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Europe? Yawn

This is a guest post from Andrew Zvirzdin.  Originally from upstate New York, Andrew is currently finishing his second year of grad school at the Maxwell School in Syracuse.

Exciting things have been happening in Europe this fall, and indeed for much of this year. Federal elections in Germany, the Lisbon referendum in Ireland, and the intense public debate on Afghanistan in the UK and Germany are all events that have significant repercussions for the United States. Yet many Americans do not seem to have noticed all that much.

To be sure, some discussion of Europe continues to pop up during the American health care debate, but the caricatures painted are grossly distorted and nearly unrecognizable. (Who knew that the UK hated senior citizens so much?) According to Anne Applebaum at Slate.com, Europe is really only good for photo-ops and speech-making. Considering the intense transatlantic soul-searching after the Iraq War and the prominent roll Europe played in last year's presidential campaign, the American ennui with Europe is somewhat surprising.

My suspicion is that the lack of interest in Europe is only a reflection of America's decreasing attention span. Particularly as the economic crisis leads leaders and citizens to focus inwards, public interest is best captured by flashy slogans and polarizing phrases. Complex discussions about strengthening stable partnerships quickly lose public appeal in the Twitter era. America's relationship with European countries does not fit well in an era of resurging partisan politics and cable television.

Failing to capture the public attention is fine as long as public officials continue to engage with each other. Important discussions concerning the future of NATO, the Open Skies Initiative, and international financial regulation are all currently taking place, with significant consequences for both Europe and the US. Sometimes the most fruitful discussions occur under the radar of public interest. But the danger is that public officials will lose interest themselves; they are after all beholden to the people. For now at least, the important discussions are ongoing.

The paradox is similar to what the European Union faces with its members. Slow, steady, and boring progress has benefitted EU citizens without anyone really noticing, and that is the problem. Citizens of EU countries do not realize how valuable the Union is to economic growth and international competitiveness; likewise, Americans do not recognize how valuable its European allies are in promoting stability and security around the world. Unfortunately, until transatlantic leaders learn to distill the value and importance of Europe in 140 characters or less, many Americans will continue to yawn at the "Old Continent."

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Marie Claude on :

well this is the mirror syndrom the Americans think we have become an empty suit, but in reality, it's what they think of them too

Marie Claude on :

I went to the area where the French were killed and got these photos: http://bit.ly/cposH RT @Michael_Yon Sources had told me about the Italian bribes, saying at one time that it caused a fight between French and Italians RT @Michael_Yon Silvio Berlusconi attempts to duck Afghanistan bribe scandal http://bit.ly/jIkba would you think that Berlu is telling truth ? shame on him rules are Italians governation, Berluscon is the biggest liar of the world, but Italians rever him... pull them out of afghanistan http://bit.ly/3UhBRP "French Troops Died After Scared Italian “Army” Stopped Paying “Don’t Hurt Me” Money To ben the Italians are trustful warriors !

Pat Patterson on :

The entire Michael Yon article, which I found elsewhere as the link doesn't work, makes it clear that the attack on the French was not by the Taliban but by an al Qaeda linked group, Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin. If that is true then the whole issue is moot as even if bribes were paid then those receiving the bribes didn't attack the French. Plus the main factors in the defeat were lack of support by an accompanying ANA company, lack of ammunition and again the difficulty the French have had with maintaining radio contact with other ISAF units.

Pat Patterson on :

Here's the link. http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977476062

John in Michigan, US on :

Thanks for the link, I've read it. I agree that Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin is different than the regular Taliban. The attack does not appear to be the work of the Taliban. However, I wonder if the Italians were bribing the Taliban to keep forign fighters out of the area? The Taliban may have given permission to Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin to conduct operations in Taliban territory. The Taliban may have even given indirect support. This is part of the challenges of counter-insurgency, separating the "good" Taliban from the bad. A counter-insurgency force must be seamless, any internal differences or misunderstandings will be exploited. This is yet another (mostly unreported) reason it made a great deal of sense in 2003 to give the Jihadis a war in Iraq that they couldn't afford to ignore -- the Iraq coalition forces are more unified under a single command. There is (supposedly) a single, unified ISAF command, but in practice there are seams and divisions. I don't know if counter-insurgency in Afghanistan will work as well as it did in Iraq, but I do believe it is criminal if, having come this far, we don't at least give it a real try.

Pat Patterson on :

Good point though I think that owing to the gradual disappearance of this issue from both the Italian and French press that no one could verify anything the locals were claiming. And in Afghanistan that wouldn't be the first time. But if even a scaled down version is true then both the Italians who offered the bribes and the French military officials who didn't gather their own intelligence should be tried or courtmartialed.

Marie Claude on :

sure we can trust a Paterson analyse of the facts, that were first related by UK papers, that M.Yon was relating as true, having heard of them last year, and if you don't take M. Yon as an objective source, then you have a serious mind trouble, but of course, you're a nopassaran chrystal member, which is like belonging to Fµ.kFrance.com, so, nothing new under the skies as far as your bad faith

Pat Patterson on :

Does that mean that Joerg is also a purveyor of bad faith as well? He has also posted a few times at No Pasaran. Unless your insult is only directed at those who disagree with you? I think what John meant was our system of first past the post. No seats are apportioned and residence and party requirements for being a candidate are determined locally. Candidates are generally more moderate as most districts are neither all of one party or the other so it is a given that to win the candidate must appeal to members of the middle and the other party to attain a majority of votes.

Marie Claude on :

Joerg never posted such as your bias BS

Pat Patterson on :

Ah, but your original comment didn't make any delineation. It was simply guilt by association. And considering your short stay there after talking about taking a leak you missed the dozens of comments that I have made concerning the admirable qualities of France. And I'm not exactly clear on what you are trying to say concerning Michael Yon in regards to these rather fanciful claims that the Italians bought out the Taliban who then subsequently attacked a French detachment. Yon made it quite clear that this attack was carried out by an al Qaeda linked group not the Taliban.

Marie Claude on :

Mr Paterson I have read many of your comments on the above sites, your language was quite clear then, not particularly favorable for us, and it unlike your tonight rethoric that wants to drown the fish

Pat Patterson on :

Maybe looking for my comments under the correct spelling of my name might prove more amenable. Plus you are still skating around the idea that anybody that posts something you find disagreeable is either racist or beyond the pale. But how do you reconcile that Joerg posted there and to be honest I doubt if you even know what he did say while you were trying to wipe that egg off your face.

Marie Claude on :

..... !!!!!!!

Pat Patterson on :

I'm not too sure that American attitudes toward Europe are less now than before the election considering that several polls showed Europe was not a major campaign issue and in most cases it was not even mentioned as an afterthought. Except when Obama almost destroyed his campaign after his speech in Germany. Most Americans probably take the attitude that the Europeans should solve their own problems and to quit demanding that the US pay attention. In the US that kind of attention, witness the healthcare debates, would only lead to further estrangement not cooperation.

John in Michigan, US on :

Speaking personally, after all the passionate discussions we've had here re Lisbon, it is hard to imagine that most Americans or Europeans yawn when they think of Europe. But, Andrew Zvirzdin is probably correct, most people on either side take it for granted or don't think much about it. Possibly this is because the EU institutions are on their best behavior -- they scrupulously avoid doing anything big or controversial, so that Lisbon will be ratified. Perhaps when Lisbon is finally ratified there will be a big party and everyone will smile for a while, instead of yawning. After that, perhaps there will be a different emotion if, for example, the EU enforces the draconian policies that the global warming alarmists insist are necessary. A stronger EU will, by nature, mean that Europe is less Atlanticist. Nevertheless, the Atlantic relationships will endure for good reasons, such as shared interests and shared culture, as well as less good reasons such as continued US subsidy of European defense, pharma, etc. Also we will remain close because of the structure of the UNSC which gives Europe in effect two permanent votes (and two vetoes), more than any other bloc in the world.

Marie Claude on :

John, you should forget to think to EU as a US copy, or satellit. Did the old Europe emeched you to built your constitution after your war of independance ? the Brits tried, but not the French, not the Dutch, not the Germans, not the Spanish... So, give us a chance to built ours, and you know, thant a whole night separates our two worlds ! We have our fate, you'll have to think about yours without us as followers ! The planet is big enough for every ones !

John in Michigan, US on :

"John, you should forget to think to EU as a US copy, or satellit." I only make comparisons because the comparisons demand to be made: the EU is an exercise in nation-building, just like the US those many years ago. I think there is no reason the EU should copy specific US institutions. For example, our current, two-party system is something that there is no reason at all to copy! Just as European criticism of the Iraq war was presented as advice from a well-meaning friend, Europe should accept US advice on Lisbon/EU in that same spirit. OK this last paragraph has some (I hope, friendly) sarcasm, but the first two paragraphs are in fact sincere.

Marie Claude on :

emeched --> empeched, sorry typo

Marie Claude on :

"thant a whole... " that a whole... again sorry ! I'm in Spain, a bit exited to get a net connection (wifi) :lol:

John in Michigan, US on :

OK I get it now. Perhaps you mean empeched (which doesn't exist in English) in the sense of "[url=http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/g/empecher.htm]to prevent or stop[/url]". Well, we aren't preventing anything, in a literal sense. It was never a question of using hard power to prevent Lisbon. But perhaps you mean it in the sense of un empêcheur - spoilsport, troublemaker. We are, at times, guilty of that! Are you on vacation in Spain? Enjoy!

Marie Claude on :

"For example, our current, two-party system is something that there is no reason at all to copy!" there are many political parties in EU parliament "(I hope, friendly)" uh, John, you're doubting :lol: yes, I'm in vacation in Spain, for an indetermined time. We first went there for an Agility competition, and took the opportunity to stay longer

Zyme on :

The battle for leadership in Europe has begun - Blair seems to be without chances now. It is not "Europe? Yawn" - I find it pretty exciting. Hopefully former Austrian chancellor Schuessel makes it. This would be the peak of historical irony, a man leading Europe whose very own rightist government was targeted with EU sanctions in 1999 due to a coalition with "neo-fascists" :D Rumor has it that Merkel believes that "we still need a job for Wolfgang" ;)

Marie Claude on :

my bet is on Luxemburg, a consensual candidate that speaks french, german, and english :lol:

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