Four years ago, Obama campaigned with hope and change. He ran against George W. Bush's track record, even though Bush was not running again. Today, Republicans campaign with fear and "against Europe", although Europe won't be on the ballot box in November.
For Obama, Bush was "the other" against which he defined himself. For Republicans that "other" is Europe. (See all the Poli Sci literature on collective identities and nationalism) Newt Gingrich in his South Caroline Victoria Speech according to FOX News:
Those two choices, I believe, will give the American people a chance to decide permanently whether we want to remain the historic America that has provided opportunity for more people of more backgrounds than any country in history, or whether in fact, we prefer to become a brand new secular, European-style bureaucratic socialist system.
What does secularism have to do with any of this? I think Newt Gingrich is just listing all the "bad" things he can think of and does not care for European differences. Italy, Ireland, Poland are part of Europe and not that secular. Italy has big economic troubles, Poland not so much. I would leave religion out of it. The Scandinavians are more secular, have less economic troubles and provide more opportunities (social mobility) for their citizens than the US does.
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff from the German Marshall Fund Blog sums up the Eurobaloney on the Campaign Trail and reminds us that Americans have "traditionally understood their history, culture, and identity in contrast to Europe's."
While Rick Perry's major league gaffe will command all the headlines, I thought the most reealing answers were given to the first question of the night -- what to do about Italy? Here are the responses of the co-frontrunners:
HERMAN CAIN: "There's not a lot that the United States can directly do for Italy right now, because they have -- they're really way beyond the point of return that we -- we as the United States can save them."
MITT ROMNEY: "Well, Europe is able to take care of their own problems. We don't want to step in and try and bail out their banks and bail out their governments. They have the capacity to deal with that themselves."
"An American drone killed eight German citizens in Pakistan [last] week. Germany's non-reaction says volumes about its role in the war on terror," writes Cameron Abadi in Foreign Policy and concludes "Judging from their eerie silence this week, Germans generally seem willing to let America handle the world's dirty work abroad." It's a great article and I recommend fully reading it and some of his links.
I tend to agree with him, but I also have the impression that the German public does not worry about terrorist attacks in general. They do not consider the US as acting on Germany's behalf and doing "the world's dirty work abroad."
Even the NATO mission in Afghanistan is not given credit for uncovering and disrupting the plot to attack European targets. I have not heard or read a statement in Germany along the lines of Con Coughlin's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: The Afghanistan War's Dividends in Europe (Free access, if you use Google search):
"The main reason we can identify these plots and implement measures against them is because of the extensive military and intelligence-gathering infrastructure we have invested in the region," a senior NATO officer in Kabul told me following reports of the latest al Qaeda scheme. "But it is doubtful we would have the same ability to track the plots and respond to them if we suddenly reduced our presence in Afghanistan."
German parliamentarians find it increasingly difficult to tell their voters why they always vote for extensions of the Bundeswehr mandate for Afghanistan, but they don't use the disrupted terror plot aimed at European cities (Paris, Berlin) as a chance to convince voters that our participation in the Afghanistan mission has made us safer. Or what am I missing here?
ENDNOTES: Reuters: "Italy could begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan next summer, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, as the nation mourned four soldiers killed in an insurgent ambush at the weekend.
Germany was elected to the UN Security Council for the next two years. (Canada, I am so sorry!) So, Germany might be less quiet in the years to come. Remember the "fun" we had in the run up to the Iraq war? Any chance for a deja-vu regarding Iran in 2011 or 2012?
Italy holds the G8 presidency this year and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi puts her charms on. Prior to a departure of a Congressional delegation to Italy she kissed ass praised in a press release: "The United States has no greater ally in NATO than Italy"
Is she aware that Britain and Canada are part of NATO as well?
Italy has 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, and pledged to increase the number to up to 2,800 towards the end of April, reports AFP, and adds that Foreign Minister Frattini wants "to consider how to involve Iran, not whether to involve Iran."
While US President Barack Obama announced that would send an additional 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total American contingent in the country to 55,000 soldiers, NATO Allies are not sending that many additional troops to the Hindu Kush, reports DW World:
Germany, the third-largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan with 3,500 troops, this week said it would temporarily send an additional 600 soldiers to help provide security during the upcoming election.
Endnote: Are at least the French now happy as integrated NATO warriors? Ségolène Royal criticizes Sarkozy’s decision to rejoin NATO’s military command is the wrong response to the new era Obama has ushered in. See Atlantic-community.org's English mini summary of Royal's French op-ed. Sarkozy ruled out sending any additional troops, according to the above mentioned DW World article. Is the Obama-Europe honeymoon already over before it starts?