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Two American Experts Comment on the European Reactions to the U.S. Elections

The Atlantic Review has already written about German Reactions to the Midterm Elections. Americans are now commenting about the European reactions to the elections: "Aspen Institute Berlin Director Jeffrey Gedmin has an interesting and useful piece, 'Even Happier than the Democrats,' in the Weekly Standard," writes Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and also adds his own thoughts in his Washington Note.
When European commentators say they are still yearning for an end to American unilateralism, moral crusades, and the influence of "fundamentalist evangelicals," what they really mean is that they are longing for a United States just like secular, post-national, consensus-seeking, Social Democratic Europe. But, of course, even with Democrats controlling the House and the Senate, it ain't gonna happen.
Clemons agrees to some degree, but adds:
Europe yearns for a pragmatic, problem-fixing America, engaged in the world's real problems and building international collaborations to meet these challenges. America has departed this space on ideological quests and left a giant void in global affairs that the Europeans have had to partially fill.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: Will US Foreign Policy Change if the Democrats Win the Midterm Elections?

ENDNOTE: There was quite a stir in the blogosphere about the news that former Abu Ghraib prisoners, supported by an American NGO, seek prosecution of Secretary Rumsfeld in Germany. Several popular American bloggers misunderstood the Time Magazine article and incorrectly blamed the German government and vented their anger. Some even made Nazi references, as reported in a previous post.
U.S. law professor Andrew Hammel writes in his blog that there have been 53 petitions to invoke Germany's "universal jurisdiction" law for war crimes (adopted in 2002), but "none has been acted on, according to this week's Die Zeit, so there's pretty much zero chance of Rumsfeld going to prison in Germany."
Besides, yesterday, an association of peace groups filed a lawsuit against Chancellor Merkel and Defense Minister Jung for "preparing an offensive war." They claim that the White Paper on German Security Policy violates Germany's constitution, reports Die Welt (in German). Thus, the significance of the lawsuit against Rumsfeld should not be exaggerated.


Atlantic Review on : Transatlantic Approaches, Quagmires, and Iran

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"Having recently returned home after nearly four years as a New York Times correspondent in Europe, I am struck by how deeply divided the United States is on almost every other issue," writes Richard Bernstein in the International Herald Tribune


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Rosemary on :

I'm glad to read that about Rumsfeld. I don't believe I wrote anything about it, because I like to wait until the fog of reporting settles down. Nope, I just checked. Not that I haven't been critical before, it's just that I figured this to be what it was. Silly. You have many great links. Keep up the good work.

Kyle 8 on :

what they really mean is that they are longing for a United States just like secular, post-national, consensus-seeking, Social Democratic Europe. Or what they actually want is for the US to continue to bear all of the burdens for collective security, pump even more money into the UN rathole, and become a mindless adjunct to European foreign policy. They must be careful what they ask for. If the US ever decides it no longer wants to fight "moral crusades" it means we will return to isolationism. There is already a very strong and growing sentiment towards that.

Don S on :

Kyle, I disagree. I don't see the US retreating into isolationism. I could see the US changing it's level of committment to NATO to reflect the lack of committment shown the past few years by continental NATO members. But that is no reason to pull back from Japan, or our growing dialog with India, or China.

joe on :

Don, I did hear something about communication message problems for the demos. It was about the trouble Mom Nan was having in explaining demo values to her supporters in SF. It seems many of them just don’t get all the fuss about a woman leading a naked man around on a leash as one of the pictures from Abu Ghraib depicted. Her constituents call this a date in SF.

David on :

@editor, Hateful comments such as this have no place in this blog and should be deleted.

Don S on :

Oh. I thought you were referring to Speaker Nan's apparent belief that unindicted Abscam co-conspirator John Murtha is the custodian of Democratic values. Dan Rostenkowski rides again! But at least Jimbo Wright and Tip O'Neil never tried to make Rosty Majority Leader. Pelosi is more ambitious.

Shah Alexander on :

I agree that there are no fundamental changes after the election. I have written it in my post below. Whatever people in the rest of the world say, America is a missionary expansionist nation. I mention Robert Kagan in the following post.

Yank on :

"When European commentators say they are still yearning for an end to American unilateralism, moral crusades, and the influence of "fundamentalist evangelicals," what they really mean is that they are longing for a United States just like secular, post-national, consensus-seeking, Social Democratic Europe." Unilateralism, moral crusading, and fundamentalism. America's sins? What's unilateral about a coalition of more than 40 nations? And if unilateralism is such a sin for America, why is America then condemned for taking the multilateral, instead of the unilateral, approach to North Korea? Why was America condemned for not unilaterally going into Liberia? Isn't multilateralism just a fancy abstraction for "teanwork"? Since when has OBSTRUCTIONIST Europe been a team player? Who's on the moral crusade? The moral crusading Euros should look in the mirror. Religious fundamentalism? I'm no fan of Christian fundamnetalists, but give us yank hicks a break, please. What about Europe's Muslim fundamentalists? At least our Christian fundamentalists aren't blowing up subways, rioting in every major city, torching hundreds of vehicles per day, establishing no-go zones where their religious laws rule and the police dare not go, and demonstrating with mobs calling for the assassination of the pope, the annihilation of the entire white race and culture, and threats of 9/11-style attacks throughout the West. Sounds to me like the Euros in bed with these Islamofascists (because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend") had better look at their own fundamentalist problems. Is all this irony an honest accident? I think not, because Euros haven't hit on one of our real faults yet. They just keep accusing us of THEIR faults. No matter how ironic the accusation. This pathological behavior is just the oldest trick in the Book. The snake pulled it on Eve when he left-handedly smeared God as the liar. Magicians call this trick "misdirection." Psychologists call it "projection." It's a way to rid yourself of faluts and failings by rubbing the semblance of them off onto others = a kind of Baptism in which you give your betters a mud bath.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

Clemons and Gaedmin identify something quite real, even if Clemons interpretation of it is quite self-serving. Americans and Western Europeans have different approaches. Caveat: Of course I mean 70% of Americans and 70% of Europeans, with even that varying considerably by American region and European country. It's an approximation of the attitudes. I have the impression that Western Europeans fundamentally misunderstand what America is trying to do. They believe we are trying to accomplish what they would, but doing it poorly. This connects with the idea that some Europeans believe that there is only one sensible approach which civilized nations use, and we're not doing that. To greatly oversimplify, Europeans currently prefer temporary, evolving, process-oriented solutions, believing that because complete solutions are impossible, they should not be attempted. Americans hope to at least approach complete solutions and so attempt them, recognizing that nothing succeeds fully. That seems to Europeans to be missionary, imperialistic, unrealistic, what have you, and they seek for explanations why the Americans would embrace such foolishness. At the moment, post-Christian Europe has decided that religious people must be bringing some sort of messianic hope that is deluding the Americans. Goethe insisted that in evaluating a work of art, the critic should ask three questions: what is the artist trying to do? how well did he do it? was it worth doing? I think foreign policy should be evaluated in much the same way. You simply can't move to the third question until you are quite sure you have the first two correct.

David on :

70%?? Didn't we just have a national election where the majority of voters rejected the failed policies of the Bush administration? I believe that most Americans are much closer to the European perspective than is commonly realized.

joe on :

David, Are you really sure about that comment? But since you brought this up. How about defining winning.

David on :

Yes, I spent the two weeks leading up to the election calling voters. What I heard was disgust with President Bush and the incompetence of his administration. The outcome of the election only confirms what I heard people say. In terms of "winning" - I have to agree with Henry Kissinger that a military victory in Iraq is now an impossibility.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

David, I am now sure that you don't actually read and think about others' comments, but just react off a bit of it and fire whatever was already loaded in your blunderbuss. The 70% number had nothing to do with elections or partisan attitudes, but to general approach. Also, you really have to read more than the headline of what Kissinger said. It was a balanced and unremarkable statement. It is always the case that military victory does not seal the deal in a war, but that a political solution must come. Yes, I'm sure you heard lots of disgust with President Bush while you were making calls. As you were unlikely to be calling the Republican get-out-the-vote list, that is hardly surprising, is it? How, then, did the nation evenly divide again, this time slightly in favor of the Democrats? The practical effect of an election going 51-49 to one party rather than the other may be considerable, but it does not represent a massive shift in sentiment. From the outset, most people have looked at every aspect of the GWOT in terms of plus/minus, risk/benefit. Trying to paint that as a 100% success/100% failure equation is not discussing matters intelligent, but simply shouting.

David on :

I've had 6 years to think about the mindset behind your comments. The election was nowhere near as close as you make it out to be. The vote margin nationally in favor of the Democrats was 11 million; NOT ONE sitting Democrat lost. Still, it bothers me that there remains one Republican congressman in New England (who barely won)as well as four Republican senators - I have already started to work with others to unseat one of them in my state in 2008.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

That wide margin was fueled primarily by CA and NY, which were already Democratic strongholds. I don't deny it was a loss for the Republicans, and does indicate eroding support for Bush and the Republicans. What I would caution is not to expect it to be a sea-change. It fits the generic model of 2nd-term midterms, and in fact is much less than 1958. Your insistence on seeing this in such black-and-white terms is worrisome. While it is true that not one sitting Democrat lost, the example of Joe Lieberman is certainly an exception to that in all but a technical sense. Blue dog Democrats did very well.

mbast on :

About Rumsfeld: told you so, didn't I ;-). About the Gedmin and Clemons articles: All I read, both in Gedmins article and in many of the answering posts on this blog, are the classic stereotypes about"Social democratic Europe", "obstructionist Europe", of Europe being "in bed" with the "islamofascists", blah, blah, blah. In short, not really stuff that is up to the usual standards around here (and I don't even want to mention joe's "joke" on Abu Ghraib and SF). Europe is not what Gedmin makes it out to be. Gedmin's views are largely stereotypic and he applies these views to Europe as a whole. I must say that, besides the fact that you might very well question there is such a thing as "Europe as a whole" on any given political problem, his views reflect classic stereotypes many Americans have about Europe. His comment that Europe is "Social Democratic" is typical in that respect. Mind you, it's better than the "Europeans are all socialists" comments I read on other blogs, but it still shows that Gedmin, in his heart, has not understood Europe and its political structures and undercurrents. Gedmin of all people should avoid equating all Europeans with German SPD types. I know he is actually quite knowledgeable on Europe in general and on Germany in particular, so this article of his along with most of his comments since the start of the Iraq war are pretty disappointing. I prefer Clemons' article by far, more factual and much more to the point: he actually hits the nail on the head when he states that "Europe yearns for a pragmatic, problem-fixing America, engaged in the world's real problems and building international collaborations to meet these challenges". Coudn't have put it any better myself.

Don S on :

Mbast, the reason why those things are stereotypes is because there is a lot of truth there. Europe is largely Social Democratic - whether the actual party labled 'Social Democrats' is in power or not at a particular time. Some of the stereotypes are misleading I will grant you, particularly the 'Socialist' one. Particularly when one includes the new members of the EU into one's calculations. The core of the older EU membership remain largely socialist. While I believe they are having strong second thoughts about the matter, to date there has not been a lot of action on reform.

mbast on :

Ok. Define "socialist", then. And while you're at it, I'd like a definition of what a "democrat" is as well :-).

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