of this means Western leaders should panic or take extraordinary
steps to trump or counter Russian imperial ambitions and not only
because the West, with its easy, oversight-free IMF money and tons
of bad advice from Harvard economists bears some moral responsibility
for Russiaís sorry economic state.
is prudent to be aware that rebuild-the-Empire talk is gaining some
traction and to monitor efforts to move in that direction. But whatever
Putinís or anybody elseís ultimate ambitions might be, the Russian
military is still in a state that makes it not much of a threat
beyond its immediate neighborhood. And unless Russia finally adopts
a real free market rather than one built on the quicksand (just
ask Japan, though many there still wonít admit it) of state subsidies,
it will find that it simply doesnít have the resources to compete
in the 21st century world power game.
itís too late, but a different approach than the standard tough
talk combined with increased military spending might still yield
results with Russia. Forget the IMF loans and the international
bureaucratic experts. They have almost certainly done more harm
than good anyway. At the same time, however, Western diplomats would
do well to give Russia a certain amount of respect in international
forums. It would help if Western countries could avoid getting so
all-fired-no-turning-back determined to do stupid things like pursuing
a war in Kosovo, of course. But even that could have been handled
in a way that left the Russians a modicum of dignity rather than
with a taste of bitterness and grounds for future resentment.
canít resist a couple of comments about Joerg Haidar (youíd think
with all the advancements in computer technology I would have a
machine that included the option of an umlaut, but I donít), leader
of Austriaís Freedom Party. Iíll start by noting that while itís
wise to view any politician with a gimlet eye, what Iíve been able
to dig out of his actual statements suggest carelessness and error
more than incipient Nazism.
the chairperson of the Johns Hopkins Center for European Studies,
interviewed on a Southern California NPR station the other day,
noted that Haidarís party chose, over the last several years, to
fill a void the establishment parties had left wide open, especially
with the end of the cold war changing political dynamics. (The program
was introduced, of course, by referring to Haidar as a "Nazi
apologist," and not in an especially pejorative way but as
if the announcer simply viewed that as an objective description.
Once the Nazi slur is bandied about and the congenital intellectual
sloppiness of most of the media kicks in such falsehoods are fairly
predictable.) There are valid, serious, non-Nazi reasons to question
whether the increasing political integration of Europe under the
European Union is a good idea. And there are plenty of people who
are not Nazis or racists who question how much immigration Austria
can absorb, especially since it doesnít have the cultural tradition
of large-scale immigration that the United States has. (In the old
imperial days Austria, or at least Vienna, was remarkably cosmopolitan,
but until recently it had experienced little immigration.) And Austria
had become corrupt, over-regulated and excessively bureaucratic,
with the two major parties complacently wallowing in the system
Haidar and his party filled the political void and got 26 percent
of the vote, which in any multi-party democracy would make them
logical candidates to be invited into a coalition government.
interesting question is why it is considered so necessary to trot
out the old Nazi slur and to take such extraordinary steps to express
disapproval of allowing Haidar to represent the large portion of
the Austrian people who had voted for his party. One must remember
that this is something of a departure for the European Union. The
essential premise of the union is that each country agrees to give
up a bit of economic sovereignty to bureaucrats in Brussels and
the keepers of the Euro, but would retain political sovereignty.
Indeed, there is no EU-wide mechanism for withdrawing support, approval
or diplomats from a member country, so each European country has
had to take steps independently.
real sin, I suspect, is upsetting the complacency and sense of inevitability
of centralizing Eurocrats and other denizens of the New World Order.
The idea that Europe must become unified under one government is
so widely accepted in the governing and chattering classes that
itís hard for them to conceive of serious opposition. The fact that
26 percent of Austrians would vote for a scruffy party whose main
plank is resisting European centralization had to hit these folks
like a cold fish in the face.
ONLY IN AUSTRIA
Freedom Partyís electoral success, despite the universal scolding
of all the better sorts of people, suggests the potential of more
effective resistance to centralization in other European countries.
It hasnít been polite to talk about it, and itís been customary
to chalk it up to sheer provincial ignorance and stupidity (confirming
that such people need a lot of supervision) on the rare occasion
when itís acknowledged. But not everybody in Europe is as enchanted
with the prospects of centralization as those who earn their living
implementing it. Approval of the Maastricht treaty wasnít as sure
a thing as advertised, and since its implementation the bureaucrats
have laid the ground for concrete rather than simply theoretical
grievances (as would happen no matter what specific decisions they
suspect movements similar to the Freedom Party will gain support
in other EU countries. And I suspect the Eurocrats think so too.
Thatís why felt they had to call out the hoary old Nazi accusations
and make such a big deal of shunning Austria for allowing Haidar
a place at the table.
shunning campaign does reveal a gut-level, essential intolerance
for any kind of dissent on the part of New World Order enthusiasts.
And I suspect it will backfire in two ways. It is likely to make
Austrians more determined to resist dictation from outside rather
than ready to back down. And instead of intimidating incipient nativist-localist-nationalist
political movements in other countries itís more likely to fire
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