Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.
The Transatlantic Alliance and Nuclear Stability
Conventional wisdom suggests that Ahmadinejad and his pursuit of nuclear weapons have united both sides of the Atlantic in a manner very different from the war in Iraq.
Europeans fear Washington is still forgoing opportunities to resolve the Iran crisis, but on most diplomatic matters they stand together. E.U. foreign policy czar Javier Solana and NATO Chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer proclaim relations to be "perfect." Senator John McCain said ties between the U.S.A. and the E.U. have "never been better."
Are the good old days of the transatlantic alliance back again?
The bipartisan American view that the only thing worse than military action is a nuclear-armed Iran is the point at which U.S. divergence with Europe emerges. Europeans are with the United States on all diplomatic fronts, but when it comes to a military strike they demur.
When U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, reportedly said that a U.S. military strike could halt or hold back Iran's nuclear program, European diplomats were stunned. Most European diplomats believe that events in Iraq proved their skepticism about military intervention was right.
Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, fears a military strike would be a "cataclysm" for the Middle East. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed solidarity with President Bush, but so far this solidarity extends only to direct diplomatic talks.
If the U.S. precipitously strikes Iran, it is unlikely any European government, not even the British, would back it. So much for transatlantic reconciliation.
From the European perspective, Iran with nuclear weapons and a refined Shahab missile program is a direct threat to every European capital. But, this condition tends to yield conciliation rather than resistance.
Second, Europeans believe the future of non-proliferation is at stake. A nuclear Iran would mean the end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If Iran withdraws from the NPT, after North Korea's withdrawal, the regimen would probably unravel leading to the emergence of several Middle East nuclear powers and possible disequilibrium in the region.
Finally, the credibility of the European Defense and Security Policy and the multilateralism the E.U. claims to promote, would be called into question with a nuclear-armed Iran. What the Europeans are trying to demonstrate is "the power of soft power," or their ability to solve a proliferation crisis by using the economic strength of the European Union. It is widely believed that a military attack jeopardizes regional stability and sets in motion a radical response that has profoundly negative implications for Europe.
From the U.S. perspective, diplomacy is a necessary first step towards reconciliation of the crisis. But what if it isn't sufficient? What should the U.S. do in the face of an adamant Iran?
Across the nuclear front, the current administration confronts challenges as knotty as those faced by any American government since the Cuban Missile Crisis. In cooperation with the Europeans the Bush team has assembled blandishments and determination to combat the threat. What determination finally means, of course, is unclear. A nuclear weapon that explodes in Tel Aviv or Paris is a prospect too grim to entertain. Churchill's counsel to Britain's allies in World War II surely applies. "It is not enough to do one's best. What is required is rather that one do what is necessary for success."
The question that Europeans must answer, and perhaps the Bush administration as well, is will they do what is necessary for success.
At the moment good will reigns. But a day of reckoning may not be far off. If military action is the only recourse, will the Europeans support the United States? Will the Europeans be satisfied that every diplomatic channel has been exhausted? Will they contend even after the last word has been deployed that a policy of deterrence and containment is better than direct military intervention? And last, is there any recognition that Ahmadinejad is a religious radical sui generis, one who cannot be deterred?
The questions are pregnant with possibility. Not only does the transatlantic alliance depend on the answers, but the world's stability rests on them as well.
Delusion v. Reality
The reaction to jihadists worldwide suggests the world is now divided into two classes: those suffering from self-delusion and those capable of facing reality.
While the realists may be in the majority, there is little doubt they are losing ground. Denial is in the air along with its companion, appeasement.
When Ahmadinejad quakes, the West offers blandishments. He realizes that European leaders refuse to confront him and even George W. Bush may be hamstrung to do anything about his nuclear ambitions. By raising the decibels in his speech, he knows efforts at mollifying will intensify.
If Iranian mullahs say they need nuclear energy, the United States responds with a proposal to give them nuclear power plants. The more we offer, the higher the stakes. Where this will end is anyone's guess, but I would wager Iran will not voluntarily abandon its uranium enrichment program however attractive our package.
Recently I met with several European businessmen who engaged in a frank discussion about impediments to economic revitalization on the continent. Omitted from this analysis was the rise of radical Islam and its influence on development. When I pointed this out, I was roundly upbraided. "That's a problem we can manage," it was said. Somewhat surprised, I asked how this would be managed. My question was greeted with a blank stare and a shrug.
For many Europeans there is a fastidious reluctance to face the problem. It is too large and its implications too grim. Moreover, it may mean having to face a religious dilemma and a civil liberties curtailment, issues that go to the very core of European liberalism.
Recently Canadian law enforcement officials infiltrated a reputed Islamic terrorist network arresting dozens of homegrown extremists. But rather than state the obvious, that these were Islamists filled with hate conveyed by mullahs in local mosques, the Toronto police chief asserted that the suspects "were motivated by an ideology based on politics, hatred and terrorism, and not on faith."
Others claim, in what can only be a test of credulity, that there isn't a "common denominator" among the terrorists. Presumably jihad is an insufficient common thread for Canadian law enforcement officers. The terrorists are not that clever: they simply want to annihilate the infidels. They do not prevaricate; the Koran is the governor in their lives and if you can kill in Mohammad's name in order to promote Islam, so be it.
There in unadorned form are the realists and the delusionists. Diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic will continue to engage in "soft power," read: appeasement, even as their gestures are continually rebuffed. Many business leaders will keep their head in the sand, unwilling to consider what is happening all over the continent. And some law enforcement spokesmen will employ any euphemism rather than suggest Islam's radical impetus may be responsible for terrorism.
If there is a theme in these three disparate events it is denial, an unwillingness to confront an ugly reality. A war has been brought to Western societies whether or not they have the will to resist. Should the common response be transmogrified into struthious conditioning, the West will be in serious trouble, if that isn't already the case.
The great ally of radical Islam is a West that remains split between delusion and reality. What it will take to shake appeasers from their reflexive, guilt-obsessed, reaction is beyond my ken. But this is the challenge for realists who, at the very least, know what the enemy wants and what he is prepared to do in order to get it.
Inspiring Europe (?)
The St. Gallen Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland brings together university students, global business leaders and scholars in an effort to limn Europe's future. This year's program was entitled "Inspiring Europe." The title has intentional double entendre: Does Europe need inspiration or is Europe a source of inspiration?
Europe today is rich, somewhat complacent, peaceful and, considering its history, remarkably stable. In an historical sense, Europe is an uncontested success.
Yet the Europe that emerged from World War II as a bulwark against Communism and as a model of economic recovery is now in a different stage of development.
European spokesmen at this conference readily admitted that the continental economy is lagging and the unfunded liability for prospective retirees is an enormous potential drag on the economy.
Moreover, affluence has bred complacency. It is widely believed that Europeans deserve six-week vacations each year and retirement at 55. My suggestion that these conditions are not sustainable was greeted with derision.
There was much discussion about reinventing the continental economy. A spokesman for Bayer, for example, mentioned his belief in "a core business strategy," but it was difficult to determine whether this was an idiosyncratic example or a systemic recommendation.
The Japanese president of E-Mobile introduced the constraints of reality by noting "99 percent of the electronic products in Switzerland were produced in China." When asked if there is an alternative, he merely shrugged his shoulders.
Those who assumed the recent Japanese economic recovery has lessons for Europe were also disappointed. Japanese spokesmen noted that social security and employee benefits are not as generous as those in Europe and, as a consequence, do not serve as anticompetitive factors. Moreover, the Japanese put a greater stock in research and development and the resultant innovation than their European counterparts.
Perhaps the most serious oversight at the conference was a seeming unwillingness to consider the rise of radical Islam in European capitals and its chilling effect on economic competitiveness. When I made reference to the totalistic impulses of the jihadists and the rising secularism among Christians, my comment was greeted with blank stares. There appears to be a common belief that this cultural tension will sort itself out with Muslims ultimately integrating into European societies.
This "what, me worry?" attitude is, to some degree, understandable. Looking over the horizon to a time when European prosperity cannot be taken for granted is difficult, if not impossible. Even the demographic nightmare of declining populations all over Western Europe did not evoke alarm.
When a spokesman from the International Monetary Fund pointed out that Europeans work fewer hours per annum than North Americans and Asians, this was viewed as an indication of superior European work habits rather than uncompetitive productivity rates.
Considering relative satisfaction with the cradle-to-grave welfare arrangements and a belief in the natural order of social reconciliation, it is hard to understand what Europeans mean by reinvention. As I see it, European societies need inspiration, a catalyst for social reform. But, after all, they are democracies that depend for change on the will of their people.
Surely there are many Europeans who appreciate the anti-competitive impulse of lassitude. Yet they don't know how to change. Tightly contested elections throughout the continent make it difficult to conceive of consensus for modification in the welfare system. The overhang of social expenditures makes it extremely hard for industries to reduce the price of products or for capital to be raised for innovation.
Is this scenario a dead-end? Is Europe necessarily on the road to marginality?
While the St. Gallen conference didn't offer immediate answers, history does possess surprises. The resiliency Europe displayed after the war may reemerge. A generation of college-educated students is eager to plot a new course for the future and European broadband developments indicate that there are some bright flourishes in a generally gray background.
What we know about Europe today is surely a guide to the next act in continental history, but it isn't an inevitable guide. Realism dictates skepticism; hope suggests possibility. An inspired Europe needs some of both as a compass for the path ahead.
Political Propaganda from the Academy
In a startling new book, The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, George Michael, the author, disinters Richard Hofstadter's Paranoid Style in American Politics. This time, however, the views are so wildly inaccurate and prejudicial as to appear as caricature.
Professor Michael asserts, for example, that because David Duke, the former Klan leader, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, both condemn the state of Israel, there is some right wing--Islamic nexus. Yes, both figures may be anti-semitic and anti-Zionist, surely both deserve condemnation, but one may have nuclear weapons which can destroy the state of Israel and the other is an appropriately discredited individual without any influence.
Michael also notes that Muslims and right-wingers (a term he doesn't define) have similar critiques of American foreign policy in the Middle East, modernity and globalization. "Both see the U.S. government as hopelessly under the control of Jews or Zionists," he writes.
One could far more comfortably--I believe--make this statement about the left. After all, the left has reflexively embraced the Palestinian cause from Tony Kushner to Ramsey Clark. The argument that the U.S. government is under a hypnotic spell of Zionists was recently made by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two university professors more aligned with the left than the right. Demonstrations against globalization in Europe were mobilized almost entirely by left wing organizations and when it comes to the challenges to modernity, it is again primarily left wing environmental groups in the forefront.
Clearly Mr. Michael has an axe to grind. Evidence is marshaled to make his case without a glance at the other side of the political spectrum. He is not the first and he certainly won't be the last to employ quasi-scholarship as a propagandistic exercise.
What is truly maddening about the book is its assumption that right wingers and Islamists have much in common. I could easily assert that Stalinists and Islamists have much in common. I can assert as well that ACTUP and NOW have much in common with Muslims. I can further assert that the National Guild of Lawyers, a left wing hothouse, has been a defender of radical Islamic terrorists.
That David Duke appears as a right wing exemplar is revealing. Surely Michael could have selected Pat Robertson. He is a religious leader, supports right wing causes and has made irrational--in my view--comments about homosexuals. But he is conspicuously omitted from the treatise because he is an undeviating supporter of Israel. This comes under the heading of "if it doesn't fit, ignore it."
That anyone would call this book a work of scholarship is laughable. Then again that which satisfies the gods of political correctness will have legitimacy. No enemies on my left is still a theme from Hollywood to Greenwich Village. Only the right can be caricatured.
Facts, however, have a strange way of being persistent. What are the areas of right wing and Islamic cooperation that are inferred in the book? Unless one relies on the author's tortured logic, they are hard to find.
When Paranoid Style was written decades ago Hofstadter also ignored paranoia on the left, which was exemplified with the Weathermen and Black Panthers, but, at least, he made his case with appropriate examples. In Michael's book he begins his analysis with a prejudice and ends with a prejudice sandwiched between ipse dixit.
Yes, there can be paranoia on the right and paranoia on the extreme left. There may be some crackpot who identifies with Ahmadinejad and is a right winger and he may have a counterpart on the left. If political science research is to be more than polemical it should follow the evidence wherever it may lead. *
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood." --James Madison