Saturday, September 27, 2003

I put up a post over on EuroPundits. It's a translation of the back-page interview on Saturday, Sept. 26, with Robert Kagan. As you probably know, Kagan is one of the better-known think-tank pundits, and in the US he's generally considered a hawk on defense and foreign policy issues.

Here's the thing, though: the Vanguardia gave him their back page to say his piece, and gave him the page 4 second-in-importance international story. The interview I translated on EuroPundits is presented in a manner that's fair enough, and here is the news story about Kagan's public pronouncements at this wingding they had at the Barcelona World Trade Center; I've translated about two-thirds of it, and you'll see that the presentation the reporter (I assume it's Victor M. Amela, the same guy who did the back-page interview--the article is by-lined "Staff") gives is remarkably unbiased.

...Kagan states that the real problem separating Europe and the United States is not Iraq. Though he used to think that despite the disagreement over the war against Saddam Hussein the common values of Europeans and Americans would be preserved, Kagan says he has realized that the differences between the two are deeper than before, that they are "structural and ideological". The ocean dividing the West's two components is very wide. To Kagan, we have to accept that "those who have more power tend to use it and to believe in the legitimacy that that power gives."

The Europeans, who created the idea of "raison d'etat", Kagan says, are giving that up and find themselves in a position that could be defined like this: "Weak countries have always wanted to have mechanisms to limit the power of those who have it." The problem, according to this axiom, is not the United States but Europe: Europeans do not want to recognize military power and "don't want to use it", and this is due to the bitter experience of the wars of the twentieth century.

To sum up: "You the Europeans are the ones who are isolated." Why? "Because the methods Europe uses to understand and relate with the world cannot be applied outside of Europe." The United States, on the other hand, adds Kagan, knows how to deal with the world, and it has a double standard for doing so: one for the European countries, who are the incarnation of post-modernity, and another for the pre-moderns.

With the Cold War over and the two blocs broken up, the world is unipolar because "Europe does not want to take thenecessary steps to become the other pole," it wants Russia and China in the middle, and "most Europeans think that the Security Council is the only guarantee of multipolarity." How, then, can we repair transatlantic connections? "I think there are many advantages to a unipolar world, but I can understand the anxiety that this may create in Europe."

Kagan's thoughts are different facets of the same piece. The Bush Administration's recent moves to legitimize its policies in Iraq in the UN will be nothing more than a mess of red tape. "Let's not be simplistic, let's remember that American presidents have never believed in the UN." The pillars that supported American legitimacy fell with the end of the Cold War. It was Europe who pulled them away, and now Europe should reflect because "world order is based on the power, relatively benevolent, of the United States over the last century." "If the only country which can face new threats does not have this legitimacy, the Western world will not be able to face these threats." According to Kagan, one should not fool oneself regarding the future of the world: "Order and justice will always be more of a hope than a reality."

We've got to give credit where credit is due. Ever since Josep Maria Casasus's outbreak of mental diarrhea last Sunday, in which he accused those who have protested La Vanguardia's anti-American biases of being agents for the American government, the Vangua has been remarkably well-behaved. Their reporting this week has been a model of even-handedness; the only thing that I found irritating were Robert Fisk's daily dispatches to the Independent, which the Vangua is picking up, and that's fair enough. Fisk gives only one side to the story, of course, but the Vangua can argue that a lot of people in England and other places regularly read Mr. Fisk and that his side of the story is worth reproducing.

Now let's see what the reaction to Kagan's words will be. If he gets ambushed en masse over the weekend by the Vangua's usual scribes, I'll be annoyed. If he gets bashed by Porcel and Sole but the news pages stay as neutral as they have been over this week, I'll be pleased.

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