:: Bite The Wax Tadpole ::

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:: Friday, April 11, 2003 ::

I'm with Aziz Poonwalla on this one. Anti-semitic paranoia notwithstanding, President Bush's primary goal is to ensure the security of the United States, and it is clear that peace between Israel and Palestinians is essential to that.

To date, Bush has little or no pressure on Israel because it would have been pointless or even counterproductive to do so. Yasser Arafat has made it abundantly clear that real concessions by Israel would not be reciprocated -- that they would, in fact, be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Pointless concessions made in such an environment just take bargaining chips off the table for the future.

I'm not at all certain that Abbas is any more trustworthy than Arafat, but it appears that Bush is going to give him a chance. If Abbas demonstrates that he can deliver on his promises, Israel had better be prepared to negotiate for peace in earnest and make some serious concessions. The moment that Bush believes that Israeli concessions will do some good, he'll come down on Sharon like a ton of bricks. If Sharon lets him down, he'll discover that Bush can be every bit as hard on Israel as on the Palestinians. Syria and Iran are also in for some surprises if they continue stirring up trouble, and the administration's recent growling in their direction is first and foremost a warning for them to stand down.

This is not to suggest that Bush will sell out Israel or place it in jeopardy, just that he won't allow any of the participants to sabotage the process.
:: Erik | 4/11/2003 02:21:00 PM | | ::

:: Thursday, April 10, 2003 ::
Hear, Hear!

What he said!

I'd like to see a searchable central repository for "van Hoffman" quotes and a blogospheric commitment to challenge these people whenever and wherever possible. If they're on TV or radio, call in and confront them with their prognostications. If you hear of an interview, send a message to the interviewer. Don't let them get away with denial or changing the topic!

Oh, yeah. And somebody needs to follow Michael Moore around with a camera day and night. I nominate Evan Coyne Maloney.
:: Erik | 4/10/2003 10:36:00 PM | | ::

Over at Sofia Sideshow, jkrank has a idea that's similar to something I've been kicking around. He suggests that the US allows the UN to operate humanitarian services in Iraq in parallel to services operated by the United States. Along the lines of my similar facetious suggestion a few weeks ago, on the theory that the comparison would be... instructive. The downside is that it's essentially a challenge to the UN, which won't go over well in most of the world.

But... it looks like Iraq will be partitioned into zones of control, with the British controlling from the Kuwaiti border to Basra, and the US controlling the rest. What if the level of UN participation in a zone is the responsibility of the controlling authority? The UN could run most of the humanitarian services in the British sector, while the US would run (and fund) most of the services in the American zone.

This approach might give Blair cover against charges of undermining the UN, without forcing him to take sides in a showdown at the security council. This is just a rough hewn idea at this point, so please feel free to point out why it's broken.
:: Erik | 4/10/2003 04:47:00 PM | | ::

James Bennett grapples with the question of how to proceed from here. He considers three possible courses and ultimately recommends giving up on the EU in its current form.

Regardless of whether the EU in its current form is hopeless or not, neither the politicians nor the public in the UK or on the continent are ready to take that enormous step, and an American attempt to force it would backfire badly. That means his second course (attempt to fix the EU from within) is the only realistic choice at this point, and the transatlantic relationship will suffer if the US just ignores the discussion.

That said, his suggestion that the US immediately push forward with TAFTA (Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Authority) is excellent, and one I've made before, but It need not and should not be presented as weapon against European integration.
:: Erik | 4/10/2003 02:35:00 PM | | ::

In the Washington Post, Robert Kagan neatly summarizes my feelings about postwar diplomatic posture. We're entering what will be, at best, a period of intense manuvering for diplomatic advantage and world public opinion and the United States must focus on keeping and winning friends. That doesn't mean sacrificing essential goals, but it will probably lead to some compromises. The important things are to stay focused, pay attention to how actions will be perceived, and use the carrot more than the stick.

Things to avoid: retribution, the appearance of profiteering, and getting into another pissing contest. That last is probably unavoidable, but Bush and Blair should make them work for it by staying resolutely calm, focused and reasonable for as long as possible in the face of belligerence from the weasel bloc.
:: Erik | 4/10/2003 02:16:00 PM | | ::

:: Wednesday, April 09, 2003 ::
Several readers have asked why I don't think the accession countries will tip the balance of power in the EU towards the United States. The declarations from the Gang of Eight and the Vilnius 10 were hugely significant, but they signal the start of a struggle for the soul of European institutions, not the end of one. The outcome is far from a foregone conclusion, and prematurely assuming a battle is won is the easiest way to lose it.

That more than 15 heads of state would come out in support of the United States despite overwhelming popular opposition at home is a spectacular but singular event. It would be folly to build foreign policy around the notion that the UK and "new Europe" will remain united and in synch with US policy forever. This sort of unity happens only around big issues like the Iraq war -- in everyday life, countries will pursue their own interests and will "go along to get along."

Which means that a real danger arises from the tendency of the EU towards largely unaccountable institutions that restrict the freedom of member countries to act independently. When the old European political elite promote a "common" foreign policy, they aren't talking about a show of hands amongst the leaders of member nations. They envision a European Foreign Service, populated by bureaucrats and led by an appointed commissioner who is selected from the ranks of the politically acceptable. In their EU, such an institution would be accountable to nobody and have the legal authority to muzzle dissent. In their EU, the Gang of Eight could have faced legal action for their declaration.

The smaller countries understand the danger and are now making an effort to retain autonomy and gain some measure of control over the Eurocracy (thanks at least in part to both Donald Rumsfeld and Jacques Chirac). This is an important development and one whose success is important to the United States, which is why it would be a huge mistake to undermine friendly leaders with a blatant assault on the UN or heavy-handed attempt to "punish" France, Russia or Germany.

Chirac and his minions have been jockeying for position in Europe for some time now, and their policy toward Iraq is designed to undermine European leaders who don't toe the French line. Popular discontent makes it much harder for European leaders to appear to side with the United States, so look for Chirac et al to exploit European devotion to the UN and fear of the American bogeyman to stoke the fires of anti-American passion already enflamed by the war itself.

In particular, they will keep trying to frame discussion about the future of Iraq as a "United States vs. the United Nations" issue. Bush and Blair struck the right tone in their Northern Ireland press conference by setting Iraqi self-determination as the centerpiece, but the weasel-bloc will use their upcoming St. Petersburg conference to once again attempt to force the issue.

Update: They won't be quite this bold, especially since Annan has decided not to attend, but don't think for a second that they've stopped scheming.

:: Erik | 4/09/2003 08:51:00 AM | | ::
:: Tuesday, April 08, 2003 ::
Better a caveman than a dinosaur. How do you suppose the European press would react if Donald Rumsfeld displayed the same kind of diplomatic finesse as Javier Solana?

:: Erik | 4/08/2003 11:14:00 PM | | ::
Matthew Yglesias goes a bit too far with his claim that transnational progressivism doesn't exist as a coherent ideology. I'll concede that fears of the Vast Tranzi Conspiracy might be overwrought, but Yglesias' assertion that the ideology of transnationalism doesn't exist is demonstrably false. See:

  • The Transnational Institute

  • The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

  • transnationale.org

  • Or just google for "transnational" or "transnationalism." You'll find plenty of sites, journals, academic papers etc. that discuss transnationalism, and even a cursory glance shows that they're talking about pretty much the same ideology and a movement that espouses it.
    :: Erik | 4/08/2003 12:06:00 PM | | ::

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