The Morning After in Europe

So it’s done. We have four more years of George W Bush to look forward to. A quick tour of the American blogs shows a few trying to pull some sort of moral victory from this election, but the truth is that they’ve lost everything. Not only has the president finally won the majority denied to him in 2000, but as a reward for his mismanagement and incompetence, Democrats have actually lost seats in both houses of Congress, including losing the Senate Minority Leader. For all that the vote is close, the outcome is a stunning defeat in terms of real access to power. There is no longer a meaningful opposition in the US able to moderate the power of a president who needs no longer worry about reelection.

At best, this means that in 2008 the Republicans will have to run on a deeper quagmire in Iraq, no meaningful victories in the so-called war on terrorism, another huge hike in the American public debt and all the new messes Bush can create. But, let’s be honest. That isn’t going to happen. No one will be called to account. The American electorate, for a number of reasons, simply will not hold this administration to account. They did not do so in 2002, they haven’t this time, and there is no reason to think they will in 2008.

Reaction in the French political scene is muted, but definitely not happy.

The French foreign minister is doing his job by being diplomatic about it, talking about a “new dialogue” with the administration. The French right in general is taking a similar tone. From Chirac, it’s all about “renforcing Franco-American friendship.” Alain Madelin is, once again, France’s most visible apologist for the American right. “Of course I’m happy with this outcome. […] Confronted by hyperterrorism and the treat of Islamic fascism, we need American power to be engaged.” Bush has also received the support of Jean-Marie Le Pen: “I believe that it is important for the whole world that America, an imperial power with crushing responsibilities, have an experienced man as its leader.

The rank and file of the mainstream French right wing parties has, however, expressed clear support for Kerry over Bush. Former foreign minister Hubert V?drine believes this election reveals “a large and enduring gap in comprehension between the American people and the rest of the world.” Alas, this is only true of about half of the American people, and that half would no doubt agree entirely.

The French left, of course, is not so diplomatic today. The Communist Party is calling Bush “the candidate of excessive warfare, of unilateralism and of American hegemony.” For Green Party MNA No?l Mam?re, this is “a dark day for democracy, for peace and for the environment.

The Socialists are a bit less apocalyptic. They are doing what I hope politicians all over Europe start to do, and turn the Bush election into a reason to vote for the European constitution. Jack Lang: “This is very bad news for the world and for peace. Bush will be even more miltant, aggressive and imperialist than ever. This why Europe must be a real force, a counterbalance. More than ever, we must vote ‘yes’ to the European constitutional treaty.

Fran?ois Hollande, leader of the Socialists, and Fran?ois Bayrou, the president of the right-centre UDF party are echoing this sentiment: “Europe must be strong by comparison to an America that, in any case, will try to assert its vision of the world.

I couldn’t agree more, and I hope that George W Bush is turned into the poster boy of the “Yes” campaign across Europe. He’s one of the few figures people agree on enough to create real majorities for the constitution.

We’ve had a number of hits in the last day from Americans googling “immigration to Europe” or similar queries. For a sizeable group of people who voted against Bush, this election is an unambiguous sign that they are completely alienated from a nation bent on transforming itself into something far from what they thought their countrymen stood for. They are disaffected, and they are turning to Europe and to Canada for answers.

In the past, Europeans turned to America when their governments went mad. We owe it to them to return the favour.

74 thoughts on “The Morning After in Europe

  1. RSN: this is the last time I will react on something you wrote and I advice others to do the same: you just declared yourself a troll.

    “America wants to have enemies, the better to rally around a cause….
    Luckily for the US, Asia has more tense trouble spots than Europe (Korea, Taiwan, Kashmir), so there are more possibilities for coalition building, and playing one side against the other.”

    It’s not America that wants to have enemies (a country can not have a desire btw), it’s not the Bush administration that wants enemies either: it’s you. You do not visit this site for a debate but to fight enemies.

  2. “Not only are the interests very diverse, they differ a lot among the American people.”


    And they differ even more amongst the peoples (note the plural) of Europe. By your reasoning, there’s absolutely no rationale for a European Union to exist.

    Talk about shoddy thinking.

  3. Frans,

    RSN’s comments do often (though not always) verge on trollery. I’d hope he doesn’t come here simply looking to pick a fight but rather to try in good faith to get his views across, however misguided most of us find those views.

    His comments do have a certain merit, though. They offer, unwittingly perhaps, insight into the emotions and psychology of a certain strain of American unilateralism. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of concluding that this psychology necessarily informs the policy position. FelixUSA and Mark Amerman, I’d guess, would broadly agree with RSN on many policy points; but their reasons for doing so seem quite different, and do not appear to be based on frustration, resentment or animus (vide Mark’s mild rebuke to RSN for rejoicing over US/European alienation). Felix and Mark, I disagree with much of what you write; but I am pleased that you come here and defend your positions with reasoned argument and a degree of nuance (I apologise if you think my calling you ‘nuanced’ makes you sound too Old European).

  4. “A distinct majority of the 63% of the voters did that. Every single voter had his or her own ideas why. ”

    I know, Frans. But the US administration represents the American people in general (at least in theory) and US policy will reflect that. The Republicans have the president, the House, Congres and the Supreme Court. That is decisive and that is how the American people (okay, in general) want it.
    Iraq was not invaded by Bush-voting soldiers only. Whatever the US administration has in store for the world, it will be executed by all Americans. This, of course, goes for the EU too.

    Besides, if you read my blog you’ll know I do not like to tar all Americans with the same brush. But I do stress the broader strokes because they may affect us.

  5. Bob,

    “As for expert opinon of 16 eminent international lawyers on the legality of the Iraq war, we have this:”

    I see 2 problems with the opinions of your 16 “eminent international lawyers”.

    First, they apparently fail to take into consideration that war already existed between Iraq and member states and that it was a conditional cease-fire that was in effect, not a state of peace. Maybe in Europe they are unaware that Saddam’s troops were firing on U.S. military units almost every day for the entirety of the 12 years since the end of the Gulf War, we in the U.S. were not. Regardless, that’s a rather large aspect of the Iraqi situation to overlook by “accident”, which brings your international lawyers’ judgement in this matter into question.

    Second, I fail to see how your international lawyers can claim no UN security council resolution proposed the use of force when I have already quoted that portion of 1441 that says:

    “Recalling that its resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore international peace and security in the area,”

    It quite clearly states that Member States are authorized to use all necessary means to uphold all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660. Since 1441 later quite clearly states that Iraq was in material breach of multiple U.N. resolutions and considering resolution 678 is the same resolution that authorized the Gulf War 1, I fail to see how your “eminent international lawyers” can claim that the UN security council did not provide authorization. Unless they are claiming that resolution 678 did not provide authorization, in which case they are basically claiming Gulf War 1 was illegal too.

  6. @Abiola:
    “”…there?s absolutely no rationale for a European Union to exist.

    In my opinion there is absolutely no rationale for a discussion on the European Union vs the USA without specifying what topics you talk about and what interests you want defended.
    I have a problem with everyone writing in the name of his or her country.
    Only when you are elected as president you can do that. You have made clear what you find the American (or French or Russian) interests are and you won support from a majority for that interpretation.

    Pity that you do not react on the big outline of my contribution. That was: I see a very useless sort of discussion developing when people start talking about some absolute difference between the two sides of the atlantic. Stupid and intelligent people are about evenly distributed everywhere I suppose. I think at the US side there are more religious-fundamentalists (although in Poland, Ireland, Greece we have them in unhealthy numbers too) and I really see this as a threat to worldpeace in the long run: compare it with the influence of the Jewish-Taliban on Israels policy.
    Bush apparently showed ?a willingness to wage a contentious confirmation battle with Senate Democrats, should there be an open seat on the court. He pointed to his first-term nominations for federal judgeships ? many of which triggered pitched partisan strife on the Senate floor ? as a guide to his approach, noting that he had sought out candidates “who represent a judicial temperament that I agree with.”
    Of course in itself the nomination of supreme court judges surely is not of our (European) bussiness. If this is part of a tendency to fulfill the wishes of the christian-fundamentalists or the war-mongers it is, however.
    Remarks like ?Why should militarily insignificant powers?????.have a veto over what America does outside their own immediate environs? for example really surprise and worry me. I left out the countries on the place of the dots and ask you if this could be your way of reasoning. If not, then please distinguish between your idea of US-unilaterism and your apparent contempt for that two countries or their governments. If yes, and if more US-politicians think along this line, maybe the idea of actively pursueing to (politically, not military) counterbalance the present US administration is not that strange indeed.

    PS: I admit that I may have sounded different when I had started my reaction stating that I really dislike the tone of Scott’s remarks on Americans googling on “immigration to Europe”.
    PPS: I agree with Oliver: ?That is a very foolish thing to do. Europe must not be based on aversion to the US. A Union based on fear might work, but loathing is a recipe for failure.?

  7. @Mrs Tilton:
    ?RSN?s comments do often (though not always) verge on trollery. I?d hope he doesn?t come here simply looking to pick a fight but rather to try in good faith to get his views across, however misguided most of us find those views. His comments do have a certain merit, though. They offer, unwittingly perhaps, insight into the emotions and psychology of a certain strain of American unilateralism.?
    Although I studied psychology I strongly oppose talking about people you discuss with in this way. Unintended most probably, but this is really very arrogant.

    ?Felix and Mark, I disagree with much of what you write; but I am pleased that you come here and defend your positions with reasoned argument and a degree of nuance (I apologise if you think my calling you ?nuanced? makes you sound too Old European).?
    I completely agree with you that we should be glad with commenters like Mark or Felix (and Abiola most of the times). I agree with them more often than the average AFOE member does, btw.
    We, the politicians discussing here at AFOE, have to deal with the fact that at present the European governments offer a very, very poor alternative to the Bush policy on a lot of issues.

  8. In my opinion there is absolutely no rationale for a discussion on the European Union vs the USA without specifying what topics you talk about and what interests you want defended.

    True, but the question whether Europe has enough shared interests to make a common foreign policy viable is legitimate.

    If yes, and if more US-politicians think along this line, maybe the idea of actively pursueing to (politically, not military) counterbalance the present US administration is not that strange indeed.

    This is to me a deeply flawed idea.
    Firstly, any country must in the end have a unified foreign policy. No country can allow its opposition to ally itself with foreign powers, because that would undermine independence. You will not find any remotely sane US Democrat who would cooperate against an elected president with foreigners. The mere suspicion would end his political life. We must recognise that the US government speaks for the US.

    Secondly, you cannot fully divorce the military from the political. Military operations have political goals. If Europe should actively oppose the political goals the US is making war for, Europe will create conditions under which US losses rise. The US cannot ignore that. There is a limit to the possible behavior of allies.

    If we are really willing to oppose the US, this is the end of NATO. And possibly, the EU. Donald Rumsfeld’s remarks had an amount of truth in them.

  9. Frans,
    Dilbert: ?You Europeans have been thru hell in the last century what with WWI and II..?
    The number of Europeans that have gone through WWI I think is probably below 1 promille. The number that has gone through WWII bigger but very small as well

    Life expectancy in most of Europe is over 76 years, especially the women. And the wars affected most of the countries, in Eastern Europe the battles of WWI extended for some more time after 1918. Spain Civil War was rather a prelude to WWII.


  10. “His comments do have a certain merit, though. They offer, unwittingly perhaps, insight into the emotions and psychology of a certain strain of American unilateralism.”

    Thank you, Mrs. Tilton. I must admit that I do not feel I am alone with my viewpoints: everyone in the particular part of the businessworld that I inhabit here in the US would immediately recognize what I am talking about, and for the most part, agree.

    As an example: I am one of those millions of Americans that just loves watching the cutthroat manoeuverings in Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”. Talk about the celebration of competition!

    Davon: the notion that “those that can’t do, teach” is a very American concept. It questions the main motivation for academics – especially young ones – to seek the solace of academia. It disparages them as unwilling or unfit for real-life competition, and – most importantly – questions the assumption that they have a better understanding of society, given that they live such protected lives.

    Frans: I tend to think you are not familiar enough with the kinds of thinking going on in the American businessworld. Perhaps that’s the reason for your angry charges.

  11. Bernard,
    The U.S. government is not here to make the world a nicer place, my boy. It is here to make _my_ world, as a U.S. taxpayer, a better place.

    Almost correct, Bernard, but the U.S. government’s mandate is not to ‘taxpayers’ but to citizens.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    I don’t think the Bush Government has done a good job of fulfilling that mandate in the past four years, I’m dubious about the prospects of them doing better in the next four. And I fear they’ll botch it up so that no subsequent elected government will be able to remedy the situation.

  12. Frans,

    by ‘psychology’ I am not implying ‘pyschopathology’; I am no Charles Krauthammer. I simply mean something like ‘way of thinking’. You are a professional and I a layperson, so I can understand how you might get irritated at my use of the term. But I assure you, my usage was merely descriptive, not diagnostic.


    I don’t know what part of the ‘American businessworld’ you inhabit. I inhabit the same world, as it happens (not geographically, of course, though I’ve done that too; but the US makes up a very large part of my virtual businessworld). In my part of that businessworld, nobody has much time for ‘The Apprentice’. (It’s now been cloned over here, BTW, with Bayer Leverkusen’s former manager as the Trump analogue.) Pure competition – eh, maybe. But we have enough competition every day without needing to watch its simulacrum on television. And if I do need simulacra, I’d sooner watch BL itself (and, d.v., watch them lose) than Rainer Calmund.

    BTW, long ago I played a very small part in a transaction with Trump on the other side. He was trying to stay out of Ch. 11, and had to give all sorts of security in all sorts of things. He later managed to pull out of that particular nosedive (and fair play to him for it) but still, it was such fun to watch him signing away at those hundreds of bits of paper.

  13. The U.S. government is not here to make the world a nicer place, my boy. It is here to make _my_ world, as a U.S. taxpayer, a better place.

    This is a nice theory, but it is not the practice of the US government. In practice, the US administration sees itself as more than looking after American interests and, rightly or wrongly, plays a much, much larger role in the world. Additionally, the creation of wealth for its own often, either positively or adversely, affects others, such as military, environmental and trade decisions. Which is why the world pays attention at election time, and why the world feels justified in having an opinion on US policy. Indeed, as many of the adverse effects of US policy on the world can be represented financially, one could call it a type of taxation without representation; wars have been fought over the concept.

  14. Mrs. Tilton, I’m hardly an admirer of Trump’s: he’s too much of a pompous fool. But I like the show, nevertheless. It is a great success. And in my business (the media business) it’s important to see what’s out there; it’s all part of competition, after all.

    In terms of uber-businessmen, I like Richard Branson. He has style and verve.

  15. Patrick,

    “Almost correct, Bernard, but the U.S. government’s mandate is not to ‘taxpayers’ but to citizens.”

    Care to guess how close the correlation between the number of voters in a given election and the number of positive (that is, actually liable for income tax) tax returns filed that election year is? :^) Whether by accident or design, Patrick, political control in the U.S. rests for the most part with the tax-payer, and the tax-payer tends to vote his or her interests. In practical terms, I think I’m closer to correct than you are.

    This particular point just came up in a class based heavily on Niall Ferguson’s _Cash Nexus_, BTW. I don’t feel I’m at liberty to post the prof’s materials willy-nilly onto the Net, but I can point you to the salient materials via e-mail if you wish.

  16. This is one American patriot, who was very educated on the issues–your article got it right! Pray for us (never mind, I forget that God is on our side with a direct line to George II)

  17. I’ve not read the entire set of comments, so forgive me if repeat something already said about the debunked/not debunked study of Iraqi mortality rates.

    According to the study, 85% of the post invasion Iraqi deaths are due to Coalition military action. This sounds pretty bad, until one actually looks at the ACTUAL REPORTED numbers in the study, not the “projections.” If the self-reported, unverified numbers are true, the mortality rate, setting aside the “Coalition caused” deaths, in Iraq has almost HALVED since the invasion. If that alone doesn’t send up red flags about the study, I don’t know what will.

    I’d like to point out one other thing regarding this thread: What is the foundation of the absolute surety that the “European perspective” is the right one? Seriously, why are y’all so damn sure that you’re right, and Bush is wrong? Why doesn’t the consideration that Bush & Co. may, just may, be right even register as a blip on your radars?

    Something for you to ponder…

  18. What is the foundation of the absolute surety that the ?European perspective? is the right one?

    Which European perspective? The British, French, German, Italian…

    This illustrates an interesting commonality of many / most current posts from the US on this blog. The world is: black and white, “for us, or against us”, right or wrong, good or evil… An estimate of casuality figures cannot be “correct” because its… an estimate. It isn’t Europe that has the “surety” but the polar opposite opinions of factions within the US translated into reactions to individual “European” events and opinions.

    Come back gray, all is forgiven.

  19. What is strange in the diminution of other cause deaths? Let’s suppose that in “normal” conditions there were 2 deaths. The coalition causes 11 more deaths, why one of those deaths coud not be the one of any of the 2 who would have died from another cause?


  20. Scott,

    You’re criticizing without offering a solution. We Americans can beat ourselves up over our mistakes just fine, thank you. Some advice, though, would help.

    Or fundamental problem is a severe disconnect between two cultures: Progressives (Urbanites) and Conservatives (Ruralists). The Conservatives won because they have the most money and are the best at mobilizing–and because they focus on fear, which is our strongest emotion. MILLIONS of us worked hard to remove Bush, but it didn’t happen. We know that ultimately all Americans are responsible for what happened in this election, but saying that nothing is going to change by 2008 doesn’t help, and it’s not really true. The Sixties were a terrible time for us, but we got through it, we made positive changes and reforms, and we became better for it. So if you don’t have anything positive to add or come up with ways that Europe can help progressives regain power in the U.S, then don’t whine. We know VERY WELL that Europe isn’t happy with us, believe me.

    Give us some ideas.

  21. Are you asking for tactical advice?

    Firstly and primarily, analyze your situation.
    If you do that you may come to the same conclusion as I. Conditions were as good as they are likely to get. If you couldn’t win this election, you can’t win any election.
    Therefore you need to adjust.

  22. A move to the right isn’t in itself enough. If people want Republicans, they’ll elect them.
    Of course in some ways you need to move to the right. “Gun control” is a 4-letter word from now now. And you need to be strong on defense as a party, not just your candidate. Do something spectacular, like embrace SDI and vote for new nukes.

    But you must learn to think new ideas and think them in a way appealing to mainstream Americans.
    Eg. talk about China, then talk about colleges not turning out American scientists and engineers.
    Talk about national defense, then talk about health care and bioterrorism or health care and veterans.
    Stress the bill of rights, you should have mentioned Jose Padilla hundreds of times. But you must love them all, even the second.
    And think about Lations. GWB will likely nominate a latino to the Supreme Court (I would in his place). You must not oppose him, no matter his views on abortion. If you alienate latinos it is California and this is the end.

  23. RSN- I wasn’t asking you to flesh out the argument that “those who can’t teach.” I was aware of the details of that argument. One of my teachers in high school, for example, specifically used the idea to explain that she decided to teach English because she felt that he ability as a writer was poor, and that she felt that instructing young writers was the closest she would come to being a writer herself.

    What I was asking you to do was to actually make an give me some reason to believe that the original study you were dismissing is flawed based on reality. All you seem to be able to offer is a catch-all argument that academics are somehow unqualified to comment on real life. That just doesn’t cut it, because, from my own experience, many academic people are just as involved in the real world as anyone else.

    If anti-academic arguments have any merit, it is to remind us that having an advanced degree does not make one’s facts or logic unassailable by non-academics. I wholly agree with that sentiment- so go to it.

Comments are closed.