Obama Snubs EU

And after those nice Europeans gave Obama that peace prize! (well, the Nobel foundation provides the funding, Norwegians make the pick, dunno how EU members felt).

From the Financial Times:

President Barack Obama will not attend a European Union-US summit to have been held in Spain in May, dealing a further blow to the EU’s attempts to be taken seriously as a coherent force in international affairs.

Philip Gordon, US assistant secretary of state for Europe, insisted that Washington was committed to good relations with both the EU and Spain, but the announcement will nevertheless be greeted with dismay in Madrid and disappointment in Brussels.

Diplomats in Brussels interpreted Mr Obama’s decision not as a snub to Spain, the current holder of the six-month rotating EU presidency under the union’s complicated constitutional arrangements, but rather as a signal to the EU as a whole that he was unwilling to cross the Atlantic to take part in summits that risked lacking substance.

One diplomat said Mr Obama had been “fairly unimpressed” with the results of an EU-US summit staged in Prague last year, when leaders of all 27 EU member states turned up to meet the president, eager to bask in his reflected glory.

Yves here. Now I’m no diplomat, but it seems to me that the idea of showing up to pow wows only when a deal is to be cut is a false economy; there might be some merit in spending time with other world leaders when there are no pressing issues on the table. If there was some pressing business here, like key legislation pending, or a disaster of some sort, I could see begging off. But it doesn’t appear that the White House offered an excuse to make the turndown a tad more palatable.

Swedish Lex gave an off-the-cuff reaction:

I agree that it must be difficult to deal with Europeans who cannot agree amongst themselves which EU leader should be hosting the summit and where it should be held. Furthermore, EU summits have always been not so exciting talk shops poor on photo ops and I am sure that, on the whole, the U.S. is right to give a lot/more attention to Asia and China. However, Obama is demonstrating an almost total tone deafness if he does not come. Remember the welcome of the Berliners when Obama was only a CANDIDATE? With which economic bloc should Obama do his utmost to co-ordinate trade, environmental and currency policies towards China with?

Sarkozy – who clearly is over sensitive, I know – has reportedly still not forgiven Obama for not wanting to dine with him when Obama visited Paris last summer. Obama preferred to do some tourism and shopping with the family and packs of journalists instead.

And then Obama is surprised that Europeans do not want to send more troops fight the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

This is diplomacy and style at the level of George W. Had the U.S. been undisputed empire of the world, then Obama could have afforded to behave like Augustus.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. robert jarvella

    Your lead-in sentence is a little off target. It is Norway, not Sweden, that chooses winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Norway does not belong to the EU.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Correct, but the money still comes from the Nobel Foundation. But thanks for the catch, will tweak the opening.

  2. Suffern ACE

    I can understand this. Every time he goes abroad, the foreign press reports that the normal diplomatic things like having dinners, shaking hands and looking concerned but not accomplishing much are signs that America has lost its influence in the world. He’s gone on his goodwill tours. The last trip to Asia was a “disaster” in which a bow that was too low in Japan and the lack of a speech condemning Chinese human rights abuses was written up as the end of influence, even though goodwill tours don’t usually produce much.

    So yeah, I think not having something that will be viewed as a major accomplishment on the agenda would continue that narrative. The decision to stay home is probably more driven by domestic politics.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s a fair point, but running from meetings because the press didn’t give you glowing reports seems shortsighted.

      US influence IS waning. One can argue that makes adept geopolitics even more important.

      Moreover, negotiators have been able to turn position of seemingly limited influence into victory by adeptly framing the key issues under debate. One striking example was Talleyrand’s performance at the Congress of Vienna in 1814. Thus participating in seemingly low stakes meetings to help frame the debate around issues that are not gong away (climate change, trade policy, financial services regulation) would not be a waste of time, particularly if Team Obama lowered expectations for the meetings.

  3. Diego Méndez

    We’ve got lots of press reports in Europe citing US political scientists, claiming Obama feels Europe is “irrelevant”. According to them, Obama wants to be “the first Pacific president”.

    Obama has been a blessing for the world, no matter all those things he’s gotten wrong. But we Europeans are taking notes. I can’t see how the largest unified trading and economic bloc in the world (EU = 25% of world GDP) can be irrelevant, especially when we are their only significant allies in Afghanistan and any other war zone that may come to be, and there are so many economic issues on the table: world recession, global warming, financial regulation, etc.

  4. a

    I completely agree with Obama on this one. The Europeans “cannot agree amongst themselves which EU leader should be hosting the summit and where it should be held.”

    “Sarkozy – who clearly is over sensitive, I know – has reportedly still not forgiven Obama for not wanting to dine with him when Obama visited Paris last summer.”

    It dates well before this. When Obama was first elected, Sarkozy – incredibly – wanted to be the first foreign leader to meet him, and had his plane waiting on the tarmac if only Obama would give him the orders. Obama, quite sensibly, said no; it’s simply not American protocol. It’s basically a no-win situation for Obama; these dinners are hardly social, but occasions for the French President to present his laundry list of what he wants from Obama. Either Obama goes and is accused later of arrogantly ignoring the wishes of the French; or he doesn’t go, and is accused of arrogance again. And this from the French!

  5. Diego Méndez

    a, we promised to accept Gitmo terrorists we have nothing to do with into our countries, just for Obama’s sake. We promised to increase troops in Afghanistan, a war we have nothing to do with, just for Obama’s sake. We’ve supported Obama’s stance internationally on everything from global warming, through free trade with dictatorial China, up to nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

    Now may I ask you what has Obama done for Europe?

    1. a

      “we promised to accept Gitmo terrorists we have nothing to do with into our countries, just for Obama’s sake.”

      No, not for Obama’s sake, because Europe wants the U.S. to close Gitmo.

      “We promised to increase troops in Afghanistan, a war we have nothing to do with, just for Obama’s sake.”

      I’d suggest that the US has nothing to do with this war, either. It was Bush’s war, furthered by a delirious right wing. But anyway, Europe was already there in Afghanistan. And Europe basically had the same choice as Obama: leave, stay with the same troop level, or try one last push before getting out. It looks like both Obama and Europe chose the last. IMHO it’s the wrong choice, but I guess we’ll have to wait to see how it pans out.

      “We’ve supported Obama’s stance internationally on everything from global warming…” WTF? It’s more like Obama came around to the European view.

      “…free trade with dictatorial China” What has Obama to do with this? It’s Clinton who pushed through the entrance of China into the WTO.

      “up to nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.” Um, it looks to me that Sarkozy is more rabid about Iran than Obama. And where are the Europeans vis-a-vis NK?

      “Now may I ask you what has Obama done for Europe?” So why does Obama have to do anything for Europe? The US protects the sea lanes and has provided for European security for 65 years. When the Berlin Wall fell, it was the US which accepted and pushed for unification, over the objections of France and Britain. It’s the US which pushed for, and took the risks, of NATO expansion to the East. Before, Germany was split in two with the eastern part hostile. Now Germany doesn’t have any hostile country as a neighbour. I’m sorry, but I think that warrants payback from Germany for the next 50 years.

      Sorry, but this dynamic happens every time a US President changes office. Whatever President is in office, the Europeans winge and complain how they are being ignored; how they have great ideas but the US doesn’t listen; and how *anyone* would be better. Then the new President comes in, the Europeans are briefly as full of hope as an ingenue, and then the whole cycle starts over.

      If Europe wants to be important, it shouldn’t look to the US, it should look to itself. If it wants to have a voice in foreign affairs, then (say) it nominates to the post of EU Minister someone other than an inexperienced English Lady.

      1. Chris


        Bush I was not a supporter of German unification, anymore than he was a supporter of Chinese democracy movement in the spring of 1989.

        Check out the “Chicken Kiev” speech. Bush was a follower of Thatcher who feared 80 million Germans in the middle of Europe.

        Helmut Kohl was the architect of re-unification. Full-stop. He forced the issue through with the one for one currency exchange,(irreversible once done) but more so politically through rising to the occasion as a leader.

        The modalities, European central bank under the French, Monetary Union, massive devaluation of the pound against the D-Mark, were what the US, French (Mitterand) and British were prepared and constrained to accept to counter the phobias about Germans united in the middle of Europe — Horrors.

        What happened under Clinton, with NATO expansion and why, is a different story altogether, more to do with “Shock Therapy” in the East and Harvard’s stock market expertize.

        I doubt there are many in Europe who would subscribe to the narrative you present, though it does reflect the kind of thinking which often leads Europeans to ridicule US arrogance and ignorance, even if for mistaken reasons.

        And that, with apologies for such a digression, is where we rejoin, what I take to be Yves well-placed concern about Obama’s non-attendance and imputed non-attention. For what can be publically presented as non-attention can be privately discussed as arrogance on top of ignorance and lack of concern, and make for future difficulties where there don’t have to be any, or not in that form.

        1. a

          “Bush I was not a supporter of German unification…”

          Based on British Foreign Office and Cabinet Office documents:

          “Margaret Thatcher admitted in her memoirs that her policy on German reunification was an “unambiguous failure”. Although she had welcomed the democratic revolution in East Germany, she was alarmed by the possibility of German reunification that suddenly became very real in the weeks that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. She believed Germany’s “national character”, as well as its size and position in the centre of Europe, made it an inherently “destabilizing rather than a stabilizing force in Europe”. She also worried, with some justification, that rapid reunification might undermine Mikhail Gorbachev’s position in the Soviet Union. However, with President Bush all for German reunification and Gorbachev unable to stop it, Thatcher became almost completely isolated over the next few months. ” Isolated, except for the French, that is…

          “European central bank under the French” Truly a bizarre statement.

          “I doubt there are many in Europe who would subscribe to the narrative you present, though it does reflect the kind of thinking which often leads Europeans to ridicule US arrogance and ignorance, even if for mistaken reasons.”

          Ah yes, Europeans ridicule American ignorance and then in the same go call the Americans arrogant.

        2. Peter T

          Bush I not a supporter of German reunification? – Thatcher would have been happy, but the Americans were the most important supporter of Kohl in his maneuvering to a peaceful reunification under the NATO umbrella. I remember James Baker’s speech in 1989 that Germans should not be impatient in their drive to reunification – so be patient but go forward, and so did the Americans act also. The big difference between the US and the European Nato states except Germany seemed that the US did not fear a unified Germany, because even after reunification it would be small compared with the US. The European states, on the other hand, still had memories from WW II and were worried how a larger Germany would throw its weight around. The economical collapse in Eastern Germany in the 1990s showed that a larger Germany would not add much to Germany’s weight in the near future.

          Bush and Gorbatchev were the only ones with a realistic power to stop reunification, Gorbatchev by force, and Bush by coordinating the political opposition to it. Both chose not to use their options, and the German people forced a faster reunification process, rather than waiting any longer.

      2. Diego Méndez

        Europe wants human rights to be respected everywhere, as supposedly does the US. However, the US is not accepting terrorists from Chinese jails in order to protect them from abuse. Can you see the difference between supporting human rights and solving other nations’ problems?

        On China and global warming, Europe is a hard-liner. Europe would gladly put tariffs on China for polluting, and push for a real plan (with real costs) in order to avoid global warming. If Europe hasn’t done it yet, it is just for Obama’s sake.

        On Afghanistan, you are absolutely wrong. With Bush we mainly sent peace-keepers; with Obama, we’re going full into war. We kill people, we bomb civilians, we increase our troop numbers and military equipment. All this in a war we don’t have anything to do with, no European requested it, no European planned it, and no European believed in.

        We are doing this just for Obama’s sake.

    2. Vinny G.

      Ok Diego, Europe made all those mistakes. But it’s time it stops making them. Europe does not need a bankrupt, impotent, corrupt nation like the US. What Europe now needs to focus on is finding a currency model that works for Germany and Spain (add Greece and others to that list), it needs to hurry up the ascention of the Western Balkans, and it needs to expand east, toward the oil-rich Caspian states. Forget America!


      1. fajensen

        and it needs to expand east, toward the oil-rich Caspian states

        No, Europe needs to invest in energy-independence instead of bombing tribespeople!. It is the US that wants the EU to include Turkey; IMO to poison the EU from the inside and thereby eliminate a potential competitor..

  6. gordon

    I doubt whether it could be a case of “a signal to the EU as a whole that he was unwilling to cross the Atlantic to take part in summits that risked lacking substance”. After all, he was quite happy to cross the Atlantic to pick up a Nobel prize and take credit for a non-agreement on climate change in Berlin. No substance to either of those things.

    I would guess the thinking is purely domestic-political; not much photo-opportunity, no likelihood of pretending to save the world or being seen as some kind of Saviour by adoring Europeans. There would be a chance that he might be criticised. No payoff in Peoria.

    And Europeans don’t vote in US elections.

  7. Kevin de Bruxelles

    In order to understand this move by Obama one needs to shift views and see this through two frameworks not often discussed in the media.

    Firstly, Obama, as the ruler of America, is far more powerful globally than Augustus every dreamed of being. Once the last two pockets of regional power resistance is broken (Iran and North Korea) Obama (or his successor) will truly be in a position of being the global Hobbesian sovereign. This is bipartisan foreign policy and although not trumpeted or emphasized in US marketing, it is clearly the goal.

    Secondly, Obama has transcended being a mere politician; he now represents, according to Naomi Klein, the most successful brand ever created and his accession to power has transformed America–through absolutely no changes in policy–from being seen as the global tyrant to being viewed as the wise and benevolent monarch in the popular mind throughout the world. In terms of global political capital America has gone from bankrupt to overflowing coffers through the ascension to power of the guy formerly known as Barry Durham serving as a magnet for the audacity of the world’s hope.

    Now one may object and say that America’s economic productivity has declined in recent years and thus America’s global power is diminishing. I’ve read endless articles (mostly from French thinkers who I highly respect) that argue this thesis. The problem is that this decline in productivity is exactly what you would expect if either a nation or noble family were transitioning from being the most powerful among equals to sovereignty. The job of a sovereign is not to be productive. After all the the House of Bourbon was not judged by how much income it produced. Sovereigns are judged by how well they keep the peace (monopoly on violence) and administer justice. Because of this sovereigns are not productive but are instead parasitical in the sense that their subjects must support them, as many nations already do through the purchases of treasury bills that may or may not ever be paid back. Look for these payments to stop being voluntary in the mid-term as the cost of turning the globe from a Hobbesian state of nature to an American-lead commonwealth continues to climb.

    But in America’s quest to become the global sovereign, it cannot help but prefer a divide and conquer strategy and so large international organizations present a challenge. On the one hand these organizations, like the EU, concentrate power so that instead of negotiating with 25 separate countries if America can simply dominate the international organization then so much the better. But on the other hand the potential accumulation of power in an organization like the EU can be just as well be seen as a threat.

    If the world is seen through an analogy of Medieval society, the US would be the monarch, the wealthy countries (Japan, Korea, Western Europe) would be the nobility, the BRIC countries and a few others would be the aspiring merchant class, with the rest of the world being more or less peasants. In this light it makes no sense for the monarch to encourage his nobles to band together in an alliance that one day could turn against him and challenge his sovereignty. So America has always been at best passively aggressive to the European project. It can accept it as a free trade organization but works feverishly behind the scenes–through its most trusted fifth columnist nobleman, Britain–to undermine the European project from advancing towards political union. This was best shown in 2003 when the US intervened to try to get Turkey EU membership which would have made further integration impossible. And the US goes absolutely ballistic when Europeans start talking about any European defence institutions beyond the scale of symbolism.

    So not only has Obama no interest in allowing the glow of his global brand to shine warmly over the EU and their leaders, he also is undoubtedly punishing the Europeans for their flagrant displays of lèse majesté during his last two trips to Copenhagen. I mean, when Nero showed up to compete in the Olympic Games of 67 he was declared the winner of all the competitions he entered, even though he dropped out of one chariot race before the finish. Obama showed up in Copenhagen and the first time those disrespectful Europeans didn’t even award his city the Olympics, and the second time they haughtliy rejected his Potemkin environmental proposals.

    All sovereigns have limits to their powers, and the US is certainly no exception. The key for the wise hegemon is not to go into situations where these limits of power will be spotlighted. Going to Oslo to pick up his Nobel Prize (gag!) did not contain any such dangers. Going to Spain in the Spring to be lectured about banking regulations does and Obama, from the point of view of his interests, is smart not to go.

    And besides this may be a very busy Spring in the Persian Gulf as Obama may choose to cash in some of that global political capital his brand has gained America by attacking Iran.

    And just to be clear I am not necessarily cheerleading the phenomenon of US power, but it is what I see happening. Just look at the ubiquitous spread of American (and to a lesser extent British) popular culture through out the world. The shows the world watches on TV, the music they listen too, and the clothes they wear are primarily American inspired. This matches uncannily to how a royal court would set esoteric fashion standards for the rest of society. But of course this quest for power will indeed ultimately fail and this failure will not be driven by other states but instead by small scale non-state actors who evolve inexpensive and innovative ways to fight US military might as already seen in the rise of insurgencies and Fourth Generation warfare.

    1. Valissa

      Great analysis… however in addition to all of that, there is the very simple fact that Obama has never seemed (to me) to be comfortable with British and European leaders the way Clinton was. He does not seem to be interested in building personal relationships with other leaders. And while Bush often seemed a bit dorky in his dealings with Europe he still made some efforts there.

      Not long ago, Mort Zuckerman (former Obama backer and supporter) said “He’s improved America’s image in the world. He absolutely did. But you have to translate that into something. Let me tell you what a major leader said to me recently. “We are convinced,” he said, “that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned,” he said “that he is not strong to support his friends.” The political leadership of the world is very, very dismayed.”

      My personal take in this is that Obama is a lightweight and is in over his depth when it’s comes to dealing with leaders of other countries who are more experienced and savvy than he is. Remember that Obama had the weakest resume of any presidential candidate ever. He has NO background in international relations and never showed any personal interest in that topic either. Or to use your terms, IMO, a strong king would boldly go to Europe and strengthen relations with the nobility, bully them in person if necessary… while a weak (in character) king avoids such a meeting because they would only look weaker.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        This is a man whose childhood, if we are still to believe the official story, was in Jakarta, who then transferred to Hawaii, before finally making a home on the US mainland as a young adult.

        He ought to have inter-cultural skills honed to a fine art, but he looks increasingly like just another kid from Chicago.

    2. Anonymous Jones

      Fantastic comment. I love the Medieval society analogy; it is useful to examine past power relationships, especially consistent ones, to diagnose current power relationships. I’m going to steal the analogy and use it as often as possible. Thanks!

    3. DownSouth

      Kevin de Bruxelles,

      The thing that bothers me about your analysis is how much it has in common with that of the neo-cons, guys like Francis Fukuyama and the fellows at the Project for a New American Century.

      Unlike them, I believe you when you say “I am not necessarily cheerleading the phenomenon of US power. “ But for me, concepts like global US sovereignty, “Pax Americana” and The End of History are nothing more than dangerous pipe dreams, with little more to inform them than some benighted ideology.

      And talking of monarchs, here is but one apt historical example for President Obama to think about:

      Suns that rise must go down. The year 1686, which saw the completion of Le Brun’s Salon of Peace and Salon of War, marked the climax of Louis XIV’s reign. But already decline was close at hand. The King’s military victories and dreams of hegemony gradually antagonized all of Europe. His bitterest enemy, William of Orange, Stradtholder of Holland, whom he had contemptuously underestimated and who in 1689 was crowned King of England, patiently knit the countries of the continent into a formidable alliance. France was plunged into a series of disastrous wars. Commanded by generals who knew better how to maneuver at court than in the field, her armies suffered badly… Mismanagement was the consequence of entrusting the reins of the state to men equipped only for flattery. By the turn of the century, France was in steep decline.
      –Pierre Schneider,
      The World of Watteau: 1684-1721

      1. Kevin de Burxelles


        You are correct in what I am describing is very similar to the neo-con dream. That is because the neo-con dream is both current bi-partisan American foreign policy and closely aligned with the reality of what is happening in the world today. It is also closely aligned to Hobbes’ theory of a state of nature vs. a commonwealth which he explicitly stated applied on the international scale. I have never read any neo-con literature that openly states they are working towards America becoming the Hobbesian sovereign but everything else stand for leads to this conclusion. So I see no reason to deny reality even if this reality makes me uncomfortable.

        The problem for opponents of the neo-con theories (and I have been one for many years now) is to find some framework or theory of their own to explain America’s role in the world. One idea is America First and to pull American power back to our borders and to become one of many more or less equal nations. The problem is that unfortunately we are all dependent on global trade including energy supplies. The rise of globalism in the 1880’s was made possible by the Royal Navy’s control of shipping lanes and this duty eventually passed to the US Navy in conjunction with the decline of Britain and the rise of the US. Economies are so intertwined now that with America pulling back from the world would return to a state of nature (or war). The Straits of Hormuz, for example, would be a very attractive place to set up a toll booth if you were an enterprising group of gentlemen with RPG’s and speed boats. There would be much instability and war as the remaining powers fought for their spheres of influence. This scenario would mean many years of deprivation but ultimately could lead to more autarchic blocks with a lower but perhaps more healthy and sustainable standard of living. But nobody is going to get elected on this platform until there is a real economic collapse.

        One alternative to US hegemony would be to clad it in a UN cloak. The problem with the UN as it stands is that it does not have the power to impose its will on other nations. The US could hide its global sovereignty behind the UN but when the time comes to act it is doubtful that the consensus will be there. This is really more of a marketing strategy than a solution.

        The dream of global peace started (as far as I know) with Kant and his essay about Perpetual Peace where the world would eventually become a democracy of Republics. But any study of history or human nature makes it clear that there will always be those nations who refuse to cooperate, who refuse to act altruistically within a brotherhood of nations, and will try to advance their own interests through war if necessary. This was proven 120 years later by the failures of the League of Nations, which was followed in its turn by the UN has only been a slightly less of a failure. The obvious problem with these two institutions is that free nations are never going to voluntarily submit to the sovereignty of an international body and without a sovereign there is no peace.

        I don’t know what the answer is. From my perspective here in Europe, I see my Belgian colleagues twenty more times interested in the US elections than their own elections. I’ve always thought the European / American relationship was like father to son. Before WW1, Europe was the father. In the interwar period they were pretty equal. After the destruction of WW2 Europe was infantilized and fell into the arms of its new father, the US. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall it has gradually grown to maturity. But Europe is still living in Daddy’s house and is still totally dependent on the US for many things. When George W Bush was in power, Europe saw the weakness of its position and started making moves to get out of his house. But with Obama now in the White House, Europe has settled back down to its old slacking ways and is more comfortable than ever living under the shadow of the US. The problem is that Daddy may very well be just an empty suit as Valissa pointed out above. A sharp decline in US power would be exactly what it takes for Europe to finally reach full maturity and gain its independence. But will this happen?

        I guess what I am asking is what is the foreign policy alternative to global US hegemony?

        This is a doubly important question because one long term trend I am sure is occuring is the decline and eventual fall of the nation state.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          Another fantastic explication. Your main question is very pertinent: what is the foreign policy alternative to global US hegemony?

          This is the type of question that most seem to miss on every issue. It’s easy to rip apart a politician or a policy. It is often difficult to defend an alternative as better. It is almost always impossible to defend an alternative as perfect.

          I don’t know the answer. I think the one thing that is missing from your realistic exposition of the current state of affairs is that even though we probably do know the end game, we still don’t have to make it easier to get there. If the train has no brakes and the bridge up ahead is broken, we’re going to fall into the chasm no matter what — of course, we don’t have to stoke the engine full of coal to get us there sooner.

          Also, one thing missing from your prediction about nation state eventual decline and fall… rebirth! Someone cue circle of life!

        2. Valissa

          Well said, and I have sadly come to the same conclusion base on my research in recent years. Despite how I would like the world to be, it is important to accept the realities of human nature and the realities of empire and to recognize that the US is now Pax Americana… and many are happy with that arrangement. Empires use their power and money to grow and spread their influence (just like corporations do) and they eventually overreach and collapse to some extent or another. It is their normal and natural condition to do so. Given that, the question is how can the citizens of empire influence the policies of the empire to be more humane and less rapacious?

          As for the relationship between Europe and the US, I think there is more to it than a parent-child relationship. While I live in the US, my relatives almost all reside in Denmark (my parents both grew up in Denmark and emigrated here in the ’50s). The last time I was there was in 2002, and I asked one of my dad’s friends what they thought of the US. The interesting answer I got was “every Danish family I know has at least one relative who has emigrated there… in a way you are part of us.” I realized that this is true for many different countries, that one could say that part of their “tribe” lives here so there is naturally a sense of relationship, but I think it is a complex one.

          1. Kevin de Burxelles

            Thanks Valissa.

            What’s funny is that flow from Europe to the US is starting to go in both directions as more and more Americans (but still a tiny number overall) are starting to move to Europe. I have any number of American friends who after a few years here in Europe cannot imagine moving back to the States! Especially if children are involved.

        3. gordon

          “I guess what I am asking is what is the foreign policy alternative to global US hegemony?”

          That’s an enormous question, which I’m afraid is further complicated by some problems with your framing.

          US “hegemony” means what exactly? For the US to be a hegemon implies that it can and will limit the options available to other National Govts. But to what purpose? If the US imposes requirements on other Govts. that primarily benefit the US, then the US hegemony just becomes predation. Is that what you mean?

          “Economies are so intertwined now that with America pulling back from the world would return to a state of nature (or war)”. Really? Are there no wars now? If by a “state of nature” you mean the regime of Great Power rivalries expressed in a complex and shifting network of agreements, treaties and alliances that characterised the world before WWI, I think we are nearly there already. And that was a world celebrated by many economists as a world of very free trade (except of course for the US, which had a high tariff wall) and freedom of sea transport and, for that matter, of migration (though the patterns of migration were very different then).

          And as for a Europe “living in daddy’s house”, I don’t think this is a very useful analogy. Once upon a time, Bismarck explained his attitude to the “scramble for Africa” by pointing to a map of Europe and saying (from memory) “There is Russia. There is France. There is Germany vulnerably in the middle. That’s my map of Africa.” Europe still sits vulnerably in the middle, this time between Russia and China on one side and the US on the other, depending on trade for its living in a way most Americans just don’t understand. Europeans live wherever and however they can so long as their balance of trade isn’t too bad. If that means being nice to awful Americans, awful Chinese and awful Russians, so be it. There is still, after the devastation of two World Wars, a realisation that “spheres of influence” maintained militarily are too expensive.

          The question of an alternative to US hegemony is a good and necessary one. Ultimately, for nations to live at peace, there has to be a realisation that nobody is going to get everything they want, but they have to get a deal they can live with. A predatory hegemony itself may deny that to too many, and may therefore be not a formula for peace but instead be a formula for endless unrest. It may well be self-defeating.

          There is a lot to say on this topic, I’ve barely scratched the surface. But just finally, about the “decline and eventual fall of the nation state”, where is the democracy then to come from? The nation state and democratic institutions are inextricably linked.

          1. Kevin de Burxelles


            You raise a lot of interesting points but I am between meetings so I will just touch on one. Hegemony just means leadership; not necessarily tyranny. You comment about the US could abuse its position as hegemon to further its own interests. This touches on a fascinating paradox between nationalism and sovereignty. The model of a hegemon furthering his own interest comes from the old balance-of-power paradigm that existed up until recently where nations use conquests to further their own interests. This is not the trajectory the US is on. The truth is quite different and if it were widely known this fact would be unpopular indeed in America. Becoming the global sovereign is antithetical to nationalism. National interest must be effaced in the interests of ruling. A king must be above his subjects, not competing with them.
            This is why America is being gutted of manufacturing. The corporations that remain for the most part are transcending national limits and are becoming global. What is important for the hegemon is to gain power by creating dependency. Look at Iraq. Most of the new oil contracts are not going to US firms as they would within a balance-of-power framework. Instead many are going to China, Russia, and many others. Instead of exploiting the fields for national interest, the US is leveraging access to the fields in the interests of gaining power and cementing its role as hegemon.

            Now obviously this process is not 100% percent pure and there will still be isolated cases where the US acts in its narrow interests. But seen in this light the role of the US consumer becomes clearer. The US built its power during the balance-of-power era thanks to the wealth created and efficiencies achieved by having such a large domestic market to produce for, and it guarded access to this market jealously. But all that is over; the US now leverages access to its domestic market in return for recognition of its status of hegemon. This is similar to the conspicuous consumption of a royal court earning the king the loyalties of the merchant classes that benefited from this consumption.

            As for the eventual fall of the nation state I base my opinions loosely on for example Martin Van Creveld’s “The Rise and Decline of the State” along with the market-state concept in Philip Bobbitt’s “The Shield of Achilles” This is all very speculative of course.

        4. DownSouth

          Kevin de Bruxelles,

          I believe it is important to remember that Augustus rose to power as a popular dictator, a champion of the commoner. Augustus organized, under what in effect was monarchial rule, the greatest achievement in the history of statesmanship—that Pax Romana which maintained peace from 30 B.C. to A.D. 180 throughout an empire ranging from the Atlantic to the Euphrates and from Scotland to the Black Sea.

          But Obama is not cut from the same cloth as Augustus. On the contrary, Obama finds his parallel in Pompey, whom the aristocrats engaged to maintain their ascendancy. The commoners, on the other hand, cast their lot with Caesar, Augustus’ granduncle and stepfather, whom the aristocrats killed.

          It is also important to point out that the political tradition which you describe in your comments is not the tradition in which Augustus operated.

          In terms of traditions of political thought, the tradition you describe has much to recommend it. It was not invented by the “political realists” but was, rather, the result of a much earlier, almost automatic generalization of God’s “Commandments,” according to which the simple relation of command and obedience indeed sufficed to identify the essence of law. It later manifested itself in the old notion of absolute power that accompanied the rise of the sovereign European nation-state, whose earliest and still greatest spokesmen were Jean Bodin, in sixteenth-century France, and Thomas Hobbes, in seventeenth-century England. On the political spectrum, It has found expression from Right to Left:

          • C. Wright Mills: “All politics is a struggle for power; the ultimate kind of power is violence.”
          • Max Weber: The state is “the rule of men over men based on the means of legitimate, that is allegedly legitimate, violence.”
          • Clausewitz: War is “an act of violence to compel the opponent to do as we wish.”
          • Marx: The state is an instrument of oppression in the hands of the ruling class.
          • Voltaire: “Power consists in making others act as I choose.”
          • Strausz-Hupe: Power signifies “the power of man over man.”

          However, there exists another tradition and another vocabulary no less old and time-honored. When the Athenian city-state called its constitution an isonomy, or the Romans spoke of the civitas as their form of government, they had in mind a concept of power and law whose essence did not rely on the command-obedience relationship and which did not identify power and rule or law and command. It was to these examples that the men of the American Revolution turned when they ransacked the archives of antiquity and constituted a form of government, a republic, where the rule of law, resting on the power of the people, would put an end to the rule of man over man, which they thought was a “government fit for slaves.” They too still talked about obedience, but obedience to laws instead of men, what they actually meant was support of the laws to which the citizenry had given its consent. It is the people’s support that lends power to the institutions of a country, and this support is but the continuation of the consent that brought the laws into existence to begin with.

          Locke has been hailed as the discoverer and expounder of the principle that civil and political rights are lodged in the people. Madison said “all governments rest on opinion,” a word no less true for the various forms of monarch than for democracies. “To suppose that majority rule functions only in democracy is a fantastic illusion,” Bertrand de Jouvenel points out: “The king, who is but one solitary individual, stands far more in need of the general support of Society than any other form of government.”

          As for actual warfare, did we not learn anything from Vietnam? Did it not demonstrate that an enormous superiority in the means of violence can become helpless if confronted with an ill-equipped but well-organized opponent who is much more powerful, that is an opponent who has the support of the people? Vietnam should have laid to rest for all time the false notion that there is no greater power than that which grows out of the barrel of a gun.

          1. Kevin de Burxelles

            We shouldn’t concentrate too much on Obama; and i certainly never meant to compare him personally to Gaius Julius Cesar Augustus! (Michele Obama as Livia? naw!) My point was only that the US commands much more of the globe than Rome ever did.

            The process of US global domination can be seen as a continuation of Manifest Destiny, but on a global scale. Obama is personally no more important to this project than any mediocre 19th century President was to the eventual conquest of the middle section of the North American continent.

            In terms of actual warfare like in Vietnam this is just a question of tactics. It is the “hard” power vs. “soft” power debate. Of course 90% of the time soft power is more efficient. In Iraq we saw this as the invasion got the US into Iraq but it was only the buying off of the Sunni tribes through cash, weapons, and future promises of support that has cemented our presence there. All these concessions were of course obscured by the “Surge” which was just a diversion. The same thing is now happening in Afghanistan. But the point is that whether by force or soft methods, the goal is the same, US hegemony. Just like whether the Indian territories were conquered by force or through dodgy treaties and other trickery made no difference to the end result.

        5. gordon

          Your replies to me and to Down South indicate that you are using “hegemon” and “hegemony” in rather idiosyncratic ways. You are indeed, as you said earlier, talking about the world of Fukuyama and Friedman. I don’t really see that that could be described as “US hegemony”, which conjures up images of much more old-fashioned Great Power rivalries.

          I think you are implying that the US ruling class is using the US Govt. to help bring this about, and that they are doing this by stealth. Is that right? If it is, are you talking about some kind of conspiracy along the lines of Bilderbergers or LaRouche?

          1. Anonymous Jones

            Ah, use of the word ‘conspiracy’ drives me crazy! Water flowing downhill is not a ‘conspiracy’ of H2O molecules.

            Analogy: Following perceived best interests == being pulled by gravity.

            No conspiracy needed.

          2. Kevin de Bruxelles


            I’ll start with the word hegemony. I am using this word in the standard sense of “the political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups, regardless of the explicit consent of the latter.” As far as I am concerned the word is morally neutral. Leadership is not per se bad or immoral, but over time it can turn out that way. Sometimes to avoid repetition I may use words like power, influence, domination or leadership. Below is a quote by Robert Kaplan using the word “hegemony” in a positive light (he contrasts it with “empire” which he implies is exploitive) to describe US actions in the world:

            American hegemony is relatively well accepted because people all over the world know that U.S. forces will eventually withdraw from the occupied territories. The effect of declaring that the United States is an empire would not only be factually wrong, but strategically catastrophic. Contrary to the exploitative purposes of the British, the American intentions of spreading democracy and individual rights are incompatible with the notion of an empire. The genius of American power is expressed in the movie The Godfather II, where, like Hyman Roth, the United States has always made money for its partners. America has not turned countries in which it intervened into deserts; it enriched them. Even the Russians knew they could surrender after the Cold War without being subjected to occupation.

            I suppose you problem with the word hegemony may stem from the fact that it is associated in some people’s minds with Marxism (cultural hegemony) since it is a popular term in this milieu. But so is the word capitalism. My point is that practically all establishment voices in American foreign policy circles support a furthering of US hegemony in the world although there are differences (soft vs. hard power) in the tactics to be employed to accomplish this goal.

            The concept of empire would tend to confuse things (I try to call it an indirect empire) which is why I use the term sovereign in the Hobbesian sense which again, is at the very least morally neutral but more likely morally positive.

        6. gordon

          Well, Anonymous Jones, the thrust towards privatisation and deregulation wasn’t concealed but there certainly was a self-conscious movement among “elites” to achieve those ends. But Kevin says: “The truth is quite different and if it were widely known this fact would be unpopular indeed in America. Becoming the global sovereign is antithetical to nationalism”
          (Feb. 3 @8:17AM). If the unpopullar truth isn’t widely known, is that because it’s concealed or just not noticed? I want to know which Kevin thinks it is.

          1. Kevin de Bruxelles


            My point about nationalism vs. global sovereignty is not that there is a “stealth” conspiracy to manipulate US political leadership towards global hegemony. The push towards global hegemony is done very much in the open, PNAC didn’t classify their documents, they tried to distribute them as far and wide as possible! And just as you cannot rape the willing, most US Senators do not need a global cabal of Leo Strauss-reading goons to manipulate them into reaching for more US power! They are up for it from the word go. The bookshelves of any Borders is packed with tomes calling for further US power.

            My point was instead that, in my opinion, in the popular US mind, the furthering of US power in the world is seen within the balance-of-power (realism) framework. For example, even though most Americans were eventually against the Iraq War, those that did support it probably thought we would at least get to exploit Iraqi oil fields. When they find out that French, Norwegian, and Chinese oil companies are getting most of the contracts there will be some incongruence felt, to say the least. Which is why these facts are not being emphasized by the official media. In other words if the US is going to be the global policeman then we should at least get first pick on the doughnuts! Or more simply, as we see on websites like Antiwar, the ideology of American nationalism can oftern be the enemy of US global hegemony.

            But very few people are seeing the rise of US power in terms of Hobbes and then asking the question, “what would the characteristics be of an international sovereign?” I’ve asked myself that question and my response is that these characteristics would match those of a national sovereign, in this case a monarch. I then check that against the current situation in the US and in many places this seems to match, for example in the decline of productivity and the rise of a parasitic relationship to the rest of the world. But maybe I am totally wrong, who knows? I’m not claiming this is some grand conspiracy; only that the current state of affairs in America matches what one would expect to see in the natural evolution of a nation that was rising to the level of international sovereign. And that indeed, at the same time, American leaders are trying to increase their global power.

        7. gordon

          Well, thanks for all your replies, Kevin, but I’m not sure we’re really getting closer to understanding. All I can say is that if the US is really as keen on “hegemony” as you say it is (“…practically all establishment voices in American foreign policy circles support a furthering of US hegemony in the world although there are differences … in the tactics to be employed to accomplish this goal”), it would be nice if the US had a better product.

          Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, lots of people all around the world welcomed Americanisation as a promise of a better life. That isn’t nearly so true now, and Americans at home seem to be seriously questioning what kind of nation they’re living in and asking “what went wrong?”

          All this discussion about the difference between “hard” and “soft” power is a little remote from the reality of threats, sanctions, drone bombings and troop deployments. Increasingly people both inside and outside the US are beginning to realise that the institutions of US society have been captured by a very ugly group of oligarchs, and that as a consequence any sort of US “hegemony” is something to be dreaded rather than welcomed. So, no hegemony today, thanks, I don’t like the product.

    4. psh

      KdB, curious to see you that you view US support for Turkish EU accession as a subterfuge for hamstringing the EU. How do you see it impeding integration, economically or culturally? Or just based on the abruptness and scale of enlargement? I always thought of it as a challenge on the order of German unification that could greatly increase Europe’s influence over time. As an example, Turkey was one of the less complaisant actors during the conquest of Iraq, and I would have loved to see them get an EU soapbox.

      1. Kevin de Bruxelles


        I think we need to see the growth of the European Union as a two step process. First it has to reach political union and it is still a long way from that. The inclusion of Turkey is at this point is deeply unpopular to most Europeans, whether expressed openly or in more discreet ways (and I’ve personally seen many examples of both). Not only are there cultural issues (Islam) but the standard of living is so low in Turkey that the wealthier EU nations fear they would be flooded with poor Turks seeking better economic horizons. It would not be so different from the US making Mexico the 51st state but only after most Mexicans had renounced Catholicism became Muslims! You can imagine how popular that would be – not! Quick Turkish membership would force the EU to become a NAFTA-like free trade organization. This is why many back in 2002-3 thought the US and Britian were pushing so hard; besides the obvious need for the US to access Turkish bases for the invasion of Iraq.

        Over the long term, once the EU core nations establish a proper political union, then reintegrating in some way or another the former Christian / Roman lands of Turkey, North Africa, Egypt, Syria, and the Levant would be a goal, with Turkey heading this list. There is indeed already a framework called the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership which people like me who spend too much time reading books about the Roman Empire can see as the seed of a future expansion of the EU into these former Roman areas.


  8. phil_hubb

    “Had the U.S. been undisputed empire of the world, then Obama could have afforded to behave like Augustus.”


    Which Augustus? You mean Octavian?
    Octavian would’ve been there.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Octavian wouldn’t have wasted his time. Look how often we hold these joint meetings. They are nothing more than photo-ops where nothing is ever accomplished except to discuss other issues. The over-abundance of joint sessions has diluted any legitimacy they might have once had. The Metternich System and Conference of Vienna governed Europe for 100 years until the British and the French started egging the Prussian super-state on in 1914.

    2. gordon

      It was Augustus who pulled back the Empire to defensible borders and disbanded as much of the military as he dared.

  9. Albert

    Why should Obama go there? From his standpoint it would be a complete waste of time. There would be nobody to bow to.

  10. sac

    “With which economic bloc should Obama do his utmost to co-ordinate trade, environmental and currency policies towards China with? ”

    I think Obama is not into things like the “west vs east or China” or “Europeans vs non Europeans” or….

  11. Rhone

    “One diplomat said Mr Obama had been “fairly unimpressed” with the results of an EU-US summit staged in Prague last year, when leaders of all 27 EU member states turned up to meet the president, eager to bask in his reflected glory.”

    True, but that was last year… In the long run, BO may be doing Europeans a favour: what’s the point of relying on a bankrupt former superpower to be?

  12. Vinny G.

    There is obviously a great deal of denial in Washington as to how important really is the US to the world in 2010. The US is rapidly becoming irrelevant. It is the Roman Empire in the third century. The world has moved on. But of course, as it usually happens, Washington will be the last to find out.

    As far as foolish Europeans trying to see a reflection of themselves in Obama, I have this to say: stop trying. The man is no different than Bush W, except he’s a smoother deceiver, and if you have’t yet figured that out, then I may have some great time shares for in Florida.

    Move on, guys. As I have moved on. I moved to Europe, I live here full time now, and the one or two weeks a year I may still have to spend in the US is something I detest.


  13. rj

    And then Obama is surprised that Europeans do not want to send more troops fight the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

    This is diplomacy and style at the level of George W. Had the U.S. been undisputed empire of the world, then Obama could have afforded to behave like Augustus.

    This comment is bullsh*t on lots of levels. Obama last year took over from George W. Bush and engaged the Europeans on issues, but the Europeans gave Obama the same responses to issues that they gave to Bush. This happened with the economy, last April there was a U.S.-EU meeting where Obama made requests for a German domestic stimulus plan to match that of the U.S. to shore up world finances. Germany, as an exporter and knowing that any American stimulus plan would serve as a stimulus and not wanting to take on any debt themselves, disagreed. While it makes sense domestically, if we’re all on the same team here, the German move was very self-serving. Then there was Afghanistan as well where the Europeans repeatedly told its NATO allies. Afghanistan is and always has been a NATO-ran mission, not American-controlled a la Iraq. At first it was a solely European members of NATO that ran ISAF to serve as a European military PR piece that they were important in the world. They even snubbed the Canadians who offered to send help because they wanted to do it alone. They quickly realized they were incapable of running it, they had to beg the Turks to run ISAF, and then the Canadians took control in the ultimate embarassment to the original European command. And now the Afghan project that was a European-ran thing has collapsed somewhat, and the Europeans are blaming this on the Americans by saying “we have no responsibility in the world, we just want to be off by ourselves and play with our toys”? If they have that temperament, fine, but they’re only serving to make them look like Switzerland: rich, but irrelevant. If that’s the case, why are we allies with these people in NATO? If anti-Americanism is now so rampant in Europe that a French civil service official in Haiti is accusing the U.S. military of occupying the country when we are helping save lives and restore order in a great humanitarian disaster, what’s to be gained by dealing with these people? http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/nato-russian-resurgence/41046-future-nato.html?highlight=krajina

    Stratfor had a great article looking at Obama from the European perspective. He said that the grand European view of an alliance with America is that they want to have a veto on everything in foreign policy and they don’t want to be asked to do anything uncomfortable. Anyone looking at Obama politically should know he is not able to do this with the state of the world as it is currently. Stratfor article here: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20091012_nobel_geopolitics

    1. DownSouth

      Is Naked Capitalism experiencing an invasion of the neo-cons today?

      I followed your links. The first is replete with photos of pretend warriors brandishing their guns and flame throwers and peace symbols emblazoned with “Peace through superior FIREPOWER.”

      The second—Stratfor Global Intelligence and its head George Friedman—I had never heard of, so did a little snooping in the Mexican press, because they’re pretty good at ferreting out US neo-imperialists. And sure enough, here’s what Milenio.com had to say about Friedman’s book The Next Hundred Years: A Forecast of the 21th Century:

      “The American Century” was the expression coined by Henry Luce, editor of Time magazine, to capture the ascent of the United States on the world stage in the 20th century. “The American Age” is how Friedman titled the introduction to his book to underscore the center of gravity US hegemony will be in the 21st century, the North American era.

      In the first half of the 21st century, says Friedman, the United States will unleash a new type of war, more numerous but less catastrophic than those of the 20th century, the rivalries that can establish its dominion over Islam, China and later Russia.

      So what does this sound like?

      It sounds hauntingly similar to all the talk of a “Pax Americana” and The End of History that we Heard from Francis Fukuyama and the Project for a New American Century, the same guys that led us into the Iraq disaster.

      1. rj

        I am not nor have I ever been a neo-con. But you sure do act like one: a person brings up good criticisms of a piece, and what do you do? You name call by trying “guilt by association”. A person makes a claim that perhaps this is the Europeans’ fault instead of Obama’s, and that person is instantly called “neo-con”. Any person that comes to this blog should be intelligent enough to see through that BS.

        The first website is full of defense and military professionals from around the world. Some of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And speaking from personal experience, they’re more intelligent on these issues than most. The details on the European ISAF in Afghanistan failure are in the middle of the thread. Here he responds to a German in discussion:


        Sorry but I’ve seen all talk and no walk. It’s been over 10 years since the announcement of EUROCORPS and what is the best result? Yugoslavia where they switched hats. The ISAF was supposed to be an entirely EU affair and the result was a complete insult to a traditional ally, Canada. That’s fine. That’s ok. Provided that you could’ve made it work but you didn’t. You had to beg the Turks to take command and you were more than jumping for joy when Canada stepped up and assumed command. What’s more instead of a EUROCORPS command, you followed the Canadian lead and installed a NATO command of the ISAF.

        So, you tell me. What’s going to change if you can’t make EUROCORPS work in the 1st place?

        I’m making a perfectly valid point here: if Europeans hate the U.S. and the policies of a Democratic Party president so much, shouldn’t we give them what they want and stop being allies? If the U.S. is declining in the world and no longer important and out of touch with reality, Europe can go get in touch with reality with China and Russia and they can deal with more failed Copenhagen summits.

        As for Stratfor, it is the best independent third-party geopolitical analysis you can find. It’s a pay site but they publish a little free stuff. My claims regarding the European view of Obama and how they treat him like they have Bush has been supported multiple times. And their analysis is perfectly fair. Their only flaw is they treat everything in geopolitics as a chess game instead of realizing that occasionally state actors give in to emotion and act irrationally. Here’s the articles from April 2009 to back me up:

        Pre-summit (free): http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090330_united_states_germany_and_beyond

        Post-summit (free): http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090406_obamas_strategy_and_summits

        1. Skippy

          With respect rj, both the British and American armed forces are de facto neocon corporate enterprises supported by neocon subcontractors, supplied by two major feeder tubes, high school grads with limited future prospects and Imperial officer academy’s. Don’t go looking there for enlightenment as they feed the beast of conquest for profit.

          BTW the original portent of going to Afghanistan was a bounty hunting expedition that grew to become an 8 year affair…ummmm.

          Skippy….“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Napoleon Bonaparte

          1. rj

            With respect rj, both the British and American armed forces are de facto neocon corporate enterprises supported by neocon subcontractors, supplied by two major feeder tubes, high school grads with limited future prospects and Imperial officer academy’s. Don’t go looking there for enlightenment as they feed the beast of conquest for profit.

            These are buzzwords skippy with no real meaning. I’ve known these type of people in my real life and I know the type of people that populate this forum and their views of the world in my real life based on interacting with them. Seeing as you decided in your post to insult my entire family and how the people here have chosen to be blind to geopolitics based on what they write in their posts, I am confident in my choice of which one is more in touch with reality, the military people are far more enlightened on how the world operates. If you get out in the world sometime, with all due respect perhaps you can see so yourself.

            And it’s not the U.S. and UK that forms all the board. We have Russian military, continental Europe military, Australia, South Africa, lots of people from India, some Chinese, lots of Canadians.

            If anyone wants a couple European think tanks that support me, here are some academic papers:

            This was written in November but it could’ve just well been as written yesterday: http://www.ecfr.eu/content/entry/towards_a_post-american_europe_a_power_audit_of_eu-us_relations_shapiro_whi

            Centre for European Reform, also from some months ago on the perception of the EU from not only the U.S. but also China and Russia: http://www.cer.org.uk/pdf/essay_905.pdf

            Article from the CER yesterday on the Obama snub: http://www.cer.org.uk/articles/article_independent_brady_3feb10.html

            Europe does not know what it wants to be. If it can’t figure it out, what’s to be gained from them? If Europeans don’t take their national security seriously, why should Americans? If Europeans don’t take the global economic recovery seriously (the German item), why should Americans? This is a new world, it is not pre-World War I where no country beyond Europe’s borders was a power. It’s a new multi-polar world and the U.S. and Obama represents that, that’s why Obama thinks fruitless summits are pointless to attend. He has to go attend real summits where things get done.

          2. Yves Smith Post author


            Your assumption, that Skippy does not know what he is talking about (your “If you get out in the world sometime, with all due respect perhaps you can see so yourself.”). He’s a former mercenary, and thus has direct experience with “neocon corporate enterprises.”

            And regarding your family’s defense of these enterprises, as Upton Sinclair said: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

          3. Skippy

            rj thanks for the reply,

            For starters I said the American and British military were neocon enterprises (military industrial complex thingy) not you and when did I bring your family into it lol. Ye doth protest too much, methinks. Knee jerks like this raise my awareness too.

            Although_I am_one of those people, worked in said areas from the late 70s, both as a military operative and private. Even went over to visit family working for freedom group in Islamabad and did some land-mine clearance in exchange for a T-shirt. Yes in the vernacular it’s a cluster fuck, but that’s what happens when the goal posts keeps getting switched…eh…funny that. Don’t forget that most of Europe wanted nothing to do with the middle east and was strong armed by Bush and Co so no wonder some are un-impressed with their lack of killer instinct, reluctance to be involved in the first place. To whit Europe has had its fill of wars as where America is but a junior in historical comparison and has not suffered a hard enough knock down yet (DownSouths reference to Vietnam in another thread proves this point, to para phraseïn, one sign of psychotic behaver is denial when faced with over whelming facts).

            BTW think tanks are to me, just another phrase for distiled ideology group think with the portent of broadcasting its think speak to the un-informed/un-experienced and the neocons are industry leaders in this format.

            rj said…Seeing as you decided in your post to insult my entire family and how the people here have chosen to be blind to geopolitics based on what they write in their posts, I am confident in my choice of which one is more in touch with reality, the military people are far more enlightened on how the world operates. If you get out in the world sometime, with all due respect perhaps you can see so yourself.

            Skippy here…For starters I said the American and British military were neocon enterprises (military industrial complex thingy) not you and when did I bring your family into it lol. Ye doth protest too much, methinks. Knee jerks like this raise my awareness too.

            Hell can stop myself, you use more buzzwords than a nest of bumblebees ie: buzzwords, no *real* meaning, in my life, type of people, chosen to be blind, I am confident in my choice of which one is *more in touch* with *reality*, the military people are far more *enlightened* on how the *world operates*, If anyone wants a couple European think tanks that support me, here are some academic papers (wtf the same mob you deride then use as factual support), Europe does not know what it wants to be (LOL maybe not in bed with America, but left to decided for them selves with out threats) etc etc. Did Palins speech/ghost writers help you with this, I don’t know, just asking.

            Lastly you greatly assume to my back ground and experience of which is substantial both academically and on the ground globally, with contacts ongoing in real time. If you wish to get your idealogical cross hairs dialed in properly on me try Naturalistic pantheism Humanist progressive.

            Skippy…Could have made a small fortune by now with the offers I turned down, hung my pistolas up a long time ago, after realizing what a sham the hole thing is, blood money, they are Sacker’s and Looters and any one objecting is a Terrorist, smoke some of that *enlightenment*, *reality*, *the way the world works*.

            PS. Since you played the personal card having projected into my general statements, I will, as a Gentleman respond in kind…REMF’s should piss off rather than opine, eagerly await more foot gnawing. When your ready I will loan you my old mental wallpaper remover aka mental steel wool and yes it hurts a lot my friend, but its better than killing people for profit. We must make the world safe for profit…sigh.

  14. rj

    There is obviously a great deal of denial in Europe as to how important really is the US to the world in 2010. is rapidly becoming irrelevant. It is the Roman Empire in the third century. The world has moved on. But of course, as it usually happens, will be the last to find out.

    Fixed your post.

  15. i on the ball patriot

    EU! — US!
    Dollar! — Euro!
    Good cop! — Bad cop!
    Divide! — Conquer!
    Decoys! — Resource dissipation!

    Left! — Right!
    Republican! — Democrat!
    Nation States! — Elite Constructs!
    Divide! — Conquer!
    Decoys! — Resource dissipation!

    Arabs! — Jews!
    Gays! — Straights!
    Red States! — Blue States!
    Divide! — Conquer!
    Decoys! — Resource dissipation!

    Pernicious Neocon Global Ruling Elite!

    Sheesh! — I coulda had a V-8 and organized an election Boycott!

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  16. Mike in Austin

    Rhetoric is the container of deception. And almost all media today is nothing but rhetoric.

    Obama should focus on whether China is serious about him meeting with the Dalai Lama, and if they will try to impact financial harm on the US if he does.

    These are unveiled threats to the US and potentially the world. I wonder what would happen if the EU stepped up and wanted to visit with the Dalai Lama.


  17. mikefromArlington

    Rather than just reporting he thinks and she thinks, ask someone in the administration.

    Making unfounded wild assumptions is something the modern day Republicans do.

  18. Skippy

    Ahem…he’s coming down under, must be a sunshine thing or china thing or financial thing…lol!

    Skippy…Austraila becoming a back door thing, again…sigh.

      1. Skippy

        Gordon I can only hope the Aussie that disparaged Bonzi aka John Howard whilst he was jogging and TV cameras around will repeat his actions during said photo opp…lol.

  19. Thomas Barton, JD

    I think the French can have some measure of political betrayal simply on the basis of their coordinated use with the US of airpower in Afghanistan ( I doubt any but a handful of Americans know that Mirage and Super Etendard flew strikes with target coordination with the US in October 2001.). Also, I think all EU members should know that there is a rising tide of Isolationism in the US and our President has consistently done everything to court what we call middle of the road swing-vote Independents. Many of these voters would view a May conference in Spain as ceding some our World Superpower status to the Continent. I now have no doubt that President Obama will be viewed by many in the States in 25 years as an echo of the promise and failure of the Carter Presidency. Cheers.

  20. rj

    Yves Smith: Your assumption, that Skippy does not know what he is talking about (your “If you get out in the world sometime, with all due respect perhaps you can see so yourself.”). He’s a former mercenary, and thus has direct experience with “neocon corporate enterprises.”

    Many members of my family have worked for the military and have the same opinion of mercenaries. Skippy’s world is not the world of the World Affairs Board, the American military, other mainstream militaries of the world in NATO. I stand by my statement. Go talk to rank-and-file members of the military sometime, they hated Blackwater, and so do I. They bastardized are good country’s name. The United States military has done more good in the world than most anyone on this website can dream of. If people wish to continue being ignorant on it and think that 9/11 was some government conspiracy or other BS, I’m not going to stop them. I’m just sick and tired of racism toward Americans reaching the point it has and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore.

    And regarding your family’s defense of these enterprises, as Upton Sinclair said: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

    Look in the mirror.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      Since I have no vested interest in the military, and the revenues from this blog are far less than I could earn doing just about anything else (waiting tables would pay better), your closing jibe serves to illustrate that you are sufficiently deeply invested in your point of view that you need to attack critics.

      Let’s just take, for starters, the US military’s use of depleted uranium, which not only poisons the soil in theaters of battle. but also in combat, lodges in the lungs of combatants, meaning our own soldiers. Or our use of drones in Pakistan, which is doing more to radicalize the population against the US by killing civilians disproportionately than to kill terrorists.

      The use of Blackwater is official US policy. It has become a significant part of the apparatus. You can’t defend the military and object to Blackwater, the two are intertwined. And Skippy was a solider before becoming a merc, so he is not ignorant of the military, as you seem to imply.

      And “racism towards Americans?” I hate to tell you, but where were you during the Iraq war? We had as much justification for going into Iraq as Hitler had in going into the Sudentenland. Iraq was no threat to the US, it had no meaningful missile capability, and with weapons inspectors in Iraq, any WMD (and we now know there were none, and the NIE showed that the most expert agencies were skeptical of the claims made re Iraq’s capabilities) would have had to have been on trucks, meaning not in a position to be deployed. Saddam WAS contained, but we went ahead and invaded anyhow, with no credible explanation ever given for the invasion.

      It is one thing to defend US military personnel as individuals, quite another to defend policy. You conflate the two and defend them both.

      And as far you bizarre assertion about challenging flawed policy as a form of racism, Frederick Douglass said,, “A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins”. I submit it is people like you you who defend American misconduct that are betraying this nation, and not its critics.

      1. Skippy

        Don’t forget US lied to Britain over use of napalm in Iraq war:

        Mr Ingram admitted to the Labour MP Harry Cohen in a private letter obtained by The Independent that he had inadvertently misled Parliament because he had been misinformed by the US. “The US confirmed to my officials that they had not used MK77s in Iraq at any time and this was the basis of my response to you,” he told Mr Cohen. “I regret to say that I have since discovered that this is not the case and must now correct the position.”

        Two weeks ago the UK Independent ran an article which confirmed that the US had “lied to Britain over the use of napalm in Iraq”. (06-17-05) Since then, not one American newspaper or TV station has picked up the story even though the Pentagon has verified the claims.

        See link: http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/19.html

        or white phosphorus fallujah


        In Iraq 2004


        in Afghanistan 2009


        This is just a drop in the ocean, yet you site 9/11 when we were mucking around over there decades before.

Comments are closed.