Monday, February 21, 2005
Campaign for Democracy

President Bush explored the areas of mutual interest between the United States and the 'European dimension' of NATO. Without offering any concessions, Bush used the triumph of elections in Iraq to promote a paradigm of democratic reform in the Middle East, Europe's 'Near Abroad', where both continents joined in a campaign of values. The 'crusade for freedom' now trumped the 'war on terror', demonstrating the hallmark of Bush 2005 as the thirst for action against Al-Qaeda abated. In this, Bush remains the poster-child of neo-conservatism, if its objectives are now pursued in ways that the original pundits neither foresaw or supported.

How sincere was Bush? With lines like these, one is tempted to by a certain sceptical cough:

That's why we'll continue to advance the Doha Development Agenda, and bring global trade talks to a successful conclusion. We should all pursue fiscal policies in our nations -- sound fiscal policies of low taxes and fiscal restraint and reform that promote a stable world financial system and foster economic growth.

However, the major olive branch was offered on Palestine, where the death of Arafat is proving fortunate for both Blair as well as Bush. The latter provided some timely support for British interference by pushing its weight behind the donors' conference, that Blair had promoted with irrevelance for some time:

Next month in London, Prime Minister Blair will host a conference to help the Palestinian people build the democratic institutions of their state. President Abbas has the opportunity to put forward a strategy of reform, which can and will gain financial support from the international community -- including financial support. I hope he will seize the moment. I have asked Secretary Rice to attend the conference, and to convey America's strong support for the Palestinian people as they build a democratic state. And I appreciate the prominent role that Prime Minister Blair and other European leaders are playing in the cause of peace.

As noted elsewhere, Bush's strong support for Europe was also a clear indication of the defence identity that the United States prefers. There was fulsome praise of national allies acting through the structure of NATO; there was no support for an EU common security policy, nor fulsome praise for Brussels, beyond an acknowledgement of Solana's role, in tandem with national governments, during the Orange Revolution. This was a clear call that the United States works with national partners through NATO rather than a common European home.

As Martin Walker documented, the EU expended more energy during the infighting of the 'protocol wars' to host the esteemed President, than on the issues that he raised in his speech. As he addressed the assembled panjandrums tonight, Bush knew where power lay:

Bush and his advisers know this, but nonetheless the decision has been taken to put an end to the open rows. In the words of the old Sinhalese proverb, the Americans have recognized that you cannot pluck tail feathers from a turtle; the European Union is not going to become a serious politico-military player in the future but can be either a useful ally or a diplomatic nuisance. The Bush team has decided - in the face of considerable evidence - to treat the EU as an ally, while not expecting too much.

Above all, the White House has decided that considerable EU goodwill can be bought quite cheaply, simply getting Bush to repeat what every American president has intoned since 1948; that the United States supports European integration and unification, and that it would prefer to have Europe as a strong partner - the phrases that Bush will utter this week in Brussels. Such kind words cost nothing and make the protocol princelings of Brussels feel better, which is a sensible thing to do after all the broken crockery in European-American relations over the past three years.

Except that the US is beginning to get cold feel about integration.


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