October 04, 2004

The "Europe" flap

After giving it a few days to die down, I finally decided to look into what Alex was complaining about. As I suspected, it was over this article.

I'm going to jump around this article to make my point here. Let's start with one of the most obvious arguments :

That 1776 declaration is worth rereading. Its very first sentence demands "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind": isn't that exactly what the world would like from America today? The document goes on to excoriate the distant emperor George for his recklessness, insisting that authority is only legitimate when it enjoys "the consent of the governed". As the world's sole superpower, the US now has global authority. But where is the consent?

By this logic, it is not a declaration of independence the world would be making. On the contrary, in seeking a say in US elections, the human race would be making a declaration of dependence - acknowledging that Washington's decisions affect us more than those taken in our own capitals. In contrast with those founding Americans, the new declaration would argue that, in order to take charge of our destiny, we do not need to break free from the imperial power - we need to tame it.

In response to the "decent requests" aspect of the declaration, I need only point to the title above it. "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America". The key point here is the part that says "United States of America", not the "United States of The World". This was a declaration by Americans for Americans. Please don't forget that. Another thing to remember here is that this declaration was written 228 years ago. At that time there was no such thing as a "global authority" unless you mean the British Empire that we were fighting at the time. Seems a bit "Unilateral" to me for a single country to try to take over the globe. Back then, there was no such thing as the United Nations. There wasn't any kind of watchdog to go to to take care of the issue, so the people in the America's came up with the declaration to state their case against their oppressors. Instead of taking the problem to a commitee (that we knew would be inneffective), we took action, and formed a country that is based on that tradition.

It may sound wacky, but the idea could not be more American. After all, the country was founded on the notion that human beings must have a say in the decisions that govern their lives. The rebels' slogan of "No taxation without representation" endures two centuries later because it speaks about something larger than the narrow business of raising taxes. It says that those who pay for a government's actions must have a right to choose the government that takes them.

Today, people far from America's shores do indeed pay for the consequences of US actions. The citizens of Iraq are the obvious example, living in a land where a vile dictatorship was removed only for a military occupation and unspeakable violence to be unleashed in its place. The would-be voters of downtown Baghdad might like a say in whether their country would be better off with US forces gone. Perhaps John Kerry's Monday promise to start bringing the troops home, beginning next summer, would appeal to them. But they have no voice.

Mr. Freedland, I'd like to direct you to the statements of Mr. John F. Kerry during the Presidential debate (paraphrasing here) "The United States is paying 95% of the cost of the war". Whether it be in monetary value, or lives of our young people, it is inarguable that the US is paying the majority of the costs in our current conflict. The reason that the numbers stack up that way is due to the fact that the other countries that have a vested interest in this war, either have them on the other side of the conflict, or they don't have the resolve to get things done.

Such a request would also represent a recognition of an uncomfortable fact. It would be an admission that the old, postwar multilateral arrangements have broken down. In the past, America's allies could hope to influence the behemoth via treaties, agreements and the UN. The Bush era - not just Iraq, but Washington's disdain for Kyoto, the test ban treaty, the international criminal court and the rest - suggests that the US will no longer listen to those on the outside. As candidate Dole understood, only those with votes get a hearing.

I believe that those "multilateral arrangements" have indeed broken down, and for good reason. Sooner or later you have to actually do something as opposed to just talking about it. I've seen this happen more times than I care to think about when I worked a "White Collar" job. All the "Big Wheels" upstairs were having meeting after meeting, while the business was gradually slipping away. I saw the writing on the wall, and bugged out. two months afterward, the company was sold off to another company. I still talk to the people that I worked with over there, and I can tell it's still the same. Still losing clients, and the business is getting smaller and smaller. Essentially they've managed that company to death, instead of being proactive and actually fixing problems.

Looking at the examples that he's given above: "Kyoto, the test ban treaty, the international criminal court" I'd like to hear a good explanation of why these treaties would be beneficial to the US. Kyoto is a nice "touchy-feely" type thing that actually winds up making it even more expensive for businesses to operate. That and the fact that the regulations it entails are based on junk science, and you can see why we would shoot it down. The test ban treaty is a way for other countries to ensure that one of the reasons that we are a military superpower (nukes) is eleminated. That's not gonna happen. The ICC is another nice way for others to try to take our sovereignty away from us. So you want to be able to try a few of our general's as war criminals whenever you want? I don't think so.

As I see it, there is a general malaise that is coming out of Europe these days. The countries aren't as powerful as they used to be, and they don't know how to fix it. So they all get together and talk and talk. Meanwhile they are getting weaker and weaker due to the fact that all they seem to be doing is bitching about how big and powerful America is, instead of actually doing something to try and compete. They tax the hell out of their citizenry to support their welfare states, and then wonder why there's no innovation coming from their people. You're stealing your citizens drive to compete, and to make something better for themselves. Even the ones that actually do manage to actually do something positive, wind up being regulated so much that they can't share what they've achieved.

I've got a few suggestions on how European countries can get back a position of power.

1. Deregulate, and drop your "Nanny-States" thereby letting your people sink or swim on their own. If there's no net down there to catch you, you'll find that you will concentrate extra hard on not falling off the wire.

2. Quit letting other European countries tell you how to govern your country. It's your country, and your system of government. What makes you think that those other countries know any better than you do. This will go towards instilling some national pride back in your people, and that can be one hell of a motivator.

3. If you insist on going the route of the European Union, then you've got to set up a better central system of government. You've got to get to something like the US has. I am an American first, and a citizen of the great state of Tennessee second. If you choose to not stand on your own as a country, then you've got to get rid of some of your national pride. Become a European first, then a citzen of whatever state (formerly country) you are a citizen of.

4. Here's my most radical idea for improving a European country: If you can't beat us, join us. If you really want to be able to vote for who gets to be the President of the US, then submit your country to be admitted as the 51st state in our union. Sure you'd lose your national identity, but look at the one you'd be getting in its stead. You'd get to vote too, but I'm betting that if you were a membr of this great union, you wouldn't be as willing to elect someone who would give your country's power and resolve away to other countries.

So my solution to Europe's problems is simply this: Shit or get off the pot. Get out there and actually do something, instead of sitting around second guessing the country that actually is doing something. If your leadership is incapable of getting it done, then get new leadership. If your system of government is stifling your ability to succeed, then install a new one. Quit sitting around in your meeting rooms talking about what's going wrong. Make up your mind, and take action.

The US is showing you how to do it. Get cracking.

Posted by Johnny - Oh at October 4, 2004 02:45 PM

I knew this would be taken out of context.We don't want to vote in your elections. Nobody I know, apart from Alex, knows who John Kerry is. Some people I know don't know who George Bush is. The majority of people here really don't care.I've heard that quite a few Americans don't bother to vote either. Hell, I haven't even read the original article. I can only imagine that the author wanted to get some attention. Obviously, he succeeded! I really wouldn't pay him any attention.

It was the "we saved your asses in WWII", that we object to. That was the point Alex was making.

Also, the "you're an insignificant microbe", kind of comment doesn't help. Tell my neighbour, whose son was killed in Iraq, that his contribution was "insignificant."

Great post though. You're quite right to defend TGDITW! (You SO should have made that a trademark ;-) )

Posted by: Sally at October 4, 2004 05:15 PM

Yeah Sally. I'm not responding to what Alex was talking about, I'm talking about the original article. Don't ever think that I don't appreciate the sacrifices of people from over there. It matters quite a bit.

I still agree with Alex on his points. Just because you aren't in TGDITW, doesn't mean you don't matter. I still feel like an idiot for not trademarking that statement. :^(

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at October 4, 2004 05:48 PM

There is a lot of bull in the article that guy wrote but his underlying point is that your elections have a global impact - period. Your constitutional points are good but really hold no validity in the face of every government since WW2 taking on the role of "global police" whether that is a direct part of their election manifesto or not. A lot of this was to do with the idea of "never again will there be a power like the Reich" and then the fear of communist takeover of the world, but now a lot of it is to do with the idea of terrorism as a direct threat to a nation's soverignty and ideology.

If the idea of a global empire was so wrong (and it was) then the idea of one country telling or implying what other countries should do is wrong too. We should celebrate our differences rather than ridicule them - how do you know if you have it better or worse than someone else if you have no reference point to compare it against? Europeans are proud that the state can look after you if you are unable to work - but unwilling to work should be no excuse period (I am speaking as a man who has 2 contrasting brothers in law - one is a millionare who has built his engineering company up from nothing, the other is Darren the sponger who attempts to live off wife or state).

Posted by: Alex at October 5, 2004 05:21 AM

Oh yes Alex. Mr. Freedland's entire point to his article is all about how much of an impact our elections have on the world scene. The more I look at the history of my country, the more I see us as a Global Policing Force, and it's very likely that we are trying to prevent another Reich or Communist Russia from coming to power. As far as I can tell, that is one hell of a good reason for doing it. That and noone else in the world seems to have the resolve or the resources to act as we do. I'd like to think that if there was another "SuperPower" out there then they would act as we do and attempt to prevent them as well, but (sadly) history shows us that when other countries reach the "SuperPower" status, they generally try to create another Reich rather than prevent one.

I agree with your sentiment that one country shouldn't be able to tell another how to act, but I believe that suggestions made by either side need to be considered. We looked at France and Germany's "suggestions" to not invade Iraq, and found them wanting, so we invaded anyway. It's not like we didn't listen, but I think that they didn't understand the whole impact the attacks had on us. They wanted to be heard, but they didn't want to listen, therefore they have no reason to whine about our actions.

As for the welfare state, I can understand how a people would take pride in the fact that they can take care of the downfallen, but it seems to me that there will always be people ready and willing to take advantage of the State's charity. I guess that it becomes a matter of scale. Determining where the line should be drawn (as a percentage of citizenry) is quite a difficult decision. In a lot of these arguments, you have me at a disadvantage as you have been able to visit the US, and I have not had the chance to come over there and observe the "ground truth" for myself. Could be I'm fulla crap, but right now it feels like I'm on to something.

Cheers my friend. Your input is always welcome.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at October 5, 2004 09:53 AM

"If the idea of a global empire was so wrong (and it was) then the idea of one country telling or implying what other countries should do is wrong too."

I disagree with this statement. I don't think there's automatically something wrong with one country trying to tell another country what to do. I think it depends on whether what they're telling is appropriate.

For example I don't have a problem with telling another country "don't drop chemical weapons on women & children". :-)

Posted by: Harvey at October 5, 2004 02:21 PM

Is that why America entered WWII? When women and children were being bombed every night in The Blitz?

(Alex isn't in, so I can't ask him) Is that what swayed it? Or had the killings been going on for a while? I honesty don't know. I know this:

My Uncle had a "job", in the A.R.P where he had to find the heads of people killed in the bombings, so they could certify the people dead. Then he had to find his way home in the blackout, carefully negociating the craters in the road. He was fourteen years old.

Twice, in ten years, my Dad turned up for work only to find that the BUILDING was gone. A City building at that. And on the day he decided not to eat his lunch at Chelsea Barracks bandstand, the I.R.A blew that up.

My point is, we've been through war, and terrorism. In my lifetime, we've seen it on our own soil on countless occasions. It's been a lot better since "external" I.R.A funding dried up *cough*

Posted by: Sally at October 5, 2004 04:09 PM

Ooooh! Good point Sally. I haven't really looked into The whole I.R.A. thing in any kind of depth, but I know that quite a lot of money came from the US and went over there. I'm curious. Was the flow of money stopped by your end of the pond, or by a collusion of your and our people? Know any good publications that I can read to educate myself on this further? I'll do some web searches, but I think I'd rather get my info "straight from the horses mouth".

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at October 5, 2004 07:37 PM

The whole IRA thing is a mess. As a child, I picked up a few bits of information at family gatherings, (my mother is Irish), and became aware that America was providing money, and shelter. That her father fought in the British Army, then moved his family to England baffled me. I can only assume he could see the bigger picture of why we were fighting. Like Hitler would've spared Ireland...

Posted by: Sally at October 6, 2004 01:39 PM
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