18 Nov 2006

The European Perspective


Jeffrey Gedmin explains the European perspective on American political figures.

When some Europeans say they like Americans,they tend to mean those Americans who seem most like European Social Democrats, and even then they airbrush out inconvenient details like the fact that Bill Clinton favoured the death penalty, that Hillary voted for the Iraq war, or that John F. Kennedy, that suave and promiscuous East coast liberal was also a staunch anti-communist, who frequently quoted from the bible. George W. Bush is the full package of everything that makes Europe squirm. He is anti-elitism. He’s religion. He’s morality and muscle. He’s patriotism and self-confidence. He is very un-European. (…)

When European commentators say they are yearning for an end to American unilateralism, our moral crusades and the influence of those dreaded “fundamentalist evangelicals,” what they really mean is that they are longing for the United States to become more like Europe: secular, post-national, consensus-seeking and Social Democratic. So on to the next disappointment. Even with the Democrats, it ain’t gonna happen.”

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Dominique R. Poirier

Geffrey Gedmin’s soft perception of things is quite simplistic and tends to propose us a gentle European unifying and homogeneous view that does not reflect more complex and more down-to-earth realities, I think.

I don’t think so there is a European consensus about how America could be, or might be. People and their leaders see things differently from one European country to another. It would be more accurate to say, instead, that some European countries are longing to see others rallying their viewpoint and strategies.

Moreover, I don’t think so those who intend to be the most influential in this endeavor seriously expect that things are going to change naturally, without any exterior influence.

Now, and in an attempt to adapt my talk to such over simplification, let’s just says that resentment about George Bush and his policy noticed here and there in Europe owes to the facts that anything the United States can do on the international stage is very influential, and that George Bush has been elected President by American people who expect him, above all, to serve the U.S. national interest; an interest that, of course, may seem foreign, and so disputable, to some.
All this explains why European people and their leaders who are looking for changes in United States seem much less interested by much graver and more concerning facts and figures noticed in countries whose borders are much closer to theirs, and whose influence is likely to be much more detrimental on the long run.

Since Geffrey Garmin’s paper was initially released in a German publication, I illustrate my comment in proposing the following example.

During Schröder’s final weeks in office, he signed an agreement with Russia to build the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted a post as the head of the shareholders’ committee in the Russian-led consortium, controlled by Gazprom, which is building the pipeline, raising questions about the conflict of interest. German opposition parties, as well as the governments of the possible transit countries, have expressed concern over the issue. In an editorial entitled Gerhard Schroeder’s Sellout, the American newspaper Washington Post has also expressed sharp criticism, reflecting widening international ramifications of Schröder’s new post.

Yes. Gazprom is Russian, not German, and Shröder was a German chancellor, not a Russian official. This last fact has been quite less commented in Europe. Everything’s fine, seemingly. I wonder why?

Would you think everything would be equally fine if George Bush was offered a post as, say, head of Airbus Industry, or Tupolev, after his presidential mandate?


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