Paris Lawyer Pundit Weighs In

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 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.

7 thoughts on “Paris Lawyer Pundit Weighs In”

  1. Some significant Anglophone population, some significant anglo-derived political, legal and economic institutions, and you are in.

    OK, how about Israel, then? I am joking but only half so. Canada has more of the language and institutions but Israel has the better attitude.

  2. It’s not binary, either/or.

    Israel participates in the Anglosphere. It has a large Anglophone population. It has parliamentary democracy. It has defense ties to the United States. It is networked economically and culturally to the Anglophone world. It has diaspora populations in the Anglophone world.

    All that said, Israel has a distinct identity of its own based on ethno-religious solidarity, a unique language of its own, a unique legal system, a much more socialistic and less individualistic founding ethos. David ben Gurion, to pick one major founding father, was a European social democrat and farther to the left than any similar figure in British or American history; much more so than, say, Clement Atlee, even. It seems to me that Israel is much more a cousin of small, ethnically compact eastern European countries, with their socialist heritage. Also, Israel is in a sense the last outpost of the old Judeao-Germanosphere which did so much to develop Europe economically in the 19th and early 20th centuries, until the Europeans decided to kill their Jewish neighbors because they were smarter and worked harder than they wanted to do. This is yet another unique aspect to its identity. Interestingly, Samuel Huntington, in his book the Clash of Civilizations, does not include Israel in “The West” — as small as it is, it is a civilization unto itself.

    To wrap up this too brief ramble on this interesting issue, I think it is probably closest to say that Israel is sui generis but has important ties to the Anglosphere.

    I can see how a supporter of Israel might want to say Israel is “in” the Anglosphere, since it is good to have powerful friends when you are in a dangerous neighborhood. But you can have powerful friends without misunderstanding who and what you are and what they are.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it.

  3. Yes, it is good for us have a powerful friend like Israel when we are involved in a dangerous neighborhood like the Middle East. That we have undervalued Israel as an ally (largely, I think, due to the same sorts of Arabist and realpolitic delusions that got us to support “stable” tyrants in the region for so long), is beside the point.

    Israel now is significantly different from the Israel of 1950 or even of 1980. The socialist ethos of the Israeli pioneers is fading. Israel is one of the two or three most pro-American countries in the world and there are huge areas of overlapping values and interests between us and Israel. (And English is probably more accepted in Israel than it is in a large part of Canada.) Israel, however one categorizes it, is becoming increasingly Anglospheric.

    BTW, I think Iraq could eventually move into the same category as Israel, though it doesn’t feel like it now. From the POV of the anti-Anglosphere, hostility to Israel and to the U.S. project in Iraq are closely linked.

    And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. . .

  4. Israel started out a the antithesis of an Anglosphere state; it was envisioned by the Zionists as an organic nation-state of the sort defined by Herder and Fichte; “blood and soil”, in the common phrase. These were European Jews who, like the Nazi, accepted Herder’s concept of the state, and reasoned that because German and Jew did not see themelve as sharing “blood” (although in fact they often did)they could not in the long run share land. Nazi and Zionit shared a common analyis but (to ay the least) different solutions.

    Now, the blood-and-soil concept of Israel has run into trouble. Rather than seeing the ingathering of all Jews to Israel, the Judeaosphere now mostly overlaps the Anglosphere, to their mutual benefit. Israel is increasingly affected by immigration of American Jews; meanwhile, many Israelis, both native-born and immigrants from places like Russia, leave Israel and work abroad, mostly in the Anglosphere. Israel is therefore somewhere on the fringes of the Anglosphere; perhaps over time, with continued interchange of people between Israel and the Anglosphere, it might become part of some permanent institutions. If the Israelis took more of an Anglosphere attitude toward statehood, it might ease some of their internal problems as well.

  5. So now the mythical Anglosphere could even include Israel, a country that doesn’t even speak English nor have any cultural ties whatsoever to “Anglo-Saxon” heritage and political tradiditions? Now you’re just creating a list of our current allies, not creating a (however imaginary) grouping of like minded and culturally linked people who will band together in the next century to pursue a common vision of the world.

    I’m as pro-Israel as anybody, mainly due to the fact that they are probably the only country on the planet who would still be on our side no matter what happened. But I don’t think there’s much from a cultural value or philosophy of government standpoint that we share.

    If NOT having a Socialist government is a requirement for joining the Anglosphere, then Canada is definely out (If I were to believe in such a thing I probably wouldn’t include Canada regardless) and Great Britain wouldn’t be a member either. As much as it continually pains me to say it, I’m not even sure the US government can stand up to that scrutiny, although we’ve certainly made the best effort at trying not to appear to be socialist. The idea that the British have repudiated Marx in favor of Adam Smith is a hard argument to make.

    Britain and especially Canada (I think Canada would join the EU tomorrow if they were invited) are European in modern cultural and economic values, and general outlook on life. Maybe it’s a side issue, but the vast majority of Brits and Canadians were against the Iraq war and think it demonstrates everything that is wrong with America. I’m no expert on British public opinion but I believe the Iraq war is still hugely unpopular over there and I think most Brits, while they may not want to officially join the EU, are sympathetic and like-minded in their thoroughly European view of America as the biggest problem in the world. I don’t care what their current government’s relationship with America is, I have a feeling that their (or at least Blair’s)tenure is short-lived. It will be replaced with something much more hostile.

    I think when you boil it down, Britain and Canada in particular look at our Constitution, Bill of Rights and structure of government with it’s vestigal checks and balances not as strengths but as fatal weaknesses that have impeded us from stepping into the 20th century and having a proper progressive government. A government that applies the scientifically and universally proven proper methods of government to run the economy, redistribute income from the unproductive rich to the productive classes who create everything in the economy, provide a comfortable life for the poor and unemployed who are created through the inevitable failures of a capitalist market economy, eliminate disease and discomfort through univeral government provided healthcare, and while your at it allow ugly naked people to be seen on TV at any hour of the day.

    I also don’t think most Brits would even want to be a part of an “Anglosphere” if it included America, who they look at as uneducated barbarians who live in trailer parks surrounded by the enormous poverty created by our weak government, cowboys who regularly get into gun-fights, and rednecks who meet at church before we go to lynch somebody.

    I don’t want to be a part of a group that is made up mostly of people who believe that the biggest problem in the world is the USA.

    I think George Washington was right when he warned to steer clear of entangling alliances. This looks, walks and quacks like an entangling alliance.

    The “Sojourner” concept in particular looks like a simple way to force European style social-welfare-state government on America. The inevitable “harmonization” looks no different than the old Europe EU countries trying to force their Eurosclerotic governments on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. No thanks.

    We should work together where we agree, not work together where we don’t agree, and trade as freely as possible. You might say I’m a Jacksonian, and of all the people Andrew Jackson despised, the British were numebr 1, 2 and 3 on the list.

  6. So should the Anglosphere include the Philippines? A former American colony (that inspired Kipling’s phrase about the white man’s burden) with an English-speaking elite but with a weird mix of Spanish civil law and some English common law?

    A bureaucratic mix which has resulted in its being the least economically successfully of the Southeast Asian nations.

Comments are closed.