Friday, February 20, 2004
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Whither Europe's influence?
Martin Woollacott says in today's Guardian that European Union's influence is waning in the rest of the world:
When he gets to the Middle East, here's his rationale:
Wollacott has half a point, in that those realpolitik-minded Arabs desperately want more multipolarity in the system. However, in the future, Europe's standoffishness on Iraq might cause their influence to wane among future leaders. Tom Friedman's column from yesterday makes this point. One highlight:
posted by Dan on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM
The Old Europeans made a serious mistake in not assisting the coalition forces in rescuing the Iraqis and Afghans. Their unwillingness will render them politically impotent in the future. I predicted awhile back on this very blog that sometime around March the Bush administration will be perceived as heroic---and those opposing the war will be deemed idiots. That time is about to occur. Even the liberal media will not be able to indefinitely hide the good news.
Tony Blair probably means well, but it is morally contemptible to treat the Jews and the the Arab extremists “evenhandedly.” The Jews are mostly the innocent victims of those who desire their destruction.
By the way, when is the Israeli issue going to be discussed in this year’s presidential campaign? I am convinced that the liberal activists of the Democrat Party are selling the Israeli Jews down the river. This is especially true for the followers of Howard Dean and John Kerry. But aren’t Dean’s wife and children, you might ask, Jewish? Yup, but that only means that there are a lot of naive Jewish-Americans who live in La-la Land. They are so liberal that their brains have been turned to mush.posted by: David Thomson on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
Dan's post here covers more than one issue, but the common theme is Europe's desire to exercise influence without committing resources or making an hard choices.
Even-handedness on the Israel-Palestinian question begs the question: even-handedness between what? The traditional Arab position opposing the existence of Israel and publicly supporting any steps that might be taken against the Jewish state is by definition unacceptable to Israel, and to the United States as well. Yet Europe has never taken a hard line against Arabs espousing this position. It has instead nodded, and smiled, and assured itself that when push came to shove the Arabs would settle for something less. Effectively European countries, especially France and Germany, have encouraged Palestinians and other Arabs to persist in a course that had no hope of succeeding. Small wonder their voice counts for less in the Arab world than it should given the size of Europe's economy.
Telling the Palestinians thirty years ago that they would never have European support for obliterating the Jewish state or or terrorism for any purpose was the only way Europe could retain some hope of influencing a Mideast settlement. As it stands now neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis trust Europeans, though the Israelis are happy to trade with them and the Palestinian Authority is equally happy to steal from them.posted by: Zathras on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
“It has instead nodded, and smiled, and assured itself that when push came to shove the Arabs would settle for something less.”
I wish to slightly change the above sentence to “It has instead nodded, and smiled, and assured itself that when push came to shove the hard core Arab radicals would settle for something less.” There are Palestinian moderates---but they don’t have any real power. Thus, any current negotiations between the Jews and the Palestinians are mostly a waste of time.
What is the number one question to ask this year’s presidential candidates? It should be: “What is your position on the Wall? And please provide us with an unambiguous answer.”
John Kerry has already flunked. This is what the mealy mouther Democrat candidate said:
“I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government's decision to build a barrier off the green line, cutting deeply into Palestinian areas. We do not need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israel's security over the long-term, they increase hardships to the Palestinian people, and they make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.”posted by: David Thomson on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
All criticisms of the barrier ARE about the green line, and I think Kerry was correct on that. I fail to see why Israel just doesn't simply build the fence ON that line. A land grab never looks good, and it tarnishes what was supposed to be a decent defensive measure that everyone supported. A significant number of Israelis on the right and the left want a disentanglement between themselves and the Palestinians. Keeping settlements is not a realistic component of such a disentanglement. Building a wall around them to try to keep them sounds likely to defeat the very goal of building the wall.posted by: ch2 on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
I think Zathras' point about "Europe's desire to exercise influence without committing resources or making hard choices" is absolutely central.
Europe's usefulness as an ally had to be seen as especially diminished after the Bosnian conflict. In conflict within Europe, the US bore the brunt of carrying out the tougher aspects and the risks of "blowback" involved with these. How can Europe have a 50% role in decision-making while taking something like 10% responsibility for carrying out the decisions? This must diminish Europe not just in American opinion but in the world's.
Europe wants to make international rules but avoid all the risks and hard choices involved with enforcement. In most parts of the world this is not the route to being taken seriously.
Ch2, its a fair question, and there are multiple answers.
"1.The green line has never been defensible. There are too many hills that command the heart of Israel to leave in Palestinian hands. You cant build walls high enough to prevent snipers from taking out the occasional kid on the way to school whenever the mood strikes them."
Mmmm. I had been under the impression that sniper fire tends to be directed at settlers, their cars (homes), etc. I never really thought of the wall as a sniper shooter solution, and more of a illegal immigration (of bombers) kind of solution. Everyone crossing it has to be screened.
2."...settle for Israel driven into the sea,..."
Some Palestinians sure took the "Jews into the sea" beyond the rhetoric (Hamas included), though some claim that they fight just for Gaza and West Bank. A few dedicated "not one hill back" settlers exist as well. (I agree with your analysis of the political situation).
"3.The realpolitik. Someday there will have to be a negotiated settlement on a number of issues."
I truly hope so.
"The wall doesnt actually eliminate this, it simply puts time on Israels side instead of the Palestinians."
"Someday, there will have to be a real peace. If Israel gives up all the land before that day, they will have precious little to negotiate away when the time comes. Which will in the end extend the conflict."
To be honest I thought that Israel's right to exist had been aknowledged verbally by Arafat. You probably don't consider him to be a negotiating partner. If so, who speaks for the Palestinians ?
"When one side wont negotiate in good faith, they simply have to live with what is imposed on them. It is also a potential lesson for the Palestinians, if they ever choose to learn it."
I guess I don't like the "Let God sort them out approach". The perpetrators should be punished, but the guilt-by-being-a-neighbor or brother only breeds more radicalism. Lesson-giving to a people or tribe rarely works (kind of action-reaction thing).
Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful discussion.posted by: ch2 on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
"Europe wants to make international rules but avoid all the risks and hard choices involved with enforcement. In most parts of the world this is not the route to being taken seriously."
I think the best way to describe this approach is 'American horse, European rider'. And then they wonder why we are not more enthusiastic about them?
posted by: Gene on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
"Mmmm. I had been under the impression that sniper fire tends to be directed at settlers, "
Thats true at the moment because Israeli troops occupy every hill that commands Israel. You kind of have to know the topography, its a very small region. The hill issue has been a priority for Israel since the beginning.
"Some Palestinians sure took the "Jews into the sea" beyond the rhetoric "
"Why was it on the Palestinians' side ? Are you talking demographics or something else?"
"To be honest I thought that Israel's right to exist had been aknowledged verbally by Arafat. "
posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
thanks for the answer, it clears up some of the questions I had. Btw, when is the next Palestinian election ?
Have a great weekend.posted by: ch2 on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
Yes, And just think about the coming Photo-op -
"Mr. Netanyahu...Tear. Down. this. Wall"
Wouldn't be the first time someone had to build a thing just to give it away.
I remember one of Robin William's stand-up bits on the Stealth Bomber:
"Why do we need to build it? Why not just spend the money on bombs and build a 'crash' site every once in a while...Let them try and figure out *that* technology..."posted by: Tommy G on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
I'll admit to confusion here. Dan's post dealt with the question of Europe's influence in the rest of the world, particularly in the Arab countries. It's a subject of some interest to the United States, considering the number of issues on which America and Europe find themselves involved.
Yet at least half the responses to this post involve measures Israel is taking in pursuit of its own interests. One even suggested that one of these -- the barrier Israel is building around its territory and settlements -- ought to be central in the American Presidential election.
Forgive me, but this is nuts. When the history of civilization in this era is written the United States will occupy the central role in it. Israel by virtue of its size and location will be a footnote at most. I don't begrudge Israelis any level of passion about the issues important to their country -- but it is their country, not ours. American interests in the area lie in upholding the decades-old commitment our country has made to the survival of the Jewish state, not in advocacy or defense of the territorial expansion program of the Israeli Likud Party. This elementary distinction seems to be lost on some Americans, who seem strangely prone to the temptation to regard other people's quarrels as if they were our own.posted by: Zathras on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
I think the first question about the Europeans is not "what are they doing?" but "who are they?"
European immigration policy and demographic trends, diplomatic moves and stances, and acceptance of cultural Islam (particularly where it dovetails with old European ideas regarding, for instance, Jews), constitute a tacit promise and down-payment on a new identity.
This is not indefinitely sustainable. It can only issue in a new identity, or in a sense of betrayal as the promise is not fulfilled. The Muslim reaction to the French banning conspicuous religious clothing in schools illustrates this. Yes, European statesman can be accepted in the Muslim world, but not if they are going to act contrary to the basis of their acceptance.
If Europeans treacherously turn their backs on their implicit promise, it makes the injustice of Muslims living under-non-Muslim rule much more provocative, by implying that this might be a permanent state of affairs. That’s not a formula for good relations.
Regarding the rest of the world: "These trends are not, in the first instance anyway, those to do with population, pensions, migration, and out-sourcing that have led to suggestions that Europe will be increasingly outpaced by America, India and China."
Sorry, that's exactly what it looks like to me. A "lame duck" administration, with no future, has less influence. A "lame duck" civilization, with a dubious future, headed for deep and indefinite decline at best and departure from history at worst, has less influence for the same reason.
It would appear that what you posit would necessarily involve "old" great power involvement in the 'colonial' world again, after its -as you pointed out on another post - long, self-destructive (Actively and Passively) last century.
Do you see the cycle beginning again? Mid-East - Africa - S America? (N AMerica being necessarily 'no longer in play')
I do. And a closer examination of English and French defense policy would suggest that they alone, of 'old' europe, do also.
I would say, "with the 'new' anti-semetic twist" ala the arab penisula - but it, of course, is more accurately described as 'most recent'.
What did Mr. Byrne say?posted by: Art Wellesey on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
Hi, Art Wellesey.
"Do you see the cycle beginning again?"
No. It's not that I see anything wrong with your idea, it's just that I'm concerned with the vulnerability of the crystal-gazing I've already done to history's random surprises, rather than wanting to elaborate my scenario much further.
I'm of the school that says "history is just one damn thing after another." Hence my heavy emphasis on demography and its implications, because that's the steadiest base for predictions in a world where predictability is in short supply. Religion is good too. But by the same token, instead of seeing anything cyclic, I'll just keep saying, "we don't know, we've been surprised before and we can be surprised again".posted by: David Blue on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
David: You said "The Old Europeans made a serious mistake in not assisting the coalition forces in rescuing the Iraqis and Afghans."
Although the 'old Europeans' (whoever they are) aren't pulling their weight in Iraq, they are very much active in Afghanistan. Not only through the NATO peacekeeping force, but through special forces (especially French) operating directly alongside US troops in combat operations outside of NATO.
Lily: The EU does not have the military capacity of the US. It cannot undertake certain missions with the same capability as the US. But on issues like Kosovo it is worth remembering that while the US did provide 80% of the air power for the bombing, the EU provided 80% of the troops for the subsequent peacekeeping mission. In the Bosnian bombing campaign, the US did not have peacekeeping troops on the ground, the EU did. Whose troops were either kidnapped and held hostage, or died in Bosnia? To say that the EU does not take risks is simply not true.
You look at the EU-US relationship as if both have the same capabilities and do the same things. The analogy of the US making the dinner and the EU doing the dishes springs to mind. But just because they take on different roles does not mean that each should not have an equal say. Would you tell a husband who does the dishes after his wife cooks dinner (or vice versa) that he does not have an equal say in the household decisions?posted by: Andy on 02.20.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]
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