even the Brits, cut their defense spending so much that they didn't really have legitimate armed forces anymore. They left themselves dependent on the idea that there would be no more threats, that they could finally relax, that the threat of war that hung over the whole twentieth century (1914-1991) in Europe was finally finished. They also left themselves dependent on the United States for protection against outside threats, whether they realized what they were doing or not; no European country is now capable of fighting a real war alone. If you are a dependent, your status is different than that of a smaller equal.

Check out this metaphor. Imagine that you, a generally decent and fairly moral person, go to a tough high school where there are bullies who sometimes gang up against smaller, weaker people. You are a big, strong guy, and the bullies can't push you around. They don't even try. You worry, though, about all the bullies ganging up on you at once, and so you need friends. There are some other decent, moral fellows in the school who don't like the bullies, either, and so you all naturally gravitate toward one another and help one another out. If you have to fight one of the bullies, your friends watch your back. They may not be as big and strong as you are, but you need them, and you respect them. Now, you also have dependents. These are guys who can't take care of themselves, who aren't strong enough to fight the bullies. You, being a fairly decent guy, sometimes interfere if the bullies start picking on these guys. These dependents really hate you, because they hate themselves for being weak, and you always have to watch out for them. They are actually a danger to you, because they're untrustworthy and indecisive and are so insecure that they'll take unfair advantage to move up the pecking order and regain some self-respect. They can even be brought to side with the bullies against you if they think that it will help them regain status.

So, anyway, you finally cow all the bullies. Some of your friends remain your friends, ready to fight bullies, though their help isn't needed anymore. Others forget that they once needed to fight and sink to the level of dependents.

Europe is no longer one of the most important places in the world to the Americans, and hasn't been one for about twelve years. Britain, Spain, and Italy have been realistic; they've seen that it is both intelligent and right to be friendly with America even though they have lost importance in America's eyes. The Norwegians, Danes, and Dutch have similar attitudes. They don't like bullies and aren't going to stand for any bullying. Even though America doesn't need them, they're decent folks and will still watch America's back. Other countries like Sweden and Belgium have generally been more neutral, but have not usually fallen into unfriendliness. France and Germany, however, have ranged from pricklish neutrality to downright unpleasantness. They've become dependents. They've lost their moral strength so much that they either stupidly don't recognize or, worse, cravenly connive with, the small bullies who are still around trying to stir up whatever trouble they can.

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