February 8, 2000

Uncle Sam Says: "To Hell With Elections"

The United States has the right and the obligation to undermine democracies that elect leaders it does not like – thus the Clinton Doctrine. The Administration does not like Joerg Haider's Freedom Party. Therefore, it will humiliate and ostracize the Austrians until they abandon democratic constitutional procedures. "There is…no place inside the governments who make up the Euro-Atlantic community, in a healthy democracy, for a party that does not distance itself from the atrocities of the Nazi era and the politics of hate," expounded the hideous Madeleine Albright. Haider has tried to do that. But nothing he can say will ever satisfy the hideous harridan. "There is a concern about whether the extreme hateful right could emerge in Europe," according to Samuel R. Berger. The United States, he went on, believes that "democracy is about more than elections, it is also about shared values."

To hell with elections, in other words. This is now official US policy. State Department spokesman James Foley explained the new doctrine. "What makes a democracy is more than simply a clean and free and fair election," he mused, "We've seen evidence in the past, I believe, around the world of governments that were elected democratically…not acting democratically or not acting in conformity with democratic principles and with respect for human rights and things of this nature. And so I don't think… that elections themselves are the be-all and the end-all." Foley did not cite any examples of governments that, though elected "democratically," were not "acting in conformity with democratic principles." The wonderful thing about "democratic principles" is that no one knows what they are. The United States can define them to mean whatever it wants them to mean. In any case, it is obvious the United States much prefers to deal with countries that do not bother having elections at all. They do as they are told and make sure Americans get rich. Saudi Arabia has no elections. It also imprisons people for reading the Bible. Yet Madeleine and Bill and Sam never seem to get indignant about it.

It's deja vu all over again. The Serbs are pulverized until they get rid of their democratically elected leaders. Now it is the turn of the Austrians. As a matter of fact, the hatred being directed at Austria sounds awfully like the hatred directed at Serbia. It cannot be long before the New Republic burdens us with "Austria's Willing Executioners" – the latest reflections of Daniel Goldhagen. As a matter of fact, Austria and Serbia are not such different countries. To be sure, one is German and largely Catholic, while the other is Slav and Eastern Orthodox. However, the defining historical experience of both was defending European civilization against the incursions of Islam. The Serbs recall 1389 and their defeat at the Battle of Kosovo. The Austrians recall that it was they, under the Hapsburgs, who freed Europe from Turkish rule.

This, of course, makes the Austrians as much anathema to our liberal, multicultural elite as the Serbs. They have to get with the multicultural program. Here is the New York Times' sneering characterization of the Austrians: "Behind the waltzes-as-Muzak and the cozy cafes lies a darker reality on which Haider has played. That reality includes Christian Vienna's long rearguard action against the Turkish 'infidel,' enthusiastic Austrian support for Hitler and the historical distortion that long portrayed Austria as the 'first victim of Nazi aggression'." Note the facile way in which fighting the Turks is put on the same level as "supporting" Hitler. This supposed Austrian "support" for Hitler is the journalistic cliché of the moment. Jim Hoagland – not the brightest bulb in the world – parroted it in the Washington Post : "For most Austrians the past never happened in the first place. They have constructed an imaginary history in which Austrians were the victims of a Nazi German invasion rather than Hitler's willing henchmen."

All of this is ludicrously oversimplified. According to the Treaty of Versailles, Austria could not join Germany without the permission of the League of Nations. This was in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson's proclamation of "national self-determination." Austrians were Germans and therefore it made perfect sense for them to be part of Germany particularly as they had just lost their empire. However, the victorious allies were not about to create a Germany bigger than the pre-1914 one. So they happily abandoned their own principles. Austria and Germany became two separate states. Hitler – an Austrian – was obviously unhappy about this. National self-determination applied to Poles, but not to Germans! he cried. Did the Austrians support the 1938 Anschluss? Perhaps, but it should be pointed out that Hitler marched into Austria to prevent the holding of a promised referendum on the issue. Hitler's mistrust of the voters was a lot like that of the Clinton Administration. From the Anschluss on, the Austrians were obligated to fight for Germany in much the same way the Germans were. Reproaching the Austrians makes about as much sense as reproaching the Germans. What were they supposed to do? Fight for the Russians? Fight for the British?

However, liberals do not bring up the subject of Hitler at the drop of a hat in order to settle historical debates. The point is to intimidate people into signing on to the contemporary liberal agenda. Austrians, like everyone else, must abandon any sense of nationhood, cultural identity and historic tradition. They must open their borders to more and more immigrants. And they must get over the idea that they are part of a Christian civilization. Here is how that New York Times article goes on: "Aging populations, low birth rates and European reluctance to do many menial jobs make …influx inevitable. Europe and its immigrants need each other….So, it seems, Europeans' sense of identity must change to reflect growing political union and more mixed populations." If it is "inevitable," why do the Austrians need to be persuaded of this? Indeed, why be scared of Haider at all? He has obviously embraced a losing cause. "European states have never really seen themselves as 'lands of immigration'," the Times goes on condescendingly, "The recent invitation to Turkey to join the European Union reflects a broad push to make Europeans see themselves differently, not in juxtaposition to a vizier's head, but in acceptance of the common humanity of the guest worker. The rise of Haider demonstrates, however, that the battle for Europe's soul is far from over….The European Union wants, henceforth, to be on the side of liberty, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and an end to ethnic persecution. It was for these values that it says it went to war in Kosovo. Many Europeans cheered…..But the battle for a pan-European identity, able to accommodate both Christianity and Islam, has only just begun."

So the Europeans have to "accommodate" themselves to Islam whether they like it or not. Their "sense of identity" must change whether they like it or not. And if they don't like it, let's just bring up "Hitler" to settle the matter Interestingly, none of these articles addresses the issue of whether Islam today is a particularly tolerant religion. It is always the Europeans apparently who are intolerant. They are the bigots. Yet which is more tolerant: Contemporary "Christian" Europe or the Islamic world? The answer is fairly obvious, which is why our elite would much prefer to harp on about Hitler.

In its attitude towards Austria, the Clinton Administration is once again demonstrating its obsessive anti-European prejudices. Europe apparently is filled with racists, bigots, anti-Semites. Europeans are forever ready to march under Hitler's banner. This American bigotry serves to provide the United States with a justification to continue its dominance Europe. The Europeans obviously cannot be trusted to run their own affairs. When they are not being pusillanimous, they are failing to "modernize." When they are not failing to "modernize," they are being "xenophobic" or "anti-Semitic." In its contemptuous disregard for election results, the United States is providing itself for a rationale to intervene anywhere. Some "humanitarian intervention"!

Text-only printable version of this article

George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Tuesday.

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