Wednesday, October 2, 2002

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TWO BITS ON GERMANY: The forecast is for light blogging for the next 36 hours, as I have to read through job candidate files for a search my department is conducting. Two thoughts on Germany for the day:

1) More evidence that Germany is trying to smooth things over with the United States (link via InstaPundit). The money graf:

"The German business community has been piling the pressure on Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor. German exports to the US are already suffering from a strong euro-dollar rate and weakening American demand. Now there is the fear of a consumer boycott."

I actually suspect this fear is greatly exaggerated, but over the long term, this is an interesting phenomenon [What the hell does "interesting" mean? Don't you just say that when you're trying to avoid writing a fuller explanation?--ed. Fine. It's interesting because while it suggests that U.S. market power will exert a powerful influence on other countries, the more you think about it the more you realize that the constraint cuts both ways. If (big if) there were mass European protests close to military action against Iraq, I could easily see U.S. businesses with extensive European operations/markets lobbying the administration to back down. Look at U.S. corporate behavior towards China/Cuba as another example. The libertarian argument is that free markets will produce democracy. Maybe. It's undeniably true that corporations dislike political change because it leads to economic uncertainty. What U.S. firms want in these markets is economic access and the maintenance of the status quo.]

2) Victor Davis Hanson has a Commentary piece echoing the Bob Kagan line, but Hanson's piece is much weaker than Kagan's. First, he notes: "What seems beyond denial is that, from the Atlantic coast to the Balkans, there has been a rise in the level of truculence." Oh, no, not truculence! Why, we've never had that in the post-W.W. II transatlantic relationship, except for the Suez crisis, CoCom, Skybolt, France pulling out of NATO, Vietnam, the collapse of Bretton Woods, the nuclear freeze, the Soviet gas pipeline.... you get my point. Truculence is the norm in transatlantic relations, yet every time it emerges, analysts are surprised anew.

Second, Hanson argues that the transatlantic rift will be permanent because of Americans' long historical memories: "Forgotten in the present anguish over European attitudes is our own age-old suspicion of the Old Country, a latent distrust that once again is slowly reemerging in the face of European carping. It helps to recall that, for millions of Americans, doubts about Europe were once not merely fanciful but often entirely empirical.... At family dinners, “Europe” never meant vacations or the grand tour but evoked gruesome stories about poison gas, “rolling” with Patton, or having one’s head exploded at Normandy Beach."

I applaud Hanson for being in touch with his historical roots -- I seriously doubt whether other Americans are as connected to theirs. As Hanson notes in the same essay, the genius of America is that it allows its citizens, particularly its immigrants, to reinvent themselves. The historical memory that Hanson relies on for his argument should be most powerful among the policymaking elites, but those are the very same people that Hanson acknowledges are bucking the trend of Euroskepticism.

Must read files. Talk amongst youselves.

posted by Dan on 10.02.02 at 10:13 AM