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Obama the Catalyst

This guest blog post by Don, an American living and working in England, is about NATO and how Obama, Clinton and McCain might relate to it, if elected president.

David Ignatius of the Washington Post raises an interesting issue in Sun Sets on Cold War Mentality, one which cuts to the core of the biggest issue in the US election campaign, which is - What does 'change' mean?

Ignatius sources an interesting blog called Swoop, and argues that experience may actually be a liability in this election. I've been feeling my way to this conclusion. In years past I would have been stalwartly in the McCain corner, but that simply feels wrong this year. If there is one clear lesson from the past decade it is that the Cold War era is finally over. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but since then the global elites have been trying to patch the Cold War era collective security apparatus without achieving very much in collective security.

I have felt for a long time that NATO desperately needed a 'bottom-up review'. A complete rethink, and possibly a new treaty or constitution written with today's challenges and problems in mind. I may have been thinking too narrowly, however. Most of the global bodies set up post-WWII are experiencing existential crises of one kind or another, not excluding NATO, the UN, IMF, World Bank, EU, and even the IOC in it's way. Platelets of choresterol are clogging the veins of all these bodies and their arthritic joints are increasingly obvious. The UN cannot reform the Security Council to reflect the reality of the current world; France and the UK are permanent members but India, Japan, and Brazil are not.

Europe is overrepresented on the governing bodies of all kinds of international bodies, none so ludicrously as the IOC with 9 of 15 European members and 4 of 5 European executive members! This is a global organisation? The UN is another organisation suffering from Euro-topheaviness. Europe, with a total population of about 500 million (give or take) has 25 votes and two SC vetoes. China (more than a billion) has a single vote and a veto. India has a single vote, no veto, Brazil (250 million) a vote, no veto. The US a single vote and a veto. If one counts Russia European the imbalance is even worse.

I think this is a problem not merely from the US POV but globally, but the US is going to have to be a catalyst in it change - why would Europe wish to change NATO or the UN - they benefit far too much from the current constitution.

So the fundamental question this year for me is which candidate is most likely to start the process and serve as a catalyst? McCain will try to patch a fundamentally broken NATO. Clinton also though not as committed to NATO as McCain is. Obama is committed to raising the reputation of the US globally - but has not fundamentally committed himself to anything else including patching NATO or the UN. On the catalyst issue Obama wins by a landslide! Doubt if he can do it by himself, but he can start the process rolling.


More Atlantic Review guest blog posts from Don include:

The Return of Fear

The Beast in Me: Johnny Cash and the American Recordings


If you would like to submit a guest article, please contact the editors.

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David on :

Good points, Don. Here is what Senator Obama wrote about the UN in the Foreign Affairs piece which has been quoted here previously: "In addition, we need effective collaboration on pressing global issues among all the major powers -- including such newly emerging ones as Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa. We need to give all of them a stake in upholding the international order. To that end, the United Nations requires far-reaching reform. The UN Secretariat's management practices remain weak. Peacekeeping operations are overextended. The new UN Human Rights Council has passed eight resolutions condemning Israel -- but not a single resolution condemning the genocide in Darfur or human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Yet none of these problems will be solved unless America rededicates itself to the organization and its mission."

Don S on :

"Yet none of these problems will be solved unless America rededicates itself to the organization and its mission." The problem is that it's difficult to visualise the UN reforming fundamentally in enough ways to make it functional going forward. It has become a caricature of the vision which actuated it's formation. The veto of the five permanent members of the SC is certainly a major stumbling block, perhaps an insuperable one. Why would China allow Japan or India to join the SC as permanent members, thus diluting China's influence in Asia? In a different way Europe also exercises the veto by insisting that German join as a permanent member in a grand compromise to allow Japan, India, and Brazil to be added? Germany? What is needed is a single EU seat in lieu of the current British and French seats, not an additional European seat to make things even more sclerotic than the SC is even today! Important facets of German foreign policy were made in the streets in 2002/2003, what happened once can occur again. And not only in Germany; also France, the US, possibly the UK. And yet - what could or would replace the UN? The US has been working the bilateral and multilateral diplomacy strategy outside the UN. That is unsatisfactory on many levels, yet taking everything through the UN ensures paralysis on any difficult problem for one of two causes: - A veto by one or more SC member(s) who see their interests as being threatened. ALL the permanent SC members do this - I don't excuse any of them! - The European 'veto'. By this I don't only refer to the UK and French vetos in the SC, but also the pervasive power the EU exercises by the sheer number of votes it can marshal on all kinds of issues. This is a problem not only for the US but also for any of the non-EU regional and global powers. Increasingly problems which don't concern Europe simply don't get action in the UN - look at Darfur for an example. This is why I have ironically redubbed the UN as the 'EN' upon occasion. I hear Europeans complain about the US (and Russia) adopting 'divide and rule' tactics in dealing with Europe without recognizing that this is a tactic of desperation at times. The only way to get things done with a congenitally disunited Europe is to marshall support where you can find it.

Kevin Sampson on :

"Yet none of these problems will be solved unless America rededicates itself to the organization and its mission." Why not? What is so absolutely essential about our dedication that the rest of the entire planet is paralyzed without it?

Joe Noory on :

The EU isn't a nation-state, a super-state, or even a Confederation yet at this point - it's more of a cartel. They have to determine just what functions they want the EU to have, and to build that. I really wonder if some of the member-states really will assign authority for diplomacy, security, etc. to the EU. Either way, having the EU be a collection of alphabet soup organizations represented in different ways a mojority in the CoE, etc., etc., represtation as the EU as well as the individuial states... it's like a virtual framework to provide the maximum leverage for the maximum talk, and the impression to the population of Europe that there is serious engagement. But it's a mess. To the rest of the world, that miasma isn't an entrepot of negotiation and agreement for the whole of hamanity, it's another pole in a multipolar world with smaller states close to but outside of Europe clinging on to it for some small hope of diplomatic leverage or economic access. To the US, Russia, and China it's not just one Kissingerian "single-phone-number", but 30 of them. When that miasma which is monopolized by Europeans gets it's guidance from a potential superstate, what will that seem like to the european public? The state resembles something they've taught themselves to find hostile and nasty. The alphabet soup organizations are something they taught themselves were benign and positive. Will they accept the EU as a nation-entity doing diplomacy and executing security? After about a decade it will be obvious that the EU will not want to be entangled with the same shapeless cloud of special interests and demands in the same the US isn't, and in any event the fact that most of these organization will no longer be able to conceal the fact that they're largely used as a european policy mechanism anyway. Some distance will be blaced between the EU and them, and while they'll receive a lot less support, these organization and UN permanent standing committes will get some of their "internationalism" back. Either way, relations will look a lot more like the bileteralism which give nation-states a means of solving their problems and pursuing their interest than it does the idealized "global governance" model which will only let us all share in the mediocraty and lack of freedom enjoyed by the lowest common denominators that develop a voice in them. As far as the US Democrats are concerned, here is the irony: while they like to think that a measure of the "global governance" model is positive thing to their voters, they're also nativists who want to terminate trade deals and raise tariffs. It only tells me that they really haven't thought about their policies in any depth, and have no idea what they're talking about when they allude to a "cold war" model.

Don S on :

I'm not as certain as either David or Joe about the likely course of events. I sense that many or most people in the US are disenchanted with existing instutions like the UN and NATO but aren't quite ready to blow things up just yet. And I think people listen to the argument that Bush is the entire cause of the crisis, unlikely as it may seem. I'n a skeptic about the latter, obviously. I think the problems are systemic and have at very most been aggrevated by the style of the Bush administration. But I remember certain actions taken and sttitudes struck during the previous Clinton and Bush administrations and believe I'm seeing a snowballing trend. Yet the UN and NATO still deserve a last chance in my view. If the US elects the most forward-thinking, smart, and liberal of presidents to try a last-chance salvaging of the international order - maybe it will work. Count me a doubter. If Obama makes his best effort and the Europeans 'Bush' him, which is a likely if not inevitable outcome, well...... The US will endure afew more leaden years and then we'll elect a reformer of a different kind. That's neither a threat or a promise, merely a prediction, folks.

John in Michigan, USA on :

So let me see if I understand. Obama will finally heal America's racial divide, massively reform health care, avert the recession, bring the troops home from Iraq, convince Iran to give up the bomb and Pakistani tribesmen to give up bin Laden, and now, at Don's request, reinvent NATO and the UN... ...and on the seventh day He rested. Look, the more his supporters build him up, the further he has to fall when the country realizes he's a neophyte, and a neo-socialist. Or possibly a paleo-socialist, its too soon to tell. Cheers to whoever posted "What Reagan Knew and Obama Knows" in Tips From Our Readers. Obama does indeed have a certain leadership quality and vision; if only he had the experience that Reagan had (years in the private sector, experience with cutthroat Hollywood, governor of California) and the connections Reagan had (he had been a fixture in the Republican party for decades before becoming President). And yes, NATO, and especially the UN, are in need of reform.

Don S on :

"...and on the seventh day He rested." LOL! To address your points in order: "Obama will finally heal America's racial divide," Nope, he won't. There are a lot of people whose minds are set and ain't gonna change. What I'm hoping for is marginal change on two fronts: 1) Showing young negroes that there are more possibilities for a young black man than they knew. Kinda hard for 'Amerika is racist - no hope' to hold up when Obama is elected to the #1 job, no? 2) some realisation on the part of school systems that more ladders out of the ghetto need to be built - even if that punctures the dreams of certain middle-class white kids! " massively reform health care, " Hillary's game more than Obama's. "avert the recession," No way. From a GOP POV who do you wish to become the modern Herbert Hoover? "bring the troops home from Iraq, convince Iran to give up the bomb and Pakistani tribesmen to give up bin Laden," Again, no way. Time may improve some of these problems, particularly bin Laden, who is an aging chap with some major health problems living in places lacking modern hospitalisation. I wouldn't make book on his chances of living out the next 8 years.... "and now, at Don's request, reinvent NATO and the UN..." I didn't say that, I said he might be a catalyst. If you remember HS chemistry a catalyst is an element which allows a chemical change to occur. I see two possible outcomes ifrom the action of this catalyst: The Europeans will finally get serious about reforming NATO/UN or they won't. In the latter case I think a lot of Americans will finally give up on both organisations - and a 'chemical reaction' of another kind will be carried out by the next President, or the one after that. More of a long-term perspective, I think. To effect change first one must change people's minds. Obama has the potential to do that, I think, whether he succeeds or fails....

David on :

"when the country realizes he's a neophyte, and a neo-socialist." "Or possibly a paleo-socialist, its too soon to tell." But the country already knows that John McCain is an aging neo-conservative. Many (most?) Americans now say: been there, done that! We can do better; time for change.

John in Michigan, USA on :

In American politics, the opposite of conservative is liberal, not socialist. The opposite of neo-conservative is neo-liberal, not neo-socialist. Bill Clinton's NAFTA and welfare reform being good examples of neo-liberal. America has never elected a socialist as a President, ever. I suppose there is always a first time, but with Saint Ralph Nader in the race, Obama will not find it easy. His only chance, in my view, is to triangulate towards the middle i.e. create a new category neo-socialist. What would neo-socialism look like? One would hope it to be much more coherent than this: "Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources. "The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value. "But Tuesday night in Ohio, where NAFTA is blamed for massive job losses, Obama said he would tell Canada and Mexico 'that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labour and environmental standards.'" [url=http://news.sympatico.msn.ctv.ca/TopStories/ContentPosting.aspx?feedname=CTV-TOPSTORIES_V2&showbyline=True&newsitemid=CTVNews%2f20080227%2fdems_nafta_080227]Source[/url] Hmmm...renegotiate sounds unilateral...and almost as coherent as Obama's Iraq policy, in which he will withdraw unless there are signs of al-Qaeda...[/i]who he admits are there right now[/i] although he blames it on Bush. So he's going to withdraw and then re-invade...makes sense to me!

David on :

""Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources." Except [url=http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/02/canadian-embass.html]it never happened[/url] You need to spend less time on the Obama hate sites. I've gone over every speech by Senator Obama and examined his Web site but can't find the sections where he calls for "socialism". Unless socialism in your eyes is universal health care, such as what is provided in every other industrialized country.

John in Michigan, USA on :

OK, we have conflicting reports, I'm sure the blogosphere will sort it out shortly. Obama hate sites? Name one that I have linked to. There we go again with the hate accusation. I offer reasoned debate with what I hope is occasional wit and light-hearted verbal sparring, you see only hate. Sparring partners don't hate each other, in fact they quite enjoy the sport. It is you, my friend, who seem blinded by some emotion. Frankly, I am getting a little tired of your casual contempt. [i]I go out of my way to give Obama credit where I think it is due[/i]. "Unless socialism in your eyes is universal health care" QED. Wow.

Pat Patterson on :

Being stuck in that briar patch must be starting to hurt. But at least the Clinton campaign are joining in the fun because it seems they have sent the same waffling message to the Canadians. And Sen. Obama managed to excite the current free market Mexican government which at the time of signing NAFTA had much more to lose politically then the Clinton Administration did. Maybe senator was correct when he argued that he could talk to dictators and despots because its becoming obvious that he surely can't talk with our friends and allies. But this is an update from Canada and we all know how much the US is loved up there. Read: [u][b][url=http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/story/CTVNews/20080228/turkey_Gates_080228_200802228?/hub=TopStories]CTV[/url][/b][/u].

John in Michigan, USA on :

Pat, This link might work better: [url=http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080228/turkey_Gates_080228/20080228?hub=World]Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada[/url] The story so far: the Canadian embassy has categorically denied any contact with any of the campaigns, including Obama's. Anonymous sources say there has been some contact, from both Clinton and Obama, with some Canadian officials. There are some odd discrepancies in the CTV reports. In the one I cited, "a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States" which would mean they supposedly contacted Wilson personally, or at the embassy in Washington, D.C. Yet a few days later, Pat found that CTV has stopped asking about Wilson and the D.C. embassy, and instead is asking whether "a conversation on this matter was held between Obama's senior economic adviser -- Austan Goolsbee -- and the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago". [url=http://geo.international.gc.ca/can-am/chicago/menu-en.asp]That would be Georges Rioux[/url]. So in the case of Obama, CTV is either alleging multiple contacts, or is just reporting rumors and guesswork. They need to make up their mind. Of course, the mere fact that Obama's campaign has denied all contacts, doesn't prove anything. Obama may have been playing both sides of the issue, or, someone in his campaign may have free-lanced. [b]Or, what if this is really all about Mexico?[/b] Obama is worried about NAFTA as it applies to Mexico, but doesn't dare say so openly because he and Clinton are fighting over every last Hispanic vote. So he complains about NAFTA generally, and his staff leaks that he doesn't have any real beef with the Canadian end of things. I have no proof of this, but it does sorta fit. If this is the case, I salute him. He is sending a message to the political class and the pundits, in effect "see, I can play your game as well as you can". If so, he is making some journalists look like idiots, which is also praiseworthy. But Canada and Mexico are friendly, and NAFTA is hardly a question of life, death, and war. It remains to be seen if Obama can play diplomacy for keeps, with hostile players, on the world stage, during time of war. Finally, I am very much looking forward to learning how David will twist these points I've raised into some sort of hate crime. Stay tuned.

Pat Patterson on :

John-Thanks I had checked the link before posting but obviously either I made a mistake or Netscape is trying to ruin my life. I don't really mind cynical politicians, which I fear is an oxymoron, but I resent the mantle of respect and enlightenment that accompanies the bald faced prevaricating in exchange for a few more delegates. To blame a calamitous loss of jobs in Ohio more than ten years after NAFTA is simply a cynical ploy for votes which reveals more about the less than serious policy decisions that either Clinton or Obama will make. Neither candidate has shown anything more than a grudging awareness of NATO other than being prepared to correctly pronouce the name of Jaap de Hoep Scheffer who NATO pilots have named a combat manuever after, the Loop de Hoep. OK I made that last part up. CTV did name names, both in the Obama camp and the Canadian consultate but I must also consider that this could also be a staff member or in this case senior staff member aggrandizing himself by speaking for the candidate without approval. Especially now that those corner offices and the standing reservation at The Palm are no longer fantasies nurtured by a decade of wandering in the wilderness of think tanks and phone banks.

Fuchur on :

That's an interesting aspect of Obama: "Ignorance is strength" ;-). I'm not so sure that the changes of the UN governing process you have in mind would really be that beneficial to the US. Shifting power from Europe to China and Russia will not make things easier. If you pick out some examples of important votes, I think you'll have a hard job finding an example where a UN with "your" voting system would have resulted in a "better" result for the US. Don't forget that many of the 25 European votes are regularly cast in favor of US proposals. Also, keep in mind that a thorough reform of the UN most probably would mean the end of the Veto. Concerning NATO, I'd say that it's not so easy to say what "today's" problems really are. For example, who knows how China and Russia will turn out? Should we really take it for granted that the problems for Europe and the US from now on will mainly come from terrorists and petty dictators?

Don S on :

The point is not to shift power to the Russians and Chinese - the point is to make the UN relevant again by shifting power away from Europe and toward Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Euro-cozy UN rules don't benefit anyone outside of Europe and the SC has become a purely negative forum. For all the debates the SC is where vetos get made on ANYTHING the least bit contentious. This is nothing new - the first productive debate in the SC was also the last one, and occurred in 1950. For all it's weaknesses the bilateral and non-UN multilateral diplomacy pursued by the Bush administration has one great virtue - it can't be vetoed or paralyzed by reactionaries in the UN apparatus. It can therefore actually get things done!

Don S on :

"Should we really take it for granted that the problems for Europe and the US from now on will mainly come from terrorists and petty dictators?" I'd say Germans and Europeans certainly should not make this assumption vis Russia. But do understand that if the US withdrew from NATO either de jure or de facto (by mirroring German and French actions or inactions the past 20 years), Russia would not be our problem! At all. Russia borders Central Europe; it does not border the US. We can defend Alaska and Canad from Russia just fine and without a lot of effort - Russia has richer prizes to eye closer to home, like Central Europe, Turkey, Finland, Balkans.... China? This past decade has seen the continental european countries almost completely abjure effective NATO action outside the borders of Europe. China does not border Europe (you surely have noticed?) ;) So how could such a NATO POSSIBLY help the US in dealing with China?!!! Apart from the kind of 'help' Schroeder and Chirac gave when they tried to sell military technology to China a few years ago, that is! "Let's you and him fight' - or so it appeared to me at the time. That deal fell through, but I'll bet the next one does not. Or the one after that. Eventually it will happen, because Europe cares from the profit more than the alliance, I believe.

Fuchur on :

Russia would not be our problem! At all. Well, by that logic, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran aren't your problem, either. So how could such a NATO POSSIBLY help the US in dealing with China? Let me pose the question the other way around: What kind of help would you want in dealing with China? European invasion troops (your choice whether we'll ship them or walk them in via Russia or maybe parachute them)? Should we stock up on nukes? Naturally, the all-important question is what your defence strategy looks like. You don't like this NATO - but what then do you want? If all you want is to prevent an invasion of US soil - then of course you don't need NATO, no matter what it looks like. But I'm a bit confused, since not so long ago, I remember hearing stories about the evils of appeasement, and the great benefit, nay, necessity of invading other countries and spreading democracy...

Don S on :

"Well, by that logic, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran aren't your problem, either. " So Russia is subsidizing terrorist groups and running training camps on their territory? Russia is harboring planning operations for terrorist strikes? Thanks for informing of that. As an ignorant American I hadn't heard..... I also haven't heard Putin threaten to obliberate Israel. He must have done of course. Putin has been making his little threats of course, but his motive is that the US and NATO have been crowding in on what he sees as Russia's sphere of interest. If the US pulled out of active participation in NATO I think Putin would still make his little threats - but not to the US! No, the threats would be made a little closer to home. Warasaw, Prague, perhaps Berlin? He'd work his way around to it one day - unless Germany built a force which could stand up to Russia of course.....

Zyme on :

"I also haven't heard Putin threaten to obliberate Israel." Now what a reason is this to invade the orient? How come you pay so much attention to muslim propagandists who are more concerned with appeasing their home islamists than with foreign policy, when you can hear the same message in North Corea towards the South or numerous african countries towards each other all the time? Or have we missed Israel joining the Nato lately? This is a major reason for hatred of americans in the muslim world - a totally unbalanced policy generally on the jewish side. By backing up this state permanently, the american government sustains a major reason for terror against its own military.

Fuchur on :

Don, if I may remind you: Your "point" was: [i]Russia would not be our problem! At all. Russia borders Central Europe; it does not border the US. [/i] However, judging from [i]this[/i] comment, I guess we agree that countries can in fact be America's problem, even if they do NOT border the US. [i]I also haven't heard Putin threaten to obliberate Israel. [/i] Well, he sold 250 Sukhoi long-distance fighter/bomber jets to Iran. That's at least a good start. But of course, there is the question of why that matters. Why do you care about Israel? Has Israel ever sent any soldiers to Iraq or Afghanistan? They sell lots of high-end military stuff to China, though... On the other hand, Poland has sent troops to Iraq and most likely will let you station bases for the missile defence program. As I said before: Before you talk about reforming or abolishing NATO, you should make up your mind about what kind of military defence strategy you want. Right now, it sounds like a big mess to me.

joe on :

Fuchur To help you understand ignorance is strength. Think of it as softpower is real power.

franchie on :

"Si aucun dirigeant européen ou nord-américain ne rechigne à hausser le ton envers des pays en développement, peu stratégiques, la donne est différente lorsque les interlocuteurs se nomment Vladimir Poutine ou Hu Jintao. Les chefs d'État rangent alors leur robe d'avocat pour se transformer en représentants de commerce. Les échanges économiques avec la Chine et la Russie sont tels que la question des droits de la personne est rarement mise sur la table." I read that China does make her own arms, and that she spies the Penthagon, and that all your gadgets are made in China, because they are lesser expensive than ours. So, what's new pussy-cat ?

Anonymous on :

"...because Europe cares from the profit more than the alliance, I believe." who doesn't ? http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070301faessay86203-p0/daniel-w-drezner/the-new-new-world-order.html "Another difficulty is that rewriting the rules of existing institutions is a thorny undertaking. Power is a zero-sum game, and so any attempt to boost the standing of China, India, and other rising states within international organizations will cost other countries some of their influence in those forums. These prospective losers can be expected to stall or sabotage attempts at reform. Although European countries are still significant, their economic and demographic growth does not match that of either the emerging powers or the United States. Having been endowed with privileged positions in many key postwar institutions, European countries stand to lose the most in a redistribution of power favoring countries on the Pacific Rim."

Don S on :

Drezner sees the same thing I do; while Europe and most of the US left have been decrying Bush as a filthy unilateralist because he has cut much of Europe out of the decision loop on some high profile decisions, the other side of the story has not been prominently told. That is the sometimes highly effective diplomacy he has pursued out of sight (or at least out of mind) of people in Bruxelles and Georgetown. In Latin America: He tried and largely failed with Mexico, and of course the fool Hugo Chavez has occupied most of the headlines. But the Brazilian Lula heads a far bigger, far more important country than Chavez ever will, and relations with Lula have been very productive without Lula becoming Bush's lapdog. In Africa: US aid to Africa has quintupled in the past decade, mostly Aids drugs and funding but other things as well. It's keeping people alive and maybe giving some Africans a future who would not have had one. The result is that the US is far more popular in many parts of Africa than it was under Clinton. In Adsia: The US has pursued productive bilateral relations with China, India, and Japan. Bush has treated them as partners a la Lula rather than clients, and it's worked well.

Don S on :

I think Europe has to face a grim reality about the multilateral institutions; either let go of some of their power or see the rising powers go elsewhere. They will form their own institutions; and Washington has been angleing to be a charter member of those institutions from the word go. It began with Clinton but Bush has pursued this kind of diplomacy with more enthusiasm and application than Willy ever did. Europe is years behind the game. China and India are simply not going to deal with 25 European national governments in an individual basis - as Schroeder and Fischer learned when they tried to deal as equals with the Chinese leadership - and got the polite brushoff. China/India WOULD deal with EU officials as equals - if they were equals! But only if the EU officials didn't have to ask 25 countries for permission to wipe their own arses as they do now. EU officials simply don't have the authority to do effective foreign policy at that level. That leaves the UN, which the EU effectively dominates. For that reason China, the US, and even Russia increasingly use the UN SC as a veto and posturing forum and do their productive deals bilaterally. The UN is becoming the EN; friendly to Europe and a no-go zone for everyone else. There is only one way to change that dynamic, folks, and that is for the EU countries to recognize that Turtle Bay has become the thord headquarters of the EU - and let much of the power at the UN out of their well-manicured hands. Less is more in this case. The alternative is to watch the UN (EN) turn into the Holy Roman Empire for the 21st century....

Don S on :

Onw way to look at the UN is that there are insider countries and outsider countries. For many years the US and Europe in partnership were the 'insiders'; they drove much of the agenda, pushed things through. Russia and China were 'outsiders' despite their seats on the Securoty Council. They used their vetoes to prevent actions driven by the US and the Europeans. It was more complex than that, obviously, but that pattern shows a basic truth about the UN. Here's another basic truth: European actions over the past 10 or 15 years have forced the US into an 'outsider' role; the Europeans are the only 'insiders' left at the UN. Or rather they have forced a change which has been building for many years. There has been great dismay among Europeans and their frinds in the US as the US has taken public diplomacy outside the UN with increasing frequency. Whey these people don't seem to realize is that virtually nothing happens at the UN any more which does not serve European interests. There are other important 'outsider' countries: China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, Japan. Some of these countries may have taken pleasure and felt schaudenfreud at the comeuppance of the US. But their pleasure did not make them into insiders and the comeuppance of the US actually worked to their advantage by dissolving many of the ties between Europe and the US This frees the US to consider other diplomatic ties and cooperation arrangements with other 'outsiders'. It also frees the Europeans of course, but two problems inhibit the European's ability to take advantage of the new situation. The first is the disunity of Europe, which means that seperate arrangements must be made with each major European country; The EU as a whole is easily the equal of China, the US, and India, but taken individually the European states are not. And Europe cannot speak as one. The second problem is the European insistence upon the UN as the forum for dealing with Europe. Everyone else is highly aware of the imbalance of power within the UN - Europe's insistance on using the UN as the forum appears very much like and insistence that all negociations with Europe take place under rules defined by Europe. Why should any 'outsider' country play that game, tell me?

Don S on :

The next question is why I consider the above relevant to the upcoming Presidential election and Obama's possible role as a catalyst? One major factor upon which I evealuate the remaining candidates is the judgement of which candidate is most likely to continue driving US foreign policy in the strategic direction which the Bush administration has set. By strategic direction I am referring to the new relationships and the global perspective much more than the Afghan and Iraq wars, G-bay, etc. The latter are tactical details albeit irritating ones; the shift of focus to Africa, Latin America, and Asia is strategic. I asked myself which candidate would be least likely to join him or herself at the hip to the European-centric policies of the Cold War era by dint of perspective and preparation, and the answer (for me) is clearly Obama. I think this is one reason why there is a fair amount of dislike of Obama in Europe; they have seen the shift under Bush and suspect Obama would accellerate it rather than reverse it.

Tuomas on :

Don! Thank you very much for your analyzes. I think you do highlight a whole bunch of important issues, and it's not the least important to point out that any greater power in history has had its limited time of greatness. I belong to them who would agree that it seems as if the European powers, maybe with exception for Russia, since long ago are about to become overshadowed by other actors on the international stage. On one specific point I fail to reproduce your observations, when You hint at Barak Obama being somehow impopular in Europe. It may well be so that we move in different circles, but my perception is quite another. I would say that virtually everyone I know and meet are [b]indifferent[/b]. People consider the current campaigning the business of the Americans, and don't expect to make any judgement until the new administration has come in place and started to work. The news coverage of the Democrats' race is maybe even somewhat numbing, since it rather enhances the common suspicion that the American electorate care more about the looks of the candidates than of ideologies. Many people may, already at the time of the respective elections, have been intrigued and surprised by the popularity of figures as Berlusconi in Italy and Reagan in the US, and some may have seen it as an important sign when GWB was re-elected, but exactly as I heard very little about the precidential candidate Gore in year 2000, I hear today no comments from fellow Europeans on the pros and cons of different presidential candidates. People folow the news with the same kind of interest as for reports about Holywood actors' love affairs, drug abuses and divorses: [i]A Black or a Mormon in the White House, or maybe a woman-president?[/i]

Don S on :

I didn't mean to imply Obama is unpopular in Europe - many people liek him a good deal. Others consider the US a 'demoncracy': this would imply that any US Presidential candidate is an ArchDemon, and the US electorate presumably the Legions of the Damned: http://andrewhammel.typepad.com/german_joys/2008/02/the-stupid-is-s.html

Pat Patterson on :

I always thought of myself as one of the imps rather than the actual devil himself. But Legion of the Damned sounds OK as long as we get really cool uniforms and gladii.

Don S on :

More seriously, I have read a fair bit of European commentary highly critical of Obama - even though they hardly know who or what he is! Picking up on US commentators I assume. It's an honorable tradition enjoyed by all US presidents or would-be's; They eventually realize that he, she, or it is NOT a EUROPEAN! Quelle Horreur!

franchie on :

for us, It's like choosing a car, hehe I'll take the colored one and not too old so that can work a bit faster :lol:

James Renton on :

Experience a liability. Oh, that's just great. I mean would any of you who work in the private sector throw experience to the wind when hiring someone to fill an important position. I think not. Why should president of the United States be an different? The obama movement is just that. It remains to be seen what will come of it. At some stage he will have to enunciate what change means. People seem ready and willing to project their grandiose hopes and desires on this man with wild abandon. At this stage I see no evidence that there is any substance behind the facade. The curtain will surely be drawn during the general election. His hand will be called; and for all we know he holds nothing. What scares me about the whole mess is McCain's reaction to the mere pronouncements of his opponent's middle name recently. Here in America we value freedom of speech above all else. Just a glance at the blatant soviet tactics of Putin's recent fiasco "election;" and it becomes clear that suffocating one's opponent is about as civilized a political tactic russians are capable of. He had Kasparov physically arrested for merely attempting to voice his perspective on the streets of Moscow! What is he afraid of? The truth? How can Europe stand for this nonsense? The utter lack of testicular fortitude on the continent is simply horrific to an old yankee such as myself. But I digress. McCain's instincts were to immediatly apolegize for his supporters mention of Barak's middle name (Hussein as it happens to be). Apolegize? For what I ask? If you cannot even mention the name of your opponent in a bloodsport such as politics; what is legal? Has political correctness strangled the west to the point where merely criticizing a black man is a capital offense. I do not know how republican democracy can survive such a blow? James Beverly, MA, USA

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