Wednesday, February 9, 2005

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The transatlantic relationship is important -- but not that important

The Economist has a story on the state of transatlanric relations following Condi Rice's speech on the topic yesterday at the Sciences Po. It's worth reading, but contains this odd passage:

America may also have come to realise that by disengaging from its European allies, it merely allows them to pursue diplomacy in ways that it does not like. An example is the Kyoto treaty on climate change: America refused to sign up, but the accord was still ratified.

One sign that America is now more prepared to engage with issues that the Europeans consider crucial is this week’s declaration of an end to hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians. During his first term, Mr Bush paid lip service to Middle East peace but did little to push the process forward, to the chagrin of Tony Blair and other European leaders. Now the American president is taking the issue more seriously, and recent comments by Ms Rice suggest America will no longer be so quick to take Israel’s side.

While improving the transatlantic relationship is no doubt a nice positive externality from a more fruitful Middle East peace process. I think it's safe to say that the Bush administration's timing on this issue has nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with Yassir Arafat's passing.

Look, I think the transatlantic relationship is important, particularly with regard to the global political economy -- but it's not the cause of every twitch in U.S. foreign policy. The Economist is trying to read intent where there was none.

Another interesting question will be the extent to which the improving tranatlantic relationship reflects a greater recognition of shared interests -- or a greater willingness to amicably agree on disagreeing. For an example of tensions between these two approaches, see this FT story by Daniel Dombey.

posted by Dan on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM


Two comments. One, I think Iran would be a much better example than Kyoto for what the Economist is trying to say. Wheras Kyoto's ratification will have no real impact on the U.S., and probably not much on climate change, the European policy of unconditional engagement with Iran is genuinely hampering the ability of the U.S. to bring pressure on Tehren.

Two, in addition to the passing of Arafat, another factor that now makes a settlement more likely is the deposing of Saddam Hussein. His Baathist front groups (the Arab Liberation Front and Palestinian Liberation Front) were funding suicide attacks against Israel.

posted by: Kirk H. Sowell on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Coincidence is part of life, too. It is probably true that greater American involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian situation was contingent on Arafat's death, but it also happens at a time when it will help the Bush administration to improve relations with Europe. I don't see the question of who caused what to be that significant.

As to Ms. Rice's alleged signals about a reduced willingness to take Israel's side, let's wait and see. The Palestinians will contend that a withdrawal from all Jewish settlements in Gaza and a few in the West Bank is not nearly sufficient to support a peace deal, and this withdrawal is about as much as the traffic will bear in the Knesset right now. American pressure is the only thing that will change that.

Before we get to that fence, of course, we will probably have to see if the Israelis and Palestinians can maintain their truce in the face of Hamas' attempts to break it. Either that organization or some of its members is bound to attempt this in the next few weeks.

posted by: Zathras on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

I agree with Zathras. The minute the violence stops, the Israelis are flipped firmly back to the moral lowground in many ways. The settlements are no small matter. This is an opportunity, but unless Israel actually pulls back to more or less the Green Line, there will never be lasting peace. Pull back to the green line and build the wall. Good fences make good neighbors.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Do you really think Hussein paying suicide bombers made any difference? It was a nice propaganda item for him, but otherwise it was essentially irrelevent.

Such funding stopped two years ago. Did this lead to a significant drop in suicide bombing in Israel? To make you point you need to show that the drop in such funding caused a drop in bombing.

posted by: spencer on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

I strongly doubt that Condi Rice's ">"> Potemkin Q&A or her
war mongering threats against Iran and Syria. endeared her to Europeans.

Do you really think Hussein paying suicide bombers made any difference? Posted by spencer
Actually tne payments were to the families of bombers to aid them for the collective punishments inflicted by the Israel government. There can be no peace until there is justice, and there can be no justice until the Israeli crimes against humanity are punished.

Israelis talking about Palestinians
"What is necessary is cruel and strong reactions. We need precision in time, place, and casualties...we must strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise, the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action, there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent."
From a January 1, 1948 diary entry by one of Israel's founding fathers, David Ben-Gurion (talking about the Palestinians, of course.)

Golda Meir can declare, "There was no such thing as Palestinians; they never existed" while Menachem Begin can conversely admit the existence of Palestinians but paradoxically call them "beasts walking on two legs" and "cockroaches."

posted by: Mike on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

"Security Tactics Strongly Criticized

Israel has been strongly criticized this year for its security tactics, including continuing to build that security barrier along its border with the West Bank (search).

But terror attacks have dropped significantly this past year. According to new figures from Israeli intelligence, quoted by the Jerusalem Post, six suicide bombings were carried out in Israel this year. At least 12 were carried out last year. In addition, 55 people were killed from suicide bombings this year, down 60 percent from last year."

"Israel fights bunker mentality: This week's attack follows 91 suicide bombings this year - a long, wearying blitz.(World)"

So lets see, 91 attacks in the first 8 months of 2002, 12 in 2003, and 6 in 2004.

You might want to do your homework before making challenges. Although I can already hear the goalposts moving...

posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Professor Drezner has a good point. Europe is important but no longer determinative in US foreign policy.

I would argue that the single most important relationship the US has is with China, followed by Russia and perhaps Japan and India. Europe collectively may outweigh the latter two, but no one country in Europe impacts important goals of the US the way China does.

Not even the UK. Tony Blair's UK is important and influential in US foreign policy because it is a reliable friend. France is not as influential because it is at best a very unreliable friend which often behaves like an adversary. Russia conversely is an unreliable adversary which sometimes behaves as a friend.

China is a regional power which outweighs the other crucial regional powers (including India, Brazil, South Africa) because of two factors. China is a potential superpower and China is the key to defusing the single most dangerous small country on the planet - North Korea. An uncontrolled North Korea is a potential force multiplier to the other major risks - the countries supporting terrorism and the terrorists themselves. If terrorists explode an A-Bomb in the next few years North Korea will probably be a major cause, direct or indirect.

posted by: Don on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

I agree with the view expressed by Mr Drezner, The Economist opinion is closely linked to shift to a more pro-E.U. and leftist (sometimes i would call it socialist!)view in the magazine pages.

"There can be no peace until there is justice, and there can be no justice until the Israeli crimes against humanity are punished."

Mike do you know what's a crime against humanity? seems could start by killing civilians on propose...

posted by: lucklucky on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]


Links or References please. Or should I just reference Juan Cole's blog? And another thing, the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is fake, fyi.

posted by: Yo on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

To a significant degree, Bush has decided to engage with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process because his own rhetoric have backed him into a corner. On one hand, Bush refused to deal with Arafat, claiming that Arafat's support of terrorism made it impossible. While I have no interesting in defending Arafat, it is plain that this argument provided a nice justification that allowed Bush to avoid dealing with the problem when he had no interest in doing so.

Second, in the prelude to the Iraq war, Bush claimed that removing Saddam Hussein would aid the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. There was never any real logical justification for this position, given the largely symbolic quantities of aid Saddam Hussein provided. Regardless of external funding going to Palestinian militant groups, the problem remains an internal one that requires an internal solution. However, this argument targeted people who cared more about Palestine-Israel issues than the threat of Saddam Hussein, so the administration found it useful at the time.

Now that Saddam Hussein and Araft have left the scene, Bush has run out of excuses. Perhaps Bush has come around to the position that many area experts expressed before the war - namely that stability in the broader Middle East requires a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Of course, these same people were relentlessly derided before the war, but this wouldn't be the first time Bush has changed positions under the table.

posted by: Zach on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Maureen Dowd had a colum this morning (Thursday) about Sect. Rice in France. Dowd writes that Rice referred to Iran as a "totalitarian" rather than "athoritarian" state (frightening her French listeners), and then Dowd distinguishes between the two based on the level violence each employs. This isn't my field, but that's not the distinction as I remember it. Can 3D clarify? And also add whether Jeanne Kirkpatrick was the originator of the distinction bewtween totalitarian and authoritarian, or merely a popularizer of it?

posted by: gene on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

I think I'd go a little further, Dan. Not only is Europe not the caravan, it's the dog. Sure, we'll welcome it when our interests coincide. But when they don't we must act in our own interests nonetheless.

posted by: Dave Schuler on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Mark Buehner -- nice point -- you are right I should do my homework.

However, I will sort of move the goalpost. I said that you had to demonstrate that the drop in funding lead to a drop in attacks.

Can you demonstrate that the drop in bombing was not due to the construction of the wall are other factors rather then funding from Hussain?

posted by: spencer on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

I don't think even the Israelis ever had a good handle either on how important Saddam Hussein's aid to Palestinian terror gangs was before the 2003 invasion of Iraq or how easily it could be replaced from other sources.

You could argue that Saddam's policy suggested the kind of thing he would get up to if we gave him the chance, or conversely that what evidence we had suggested he directed his aid almost entirely toward terrorists attacking Israel, at most a secondary problem for the United States. The idea that removing the Baathist government in Iraq was essential to progress on the Palestinian question appears not to be supported by evidence. But I don't think it hurt either; Palestinians have for decades gotten encouragement to take extreme and impractical positions by Arab governments far enough away not to have to deal with the consequences. But to come back to Dan's orginal point, that encouragement would not have mattered so much if Arafat had not been at the center of Palestinian politics for so long. It seems clear enough that his departure from the scene is much more important in this area than Saddam Hussein's was.

posted by: Zathras on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Back to the Europeans for a sec: Am I the only person left alive that thinks the European relationship *is* "that important"? If we can't be friends with the only other democratic region in the world, who are we left with? Israel, Britain, Japan and Egypt? Whatever your favorite foreign-policy goals are -- Israel and Palestine, nuclear-free Iran, squashing terror, stopping climate change, whatever, left or right -- we're going to need more than a handful of friends. And the best friends are the friends that look most like us. They have elections, a free press, respect for human rights, etc. And folks, outside Canada and the Antipodes, that's basically Europe.

I mean, *of course* when we disagree on an absolutely vital issue we should do our own thing. But that's exactly what the French would say, and did say, about Iraq. Now that's over. It's hug time. C'mon, everybody. Hug a frog. It is that important.

posted by: Contributor A on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

"However, I will sort of move the goalpost. I said that you had to demonstrate that the drop in funding lead to a drop in attacks. "

There was a drop in funding, then a drop in attacks. Thats all anyone can say.

"Can you demonstrate that the drop in bombing was not due to the construction of the wall are other factors rather then funding from Hussain?"

No, causality is notoriously hard to establish in any field. Otoh, i dont doubt if the violence had not dropped you would conclude taking down Hussein had no effect, and that isnt provable either (the drop could have been offset by other factors). Like I said, causality is tough. We can only guy by what is happening at the moment, and that is that violence is down, and the peace process is back from the dead. Whether continuing the failed policies of coddling the murderous liar Arafat while weapons poured in from neighbors would have gotten here is debateable. We are where we are, and if it works you can only say it worked. or not. We'll see.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

According to (I know, I know, but let's assume that this is accurate) the rejectionists launched 30 rockets at an Israeli town this morning and then attacked a Palestinian Authority jail and freed a number of killers. Debka says that Gen. Arafat (nephew of the late unlamented Yassir) provided the rockets to the "militants" who fired them off.

I think it's highly doubtful that Abbas can deliver any kind of peace agreement. He can't even protect his own jails. Sharon will not sit by quietly while Arab militias are launching rockets at Israeli towns.

There is little if anything the US can do about this. Putting pressure on Sharon will do nothing to curb the Arabs who are launching daily attacks against Israel (in addition to the rocket attacks, the number of attempted suicide bombings is still high, but the fence has been very successful in stopping most of them).

I see no prospects for peace at all unless the Palestinian Arabs fight a civil war and a faction that favors a peaceful settlement with Israel wins.

posted by: DBL on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Lost in this thread is what is arguably a more important trend. That is, the growing economic and political power of the EU will increasingly put it at odds with the U.S. across a wide range of issues.

The Bush administration and the U.S. press has been totally myopic on this emerging reality. While America has had all eyes on Iraq, the EU has been discussing lifting its arms embargo on China (not an EU strategic rival) and celebrating the symbolic victory of the Airbus 380.

For more on this, see:

"On the Wrong Side of History"

posted by: Jon on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

I think you're wrong Jon. The tendency in Europe is for Eastern Countries getting more power and influence. They are pro-american, "Old Europe" actually wasnt an incorrect saying; France, Germany, Belgium are and will have big troubles for a diversity of reasons: Old population, rotten schools, less social rewards for risk taking. They are growing in the 1-2% and with 10% unemployment rate. Right now Percapita income/GNP is 37800$ in US and
around 26-27000$ in big European Countries. I expect that the diference will grow even more in next 3-4 years.

posted by: lucklucky on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Sillr wabbit, tricks is for kids!

Seriously Dan, did they actually give you a Ph.D. with this kind of thinking? The importance of the transatlantic relationship just got put to the test - the arms embargo on China - and it failed. Europe is opening up to China. There is overwhelmingly probable reason to believe this will improve the Chinese nuclear program.

In turn, since the Chinese have shown themselves willing and able to proliferate missile and nuclear technology this sets back the cause of nuclear weapons proliferation around the world.

Rice 0, Bad Guys 2 and it's only her first week. Like the rest of Ms. Rice's work, it is a study in much highly praised and critically well recieved utter and complete failure.

The thing is I wonder if she's even smart enough to realize that because of her inexperience we've been taken to the cleaners twice already.

posted by: oldman on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Back to the Europeans for a sec: Am I the only person left alive that thinks the European relationship *is* "that important"?

You're probably not the only one, but I don't think it's all that important.

The essence of foreign policy is advancing a nation's interests, and I don't see how being friendly with Europe advances the US's interests more than a strictly 'business' relationship like the US's relations with most of the Asian nations.

The disputes over Kyoto, the ICC, and Iraq have made it extremely clear that Europe is not willing to do the US favors that do not advance Europe's interests, so why should the US be willing to do Europe favors that do not advance the US's interests?

Quid pro quo is how diplomacy works. No Quid, no Quo, and that goes as much for Europe as anyone else.

posted by: rosignol on 02.09.05 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

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