Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gitmo Grovel: Enough Already

Charles Krauthammer: Gitmo Grovel: Enough Already
The self-flagellation has gone far enough. We know that al Qaeda operatives are trained to charge torture when they are in detention, and specifically to charge abuse of the Koran to inflame fellow prisoners on the inside and potential sympathizers on the outside.

Monday, June 06, 2005

French "Non" Round-up - Update

More reaction:

Claire Berlinski, writing from Istanbul for the Washington Post - It's History That's Tearing the E.U. Apart :
Deep down, the ordinary Frenchman doesn't believe that Turks, or Eastern Europeans for that matter, cherish the values he holds most dear. Nor do the French much trust that the Germans and the British have French interests at heart. Given European history -- and given what I see around me -- I can't say I blame them.

Over the past few weeks, the pro-Europe talking heads on French television have been busy poking fun at French fears of the "proverbial Polish plumber" who is ready to steal jobs from the locals. But how the pundits can argue that he is only proverbial is beyond me. If you want to test the theory, try living in a Paris apartment that needs repainting, as mine did a few weeks ago. Get estimates. French workmen will propose to do the job for 10,000 euros. The Polish painter? He can do it for 800 euros. Tomorrow. He doesn't ask for health insurance or social security, either. And this in a country where there is already 10 percent unemployment.

If I were a French house painter or plumber, I would have voted non, too...

In all the millions of words recently written in opinion pieces in France, uttered by French television pundits and spoken by French politicians, no one has said the most obvious ones: To hell with Europe. That's right, to hell with Europe -- to hell with integration; to hell with the super-state; to hell with playing a role like the United States' on the international stage. No one has said, "It's a nutty idea. It will never work. It would put us in contact with people we've hated for thousands of years."

Intellectuals and public figures in France, from left to right, explain their votes by first expressing boundless devotion to the ideal of Europe itself: The people's vote against the constitution, they say, reflects only a tactical readjustment in the great vision. The fantasy of Europe has adopted so prominent a role in the consciousness of French intellectuals that no one will speak plainly of it. No one is prepared to express what the majority of French voters really feel.

But ask a French farmer or factory worker. You'll hear it: To hell with Europe.

David Brooks in the NY Times commenting on the economics behind the rejection - Fear and Rejection:
Forgive me for making a blunt and obvious point, but events in Western Europe are slowly discrediting large swaths of American liberalism.

Most of the policy ideas advocated by American liberals have already been enacted in Europe: generous welfare measures, ample labor protections, highly progressive tax rates, single-payer health care systems, zoning restrictions to limit big retailers, and cradle-to-grave middle-class subsidies supporting everything from child care to pension security. And yet far from thriving, continental Europe has endured a lost decade of relative decline.

Western Europeans seem to be suffering a crisis of confidence. Election results, whether in North Rhine-Westphalia or across France and the Netherlands, reveal electorates who have lost faith in their leaders, who are anxious about declining quality of life, who feel extraordinarily vulnerable to foreign competition - from the Chinese, the Americans, the Turks, even the Polish plumbers...

The Western European standard of living is about a third lower than the American standard of living, and it's sliding. European output per capita is less than that of 46 of the 50 American states and about on par with Arkansas. There is little prospect of robust growth returning any time soon...

The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.

This Polish plumber pops up a lot. More economic analysis of France from Anne Dumas in The Washington Post - What's American and Envied by France?:
It's not exactly haute culture , but these days this is a vital topic here in France, where the unemployment rate has been stuck between 9 and 10 percent for a quarter of a century and where not a single enterprise founded here in the past 40 years has managed to break into the ranks of the 25 biggest French companies. By comparison, 19 of today's 25 largest U.S. companies didn't exist four decades ago. That's why France is looking to the United States for lessons. And it's why it was meant as a compliment when the French media dubbed the former finance minister, newly appointed interior minister and potential president Nicolas Sarkozy "the American."

For years, France has been pouring bad old economic policy into new bottles. "France has not solved the crises of the 20th century, including rampant unemployment, and it has to face the challenges of the next one: globalization and a new kind of world terrorism. The country has lost 2 million industrial jobs in the last 25 years," explains Nicolas Baverez, a talented historian, lawyer and op-ed writer, who wrote a book on the decline of France. Although the situation is dire, France lingers in what is matter-of-factly branded "French immobilism."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

French "Non" Round-up

George Will - A Reverberating French "non" -
Europe's elites, nearly unanimous in their desire to "pool" nations' sovereignties in EU institutions responsive only to those elites, warned that a French rejection might plunge Europe into bloody chaos akin to the dissolution of Yugoslavia -- perhaps even another Holocaust. Such synthetic hysteria revealed the elites' contempt for, and fear of, the European publics that the constitution was designed to further marginalize.

The so-called constitution is actually just an incoherent jumble of policies -- see above, and don't miss the protocol concerning the Sami people's reindeer husbandry -- for an incoherent jumble of vastly different nations. Supposedly, a single nation's rejection prevents the constitution from coming into effect. But some EU officials, with characteristic mendacity, hope to press on, get 24 ratifications, then force the French to keep revoting until they produce the politically correct answer. Fortunately, as this is written Tuesday morning, the Dutch seem about to render an even more emphatic "no" today.

French "no" voters were surly about their surly president, Jacques Chirac, who favors admitting Turkey to the EU. Worried about their sluggish economy, the French fret that after last year's eastward expansion of the EU by the admission of 10 low-wage countries, French jobs will move east and low-wage workers -- the dreaded "Polish plumber" -- will move to France. The cognitive dissonance of the French is striking: They wish to lead a Europe from which they are effectively insulated.

It is fine for people who are not French to admire from afar how "civilized" the French are in cherishing their "way of life" -- short workweeks, many weeks of vacations, laws "protecting" labor by making it difficult to fire people. But those laws, by making employers reluctant to hire, help explain France's double-digit unemployment.

Cast a cold eye on this way of life -- this amalgam of desires for increasing affluence and leisure and weight in the world -- and "civilized" looks like a euphemism for "childish." Children are unaware of the costs of things, and the incompatibility of many desires.

Gerard Baker in the London Times - European civilisation has sown the seeds of its own decline and fall -

These twin threats — the economic challenge of fiercely competitive globalisation and a political challenge to the culturally deracinated, splintering societies — are driving Europe into debilitating turmoil.

Interestingly, these threats converge again today in modern Turkey, an economically dynamic nation of 70 million Muslims, whose hopes of ending centuries of geographical ambivalence and joining the European club were dealt a final shattering blow this week. More important, though, it was these two forces, which lay directly behind respectively the French and Dutch “no” votes, that have intensified the mood of crisis.

In their different ways, the two referendums were surely symbolic events, marking the culmination of a decade or more of European disintegration and decline

It is probably no accident that this process began just as Europe reached the pinnacle of its achievements. Forty-five years after the Second World War, continental Western Europe could plausibly claim to have created a kind of postmodern nirvana — a half-continent-wide zone of unparalleled prosperity, cushioned by an apparently permanent peace among some of the most historically murderous peoples on Earth.

Under its expensive welfare programmes, paid for by a high level of productivity in traditional manufacturing industries, Europeans enjoyed a pampered life. With the Soviet threat gone, this accelerating prosperity further encouraged them to renounce the idea of war and military coercion, and they settled down to enjoy an assured future ascendancy.

By the beginning of the 1990s, with America in apparent decline, it seemed a reasonable bet that this extraordinary model of economic and political success would become an example to the world. But external and internal forces were already undermining this paradise.

In economics, the forces of globalisation unleashed by an emergent Asia and an information technology revolution were reviving the American eco-nomy and giving birth to new, dynamic competitors. This speed-of-light competitive world of the microchip and flexible capital markets would require nimbleness, and an end to the protections that seemed to have helped Europe to become the success story of the 1980s. The Anglo-Saxon economies, in response to their own economic crises of the 1970s, had prepared themselves for this new world with painful but necessary reforms.

But Europe looked inward, not outward. Instead of focusing on what was needed – American and British-style labour reforms, tax cuts and deregulation — Europe embarked on a quix- otic exercise. It sought to weld a dozen or more disparate countries into an unbreakable economic union, all settled snug and warm under the fraying comfort blanket of expensive welfare systems.

In the political field too, even at its zenith, Europe had been surrendering the tools that had given it peace and harmony. It owed its years of peace not to some solemn intra-European comity but to the hard steel of US firepower, primed to defend Europe from the Soviet Union. But by the early 1990s, having shed its bloody past, Europe had lost the moral will as well as the capacity to face down new threats at home and abroad to the freedoms it cherished. European governments cut defence budgets and embraced peace as a strategy. This malaise was clearly evident in the Balkans in the early 1990s, where murderous inter-ethnic strife was cheerfully tolerated for years.

When its American ally was attacked in September 2001, Europe gamely offered to reciprocate for US protection in the Cold War, but most European nations lacked the military resources to turn that promise into anything more than tokens.

Then in Iraq in 2003, confronted with a tyrant who had repeatedly thumbed his nose at the international system that Europe supposedly revered, it instinctively recoiled, and a softened-up intellectual elite turned on the Americans instead.

At home, the same moral relativism, bred by years of pampered prosperity, was creating its own destructive forces. Again, egged on by intellectual elites, Europeans were encouraged to despise the civilisation that had nurtured them. The nation state was pronounced a hateful anachronism that had to be replaced by a pan-European superstate. The West’s defining values of enlightened tolerance and freedom were not superior to anyone else’s. Crime was the fault of its own unfair societies.

Immigrants who came to its countries were not to be forced to live by its own rules but by theirs, even if that meant “honour” killings and jihad. The effort to produce tolerant, multicultural societies resulted in the paradox of radical liberal democracies such as the Netherlands enthusiastically nurturing forces at home that sought to destroy the freedoms in which they were being incubated.

This week, voters in France and the Netherlands sounded the alarm. Characteristically, while the Dutch seem to have got the message about the social costs of its ruinous ultra-liberalism, the French have got the wrong end of the stick and want to escape from globalisation behind high walls of social protection.

But the challenge is now upon Europe. The longer it puts off the inevitable reforms — economic, social and political — the harder it will get. And if it chooses to defer a real response for ever, the greatest civilisation in the history of the planet will simply continue to sink beneath the waves of its own economic irrelevance and moral ennui.


Victor David Hanson writing in the Washington Post - Death throes . . . :
The EU constitution -- and its promise of a new Europe -- supposedly offered a corrective to the Anglo-American strain of Western civilization. More government, higher taxes, richer entitlements, pacifism, statism and atheism would make a more humane and powerful new Continent of more than 400 million to outpace a retrograde United States.

Instead, Europe faces a declining population, unassimilated minorities, low growth, high unemployment and an inability to defend itself, militarily or morally. Somehow the directorate of the European Union has figured out how to have too few citizens while having too many of them out of work...

In fact, 2005 is a culmination of dying ideas. Despite the boasts and threats, almost every political alternative to Western liberalism over the last quarter-century is crashing or already in flames.