Tuesday, October 12, 2004

 

Old Europe


There seems to be a great deal of anger in the States at France, Germany and now Spain. Some of that anger can be understandable. People feel let down by their allies. I can probably understand that. I can even understand (what I'm told) that some Americans cannot buy French products due to their anger.

What I can't understand is the feeling of immense hostility towards these long-trusted friends. I was amazed by a BBC radio report during the fever leading to the war on Iraq that some canteen in Congress changed the name of "French fries" on the menu to "Freedom fries"! This is not only silly and unbecoming of such a sober institution, but it reflects a violent mood. Remember Secretary Rumsfeld's sarcastic remarks about "old Europe"?

What is the matter with these countries? Don't they fear terrorism as much as you do? Are they just trying to appease terrorists without thinking of the consequences of giving in to terrorism?

What has changed? Has France suddenly become a terrorist appeaser? Has Germany become a fanatic nation again bent on destroying the USA? Aren't France, Germany and Spain still democracies?

Has America ever considered the possibility that these countries may have a different point of view on these issues? A difference of opinion? Isn't this what democracy is all about?

They let you down in an hour of need? Is it conceivable that they did not think that it was an hour of need? Is it possible that they couldn't help you do something that they thought was wrong? That they simply weren't convinced?

The theme of Europe drifting or even "succumbing" to the Left keeps recurring. Does anybody really believe that? I can see no drastic shift in Europe's political spectrum during the past 10 years. Even if there was such a drift, don't Europeans have a right to choose their own governments within the democratic system? Does that warrant so much loathing?

They may have their own interests in mind when taking this position. There may be fears about control of oil sources. There may be some conflict over control of the slowly emerging European super-power. These countries and the US have always had conflicting interests regarding spheres of influence and resources for decades. Why are they suddenly reasons for such fierce animosity?

Have Americans ever considered the possibility that many of them are hysterically frightened to an irrational extent, to an extent that makes them see enemies in friends and allies? Have Americans considered the possibility that some vested interests are playing on this fear? Is someone trying to drive a wedge between America and its traditional allies? Why?


Comments:

There was a news item a few days ago here in N.Z. pointing out that the governments of the "Coalition of the Willing" now represent about 13 percent of the world's population - take out the U.S.A. and the U.K. and that would be less than 10 percent. And most of them are former Soviet sattelites (Poland, Albania etc) who were probably bribed to join. Italy seems to be the only "civilised" country that's still supportive.
Whoever wins the U.S. election, it looks like the invasion of Iraq will have backfired on any idea of the U.S.A. as "world leaders" - it has lost any moral authority it may have had. And in the twenty-first century its military might doesn't actually terrify the rest of the world as much as it used to. It can't afford another Iraq.
Circular Anonymous
 
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France has never really had a good history regarding war with the US...yes we are "allies"...but France never really seems to come to our side willingly.

At the beginning of this issue, France was already rumored to be in Saddam Hussein's back pocket. Reports are coming out now that is fact the case.

If it does come out to be true, then France's opinion was not an opinion of belief and policy, but of money. It means they can be and were bought.

That is not an ally. Allies cannot be bought by the highest bidder. Allies are formed by common beliefs, missions or needs. If France was in Saddam's back pocket, any common belief we though we shared with France was thrown out and that sends a very clear message.

And after what we did for France in WWII, I'm afraid some Americans do remember, and we have every right to resent that.

As for Spain, I agree with Barry. The 3/11 train bombing should have reinforced their resolve, instead the terrorists accomplished their mission. Very sad indeed. Score one for the terrorists.

MB
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
'Old Europe'? Nonsense, the issue was and is of course, George W Bush. Certainly, there has been much friction in the past. The second GW Bush became president a great groan emitted from across the Atlantic. Europeans enjoyed scandalous Clinton, admired the polished JFK and even deferred to actor Reagan, but an ill bred born-again cowboy Bush is simply unacceptable. I can tell you that his high pitched Texas drawl is more than they can bear.However, they dutifully followed GW into the desolation of Afghanistan. But then came Iraq and Rummy and the hysteria and the insults,etc. And Bush's adolescent response to the rebuff is to form his own street gang..the anemic'coalition of the willing'. So an opportunity to create a world wide coalition against terror is lost for now. Notice how much more diplomatically effective Clinton was in Serbia (despite serious direct confrontations with Russia and China), than Bush in Iraq confronting nobody.
Bush as a world leader is totally incompetent.
 
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It is entirely because of the absoltuely vile and revolting gloating over the attacks of Sept. 11th by prominent members of the European press and intelligensia.

When your so-called friends say that you "had it coming" then they are no longer friends.
 
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All very good and thoughtful questions...

Americans have always had a love/hate relationship with "Old Europe" (and vice versa). A lot of it can probably be chalked up to "cultural differences".

American culture has so dominated the world for the last 50 years that many other cultures feel threatened. Everything is becoming 'Americanized'. While we here in America don't see this as a problem, others in the world feel threatened by this. (Perhaps this is one of the underlying motivators for current day terrorism?) If Americans spoke French, I have no doubt that we'd be in the middle of renaming english muffins into emancipation muffins.

The French in their desire to resist the 'americanization' of their culture have sought to distance themselves from us politically. Do we as Americans feel betrayed by this? Yeah, we do. Countless Americans are buried in Europe because we sought to protect 'Old Europe' from militarism and totalitarianism in not one but two world wars and one cold one. Does 'Old Europe' owe America a debt for this? Perhaps so, perhaps not. If so, for how long should this debt be held over their head?

Should 'Old Europe' be expected to follow America where ever we go because of old alliances? No.

But at the same time, you can't expect America to view as friends those who actively work against our interests.

To slant an old axiom... the friend who assists our enemy is our enemy.
 
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An interesting analysis and blog entry. Keep it up; I will certainly keep reading you.
 
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From what I understand, it wasn't so much that France and Germany did not think that invading Iraq was correct, it was the way they went about it that raised American anger. The things that their leaders said, the way it was said and the seeming refusal to sit and discuss it, went against what Americans thought was the correct thing to do when you don't agree with a friend.

Americans tend to feel that France has had the favor of American friendship, without being respectful of it. Both countries have, for many years, thrown teasing insults back and forth (All Americans are loud, unsophisticated and stupid/All French smell bad, are snobs and weak). If you think I am making it up, read Mark Twain's 'Innocents Abroad', written in the late 1800's about himself and a group of Americans who travel to Europe. Even in 1870, Americans and the French were sniping at each other. Many Americans feel that France has done very little for the United States, while the United States has done much for them.

A popular American joke:
Question: Why are all the streets in Paris lined with trees?
Answer: Because Germans like to march under shade.


When it comes to Germany, many Americans feel like they need to shut up and sit down. Two world wars, millions dead and millions spent trying to clean up their mess. Germany is rich, because they did not have to spend money on the military during the cold war, due to their punishment for the wars. To Americans, Germany is the LAST country that should say anything about going into a war.

About Spain. Americans are torn over that. After the bombing, many Americans felt deep sadness for the people of Spain. If the people felt that they should no longer be in Iraq, then they had the right to pull out. However, because they pulled out right after the attack, it gave terrorists all over the world the hope that if they bombed a country they wanted to change, then that country would bow to their wishes and they would win.

I am not saying I agree with all of that, I am just telling you what many Americans think. "If France and Germany did not want to fight, thats fine, just don't take away the rights of other nations to join together and do so if they feel its just and right." That is the logic of quite a few in America. Not all, in fact, it seems to be a 50/50 split. Half think it, the rest of us do not.

That being said. Most Americans do not call french fries, Freedom Fries, nor have they stopped buying French things. We thought it was all pretty stupid and wait for the trend to die off.

No matter if you agreed or disagreed with being angry at France and Germany, it all seems pretty stupid in general, given that it has been shown that there were no WMD's left in Iraq, and that it seems both France and Germany were getting money under the table from Saddam, using the Oil for Food program. Neither side seems to have been totaly honest with each other, nor have they tried to mend their rifts.

In other words, "Everyone is dirty in this pool, no one is clean".
 
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A small clarification: Germany is NOT that rich. Their country is experiencing incredibly high unemployment, and because Germany was the richest of the European countries signing up for the changeover to the EU and the use of the Euro as currency, the economy took a hit. While Germany does get to vote democratically for their politicians, they still have a socialist foundation for their government structure, which is also destroying their economy. What do I mean? Example: Their medical system is a socialist system. However, the citizenry has taken their system for granted, and now when the government makes new rules and implements cutbacks, the citizens howl like scalded cats, because they've become spoiled. As for using the example that they weren't allowed to use their military and that's why they are rich, take a look around Germany. What we bombed, we rebuilt. With American money. Example: in the city of Augsburg, we bombed the "rathaus" (German for city hall). 3 walls were left standing. We rebuilt that city hall. When I was stationed in Augsburg in 1992, they were just finishing the last touches inside the city hall. The room that was being finished was complete with 24 karat gold on the walls, and 12 frescoes on the ceiling representing different things like Justice had just been replaced.

Oh yes, I'd say Germany owes us quite a bit as well. Yet the young Germans protest outside the military kasernes and spraypaint their graffiti "Yanks go home". We are going home, bit by bit, yet when we leave, it hurts the economy of the town we depart. It hurt Augsburg and Munich when we left. The jobs that were lost, and the money that was no longer coming into the local stores from the families.

Germany is doing better than the rest of the EU because of us.

Again, another reason for why we are so angry at the way Germany expressed its disapproval.

I hope the Germans are thanking us every time they go into their city halls covered in American 24 karat gold.

MB
 
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Well I had a REALLY sarcastic comment about Germany but I won't post it. I really don't harbor much disdain for the Germans and I think it is high time we stop bringing up the Nazi's much in the same way I think it is time we stop bringing up the slaughter of the American Indians or Slavery. They were in the past and we have all moved past those moments.. (I hope)

That being said. I do find it interesting (funny?) that when Bush starts talking of reducing troop levels in Germany, they get mad at us..
 
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The problem with "some" Americans is that they think they know what's good or bad for Europe, Irak and the rest of the world.
 
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Circular

Or maybe its because the Germans have a national memory of a time when they saw themselves as the "master race," and set out to conquer and rule the world. (Damn near succeeded, too.) Maybe they now know that conquering and ruling other countries is not such a good idea.
The new "master race" are having a little trouble learning this.
And maybe the French learned from their unfortunate experiences in Vietnam and Algeria. Maybe they learned that brutal repression of a subject people never works in the long run.
U.S. television is heavily self-censored, and so the new master race just don't see the "collateral damage" that they are inflicting in Iraq - epitomised by the recent clip of a man in Samarrah holding up a dead child and screaming at the camera "Is this an insurgent, Allawi? Is this an insurgent?" Bet they didn't show that on American T.V.
Remember when America had a conscience? The college students' Vietnam chant - "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"
The fact that about half of America still seems to support Bush's failed policies, despite all the revelations of his mistakes, surely shows that the new master race is just as deluded as the old one was.
 
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Ahh yes but the "terrorists" blowing up children is OK?? The mass graves with children in them are OK?

And to the poster above. I don't hear many Americans saying what is good for Europe and all we are saying in Iraq is that a freer, more stable, and more prosperous Iraq is good for Iraq and the rest of the world...
 
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Oh and BTW Circular. How exactly is the US the "master race" considering the fact that we have Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, etc., etc.???
 
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Circular to Barry
1)This argument - the terrorists are ruthless, so we must be more ruthless - is what may lose you this war, just as it did in Vietnam. As long as your military is happy to kill several innocent civilians in the hope of hitting one insurgent, as they are now threatening to do in Fallujah, you will never win the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis. The British are doing it much better in the South. Vietnam again: "Grab them by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow." Didn't work there, won't work in Iraq.
2) Try to recognise sarcasm when you meet it Barry. Obviously the reference is to a national attitude of assumed superiority - nothing to do with race.
 
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Circular to Barry
I don't know that Abu wants us to use his blog for a private argument, but anyway:

1) Using strong language weakens your case, doesn't it? Is it really necessary?
2) Actually there isn't a war going on, strictly speaking. The war ended in May last year. "Mission accomplished," remember.
What's going on is an occupation, a version of colonisation. Maybe there is sometimes a case for brutal tactics ("collateral damage") in an all-out war like WWII, but not in a "liberation."
Like I say, the British are managing better in the south by trying to limit collateral damage.
 
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Okay, wait a minute, who is willing to kill ten civilians in order to kill one "enemy" here?

The side that uses a precision bomb to hit a specific house that their soldiers have been receiving mortar fire from?

Or the side that drives a car bomb into a crowd of dozens of children in the hopes of killing one American soldier?
 
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We've just had elections in Afghanistan (Afghanistan! where there hasn't been democracy since...forever?) and we will have elections in Iraq. We replaced Islamo-fascist Taliban in Afghanistan, we replaced one of history's most brutal dictators (no small trick, that) in Iraq.

All of Europe's whining about the poor people of IRaq rings hollow when mass graves are exposed. Why did we wait so long? Why does the world think a Dictator can do whatever he wants to his own people inside his own borders?

The UN his lost all moral authority. Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq, and now Sudan. Genocides all, and the UN fiddles are contemplates sanctions while tens of thousands die by the week. Money meant for medecine for children is spent lining the pockets of UN execs and building more palaces for Saddam. He daily fires off SAMs at coalition aircraft in the no-fly zone. He waits for the sanction coalition to tire and get greedy. IT was months away from happening.

Freedom is always the right thing. Just as this country paid in the worst way for savery by a civil war that nearly rent our society, the globe is paying in the worst way for looking the other way as Arab governments abused their own people while selling us oil. Now we pay.

What we are doing is the right thing to do. If Old Europe is too nuanced to see that and have the cojones to step up to the plate and make things right, so be it.

The Left are cowards. They want status quo, you kill your own people, it's OK, they don't look like us. We'll hide behind our declamations of peace at any cost. Meanwhile the dark clouds of millions upon millions of disenfranchised young Arabs with nothing to live for but everything to die for grows.

Better now than later. History will look back at this as the turning point, where Dictators can no longer hide within their borders, that to be a member of hte world community you have to respect human rights. It'll take a century. Longer if Old Europe keeps interfering to keep the status quo.
 
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Great post! Vested interests being Saddam. The oil for food program influenced France, Germany, Russia and China to actively work against the US in the UN and elsewhere. I don't really have a problem with them disagreeing with the US, but, when that turns into active collaboration with our enemies, that is where I draw my line in the sand.
 
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