Saturday, April 03, 2004

La Grande Illusion

Madeleine Albright and some US Congressmen disabuse Europeans of their grand illusions.

Many influential Europeans seem to believe that Senator John Kerry in a Democratic White House would restore both respectful equanimity to the American side of the trans-Atlantic relationship and, perhaps more naïvely, aim to redefine U.S. interests in a way that did not seem so self-interestedly American. Pushed to the extreme, this might be called the European School for Reforming America. In this notion, a needy United States seeks out European counsel, converts to multilateralism and submits get-tough inclinations to the United Nations for the veto-ready muster of China, Russia and France....Kerry has had effectively to disavow [a] pledge of support [bearing] the mark of those in Europe who would cast Kerry as an American flagellant, ready for a virtual apology to all for America's size, strength, and national instincts. Before he was elected prime minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said he was "aligning" himself with the Democrat. After Zapatero's victory and his statement that Spain would pull its troops out of Iraq if UN authorization was not forthcoming, Kerry was caught in the position of having to deal with a self-appointed European ally apparently clueless about American politics. Kerry urged Zapatero to reconsider on Iraq and said he should "send a message that terrorists cannot win by their acts of terror." Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution, who served as foreign policy adviser to the Howard Dean campaign for the Democratic nomination, verbally shrugged. If Kerry wins, he said, there may be a new effort at better understanding, but "there's going to be real disappointment in Europe, in terms of their expectations, about everything being hunky-dory again. I don't think many Europeans understand U.S. politics."
Keith M. Ellis@The Complex Now can help.
[I]f you contrast Thatcher to Blair and GWB to Clinton, I think it becomes obvious that “there’s no difference” is a lie and that “anyone but” is a reasonable position...[B]ecause of the nature of American politics, American political views are more defined by what/who is opposed than what is favored. I tend to think that the winner-take-all, two-party system forces a generalized consensus on American politics—that’s why our left and right are so close to each other. I think that’s good, although I recognize that many people disagree. But the downside of this is that when people mostly agree, their differences loom much larger. This is why internecine battles are so vicious.
As I have argued before, the American political system is designed to correct violent swings of the political pendulum. Courts and subsequent elections will correct for the Bush Administration's rightward lurch as they did the leftward lurch of the New Deal. Keith's explanation of a consensus within which the parties of both left and right must work couldn't put it better.