dinsdag, april 08, 2003

Caveman Politics
"At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look; At 45 they are caves in which we hide."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

A landmark speech by the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University entitled "Mars and Venus Reconciled: A New Era For Transatlantic Relations" on Monday is set to spark off the debate on future relations between the US and the EU after the huge damage created by the American-led preventative war against Iraq.

In the speech, Solana refuted the thesis of Robert Kagan's recently published doctrine Power and Weakness which attempts to explain the reality that

"on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure."

In refution, Dr. Solana smartly notes that "We do not have the luxury of living on separate planets. On this small planet, whose problems abound, neither the United States nor the European Union will find an alternative substantial partner which shares to such a complete degree values and interests. A little perspective and a re-commitment to some guiding principles are modest but useful starting points if the most successful partnership of the 20th century is to prove itself up to the challenges of the century ahead."

Dr. Solana concluded his speech with the wry recollection that "it was only in the arms of Venus that Mars found peace. And was their beautiful daughter not the goddess Harmonia?"

Ultimately, the entirety of the speech was not devoted merely to refuting Kagan's positions. After all, even Kagan himself concluded his article with the delicately-held belief that "perhaps it is not too naively optimistic to believe that a little common understanding could still go a long way."

Against the complaint that Europe does not spend enough on its own defense, Solana logically questioned ""How much additional security does an aircraft carrier bring? Is it more or less than spending the equivalent amount of money on peacekeeping or reconstruction of failed states?"

What Dr. Solana, who was recently named the EastWest Institute's "Statesman of The Year", emphasized in his speech that to re-establish a sense of common purpose between the European Union and the United States, there were four key principles to adhere to: that the two are allies and partners, that they must both make fair contributions, that they must tackle causes and not just symptoms and finally, that they act to sustain a world based on rules.

He cautioned the United States to "treat your friends like allies and they will behave like allies".

His speech also addressed the sticky issue of the use of force against Iraq by asking that while "We must be prepared to use sticks sometimes, do we want a wholesale return to the politics of the caveman, where the guy with the biggest stick carries the argument (until he turns the next corner)?"

The opportunity to address the Kennedy School of Government came in preparation of his meeting with Colin Powell under the auspices of discussing the situation in Iraq, and in particular, post-invasion Iraq. Solana noted that the position of the EU was clear, in particular, on three points: the central role of the United Nations, the preservation of the territorial integrity of Iraq and foremost, the humanitarian question. Of course, while the EU wants the UN to take a "central" role, the US administration appears divided on the issue, with the hawks saying the US should remain in charge in Iraq.

The meeting with Powell went, as most meetings with the Bush Administration go, without much progress. In a press conference following the meeting, Powell stated that they are at

"the beginning of a process of dialogue, pragmatic dialogue, to determine what the appropriate role of the UN should be. The UN will be a partner in all of this. Everybody understands that. There is no disagreement about that. And as President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and Mr. Aznar said at the Azores summit, they expect the UN to play a major role as a partner in this effort. And we'll work our way through the intricacies of the role to be played by the UN in the days ahead."

Of course, Powell has a history of being forced to mouth words the Administration thinks the world wants to hear until the world does not respond in the anticipated manner. Any thought by the Administration of a UN role is certainly based solely upon the premise that the UN reverts to its more palatable role to the Bush Administration, one of an instutionalized "yes-man" for the barren policies of the neocons in the Administration rather than a diplomatic body of the nations of the world which act in a democratic and utile manner to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security. Should the UN balk at the myopic vision of the post-invasion Iraq that the Bush Administration holds, the UN will of course, become as useless in the eyes of the Bush Administration as it was when over the protests of the vast majority of the Security Council, the United States determined it didn't need the UN unless the UN agreed with it, and invaded Iraq anyway.

Solana and the United Nations have their work cut out for them. Failing a radical change in the indifference with which the Bush Administration flaunts its theory of oderint dum metuant in the face of international diplomatic bodies, the UN's only purpose will be as a rubber-stamping body for agenda of the Administration. Much like the token resistance of the cowardly, mewing Democrats in the United States Congress, it will fade into irrelevancy and the caveman Administration can continue clubbing its opposition to its heart's content.

Until, with its economy teetering on the brink of disaster, and its occupying troops stretched beyond logistical capacity, the United States decides it another set of dogs to act as enforcers for its dying empire.

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