Note that the British Observer‘s Sunday exclusive — the leaked National Security Agency memo on heightened surveillance of the emails and phone calls of nations crucial to the Security Council vote on Iraq — made the news in countries like France and Germany but, as far as I can tell, has yet to make a US appearance. A heightened spying campaign, a “surge,” directed against UN Security Council members? You would think that might be a story worth the odd paragraph or two, but today I could find nothing in the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times on the subject, not even denials (though Ari Fleischer was evidently asked about it). In the good old days, when we discovered Russian bugs in US missions, this sort of thing was front page news for days, if not weeks — with flaming headlines for foul deeds.
In the meantime, the New York Times headlined its front page Turkey story, “Turkey Will Seek a Second Decision on a G.I. Presence,” while in the European press this was being denied (as seems to be the case). The Los Angeles Times today carried a devastating account on the Turkish rejection and of what passes for diplomacy in the Bush administration, subtitled “Ultimatums and other perceived insensitivities may have doomed access for ground forces” (see below). The crucial line is: “American officials believed that the Turks could not afford to turn them down.”
The Busheviks have now weakened the new government of an ally in Turkey just as they are weakening the governments of their Spanish and British allies. (In polls in Spain, where five of every six Spaniards are supposedly against an Iraq war even it if it is UN sanctioned, the socialists are now outpolling the government, with regional elections upcoming in May.)
The unanswered question is: has all this brought the war closer or pushed it off? The LA Times in a paragraph buried in a piece entitled
“U.S. toils on but appears increasingly alone” suggested, “The redeployment of troops, which could take three weeks, could also delay military action. Depending on the progress of diplomacy at the U.N., a U.S.-led invasion had been widely expected in the second half of March. That could slip to early April, some experts predicted.”
And the Financial Times (“US forced to rethink war plan”) added, “Military analysts believe it will take at least two weeks to unload all the weapons systems for the Texas-based 4th infantry division [now off the Turkish coast], meaning a mid-March invasion window is rapidly closing.” It would certainly be a reasonable excuse if the military cared to stall.
Danny Schecter, the news dissector, in his daily e-mail pointed out a wonderful and relevant little paragraph buried, as so much good reporting is in our best papers, in the trash end of that same New York Times front page piece: “Turkish officials said that American diplomats sought to avoid paying taxes on everything they bought in Turkey, from fuel to food. One dispute, which Turkish lawmakers said lasted more than a week, involved the question of who would pick up a roughly $30,000 tab for identification labels intended for American troops in Turkey.” (So who was keeping the “bazaar” open all night?)
And here’s a little gem, brought to my attention by a friend: Trevor Kavanagh in a pro-Bush piece, “It’ll be soon, it’ll be swift and it’ll be short,” in the Brit tabloid the Sun wrote, “Relations between America and France are icy after Chirac’s attempts to sabotage UN moves to disarm Saddam. In a blistering phone call last week, President George Bush told the posturing Frenchman: ‘President Chirac, we will not forgive and we will not forget.’ I can’t swear it’s accurate, but it does sound right, doesn’t it?
I can’t imagine why the Europeans might not be charmed. Neither, it turns out, can former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was recently on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show Late Edition with Henry Kissinger. Blitzer asked him about how low he thought US relations with NATO had sunk. He responded by making a startling Cold War analogy:
“BRZEZINSKI: I think Henry is right in saying that this is very serious, but I think we have to ask ourselves, how have we conducted ourselves? We have in effect said to them, “Line up.” We have treated them as if they were the Warsaw Pact. The United States issued orders, and they have to follow.
“Now, let me give you one striking example. The president since 9/11 has uttered the phrase “He who is not with us is against us” — mind you, “He who is not with us is against us,” anyone who disagrees with us is against us — no less than 99 times.
We have a concept of the alliance, inherent in this kind of conduct, which involves giving orders and others falling in line….We have never been as isolated globally, literally never, since 1945.”
Immanuel Wallerstein in another of his periodic essays offers a useful review of European-American (and, briefly, Asian-American) relations from 1945 to the present, suggesting that never again will the US be able to count on the unquestioning support of such former allies. Tom
The Reasons Turkey Rejected U.S.
Ultimatums and other perceived insensitivities may have doomed access for ground forces.
By Richard Boudreaux
Los Angeles Times
March 3, 2003
ANKARA, Turkey — Early last month, Vice President Dick Cheney phoned Turkey’s prime minister with an urgent message: The Bush administration wanted the country’s parliament to vote within days – just before the Muslim holiday of Bayram – on a request to base U.S. troops in Turkey for an assault on Iraq.
The timing of the pressure struck a raw nerve here, one that was still aching when Turkish lawmakers finally took up the request Saturday and dealt it a surprise defeat. As Turks offered explanations Sunday for this stinging defiance of their strongest ally, tales of American insensitivity were high on the list.
Religious feelings run deep here before and during Bayram. It was going to be hard enough for Washington to persuade one predominantly Muslim country to join in a war against another.
By Immanuel Wallerstein
Commentary No. 108
March 1, 2003
If the attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 can be considered to have
been a political earthquake for the American people, the U.S. is now
suffering from the aftershock. The most recent and most dramatic instance of
that aftershock has come from across the Atlantic and reveals the tectonic
shift that has gone on largely unnoticed in the last decade.
What was so unsettling about Sept. 11 was the fact that the U.S., for the
first time in its history, felt vulnerable. A direct assault of such
magnitude within the continental United States had been previously unknown
and unthinkable. The immediate response of most of the rest of the world –
all of whom had lived with such kinds of vulnerability for a long time – was
massively sympathetic. Remember the now classic editorial in Le Monde of
Paris the day after: “We are all Americans now.”
In less than 18 months, the Bush administration has squandered all that
sympathy and now finds itself diplomatically isolated. This is the second
great shock, the aftershock of Sept. 11. Since 1945, the United States has
pursued its global policies with the assurance that it had secure allies –
western Europe, Canada, Japan and South Korea. However much one ally or
another had reservations about this or that policy, and however much the
fuss they may have made (a tactic for which France was particularly famous),
the United States always counted on the fact that, when the moment of
decision came, these allies would be behind the United States.
Up until February 2003, the U.S. government has been sure that such deferral
to their leadership in world affairs by the allies was a constant on which
they could rely. Suddenly this has changed. France and Germany are now
leading a “coalition of the unwilling,” supported by Russia and China, and
overwhelmingly by world public opinion. When the massive peace
demonstrations occurred on Feb. 15 across the world, the largest
demonstrations were in the three countries that have most ostentatiously
supported the U.S. position on Iraq – Great Britain, Spain, and Italy. In
the beginning of March, the U.N. Security Council is going to vote on a
U.S.-British-Spanish resolution to legitimate military action against Iraq.
They are being met by a French-German-Russian “memorandum” which, in effect,
says that there is no justification yet for military action.
It is very doubtful that the U.S. resolution can get the nine votes it
needs, even if there is no actual veto.
The immediate result has been a shouting match between the U.S. (with Great
Britain) and France and Germany. It has been much more shrill on the U.S.
side than on the Franco-German side. Jacques Chirac, a conservative
politician who has spent time in the U.S. and who has long been considered
one of the French political leaders most friendly to the U.S., is being
vilified and even demonized. How has the relationship of Europe and America
deteriorated to the point that the press is asking whether it can ever be
repaired, whether we are in the midst of a divorce? To understand that, we
have to take the story from the beginning, that is, from 1945.
In 1945, the United States was all-powerful, and western Europe was
suffering badly from the economic destruction of the war. Furthermore, a
good 25 percent of western Europe’s population was voting for Communist
parties, and most of the others genuinely feared that the combination of
their internal Communist parties plus the immense Red Army, stationed in the
middle of Europe, represented a real threat to their survival as
non-Communist states. The alliance of western Europe with the United States,
concretized in the creation of NATO in 1949, had the strong support of a
majority of the population which feared U.S. isolationism more than U.S.
imperialism. The U.S. encouraged and supported the establishment of European
transnational structures, primarily as a way of making acceptable to the
French an involvement of west Germany in the alliance structures.
By the late 1960s, the material and political base of European enthusiasm
for the Atlantic alliance began to fritter. Western Europe had revived
economically and was no longer dependent on the U.S. Quite the contrary! It
was becoming an economic rival. The internal strength of the Communist
parties began to dissipate. A Soviet threat began to seem quite distant.
Meanwhile, U.S. enthusiasm for European institutions began to wane, as a
strong Europe began to seem a risk for the Atlantic alliance. The U.S.
encouraged British adhesion, in the hope of diluting Europe (as indeed de
Gaulle charged at the time). And later, the U.S. would press for rapid
expansion “eastwards” in a similar hope.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989/1991 represented a disaster, from
the point of view of U.S. control over its allies. It undid the major
justification for U.S. leadership. Of whom was western Europe supposed to be
afraid now? The U.S. searched for a substitute for the Soviet Union to offer
western Europe as a reason for faithful adherence to U.S. leadership.
Basically, what the U.S. offered was the class interest of the “North”
against the “South” – the common interest of the U.S. and western Europe in
global order, neoliberal globalization, and military containment of the
countries of the “South” (that is, continued and intensified insistence on
no nuclear proliferation).
These were common interests, indeed, but none of them posed the urgency of
the erstwhile Soviet military threat. And western Europe felt that its
approach to particular problems was at least as intelligent and useful as
that of Washington. In the days of the first President Bush and of Clinton,
these differences led to serious arguments, but the arguments remained
civil. Along came the hawks of the second President Bush. They were not
interested in debating the fine points of what to do in Iraq, Palestine, or
North Korea. They felt they knew what to do and they were anxious to make
sure that western Europe accept, as it had once upon a time, the
unquestioned leadership of the U.S. They inherited an old American contempt
for the Europe the immigrants had left behind.
However, the geopolitical realities are quite different today. Western
Europe feels that Bush’s policies in Iraq are as much aimed at them as at
Saddam Hussein. They see Bush trying to destroy the possibility of a strong
and politically independent Europe, at precisely a very delicate moment in
the constitutional construction of this Europe. Furthermore, the defeat of
the Socialists in France and the victory of the Social-Democrats in Germany
were both serious setbacks for Bush. The defeat of the Socialists in France
allowed France, with its curious constitution, to have a president who had
the authority to be decisive, because he didn’t have to share power with a
prime minister of another party. Chirac saw France’s interest in asserting
its Gaullism unreservedly. In this Chirac has the overwhelming support of
French public opinion and politicians, which a Socialist prime minister
would never have had.
In Germany, on the other hand, only a Social Democratic-Green coalition
could have taken the clear stand the government has taken, and found it
All the bluster of Rumsfeld about how “old Europe” was isolated has been
shown to be unfounded. There is not a single country in Europe, including
eastern Europe, where the polls are not against the U.S. position. The U.S.
that advocates preventive wars and would engage in them unilaterally is seen
as a far greater danger than an encircled and constrained Saddam Hussein.
Europe is not anti-American, but it is definitely anti-Bush. Meanwhile, the
same thing is happening in East Asia, where Japan, South Korea, and China
are aligned against the U.S. approach to handling North Korea.
We shall never go back to the old ways. What will happen now depends a lot
on the actual military process of the Iraq war. Europe may emerge much stren
gthened or in tatters. But U.S. ability to count on automatic support from
western Europe and east Asia is probably gone forever.
First published in Yale On Line
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