Tuesday, February 08, 2005

EU / US relations - a fresh start?

Condi is in Paris today to make a speech which could mark a turning point in the EU's relationship with the Bush administration. She is expected to stress common objectives, and to make vague gestures to forget the tensions of the last couple of years. In turn, France in particular is looking increasingly keen to rebuild the bridges which were shattered by pointing out that the invasion of Iraq was illegal.

Part of the reason for the shift is the ongoing problems with Iran, which has announced that after today's meeting in Geneva, if an agreement is not reached over their nuclear programme they will withdraw from further talks.

The diplomatic efforts of the EU (principally Britain, France and Germany) to prevent another Middle Eastern conflict have thus far been sterling, so perhaps there is little wonder that Condi has been playing down talk of a fresh war of "pre-emptive defence". Especially as the British Foreign Secretary is on the record as saying he can see no way Britain would participate in such an attack and even drawn up a dossier stating clear reasons why such a move would be bloody stupid. The EU's foreign policy head honcho Javier Solana thinks pretty much the same.

What with President Bush himself due in Brussels on 22nd February (including - possibly - a stint giving a speech before the European Parliament), could this finally be the beginning of the end of the unfortunate and highly silly spat between the two powers on either side of the Atlantic? Yes, the supposed anti-Americanism (actually anti-Bushism) of many Europeans has hardly helped matters, but the frankly xenophobic anti-French attitude of the US ("Freedom fries" and the like) has only entrenched a Europe-wide dislike of everything Bush seems to stand for. This is not healthy either for Europe or America.

As has been amply proved over the last couple of years of poor relations, the EU and its individual member states don't really need America. As has been proved by the recent negotiations with Iran, America needs the EU (or, at least, some of its member states) - even if only as a respected and experienced diplomatic intermediary. Following yesterday's post, perhaps it really is time to start questioning the assumption that the US is the world's only superpower?

Of course, there's still that little matter of the constitution - and things are hardly looking rosy on that front - but the EU certainly seems genuinely to be trying to work in partnership with the US, and these efforts finally appear to be being reciprocated.

Iraq has already proved that America can't go it alone. A genuine partnership between the US and EU, however, could be an overwhelming force indeed.

Update: The various platitudes Condi has uttered on her European trip can be found here.

12 Comments:

Blogger Shuggy said...

They could have made this point about Kosovo as well. The difference in the stance of the French wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that France was Iraq's biggest trading partner would it? Sorry, I forgot: only the Americans ever have economic interests to defend...

2/09/2005 01:36:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

France? An economy? Don't be silly! They'd be a third-world country if it wasn't for the US...

I did actually see something similar said - in utter seriousness - on a US forum last year. Admittedly, Marshall Plan aid was a significant factor in French post-war recovery, but something told me that wasn't what was meant... The mind boggles.

Still, these new moves - both on the French/German and US sides - are looking promising. For now, at least...

2/09/2005 07:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To reiterate the above point about Kosovo: If Iraq was illegal, then so was every bit of Kosovo. Where were France's grand principles then? Hmmm. Why didn't they feel the need to point that one out?

Also, there is a good deal of pure anti-Americanism. Yes, some Europeans are not anti-American but simply anti-Bush administration. But there's a great deal of pure bigotry here as well. And it has a lineage. You'd be more sensitive to it if you were American.

2/09/2005 10:15:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Kosovo was certainly equally illegal. However it was also, in the eyes of many, more justifiable. A genocide currently taking place seems to me a more urgent reason to launch a supposedly "humanitarian" war than a 20 year old one with a bunch of nonexistant weapons tacked on as an excuse.

Of course, it's far, far more complex than that (see here), and this risks getting into further debates about why the world sat back and let Rwanda tear itself apart. But still. That wasn't really the point. What's done is done, we've got to put up with Bush for another four years, and pretty much everyone seems to realise that it's time to get over it and do the best for the Iraqi people as the US is evidently incapable of maintaining peace on its own.

2/10/2005 02:36:00 am  
Anonymous FelixUSA said...

"Iraq has already proved that America can't go it alone."

Care to expand on that?

From where I'm standing, it looks like the U.S. pretty much did go it alone in Iraq(and prior, Afghanistan) and won handily.

That was with a "green" peace-time army that was significantly reduced from the Cold-War days and during the nastiest economic downturn in the U.S.(recession plus the impact of 9/11) in recent times.

In other words, with one hand tied behind our back. And then for shits and giggles we provided the logistical backbone for aid flowing into the tsunami affected countries in the Pacific and Indian oceans WHILE our forces were providing security in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Indeed, we even did it over the objections of EU countries so I can't imagine what makes you think there was any "proof" of anything like what you describe. Unless you're confusing the occasional bone we threw to EU countries when it was time to mend fences with diplomatic capitulation.

I think you seriously underestimate U.S. capabilities.

2/11/2005 11:25:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Felix - I was merely pointing out that there remains a sizable amount of insurgency/terrorism/whatever, and that the US has been calling for a bit of backup - military, diplomatic, strategic and in terms of supply - for some time now.

I have no doubt that America has the potential to field both the resources and manpower to tackle the Iraq problem single handed, but - as you say - the US army is not currently at its strongest (the lack of equipment being a prime example).

As Donald Rumsfeld said, you go to war with the army you've got - America's army is not, currently, in its best possible condition. It still needs a bit of help - even if that help has to come from armies, like Britain's, which are numerically far smaller, but which (it appears) are kept in a better state of readiness.

Any additional such help would, on top of the military benefits, help to further discredit those in Iraq who are fighting to stop the country getting back on its feet, as the military presence in their country would then be more likely to be seen (in the Muslim world) as a peace-keeping force, rather than one of occupation.

This was really meant to be a call for reconciliation, not an invitation for yet more of the kind of "Team America" rhetoric which has - perhaps more than any actual actions of the US government - got peoples' backs up over the last few years. The US could have got most of Europe behind her on the Iraq venture if only the thing hadn't been couched in such belligerent and arrogant tones.

A little diplomacy goes a long way. We'd all probably be more than willing to help out and offer our loud support (none of us like terrorists, despite what many on the right in America may claim), but we understandably get pissed off if we are talked down to - even if the country doing the talking down is far and away the most powerful in the world.

I doubt you'll get what I'm trying to say. But then, I'm tired, it's late, I'm drunk, and have recently had a number of your fellow countrymen posting fatuous remarks on various parts of this blog. None of this was meant as an attack on you - your question was entirely reasonable. I think you missed the main thrust of the post a bit, though...

2/11/2005 11:58:00 pm  
Blogger fivetonsflax said...

Anonymous, do you even have any anecdotes to back up your assertion of anti-Americanism in Europe -- let alone real data?

My experience in Europe was that as soon as people realized I wasn't *that* kind of American, they were eager to converse.

There was this one drunken Frenchman at a party who clearly wanted me to say something in defense of Bush or the Iraq War so he could disagree. But I don't think he really meant any harm.

2/12/2005 12:34:00 am  
Blogger fivetonsflax said...

BTW, nosemonkey, France's economy has been said to be approximately the size of California's. (However, French wine is a better value, dollar nose-dive or no dollar nose-dive, IMHO.)

2/12/2005 12:38:00 am  
Anonymous FelixUSA said...

"Felix - I was merely pointing out that there remains a sizable amount of insurgency/terrorism/whatever, and that the US has been calling for a bit of backup - military, diplomatic, strategic and in terms of supply - for some time now."

Yes, but those reasons were mostly diplomatic not military. Frankly, most militaries don't have the equipment and training to maneuver with U.S. armed forces.

"I have no doubt that America has the potential to field both the resources and manpower to tackle the Iraq problem single handed, but - as you say - the US army is not currently at its strongest (the lack of equipment being a prime example)."

Actually, I didn't say that. What I said was that the U.S.(the country) was not in the best position to go to war when it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. It did anyway and achieved smashing successes in both theaters.

Now the U.S. has a combat-tested army, new tactics perfected in Iraq, and is straddling Iran. From a military standpoint, the U.S. is probably in the best position it will ever be in to strike Iran.

"As Donald Rumsfeld said, you go to war with the army you've got - America's army is not, currently, in its best possible condition. It still needs a bit of help - even if that help has to come from armies, like Britain's, which are numerically far smaller, but which (it appears) are kept in a better state of readiness."

I think you're confusing wanting help with needing help. We want our allies to go with us for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because (we thought, anyway) that we shared common ideals.

"Any additional such help would, on top of the military benefits, help to further discredit those in Iraq who are fighting to stop the country getting back on its feet, as the military presence in their country would then be more likely to be seen (in the Muslim world) as a peace-keeping force, rather than one of occupation."

That's your illusion, not mine. I don't think European assent automatically imbues something with authenticity, and I doubt the Muslim world does either.

"This was really meant to be a call for reconciliation, not an invitation for yet more of the kind of "Team America" rhetoric which has - perhaps more than any actual actions of the US government - got peoples' backs up over the last few years."

This is a good example of why we don't see eye-to-eye. "...over the last few years" has seen catastrophic terrorist attacks on New York city and Madrid, videotaped beheadings, more suicide bombings than can be counted, terrorist attempts to disrupt elections in 3 countries and countless other acts of inhumanity not seen probably since World War 2.

And what "gets peoples backs up" in Europe? American "rhetoric".

Your reconciliation is transitory. It will only last until the next time Europe attempts to intercede between the U.S. and another terrorism-sponsoring state.

"The US could have got most of Europe behind her on the Iraq venture if only the thing hadn't been couched in such belligerent and arrogant tones."

Arrogant and belligerant like the Daily Mirror headline asking "How can 58 million people be so dumb?" after the last U.S. presidential election?

At least when we're arrogant and belligerant it's towards mass-murdering dictators, where it justifiably belongs. Europe saves her arrogance and belligerance for what used to be their best friends.

"A little diplomacy goes a long way. We'd all probably be more than willing to help out and offer our loud support (none of us like terrorists, despite what many on the right in America may claim), but we understandably get pissed off if we are talked down to - even if the country doing the talking down is far and away the most powerful in the world."

It goes both ways.

The U.S. is not changing it's foreign policy or it's ideals because of another nations slights, perceived or otherwise. George Bush's inaugural speech last month was remarkably similar to John F. Kennedy's inaugural of 40-some years ago.

"I doubt you'll get what I'm trying to say. But then, I'm tired, it's late, I'm drunk, and have recently had a number of your fellow countrymen posting fatuous remarks on various parts of this blog. None of this was meant as an attack on you - your question was entirely reasonable. I think you missed the main thrust of the post a bit, though..."

I got it, and I didn't take offense or think it was an attack on me.

I do disagree with your optimism. This agreement across the Atlantic will only last as long as Europe continues to think it is successfully restraining the U.S. while concurrently the U.S. feels that the European approach is getting results. That won't last long at all.

2/12/2005 05:08:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Felix, this is why the rhetoric is importantThe other problem is that very few of us are convinced that military force is the way to wipe out terrorism. We fear that all that US military action will do is provoke MORE terrorist attacks. And we are afraid that we will end up being attacked by terrorists provoked by US reactions to being attacked. (It's not like terrorists need provoking, but still...)

2/12/2005 10:18:00 am  
Anonymous FelixUSA said...

"Felix, this is why the rhetoric is important."

Sorry, I'm not following. Only rhetoric is important because you're blase about terrorist attacks?

I could maybe see that(well no, not really but let's be polite), but it's not like your being critical of all rhetoric. Just from a certain source.

"The other problem is that very few of us are convinced that military force is the way to wipe out terrorism. We fear that all that US military action will do is provoke MORE terrorist attacks."

The U.S. isn't just using military force against terrorism. Sure, we did that in Afghanistan and Iraq where the governments were entrenched and unapologetic, but we are also attempting to establish democratic governments in those places so that their citizens don't have to turn to terrorism as their only means of expression.

Other countries with ties to terrorism are getting diplomatic treatment by the U.S. Libya, for example.

"And we are afraid that we will end up being attacked by terrorists provoked by US reactions to being attacked. (It's not like terrorists need provoking, but still...)"

Why not just stick to being blase about it all?

Seriously though, we're talking about terrorist-sponsoring countries with nuclear capability now and not every country that ever harbored an evil-doer.

It's in all our interests that those countries don't get the bomb. We're trying to accomplish that through diplomacy for now, but we're not going to limit our solutions to that.

2/12/2005 04:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

first thing yeh there is plenty of anti-amercianism in europe... espacilly in places like france, britian and germany.

2nd thing- the iraqi people (well most of them) thought that saddam being overthrowen was a good thing... he did gas thousands a people. On that fact the war is justifed, without it people would still fear saddam

What most iraqi people have got a problem with is president bushs intreasts are purly that of his friends (the puppet masters) such as oil.

On another fact president bush is a fudamentlist in his own right. He follows the old christians values, you know beat up anyone that don't agree!!!

4/13/2005 11:23:00 am  

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