Wednesday, January 28, 2004

National Review's Jay Nordlinger is at Davos at the big meeting of high mucky-mucks. He mentions Spain twice in his piece. Here's the first time, when Nordlinger quotes Dick Cheney expressing his thanks to the countries that had contributed to the coalition:

"Our military actions have also been carried out with the help of many allies and partners on this continent and around the world. It is no surprise to President Bush and me that 21 of the 34 countries keeping peace with us in Iraq today are NATO allies and partners. Along with Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the Netherlands have all made substantial contributions, with Poland taking command of a multinational division and Spain making a major troop commitment. Thirty-eight countries have forces in Afghanistan, 28 from the European continent, as well as others from the Middle East, East Asia, and North America. In Afghanistan, Germany has taken a leading role in providing forces and in expanding the role of NATO."

I think that's pretty good evidence that the United States is feeling extremely friendly toward Spain. I think this is a good thing. I honestly believe that the best thing Spain can do in its own self-interest is ally itself with the States and Britain, and I also believe that this is Spain's most ethical choice. (They could side with Russia or China or the discontented Arabs, for example, or join up with France and Germany in an anti-American EU.)

Nordlinger scored an interview with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, who, rumor has it, is both intellectually brilliant and personally pretty weird. She certainly isn't any good at standard social relations, but Nordlinger loves her:

I have gone on too long, and we should really wrap this Davos Journal up, but I'd like to say a quick word about an amazing European foreign minister: She is Ana Palacio of Spain, and she is not your average European official. Indeed, she sounds as though she could work for AEI. (The American Enterprise Institute).

She extols the role of the free market, she affirms the role of military force, and she is clear-headed about the role of the EU: It must be a freedom machine, or it will be no good. With terrorism, she has no truck whatsoever, no "root causes" nonsense or rationalizing. She says that what the Muslim world needs most is light: is freedom and the rule of law.

Against the Huntington thesis of a clash of civilizations, she cites Turkey. And, speaking of Turkey, what about the EU? When will the EU get moving in keeping its promise to Turkey, to let it in? That is what Palacio asks.

The problem of the Basques, she says, is nothing less than the problem of freedom: Half the population lives under threat of terror from the other half, and what kind of life is that?

I ask why her government joined the U.S. in Iraq. It couldn't have been for popularity, because most Spaniards were staunchly opposed. It couldn't have been for comfort within Europe — it certainly did not win Spain any points with the big EU powers. So, why?

Palacio explains it as a matter of "principles and values." Borrowing a famous phrase, she says that her government has "a certain idea of Spain, and a certain idea of Europe." Terrorism, she says, is the main challenge of the first part of the 21st century, and "we're on the same wavelength" with the Americans in assessing and dealing with this threat.

Like Donald Rumsfeld, she wishes that people would be more careful when they say "Europe." Europe is more than Paris, Brussels, and Berlin. Much more.

And anti-Americanism cannot — must not — be the glue of the European Union, because "you can't build an identity on an unhealthy premise. The refounding of Europe [an interesting way to put it: the refounding of Europe] is a big challenge, and must be done soberly."

That's pretty good, that is. That's an ally. That's standing up when you have to either hold firm or sit down and shut up. Spain has chosen to speak loud and strong. That takes a lot of courage when you're under all kinds of pressure to back down. Congratulations and thanks to Great Britain and Spain and Poland and all the other allies. Let's not forget our friends in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic who stood with us and who have committed peacekeeping troops to Iraq, either.

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