I happened to be in Paris on the same day that
the French people rejected the proposed European Union Constitution – a vote
that was described by analysts in the French capital as a defeat for U.S.-led
globalization and American-style capitalism.
After arriving a few days later in Washington, and reading neoconservative
op-ed commentaries and watching the pundits on Fox News television, I had no
choice but to conclude that the anti-EU Constitution votes in France and Holland
were nothing less than a great victory for the United States.
Of course, many of the American foreign policy "experts" who were spinning
the French and Dutch votes as reruns of the collapse of the Berlin Wall were
also the same guys who had predicted that Americans would find weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) in Iraq, uncover the links between Saddam Hussein and Osama
bin Laden, and be welcomed as "liberators" by the Iraqis. So in a way, I shouldn't
have been too surprised that Washington's faith-based community would once again
impose their wishful thinking on the reality in Europe and elsewhere.
Hence the new scene in the neocon-produced theater of the absurd. Recall that
only recently, we were asked to believe that the coming-to-power in Baghdad
of a radical Shi'ite political-religious bloc with links to Iran marked the
triumph of Western-style liberal democracy. Now we are expected to buy into
the notion that it's a great day for the US of A when a coalition of radical
left-wing anti-globalization activists, veteran communists, anti-immigration
groups, and ultra nationalists in France and Holland – anti-Americanism is the
only idea that unites them – succeed in winning the support of the majority
Ironically, when similar coalitions of neo-communists and right-wing nationalists
win votes in Russia, American officials and pundits tend to bash them as an
alliance of Reds (communists) and Browns (fascists).
It's not very difficult to discover the source of the European fantasies concocted
by the neocons. After all, French President Jacques Chirac, the major political
loser in the French vote, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had opposed
the U.S. decision to invade Iraq after insisting that Washington should deal
with the alleged WMD threat from Saddam by continuing to pursue weapons inspections
through the United Nations.
Right-wing U.S. lawmakers and commentators have continued to maintain the position
of the French and German governments reflected supposedly deep-rooted anti-Americanism,
pro-Arab appeasement, anti-Semitism, etc. The way the neocons see it, Messrs.
Chirac and Schroeder were the symbols of the Axis of Weasel, and they have become
the targets for never-ending bashing, ridicule, threats, and boycotts. But by
opposing Bush's unilateral move to oust Saddam, Chirac and Schroeder only acted
in accordance with the views of the majority of their citizens and to protect
their perceived national interests; in fact, their position on the Iraq war
was backed by the majority of the public in Old and New Europe, not to
mention most publics and governments around the world – and many Americans.
And according to recent polls, most Americans share the view that the war against
Saddam wasn't worth the costs involved. In short, they seem to agree that the
French – Oh, mon Dieu! Quelle horreur! – had it right when it came to
Moreover, the notion that Messrs. Chirac and Schroeder are "anti-American"
is preposterous. In the context of European politics, both represent strong
pro-Atlanticist and pro-globalization positions, certainly when you compare
their views to those of the political groups and figures who have been leading
the anti-Constitution opposition in Europe. One of the reasons that Chirac lost
the vote was his backing for Turkish membership in the EU, a long-standing U.S.
position, while Schroeder's popularity dropped after trying to push forward
a few economic liberalizing measures.
Hence, if the chances of mending the transatlantic split and Euro-American
cooperation on such issues like the Middle East and the global economy seemed
quite uncertain before the recent political crises, one can only expect them
to get worse now that large segments of the European public seem to have expressed
(1) their displeasure with what they consider the American or Anglo-Saxon model
of capitalism and (2) their opposition to bringing pro-U.S. allies like Turkey
and Ukraine into the EU. And against the backdrop of a global reality in which
the Western alliance is gradually fading away and the U.S. and Europe are becoming
geo-strategic and geo-economic rivals, the gloating in Washington over the political
problems across the Atlantic doesn't make a lot of sense. But common sense is
hard to find in the U.S. capital these days.