Festive Spirits?

Well even though today is a holiday in many EU states, there is nothing particulary festive about the atmosphere. All eyes are on the commodity markets to see what is going to happen to oil prices. The consequences of a flawed Iraq play are gradually coming to be recognised, and even the ridiculous demise of a ‘restyled’ Berlusconi doesn’t seem to offer the entertainment value it once might have.

Go on David, tell me, I’m being too gloomy!

We have reached a turning-point in international politics as well as in Iraq. President George W. Bush is widely seen to have gambled on Iraq and lost. The impact of that loss goes well beyond Iraq. The US has not been defeated in battle and is unlikely to be so but it can no longer impose its will on Iraq because it lacks the moral authority to do so.
Lawrence Freedman, Financial Times

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

13 thoughts on “Festive Spirits?

  1. You’re being to gloomy. High oilprices are not fun, but competetively speaking they can actually be counted as an advantage for european industry, because it is both more energy-efficient and more nuclear powered than the competition. The low dollar-rate reinforces this efffect. And the latest statistics are showing growth again, so I do think optimism is called for.
    Also. Berlusconi is going down? Yhea! *does the happy dance* Possibly a bit early to celebrate, but that guy hasn’t done either Europe or Italy any favors.

  2. We’ll see how the financial markets in Europe respond to events when they reopen on Tuesday

  3. Hmm. What’s Europe’s excuse for a holiday? Obviously your memorial day is Nov 11, so it can’t be the same as the US excuse.

  4. Maynard – There are those who live to work and those who work to live.

    Europeans tend to come in the latter category.

  5. Gee, from reading those stories, I’d think I’d shoot myself if I had to read the Financial Times all the time.

    WE’RE ALL DOOMED!

  6. Have to admit the Financial Times is noticeably thin on hype and political spin. I reckon that must be because its regular readership wants analysis and calm judgements from the writers. After all, there is no shortage of other sources where they can get hype and spin if that is what they feel they really need.

  7. High oil prices hurt, but they hurt America far more than Europe. As much as I usually loathe nationalist schadenfreude, it’s sometimes better to let yourself take relief in the rise of the underdog than feel gloomy about distant global political currents.

    Furthermore, I am increasingly optimistic about Iraq. I think there is a chance that the two goals I thought were most incompatible – an embarassing American defeat and a genuine improvement in people’s lives in Iraq – may actually come to pass. It is possible that I will be grateful in a decade that an incompetent nitwit invaded Iraq when he did. This may yet lead to a defeat for Bush and the Republicans, a defeat for the US as unelected and irresponsible leader of the world, a shift towards Europe as the powerborker of a multipolar world, and a real, honest-to-god improvement in people’s actual lives in the Middle East. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

  8. Our holiday is Whitsun, or if you prefer, Pentacost. After all, despite what many of our betters think much of our culture is based on Christianity. Even if it meely means bunking a day of work for most of us these days. Traditionaly in England it was a time of ”great merry making – or as it is now called ‘binge drinking’.

  9. So what I glean from reading the internet is Pentacost refers to Jesus ascending to Heaven 30 days (or is it 40 days) after resurrection. OK, I guess on the scale of Jesus-related stuff, that’s reasonable to be in 3rd place after Christmas and Easter.

    Thanks, Gawain.

  10. Maynard,

    FYI, we’ve had two world wars, and 11 Nov is in remembrance of the armistice in the first world war.
    To my knowledge, there is nog real official holiday remembering the second world war. The 6th of June isn’t one anyway.

  11. They were noting on NPR here in the States that the EU imports more oil than the United States. They said that the high oil prices would be hurting Europe more than it hurt the US.

    Now, as to whether the oil prices are the result of the Iraq War… I have the impression that they are a less than subtle signal from discontented Arab members of OPEC (Iran in particular). While no nation could literally defeat the US in open battle, there are many who, even acting alone, can make life very, very unpleasant without firing a shot.

    By simply voting and encouraging others to vote to lower oil production, or prevent it from rising (note that the last OPEC ministers meeting voted to raise it only 8 percent instead of 11 percent), there’s an effect that’s felt on the street in the West.

    Of course, the unspoken counter to this sort of thing is that if you keep it up long enough, the US will find some pretext to invade your country and replace your leadership.

    If you ask me, you’re not gloomy enough.

    Speaking of occupations, I’ve always wondered how well the occupation of Germany went in the aftermath of WW II. Were there absolutely no violent incidents? And are American troops a big favorite over there? What does the average German on the street think of the idea that US troops are still stationed there? I’m being facetious of course.

    Speaking as an American, I’m all for withdrawing our troops from Europe (and most other places). And in future circumstances involving a takeover of Europe by a dictatorship, I’m all for letting it happen rather than intervening one more time.

  12. John you raise an interesting question about reactions to Americans in Germany after the Second World War. It is my contention that Americans were not well received. Nor were the English or the French popular either. I am not aware of any military force located in a foreign country ever being well received! Unfortunately your countrymen don?t seem to travel well and do not appear to ever receive a warm reception.

    No doubt you have your own thoughts on why this is the case (or not, if you believe that).I feel it is because Americans try to superimpose their values, their systems and their beliefs on which ever country they are currently occupying. Without going into analyses on the pros and cons of American beliefs, systems and values, I must say that I feel this is a bad thing. I appreciate Americans are very proud of these things that they hold dear and their capacity for self belief is truly enormous (even if a little misguided). It is this self belief that drives them to evangeliscise their own values etc. But they must come to realize that everything that they hold dear does not necessarily work well for every one else! I would also point out that they need to more critically analyze the actual benefits of these beliefs anyway.

    In the post war period Americans settled in Germany (well, a part of it anyway- they did share with the USSR, UK and France too) and tried valiantly to make Germany into America. You can read the works of your own G.F.Kennan and also Henry Kissinger (who he really belongs to is a moot point, he certainly is not German any more but Is he really American?I guess so?). Both lived through the times and were in Germany at about roughly that time (Kissinger as a US soldier). I cite them as they both have an excellent understanding of the German people and are capable of asking more than ?where is the toilet?? in German. Also the memoirs of Konrad Ardenauer, the German Prime Minister/ Chancellor at the time. Many people have written on this period and there is no shortage of conjecture as to what real Germans felt but it. It is important to remember Germany was very weak at the time and so many of the men aged from 17 to 45 had been killed. She was not a happy place to be for anyone.

    America through the offices of the Sec.State (esp Marshall) spent a lot of money helping rebuild Germany after the war. Lets be honest, you would not be happy if I came around to your decrepit house and gave you money to rebuild it and at the same time gave you not-so-subtle advice on how to rebuild it. Sure Free money sounds enticing but Germans are proud people and were embarrassed at Hitler?s excesses. But the free money, although needed, very soon became a reminder of defeat and reinforced the feeling of embarrassment etc. Unfortunately Americans have not had the skills of living enclosed by near neighbors and had not as much experience at getting along with other people politically speaking (a bit of an ?only child? complex perhaps?) and did not appreciate German disenfranchisement and as a result did nothing to curb it.
    The combination of this, the above evangelicalism and a few other things made it not a happy time.

    But the amount of violence was considerably less. Germany had been living on a war footing for a very long time and needed a rest. Germans are also less ?passionate? than some of the people in Iraq at the moment. Please understand that by ?passionate? in this sense, I mean that Germans did not carry AK47 machine guns around in their arms. Also too they had no access to explosives etc as just about every piece of metal and military hardware had been sent to the war fronts.

    The final considerations are nominally external to Germany. Firstly America was pushing hard for the UN to be developed as a sort of international policeman in the wake of the territorial acquisition of the USSR. Germany was the new front and there were raging debates on the presence of foreign troops. But the Russian troops stayed so the US and UKs troops stayed too. This remained the status quo until December 1989 when Bush Snr pulled the troops out to go to Iraq the first time.

    All of that said I still have a t-shirt that says ?Ami go home?. I do not wear it anymore but I do hold it as a reminder of those times. I must say that if the same situation happened again I would happily wear it, every day- despite the smell.

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