NATO Today or, The Joys of Herding Cats

 

 

 

  • Worth noting that Europeans are still among the biggest defense spenders in the world, the UK and France are ahead of Russia
  • EU as  a whole second only the U.S.
  • Obama had wanted more troops in Afghanistan last, got squat
  • What are European armies for? National defense? Expeditionary forces for “neocolonial” adventures in the Third World? The more humdrum police-like work of peacekeeping?

 

 

 

No Guns, No Butter

 

Rasmussen

 

NATO agrees to “trim fat”

http://euobserver.com/9/31042

 

Even NATO itself is up for reductions after it has had trouble with its finances.

14 Oct. NATO ministers agree to “cut fat” by reducing HQs from 11 to 7, staff from 13,000 to 9,000 14 NATO agencies to be reduced to 3, focusing on acquisitions, support and communications

 

No agreement on who will lose HQs and bases

 

CUTS AND AFGHANISTAN

Rasmussen on UK cuts: look at Czechs, increasing Afghan troops despite “drastic cuts in public spending.”

“This shows it is possible to cut fat while building muscle.”

Gates had complained of “Cold War-era structures” that were too heavy, needed to be streamlined

  • The agreement on cuts comes after defence ministers in February decided to fill a budget deficit of €640 million in the alliance’s investment pot for this year.

 

British Army

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/oct/12/armed-forces-defence-review

 

  • Many of 380 Challenger 2 tanks to be mothballed, same heavy armour, artillery, including AS90 howitzer
  • Army should stay same size, 100,000, until 2015, when combat role in Afghanistan will end, 20,000 soldiers in Germany to come home
  • Navy to have less new frigates
  • All eight squadrons of RAF’s two-crew Tornado GR4s to be removed
  • Plan to buy 48 Eurofighter Typhoons to be dropped, leaving total of 160
  • Total RAF may be cut from 760 to 550 over 10 years

 

Germany is to Shrink Army by a Third

http://www.courrierinternational.com/breve/2010/08/24/la-bundeswehr-pourrait-etre-reduite-d-un-tiers

  • German defense minister proposed a one third cut to the Bundeswehr in August, scrapping military service from 252,000 to 165,000
  • Conservatives are split, liberals support it
  • Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
  • Not strictly the same kind of problem

 

Plus a decent blog post in French

http://www.iris-france.org/docs/pdf/notesiris/2010-09-10-ni-budget-defense.pdf

“risk of a incoherence in capabilities” and “risk of decrochage technological”

 

Clinton Warning

http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2010/10/clinton-warns-europeans-against-defence-cuts/69190.aspx

 

  • Hillary to EU: Stop cutting your defence budgets
  • Clinton: “NATO has been the most successful alliance for defensive purposes in the history of the world… but it has to be maintained. Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions.
  • US particularly worried about UK cuts. The UK, traditionally, provides as many troops for US operations as entire rest of the EU put together.
  • (Afghanistan, Iraq, the first Gulf War)
  • Gates: “My worry is the more our allies cut their capabilities, the more people will look to the United States to cover gaps.”
  • Discussed NATO “new strategic concept” and anti-missile shield
  • Clinton with Ashton: “as strong as ever”
  • Shopping!!! (Europe not EU)
  • “new strategic concept”
  • Exercises in vacuous profundities.
  • Discussed Serbia, Kosovo, Pakistan…

 

UK defence spending worries US

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4788495

 

  • London to slash defence by 10-20%
  • Liam Fox told Gates that key programs would not be cut
  • Martin Longden, pres attaché for British embassy in Washington: “We enter it as America’s most important military ally, and we’ll leave this review still as American’s most important ally”.
  • Fox to Gates: we will keep special forces, buys of F-35 jets and nuclear forces
  • “Those three things our friends in America care deeply about, and we understood that”.
  • Anonymous U.S. official: “I think we’re confident the UK will maintain a robust military capability”.
  • Fox to reporters (apparently): we will have less deployable troops but will retain forces at “a respectable and useful level.”

 

 

 

http://euobserver.com/9/31050

 

I am going to paraphrase Kissinger on “strategic superiority”: What is a “strategic concept? Can you eat it?

 

  • Foreign and defense ministers endorsed draft strategic concept meant to adapt alliance to new threats such as cyber attacks
  • Germany and France at odds over role of nuclear weapons and missile defense
  • NATO was once a legitimate defensive alliance, now it is mainly an organism meant to help “coral” the little armies of the United States’ European cousins into something half-useful.
  • Clinton: ensures “that NATO evolves as the world evolves… relying on the strategies of the past simply will not suffice.”
  • Praised by ministers as “short and readable”, to be approved in November
  • Rasmussen: “convergence on what modern defense entails and on balancing the importance of having a strong deterrence posture with the desire to strengthen arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts”
  • Rasmussen thinks NATO leaders will agree to interlink European systems with US-developped missile defense under a NATO umbrella
  • Minimual cost (147M euros over 10 years), Russia to be invited (…)
  • Herve Morin compared it to the Maginot line!
  • “You protect yourself against the Apocalypse, when the best way of avoiding Apocalypse is to be able to make yourself respected with a military tool and a credible defense”. Dismissing German comments about nuclear disarmament.
  • “Arms control and disarmament must be the trademarks of our political alliance” says foreign German Guido Westerwelle
  • Out of question for US

 

 

Poles Dubious

http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/362691-russia-divides-alliance

  • Don’t let Russia join NATO!
  • Third strategic review since end of Cold War
  • “The idea of including Russia” “is like a red rag to a bull for Poland.”
  • Meant to protect against the Mideast
  • Core Europe vs. Atlanticists vs. Ossies
  • First likes Russia, second wants US and fight terrorism, last considers Russia the major threat
  • “NATO’s core mission, to protect the 900 million citizens of NATO countries from attack, must never change – but it must be a modern defense, against modern threats”
  • UK to cut by 2-4 billion, Germany planning 6.3B cut
  • “President Barack Obama is worried that NATO will become little more than a talking shop, and has demanded an end to the requirement that the alliance’s decisions be backed by unanimous vote, which has been a feature of NATO proceedings for the last 61 years.” Wants stronger SG powers in time of crisis.
  • Germany, Norway, Holland, Belgium want to remove nukes from territory
  • France doesn’t care
  • “The differences between Paris and Berlin, whose relations are already strained, centre on how to strike the right balance between the traditional reliance on nuclear deterrents and the new anti-missile shield.”

 

 

 

NATO Today or, the Joys of Herding Cats

There is much abuzz with NATO these days.

The Americans are on the record as being “worried” by the austerity-related defense cuts throughout Europe, and particularly in the United Kingdom.

British and French. http://secretdefense.blogs.liberation.fr/defense/2010/10/vers-une-collaboration-franco-britannique-sur-les-t%C3%AAtes-nucl%C3%A9aires.ht

At a summit of NATO ministers on October 14,

new “strategic concept” in particular on “cyberwar” and missile defense, whether or not to include the Russians.

NATO REDUCTIONS

Even NATO itself is up for reductions after its recent troubles with its finances. On October 14, NATO ministers agreed to reduce the number of headquarters from 11 to 7 and the number of staff from 13,000 to just 9,000.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary-General of NATO and former Danish Prime Minister, when asked about whether European and NATO cuts could undermine military capabilities said to look at the Czechs, who are increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, despite “drastic cuts in public spending.” He positively spun the general reduction with a biological metaphor: “This shows that it is possible to cut fat while building muscle.”

Gates had complained of “Cold War-era structures” that were too heavy, needed to be streamlined

Worries the Americans, rightly. Since the 1990s, British contributions to Americans wars have tended be greater than those of all other European allies put together. They also tend to be politically reliable, not asking too many questions and with no penchant for grandstanding.

The British Armed Forces are about to see a 10-20% cut to their budget as part of the coalition government’s austerity measures.

The RAF’s fleet may shrink from 760 to 550 over the next 10 years and a planned purchase of 48 Eurofighter Typhoons will be cancelled. Many of the Army’s heavy armor and artillery will be mothballed but the overall size is to remain at about 110,000 until 2015 (apparently because that’s when the “combat role” in Afghanistan will end!).

GERMANY

Last August, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg proposed a drastic reduction of the Bundeswehr by one third, going from 252,000 men to 165,000. This would not necessarily reduce the ability to intervene overseas. It would a professionalization of an army still based on conscription. However, for this reason, the reform will be difficult and has split the ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union.

A recent report by the French Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques cited potential risks in the cuts of “incoherence in capabilities” and a “technological decoupling [décrochage]”.

Clinton Warning

http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2010/10/clinton-warns-europeans-against-defence-cuts/69190.aspx

  • Hillary to EU: Stop cutting your defence budgets
  • Clinton: “NATO has been the most successful alliance for defensive purposes in the history of the world… but it has to be maintained. Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions.
  • US particularly worried about UK cuts. The UK, traditionally, provides as many troops for US operations as entire rest of the EU put together.
  • (Afghanistan, Iraq, the first Gulf War)
  • Gates: “My worry is the more our allies cut their capabilities, the more people will look to the United States to cover gaps.”
  • Discussed NATO “new strategic concept” and anti-missile shield
  • Clinton with Ashton: “as strong as ever”
  • Shopping!!! (Europe not EU)
  • “new strategic concept”
  • Exercises in vacuous profundities.
  • Discussed Serbia, Kosovo, Pakistan…

UK defence spending worries US

Meanwhile, British officials were keen to reassure their American counterparts.

  • Liam Fox told Gates that key programs would not be cut
  • Martin Longden, pres attaché for British embassy in Washington: “We enter it as America’s most important military ally, and we’ll leave this review still as American’s most important ally”.
  • Fox to Gates: we will keep special forces, buys of F-35 jets and nuclear forces
  • “Those three things our friends in America care deeply about, and we understood that”.
  • Anonymous U.S. official: “I think we’re confident the UK will maintain a robust military capability”.
  • Fox to reporters (apparently): we will have less deployable troops but will retain forces at “a respectable and useful level.”

http://euobserver.com/9/31050

I am going to paraphrase Kissinger on “strategic superiority”: What is a “strategic concept? Can you eat it?

  • Foreign and defense ministers endorsed draft strategic concept meant to adapt alliance to new threats such as cyber attacks
  • Germany and France at odds over role of nuclear weapons and missile defense
  • NATO was once a legitimate defensive alliance, now it is mainly an organism meant to help “coral” the little armies of the United States’ European cousins into something half-useful.
  • Clinton: ensures “that NATO evolves as the world evolves… relying on the strategies of the past simply will not suffice.”
  • Praised by ministers as “short and readable”, to be approved in November
  • Rasmussen: “convergence on what modern defense entails and on balancing the importance of having a strong deterrence posture with the desire to strengthen arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts”
  • Rasmussen thinks NATO leaders will agree to interlink European systems with US-developped missile defense under a NATO umbrella
  • Minimual cost (147M euros over 10 years), Russia to be invited (…)
  • Herve Morin compared it to the Maginot line!
  • “You protect yourself against the Apocalypse, when the best way of avoiding Apocalypse is to be able to make yourself respected with a military tool and a credible defense”. Dismissing German comments about nuclear disarmament.
  • “Arms control and disarmament must be the trademarks of our political alliance” says foreign German Guido Westerwelle
  • Out of question for US

Poles Dubious

http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/362691-russia-divides-alliance

  • Don’t let Russia join NATO!
  • Third strategic review since end of Cold War
  • “The idea of including Russia” “is like a red rag to a bull for Poland.”
  • Meant to protect against the Mideast
  • Core Europe vs. Atlanticists vs. Ossies
  • First likes Russia, second wants US and fight terrorism, last considers Russia the major threat
  • “NATO’s core mission, to protect the 900 million citizens of NATO countries from attack, must never change – but it must be a modern defense, against modern threats”
  • UK to cut by 2-4 billion, Germany planning 6.3B cut
  • “President Barack Obama is worried that NATO will become little more than a talking shop, and has demanded an end to the requirement that the alliance’s decisions be backed by unanimous vote, which has been a feature of NATO proceedings for the last 61 years.” Wants stronger SG powers in time of crisis.
  • Germany, Norway, Holland, Belgium want to remove nukes from territory
  • France doesn’t care
  • “The differences between Paris and Berlin, whose relations are already strained, centre on how to strike the right balance between the traditional reliance on nuclear deterrents and the new anti-missile shield.”
  • Worth noting that Europeans are still among the biggest defense spenders in the world, the UK and France are ahead of Russia
  • EU as  a whole second only the U.S.
  • Obama had wanted more troops in Afghanistan last, got squat
  • What are European armies for? National defense? Expeditionary forces for “neocolonial” adventures in the Third World? The more humdrum police-like work of peacekeeping?

The Leaders We Deserve:

http://blogs.euobserver.com/waterfield/2010/10/15/the-leaders-we-deserve/

John McCormick's "The European Superpower"

A title like The European Superpower is inevitably going to be hyperbolic. Usually, this is linked to the kind of sensationalism meant to promote a book: provocative ideas, easy to contest, they’re more likely to make a splash. Ostensibly, the John McCormick’s book is similar to Jeremy Rifkin’s The European Dream (they even have similar graphics). There are critical differences however: Dream was a bestseller, Superpower is not, Dream is long in form and opinion, Superpower is succinct and far more nuanced than the title suggests.

At the core is a notion that power’s nature has changed. Today, international relations is not dominated by wars or the threat of them, but by trade and (ideally) cooperation on trade, international crime, migration, climate change and other transnational issues. In this, business is the most important, and in this area the EU is a fully-fledged actor. The Common Commercial Policy is a reality. In bilateral negotiations and in disputes at the WTO – whether on U.S. steel tariffs, GMOs or hormone beef – the EU is a single economic unit. The power of persuasion and negotiation that comes from being the largest economy in the world (and one with significantly more international trade than the US) is nothing to be scoffed at.

Somewhat less persuasively, McCormick cites the emergence of a postmodern aspect of international relations – mainly involving norms and civilian power – in which the EU excels. This sounds a little fluffy, and it is,

Soviet military power, for instance, was the most useless sort of thing. So many thousands of tanks, so many millions of soldiers, so many thousands of nuclear warheads too. And for what? To put down Poles and Czechs every ten years?  For a war with the West that would lead to the annihilation of the world?

Did that benefit the Soviet Union and its citizens or did it prevent a constructive relationship with the West?

In truth the meaning

U.S. military power is not so different.

The futility of violence, the limits of intervention,

The book is strongest in its assessment of the failures of military power. The point need not be belabored.  EU “defense policy” remains something a bad joke, US defense

The ability to apply violence is not the same as power (the ability to get what one wants). And if we look at a host of US military interventions since the Second World War

British Europhobes and Van Rompuy's Speech: What the Man Said vs. What the Trolls Pretended to Hear

Trolls are a fact of live on the internet. What we consider a little less is that professional trolls also exist very prominently in our media and politics. The best way for a little-known politician or aspiring pundit to get attention upon himself, and so “succeed” professionally, is to say something outrageous, regardless of facts or common decency. The road to notoriety, votes and book sales is paved with slurs, half-truths and outright lies, preferably delivered in the most offensive way possible. In the United States of America, being a troll, and in particular the ability to manufacture controversy, has become almost a de facto requirement for appearing on many “mainstream” news channels.

So the less thoughtful of the British Europhobes are trolling as they’ve always trolled. The most recent has been over a recent speech by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council (his main role is to chair EU summits of heads of state/government). Van Rompuy is obviously not a particularly inspiring political figure, but that is no reason to lie and miscast what he says. By parsing a few quotes and monstrously distorting them, several pundits and politicians have made claims that “the blustering Belgian” was issuing a “diktat” and was threatening to “abolish our nation”.

They make these claims without referring to a single concrete policy proposal mentioned in the speech. But what did Van Rompuy actually say? I will give a summary and then take on the various allegations of the Eurotrolls. (The full text can be found here and is quite short.)

 What Was Said

The speech, entitled “A curtain went up,” was given on November 9, the “Fateful Day” in German history which is the anniversary of numerous critical events in the country’s history including the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the antisemitic Kristallnacht in 1938 and the fall of the monarchy in 1918. Van Rompuy mainly talked about the reunification of East and West at the end of the Cold War, his “anticommunist convictions,” and the idea that this event marked Europe’s “return to the world stage”. Seeing the unification of East and West as one Europe’s great victories, he praised the possibility of further enlargement.

In terms of policy, he urged better monitoring of European economies and government deficits, endorsed Angela Merkel’s “limited treaty amendment” for a permanent “bailout” mechanism, said reform of pensions and social security should be left to the States, and praised the “political courage” of austerity governments (presumably include Britain). He also said he was sceptical of a European tax saying that it was “not a top priority,” adding that “let’s be prudent, but let’s discuss it”.

 These cautious and rather humdrum policy statements were studiously ignored by the Eurotrolls. Obviously one could focus on what aspect or the other of the speech.

Deutsche Welle stressed

EU Observer on the warning against Nationalism: http://euobserver.com/9/31240

And indeed, one could be thoughtfully critical as The Economist‘s Charlemagne was in a recent post.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2010/11/armistice_day_europe

Indeed, one sentence of the speech could be honestly challenged on principle and as a hyperbolic overstatement: “In every Member State, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion: it is a lie!” But the Europhobes went much further, perversely distorting many of Van Rompuy’s statements to manufacture a controversy.

“The Homogenous Nation-State”

“All our countries have to deal with a new diversity. The time of the homogenous nation-state is over. Each European country has to be open to different cultures”

This statement might seem like a banal and innocuous statement. But to the trained Eurotroll, this is gold. UKIP leader Nigel Farage and the Daily Mail‘s Daniel Johnson immediately pounced on this statement.

In an article entitled “The end of Britain as a nation state? Not on your life, Mr Van Rompuy,” cites the “homogenous nation” line as proof that Van Rompuy “has finally revealed his true colours”. Johnson continues, saying that “My first reaction to this latest diktat was to laugh out loud”, even though it isn’t exactly what diktat he is so upset about, given that he doesn’t immediately cite any of Van Rompuy’s actual proposals.

The good Mr. Farage cites the same line in a press release and draws the conclusion that Van Rompuy “wants to abolish our nation. The only non-nation is Belgium, his own country.” His press release even cites Farage’s own most illustrious episode of trolling: At Van Rompuy’s first speech he declared that the Belgian had “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-level bank clerk.” Farage is the kind of demagogue who thinks saving England means acting like a poorly-raised child.

http://www.ukip.org/content/latest-news/1978-van-rompuy-unfit-to-govern-farage

I have to say, it is both hypocritical and pathetic that Britons should be feigning outrage over these statements. Britain is probably the most multicultural country in Europe (and London certainly is the most multicultural city). Indeed, Britain has never been a “homogenous nation-state” but a union of 4 nations and you’ll be damned if you ever make the mistake of confusing Irish, Scots or Welsh with the English. Indeed, Farage’s insulting Belgium for “not being a country” is a little rich coming from one which Catholic Irish have tried so hard to free themselves from and which the Scottish don’t seem particularly keen on either.

Van Rompuy’s statement is then not only true for Europe but is also particularly true for Britain. Yet somehow, a Eurotroll can turn an innocuous truism into a plot for world domination (which only gallant Little Englanders can prevent).

“The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear”

The other offending remark was a strong condemnation of nationalism. Let us look at the offending passage, which manages to cite Roosevelt while also channeling Yoda:

“Franklin Roosevelt said: ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear. Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war (“le nationalisme, c’est la guerre” [quoting a famous speech by François Mitterrand]).

Today’s nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride of one’s own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of the others.

Fear of ‘enemies’ within our borders and beyond our borders. It is a feeling all over Europe, not of a majority, but everywhere present. Our Union is born out of a will to cooperate, to reconcile and to act in solidarity.

Fear is the source of immobility, of a lack of ambition, or worse, of protectionism, in Europe and globally. Those who are afraid of the loss of jobs and prosperity will thus create precisely what they wanted to avoid.”

In post entitled “Herman Van Rompuy: Euroscepticism leads to war,” Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan is unhappy with this statement against bigotry and protectionism.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100063305/herman-vab-rompuy-euroscepticism-leads-to-war/

Hannan condemns this, saying that “A patriot doesn’t belittle other countries: he cheers their sense of national pride, and values their freedom.” A fine statement, but wouldn’t it also be fair to say often, today’s nationalism, leads to negative feelings towards the others, “others” like immigrants, Muslims or Roma?

Meanwhile, Mary Ellen Synon (again from the Daily Mail) in “Van Rompuy: more dangerous than he looks” makes a similar argument on nationalism. She calls the statement “Tripe. And I have to call it tripe, because in Brussels, ‘nationalism’ is not nationalism as we understand it.” She engages in some truly shameless slurs and fearmongering:

Van Rompuy is precisely the man to lead the Belgianisation of Europe. Make no mistake, the EU is an empire with global ambitions. It was no mere gesture that in his acceptance speech as president of the council, Van Rompuy extolled ‘global governance.’ Pay the man the compliment of believing he means what he says. And then be prepared to treat him as the dangerous, cynical anti-patriot he is.

Even “global governance” – a not-particularly-European term which can refer to international cooperation on almost anything from counter-terrorism, anti-drug and international crime efforts, climate change and environmentalism, trade or non-proliferation – has been turned into a new bogeyman. In an open profession of her yellow journalism, her blog is entitled “Euroseptic,” though presumably not in reference to the quality of her own writing.

http://synonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2010/11/van-rompuy-more-dangerous-than-he-looks.html

The Gutter Journalism of Daniel Johnson

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1328579/Herman-Van-Rompuy-The-end-Britain-nation-state.html#ixzz14yGBeUlV

I would like to focus on Daniel Johnson’s article. He is the son of journalist Paul Johnson and editor of the cultural magazine Standpoint. Given this, he must be held to a higher standard of truth than if he were just a second rate populist politician or a minor yellow journalist. Yet, his article shows the most distortions and untruths of any of our Eurotrolls thus far.

I have already mentioned above Johnson’s condemnation of an imaginary “diktat” in the speech and the statement that Europe is not made up of “homogenous nations”.

Then Johnson really turns up the fear-o-meter. Accusing Van Rompuy of “empire-building” and of firing the “first shot in a new campaign to speed the transfer of sovereignty to Brussels”. “Not since the days of Jacques Delors (…) have the Euro-federalists been so bold in setting out their agenda,” he says. This is a claim which requires an impressive amount of selective amnesia given that we had the Euro and the failed Constitutional Treaty in meantime, two projects of far greater ambition than anything Van Rompuy has proposed.

He does cite David Cameron’s “abject humiliation” on the European Court of Human Rights ruling that prisoners should be given the right to vote. Terrible, however, the ECHR has no relationship with the EU, but is a pan-European Cold War institution, originally set up in the 1950s (it also judges cases from Russia, Turkey and the Balkans).

There is obviously no mention of Van Rompuy’s policies or his scepticism of a European tax. Indeed, urges Cameron to start “wooing Chancellor Merkel,” to undermine Van Rompuy, when support for Merkel’s proposal for closer monitoring of European economies and a permanent “bailout” mechanism was one of the few concrete policy proposals the speech mentioned.

Instead he indulges in some good old-fashioned frog-bashing. Johnson sees the appointment of a Frenchman, Michel Barnier, as Commissioner for the Single Market (thus responsible for finance) as one of the signs of “an attempt by Europe to get its hands on the City [of London]”. I recently saw Commissioner Barnier give a very cordial talk in English to members of the British Bankers’ Association. These scions of finance, Randian supermen though they may have been, did not seem particularly hostile to former mayor of Grenoble.

He also cites Brussels’ “bloated budget” which, for reference, is equal to just above 1% of Europe’s GDP, or about fortieth of that of national governments. But before Johnson gets hard-working Englishmen riled at continental parasites, we have to note that because of the size of the British rebate (€5.66 billion) the country’s net contribution to the EU budget is relatively small. At €1.36 billion in 2009, it was about a sixth that of Germany and two-thirds the size of that of the Netherlands. http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2010/09/poland-biggest-beneficiary-of-eu-funds/69010.aspx

Johnson concludes: “If Mr Van Rompuy wants a fight, David Cameron should give him one.”

Now this is the sort of shameless, irresponsible yellow journalism which Britain has become famous for. And I hate to get personal, but I can do no better than quote Daniel Johnson’s father, Paul Johnson from 2003:

“I’ve stopped writing for the Daily Mail. They were most anxious for me to carry on, always ringing me up, but I came to the conclusion that that kind of journalism is bad for the country, bad for society, bad for the newspaper.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3605826/Im-very-fond-of-that-boy-Tony.html

And who can top that?

Resumption

Activity on this blog has slowed a bit. There’s no good reason for that other than things piling up. There’s plenty worthy of comment on the EU’s response

The French Ideology: Great Powerdom vs. Quality of Life

French identity relative to other countries today is based, among other things, on two major pillars. The first is as the last European nation which aspires to be an independent great power (si, si). In the context of the limits of NATO (really Anglo-French limits) in helping the rebels in Libya, Jean Quatremer gives a very lucid rundown of the history of Gaullist ambitions despite France’s limited military power. In particular:

But the illusion of greatness has nonetheless been prolonged in matters of defense. Armed with a strong defense industry and especially with the atom bomb since 1960, France as acted “as if”, maintained by the illusions of De Gaulle the magician.

Quatremer goes through the aborted European Defense Community of the 1950s, the end of Communism and demilitarization of Europe, and the attempt to use the European Union as a lever for French influence in the world. He ultimately finds however that Europe is too internally divided, too demilitarized, too dependent on NATO to fulfill France’s ambitions, and hence will be reduced to a “big Switzerland”.

The conclusion he draws from this I think is typical of French strategic identity: “The United States can sleep peacefully, the Europeans won’t be the ones to trouble its slumber.” I think this is, incidentally, profoundly wrong-headed.

The history of European integration – in particular of the “Founding Fathers” and of the European Defense Community – is of a profoundly Atlanticist and pro-American effort. Nor has a European, even the most Gaullist, ever done anything more than speeches against American aggression anywhere. There’s no reason to think, even united, that Europeans would play a different role than the current “good cop, bad cop” setup.

The second pillar is that of “quality of life”. We may not be the biggest, wealthiest or strongest nation, so the argument goes, but there is a sense in which we are striving for balanced lives in France XXX.

I refer in particular to The Independent citing OECD statistics indicating that the French do conform to the stereotype of eating and sleeping to excess. The French apparently sleep 8.5 hours a night on average, excellent for one’s health. They spend two hours per day eating and talking around a table food, twice as much as North Americans, and yet are almost three times less likely to obese.

Other evidence of this emphasis on “quality” lies in French working habit – working less but being as productive as anyone – and its famously good healthcare system (rated the best overall in the world in 2000 by WHO when it discontinued rankings).

There is of course a fair bit of generalization and stereotype in these two “pillars” of French identity. Still, I would urge France to take pride and continue to strive more in the direction of quality and less that of power. One can slips very easily into war, imperialism and delusions of grandeur. The other means, very concretely, trying to have the healthiest and “fullest” lives for its citizens.

This means, above all, avoiding the pitfalls of the “affluent society”, which means literal and metaphorical obesity. The hummer and the three meter waist-line are the same enemy.

Der Spiegel challenges Merkel's false stereotypes about lazy, profligate Southern Europe

I have long thought that opposition to social democracy, welfare or even just plain old solidarity, is often basically grounded in prejudice and racism. One sees it in the US, in Belgium between Flemish and Walloons, in Italy even between north and south of the same country.

So it wasn’t particularly original of Merkel to package her opposition to restructuring of the Greek debt.

The unwillingness to

She condemned the whole of southern Europe to lazy, profligate, freeloading n****rdom.

You can read a strong defense against

http://www.euractiv.com/en/socialeurope/unions-urge-ministers-ease-pressure-greece-news-504895