Got a kinda funny email from Paris Lawyer Pundit (whom I have mentioned several times, including `here and here). It was an old thing that was circulating around the time of Bush’s last State of the Union, about bringing the troops home and generally flipping the bird to the rest of the world.
I responded in pertinent part as follows:
Ha. Amusing. I like the business about scrapping the UN’s cars.
But I say, seize them on some trumped basis and sell them at public
A little more seriously, it is interesting how I see this whole Iraq thing differently from most people I talk to. Not having a TV helps. The TV images have a way of crowding out thought or even facts. First, the Shiite revolt led by Sadr (supported by Iran) and the Ba’athist effort in Falujah (supported by Syria) were total failures. So the two main resistance groups with the all-but-open support of their foreign allies have failed. They tried their “Tet Offensive” and it failed. Another thing, the main base for the nationwide terror campaign was apparently in Falujah, as had been reported, and bombing attacks are way down. The on-screen decapitation of Mr. Berg will have, I hope, had a hardening effect on support for the anti-terror campaign. The hand-over of formal power in a few weeks is going to be a major step. All in all I remain mildly optimistic about our medium-term prospects in Iraq, especially if Bush can get reelected.
And just this morning I read about British Foreign Office, in setting up the entente with France circa 1906 — “officials often showed their irritation at the duplicity and selfishness of French policy …” The British ambassador responded “One must take the French as they are and not as one would wish them to be”. 98 years later, little has changed. The predominant Anglo-Saxon power will always find dealing with the French to be an unpleasant job.
I also sent PLP a proof of a wicked cool Anglosphere bumper sticker I am having made, about which you will be hearing more later. I told PLP he’d have to be a brave man to put it on his car in Paris. PLP replied:
Your Anglospehere sticker is excellent – but thankfully I don’t have a car here, so I can’t test how gutsy that manoeuver would be. It is interesting how you have included Canada (arguably not an anglo-phone, certainly neither exclusively or poltically so).
The current debate here about the new European “Constitution” is interesting, and the latest reports have Jack Straw taking a hard position, much to the French dismay. From a historical perspective, one sees how France has always had to battle and defend itself from perceived and real incursions from both the UK and Germany – much of her identity as a nation is bound up in this difficult and often ruptured equilibrium. To see her now seek to cast her destiny in a close alliance with Germany on all matters political is natural if viewed as the continuation of the post-War EU “peace through commerce”, liberal project, and I can only surmise that her pique vis-a-vis the UK is due to the UK’s obstinate ties with the Atlantic and the former colonies. But I’m surprised, in 2004, that she is not taking a more balanced view. The only explanation I can find is that she believes that a strong EU is the only way for France (and Europe) to reacquire a decider-status on the world stage. The contradiction here is that what will be left of the French “nation” to enjoy in that greater influence, once she has been dissolved into the common pot?
The Iraq situation from here, as you will expect, is portrayed as a virtually unmitigated disaster: the torture photos and abuses were the nail for the coffin. I have to say that whatever one may think about the bigger picture, whoever up or down the chain allowed that to occur was not only wrong (i.e., “book ’em, Danno”) but stupid. You’ve got to wonder about the IQ of some of these guys (and gals, e.g., “Lynnie”). They have got to realize that that has more of an adverse effect on the mission and the greater Middle East initiative than almost anything else they could do. I think Bush should have acted swiftly and decisively and required Rummies’ resignation.
Despite recent Zapatero events, I am (understandably) intrigued and impressed by Spain’s rising influence. About bloody time !
(The “understandably” is because PLP is of Spanish ancestry.) I responded as follows:
Oh, Canada and India are both “Anglosphere enough”, as is Ireland, for that matter. Some significant Anglophone population, some significant anglo-derived political, legal and economic institutions, and you are in. Also, there is a unitary anglophone business and cultural space growing up via the Internet and cheap international shipping and travel. My recent book purchasing orgy mostly via www.bookfinder.com led to acquisitions from the USA, Ireland, South Africa, India, England and Australia — all take Visa. The English speakers have a huge advantage and it is getting huger. Odom and Dujarric’s new book America’s Inadvertent Empire is worth a look. I’m ¾ done with it. Much good material in it, though I have quibbles.
I can’t figure the French out. I agree strongly that their current effort to impose a constitution looks likely to end badly. Good, says I. But the interesting question is: Why? How does it make France more secure, influential, or more prosperous to, as you put it, dissolve it in some Euro-pot? Did not De Gaulle call for a “Europe of fatherlands”? Would not France be more influential and powerful as the second biggest player in a more loose-jointed association of neighbors and trading partners? But they are mesmerized as ever by the radiant glow of past glories. They could use a dose of boneheaded American pragmatism, which neither knows nor cares what happened last week, let alone during the reign of the Sun King or Napoleon. They want to dominate Europe by bureaucratic cleverness where they could not do so by muzzle-loading cannon, muskets and cavalry sabers. Not likely.
I am currently reading the new 2003 edition of Zara Steiner’s classic Britain and the Origins of the First World War. Sir Edward Grey continually ran into problems because Britain willed the ends (predominant world influence, deterrance of Germany to preserve the European balance) but not the means (predominant military power both in the Empire and a capacity to intervene on the Continent). So, he got a war he was not prepared for. The main thing that comes through is that the Germans were constantly causing problems because they wanted to be respected and even feared, but they could not articulate these inchoate desires in affirmative terms and concrete terms that the other powers could agree to or negotiate about. So the tensions could never be resolved. German foreign policy was at once menacing and incoherent. France today is like a scale model, train-set-scale version of both Grey’s problems and Bethman-Hollweg’s. It does not want to spend what it would take to develop meaningful military power so that it can have a say in imposing and preserving world order. But it also wants to be respected and consulted and deferred to. Add to this its unwillingness to take the “neo-liberal” steps needed to revitalize its economy, and the demographic cliff they are falling off of, which is beyond government policy to change at this point. Taking all this together it appears that France is doomed to impotence and frustration if it maintains its current course. Medium-sized powers can do very well for themselves if they play their cards wisely. France is not doing so.
France is enjoying a temporary jolt of pleasant schadenfreude at America’s expense. But it should not mistake American tactical setbacks for success on the part of its own policies.
The prison situation is so outrageous one barely knows where to begin. The guards should be imprisoned. Horrendous damage, agreed. The mind boggles. Even I am rendered (almost) dumbstruck.
Rumsfeld’s resignation was never seriously contemplated by Bush. It would be an admission of weakness. He won’t do that.
I have great hopes for Spain’s long-term prospects. I hope those prospects lie in a young, dynamic 1/2 billion person overseas Hispanosphere more than in a grey, lifeless, European bureaucratic socialistic cage. But Zapatero seems set on placing his country under the thumb of Brussels. Alas. But it is early yet.
Take a look at Jim Bennet‘s recent rather brilliant essay on the Anglosphere idea, which also refers to a potential or nascent Hispanosphere.
I hope to have more on the Odom and Dujarric book, the Steiner book, and Bennett’s article, as well as Walter Russell Mead’s new book, which I recently read. All of these would-be posts depend on the other pressing demands from non-blogging parts of my life leaving me a tiny bit of time. Fingers crossed.