:: Bite The Wax Tadpole ::

Culture, language, politics, Europe, the US and whatever strikes my fancy.
:: Where does "Bite The Wax Tadpole" come from? :: bloghome | contact ::
Atom feed
[::..topical blogs..::]
[::..euro blogs..::]
[::..daily reads..::]
[::..slow roll..::]
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com
Listed on BlogShares

:: Saturday, February 15, 2003 ::

I suggest that we just drop the whole "gratitude for WW II" thing. It's not that the sentiment is wrong, but it's an off-topic rathole that can only lead to further anger and hardening of attitudes. That's the last thing we need right now. Please read to the end before you flame me.

Americans, please try to understand that most Europeans don't see a direct connection between the World War II and US policy today. From their standpoint, talk about gratitude is a non-sequitur, at best. To many, it seems like a demand for slavish obedience to US whims. Even those who are genuinely and deeply grateful to the United States get their hackles up when gratitude is obligatory and seems to be equated with obedience.

A more insidious and destructive consequence is that introducing "gratitude" into a discussion comes across as changing the topic, because they don't see the connection in the first place. It leaves the impression that you've given up on arguing the merits and have been reduced to calling in old favors to get your way. It ends up seeming petulant, manipulative and insulting. In short, it polarizes the discussion and eliminates any chance of finding common ground.

That doesn't make it wrong, just ... unhelpful.

Europeans, please try to understand that most Americans do see a direct connection between World War II and the present day. Americans travelled halfway around the globe, to fight and die in Europe's war, and they paid the butchers bill for Europe's failure to act before crisis grew into tragedy. And they stayed -- to nurse weary Europe back to health, at first, and later to defend their allies both old and new against the danger that arose in the east.

Now America is under attack and some of those "allies" won't even stand clear and allow her to defend herself, conspiring to deny America the use of her own armies - the very armies that have stood guard over Europe for more than half a century. That is the thread that binds World War II to the present for Americans, and the reason that they talk about gratitude. When you deny that link from yesterday's tyrants to the present, you seem - to American ears - to be disregarding and dishonoring more than fifty years of steadfast support from America. You seem ... ungrateful.

One side won't win over the other on the question of gratitude, but gratitude itself is a side issue. Let's focus the discussion on the real issues and avoid diving into this emotional and divisive rathole. Hopefully, a better understanding of what the other is thinking will make it easier to take a deep breath, take a step back, and turn the discussion to more productive topics.
:: Erik | 2/15/2003 03:22:00 PM | | ::

Vladimir Putin, please call your office. Richard Perle has informed France that TotalFinaElf can kiss those lucrative Iraqi oil contracts goodbye. He's actually sending a message to Russia; we'll see if anybody picks up the phone.
:: Erik | 2/15/2003 11:17:00 AM | | ::
:: Friday, February 14, 2003 ::
The Blogosphere and even some of the mainstream media are coming around to the notion that we're facing Cold War II, as predicted here last month. Steven Den Beste, Andrew Sullivan, Mark Steyn and others are taking a look at the consequences of the new divide and how it should affect American policy from here on out.

I'm relieved that most of the commentary is sober and thoughtful rather than triumphalist or overtly belligerent, but I worry about the bitterness I see from some toward French and Germans in general (as opposed to the governments of France and Germany). Nations on both sides of the new divide are at least nominally democratic, which means that public opinion is a much more potent weapon than in the first cold war. Open hostility and disdain will only turn people away.

I also depart a bit from the conventional wisdom that France and Germany have isolated themselves hopelessly within Europe. They're isolated at the moment, but many of the pro-American leaders (including Tony Blair) are sitting on the powder keg of negative public opinion and won't be able to hold out forever. France and Germany want to drag this pre-war period out as long as possible because every day weakens their opponents within Europe; as I've said elsewhere, the threat of war is much more damaging to public opinion than the fact of war, unless the war goes badly.

That's all I have time for now. Next up, why "gratitude" is both irrelevant and utterly important.
:: Erik | 2/14/2003 04:04:00 PM | | ::

:: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 ::
Sorry for the dearth of postings lately. I'm growing more worried about the long term as the tone of the discussion (in the blogosphere, at least) takes on an even nastier edge, but I haven't had a long enough break to properly organize my thoughts. I should have more on the topic later today or tomorrow. Some advice to President Bush has also been percolating and I'll blog that as well, time permitting.

In the meantime, have a look at these:

  • Always reliable Dilacerator explains why the collapse of NATO was inevitable. He's probably right, though I can imagine (could have imagined) a shift in NATO's role. Even if the end was unavoidable, it didn't have to be this ugly and destructive.

  • Amiland cites a Spiegel Online interview and worries about the corresponding online poll. The article is horrible but I'm the poll doesn't concern me -- it's an online poll and is unlikely to be even remotely representative of the population as a whole.

  • Cinderella Bloggerfeller covers an interesting debate between intellectuals from "old" and "new" Europe in a Polish daily paper.

  • A nice Andrew Sullivan piece on the moral arguments in favor of war in Iraq.

  • This Prague Post article does a nice job, too.

  • If North Korea wasn't horrifying, it would be hilarious. It's pretty much impossible to parody the KCNA (Korean Central News Service). In the midst of famine and nuclear brinksmanship, the DPRK takes time out for the "7th Kimjongilia Show" (a flower show) in honor of dear leader Kim Jong Il.

  • :: Erik | 2/12/2003 02:46:00 PM | | ::
    Yasser and Kim, sittin' in a tree... From the today's entry at KCNA:

    Floral basket to Kim Jong Il from Palestinian President
    Pyongyang, February 11 (KCNA) - General Secretary Kim Jong Il
    received a floral basket from Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to
    mark his birthday. ...

    :: Erik | 2/12/2003 12:07:00 PM | | ::
    Something to Hide? In an update way at the end of this post, Steven Den Beste wonders:

    The governments of France and Germany must know that Americans are starting to wonder whether they're trying to prevent revelation of collaboration. They have to know that because it was on the WSJ's web site on Monday. Why aren't they saying anything about this? If they really were innocent you'd think they'd have issued denials and demanded retractions and apologies.

    Nah. In their shoes, I'd just ignore the claim and hope it goes away. If they're actually guilty, they might start quietly shredding documents and a few witnesses might have "accidents," just in case, but commenting at this point would just draw unwanted attention.
    :: Erik | 2/12/2003 11:17:00 AM | | ::
    :: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 ::
    What's one more weasel amongst friends?: I haven't seen this in the English language press yet, but Focus magazine is reporting that China has joined the Axis of Weasels. They didn't phrase it exactly like that, of course.

    This might lead to a shift to the "Embrace, extend and extinguish" strategy for dealing with the Weasel-Bloc's "Mirage" plan. It certainly increases the cost of the "discredit and ignore" approach, unless President Bush has one hell of an ace up his sleeve.

    Update: The various US news outlets are now reporting this, too.

    :: Erik | 2/11/2003 02:29:00 PM | | ::
    Such Consistency

    Now this pisses me off (Hat tip: Merde in France). France is opposing NATO involvement in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Why?:

    Nato diplomats said France's main objection to going out of area was that it meant letting the US use Nato beyond its traditional role of providing collective defence on its own territory.

    Didn't France veto an attempt by NATO to "provide collective defense on its own territory" just yesterday?

    What's the procedure for booting a member country out of NATO?

    :: Erik | 2/11/2003 12:14:00 AM | | ::

    :: Monday, February 10, 2003 ::
    One Step Too Far

    Interesting. Standing against the US on Iraq and roughing up the UN went over pretty well, but sabotaging NATO might just have been one step too far. I'm back in the states so I don't know what the man in the street thinks, but the tone of press reports about the French/German/Belgian betrayal of Turkey is surprisingly negative.

    I'll translate (somewhat liberally) this one, by ex-General Klaus Naumann, because it's relatively short and to the point:

    Germany, Belgium and France have taken an axe to the roots of NATO. For no comprehensible reason they have blocked preventative preparation to protect alliance partner Turkey.

    This was about planning -- paper -- not about sending troops. Agreeing to plan brings no further obligations.

    Germany's security depended for 40 years on the fact that NATO planned the defense of Germany against Soviet attack.

    What would we German's have said, if Iceland had vetoed that planning? We would have felt betrayed.

    The Turks can now expect that of the Germans. Turkey was one of the three NATO countries that supported the reunification of Germany without hesitation. France and Belgium did not.

    Does planning make a war in Iraq more likely? No. Precisely the opposite.

    Whoever reduces pressure on the dictator, removes the last chance for peace. These three have done that.

    Whoever then damages NATO, splits America from Europe. That will lead to to instability (insecurity) in Europe, long after Saddam.

    Is fear of responsibility and risk in Berlin worth that? Berlin could become the gravedigger for NATO. The EU and UN could be the next victims.

    Some thanks for 50 years of security.

    If you read German, you might also want to look at these (some links might be valid for a limited time):

  • A Rubble Heap

  • No Good Friends Left

  • Has Schr�der destroyed NATO?

  • The Spike-Helmeted Pacifist

  • This is just a sampling - the actual outcry is broad and deep, with hardly a voice in support of Schr�der.

    All in all, reading this has made me a bit more optimistic about the longer term prospects for the German-American relationship. A lot depends on how this is playing with the "German Street", but the political establishment clearly understands the importance of the transatlantic link and is genuinely horrified at the damage that Schr�der is doing. It's too late to undo all of Schr�der's damage and trust will be last to return, but some kind of rapprochement might be possible, if the government falls or if Schr�der is reined in in time.

    So here's the 50,000 Euro question: What are the odds that the Schr�der government will fall soon enough to do any good?

    Update: Thanks to PapaScott for the translation for "Pickelhaube"

    Update: Amiland is reporting efforts to get Schr�der to resign and wondering if we're about to see the collapse of the government.

    Update: Here is a link to an (English langugage) BBC roundup of European press statements on the NATO debacle, including the S�ddeutsche Zeitung article cited above.

    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 11:33:00 PM | | ::
    Something is rotten just south of Denmark

    Steven Den Beste is chewing over the behavior of Germany and France at the UN and in NATO and the sheer destructive nature of it is bringing him back to the "something to hide" theory. James Taranto is starting to wonder again, too.

    I vacillate a bit on this one, but I don't think treachery on its own is an adequate or likely explanation. I think we're seeing a tragic confluence of motives.

    For Chirac and France, I still believe that simple anti-American posturing and delusions of relevance explain most of the resistance. The government of France, though constrained during the first Cold War by fear of the Soviets, has been institutionally anti-American for decades. The French political classes view themselves as the natural leaders of Europe and only grudgingly suffer the Germans (not to mention the British). NATO has been a positive annoyance, but they cherish their seat on the UNSC, which allows them to punch way above their weight on the world stage.

    It isn't too much of a stretch to think that the French political classes believe that they can rally the world to their banner and lead the opposition to the odious hyperpower. This is their glorious resurgance onto the world scene, and the fact that Germany is (temporarily, at least) willing to follow their lead only makes it sweeter. Now even Russia seems to be on board. In fact, I'm moderately concerned about Russia joining the French -- a French/Russian/German Weasel-Bloc is more of a threat than a purely Franco-German one, and the fact that Putin, who is a survivor himself, seems willing to commit to France indicates that he thinks their odds are good.

    Schr�der's behavior makes less sense to me, and this is where I think treachery might be a factor. Germany is not institutionally anti-American, and Schr�der's sudden swing is a shock to the career bureaucrats (witness this denunciation by a retired general). The fact that Fischer himself was reportedly left in the dark leads to the conclusion that Schr�der is personally running the show.

    What if Schr�der himself has something to hide? If the government as a whole were implicated, Fischer and the whole machinery of government would be engaged, but if the risk is to Schr�der himself the picture suddenly clarifies. A lot. Recall that Helmut Kohl was humiliated and ostracized for corruption and that assorted other ministers and politicians (including Schr�der's ex-defense minister Scharping) have fallen for those and lesser sins.

    What if Schr�der has been taking money from somebody who has shady dealings with Iraq? This is a man who is willing to sue over reports that he dyes his hair -- what would he be willing to risk to hide evidence that he's on the take to a hideous dictator? A possibly fatal wound to the UN, where Germany already has little influence? No problem at all. The end of NATO? The EU? Who can say?
    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 09:00:00 PM | | ::

    When I Grow Up...

    ..I wanna rant like this.
    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 08:19:00 PM | | ::
    Et tu, Gerhard?

    With the UN a dead man walking, France has set her sights on Nato. France, Belgium and Germany today vetoed NATO planning for the defense of Turkey, on the grounds that it planning to defend Turkey would increase tensions. This is transparently false, as Turkey will just get defenses (e.g. Patriot missles from the Netherlands) through a series of bilateral agreements instead. The only practical effect of this blockade is to critically weaken the alliance.

    Severely wounding the UN was a mixed-bag for France, but killing NATO is 100% pure, crunchy anti-American goodness. NATO is one of the strongest ties binding the US with Europe, and killing or wounding NATO decreases American influence -- all to the good, if you're France. The fact that Germany, historically a counterweight to French influence, is onboard for the coup de grace just makes it all the more delicious. The ideal outcome is that Germany moves into the French orbit, but even the worst case is pretty good. France wins even if post-Schroeder Germany wakes up full of regrets and with a hangover -- trust is the hardest thing to repair and the US-German relationship will probably never be what it once was.

    What I don't understand is what Schroeder is thinking. It's hard to see how this will end well for Germany.
    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 03:24:00 PM | | ::

    Weasel-Bloc "Peace" Plan

    Donald Rumsfeld had barely finished reopening the door for erstwhile allies when they slammed it shut on his fingers. Reports quickly surfaced of a Franco-German plan to "avoid war" by sending thousands of additional weapons inspectors and backing them up with lightly armed blue helmets.

    Steven Den Beste worries that the proposal will block military action against Iraq, but Instapundit thinks that preparations are too far along to be derailed. They're both mistaking the point of the Franco-German diplomatic offensive.

    This proposal neither a serious attempt to disarm Iraq nor even an attempt to prevent the coalition from taking action. This is a diplomatic PR exercise designed to make George Bush look even less palatable to the European voter. If they were serious about trying to implement a "muscular" inspection regime, they wouldn't have sat on the proposal until it's too late to give it serious consideration. Of course, if they had come forward months ago, they would have had to defend it on its dubious merits.

    This way, Bush is left with the unpalatable choice of either backing down or going to war with a superficially appealing but unexamined "peaceful alternative" on the table. What's a President to do? As I see it, there are two ways to go:

    Alternative 1: Work to discredit the weasels and their plan, but otherwise ignore them. As part of a coordinated PR offensive, cast aspersions freely:

  • France has billions of dollars of oil contract's with Saddam Hussein. Is Chirac doing the bidding of Total-Fina? Is it all about the oil?

  • German companies lead the list of sanctions busters. Is Schroeder just working to preserve an illegal market for German companies, or does he maybe have something to hide?

  • After Srebenica, blue helmets just aren't credible.

  • Chirac will probably be prosecuted the minute he leaves office

  • Schroeder is a thin-skinned, hair-dyeing philanderer who is looking to divert attention from the fact that he is tax happy and has no clue how to fix his domestic problems.

  • Some of this could come from the administration itself, but some of the nastier attacks shouldn't. None of this would actually tilt public opinion in any significant way before the war, but it paves the way for a second campaign later on. If the war in Iraq is seen as successful (Saddam is deposed with few casualties, enough hidden WMD programs are discovered to justify the attack and the reconstruction process is administered for the benefit of the people of Iraq), a second campaign could effectively capitalize on any doubts sown by the first campaign. If the war goes badly on any of those counts, all bets are off.

    Alternative 2: Embrace, extend and destroy the weasel plan. Agree to give the plan a try (probably, but not necessarily, reluctantly), but extend it such that Saddam and/or the even the weasels themselves will refuse to go along. For example, by insisting on the use of coalition troops to back up inspectors ("those blue helmets are _so_ unreliable"). The danger to this approach is that you end up embracing it but don't succeed in destroying it.

    So far, the administration seems to be going for alternative one, which seems like the safest course. If Afghanistan is a guide, the threat of military action is actually worse for the public mood than the military action itself. As long as the threat of a war with unknown consequences is looming, the Bush administration faces a huge disadvantage in the court of world public opinion. If (colossal subjunctive, I know) the war in Iraq goes well, he has another chance to win over world opinion.

    President Bush's immediate concern is successfully disarming Iraq, but he should also be looking a few moves ahead to the looming second Cold War. A few well-placed seeds planted now could yield major returns over the coming few years.

    Update: Instapundit reader Chuck Herrit sees the same game of poker. I'm not quite as sanquine about the prospect as Glenn seems to be, but I do think that it's manageable, if risky. One thought that brings some comfort is that Bush has proven to be quite adept at political Judo - he'll lure his opponents off-balance and topple them with a tiny nudge. At the moment, I don't know what that nudge might be, but the Weasel Bloc is clearly hyperextended right now.

    Update: FWIW, Bild reports that Schroeder sprung the Weasel Plan without consulting or even informing Joschka Fischer, which has led to an "ice age" between the two men. If true, it further illustrates that: 1) the proposal is a PR tactic rather than a serious plan, and 2) Schroeder has no qualms about screwing his "allies" for what he perceives to be personal gain.

    Update:Collin May nails the uselessness of the Franco-German plan.

    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 11:47:00 AM | | ::
    Rumsfeld on TV

    In a television interview (hat tip: Amiland) recorded prior to his speech, Rumsfeld was also conciliatory (but not apologetic) for his earlier statement that seemed to place Germany on a level with Libya and Cuba. He reiterated the facts behind the statement (that only Libya, Cuba & Germany have publicly announced that they will not under any circumstances support military action against Iraq) but was careful this time not to ruffle feathers in the process.

    He carefully dodged a question about the relationship between the Bush & Schroeder governments (I don't have the English, so this is translated back from the German: "I won't comment on this or any other administration. Germans vote, this is a democratic country, and they elect who they will."), but took pains to say nice things about Germany and Germans in general and about and the relationship between the people of the US and Germany.

    In short, I think he took pretty much the right tone both in his speech and in the interview.

    And I say that despite the fact that he was ambushed by the Axis of Weasels almost before he was finished speaking. More an that in a bit...

    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 08:42:00 AM | | ::

    Rumsfeld in Munich

    In his Munich speech this weekend, Donald Rumsfeld carefully outlined the case for action against Iraq and pointed out that a coaltion of dozens of like-minded nations is hardly unilateral. He at least attempted to take some of the spin off of some his recent comments without retracting the substance of any of them. All in all, he seemed to be offering opponents one last chance to climb down.

    Although he was a bit conciliatory towards Europe in general, he was brutal when it came to the UN. He bluntly laid out the case that the UN has no credibility left, and went on to hammer it for not even attempting to regain credibility. His comparison of the UN to the League of Nations was not favorable, and he explicitly ridiculed the fact that Libya and Iraq are chairing the Human Rights and Disarmament commisions, respectively. Although the pundits have been all over the UN for those two choices, this is the first time I've seen a high government official publicly take the UN to task for it. This part of Rumsfeld's speech was clearly a first draft of an epitaph for the UN.

    He also warned that continued obstructionism in NATO would place that alliance in equally dire straits. He doesn't seem to have written the alliance off yet, but this was a shot across the bow.

    :: Erik | 2/10/2003 08:17:00 AM | | ::

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?