July 12, 2005

From Madrid: so close to London

MadridNoTerrorism.jpgOur own pain is too present yet not to shudder in front of the London terrorist attacks. Many Spaniards revived with horror last Thursday the 2004, March 11th Madrid blasts which caused almost 200 deaths and over 1.500 injured. Even days after the London bombings, most Madrilenians rode tubes and buses with uneasiness, closely looking for "suspicious" passengers or abandoned bags.

Indeed analysts have pointed out the many similarities between both terrorists acts, like the target -the public transportation system-, the "modus operandi" and, most important, the country's support to the Iraq war. As many in Spain noted after the bombings, now the countries of the "trio from the Azores", the three leaders that signed the Iraqi invasion act in the Portuguese island of Azores in March 2003, have been targeted.

Spanish terrorist expert Fernando Reinares also notes in an analysis for the Elcano Institute for Strategic Studies this week that Iraq is indeed the framework in which both attacks should be analyzed.

These past days have also shown many differences. While the Madrid attacks took most Spaniards unguarded, Britain was almost sure that it would be "next". Only the “when” and “how” were uncertain. And the London attacks didn't try to influence a change of government, as Blair has just been reelected. As many journalists have pointed out the British premier had - at the time - the public support for the invasion of Iraq, and he didn't try to hide the "Islamic link" or retain information related to the attacks, as the former Spanish president José María Aznar did.

Last but not least, while British opposition leader Michael Howard praised Blair's response to the crisis, in Spain the terrorist attacks led to a confrontation between the Socialist and the Conservative parties that hasn't finished yet.

All in all, at least it seems that Britain won't give the harsh response that the US gave after 9/11 (remember Patriot Act): Tony Blair has already assured that the government doesn't wish a "police state" with fewer individual freedoms. And though it is one of the most "eurosceptic” countries of the European Union, London is not expected to take individual defensive measures -or unilateral attacks- in response to the terrorist acts.

[Picture taken from Agonist.org]

Posted 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2005

From Giacomo Chiozza on Anti-Americanism

Giacomo Chiozza is a post-doctoral fellow at Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University. He will join the faculty in the Department of Political Science at UC-Berkeley in the Fall of 2005. In this letter, Chiozza answers three questions posed by Worldandus.

WorldAndUS: Why is it interesting to study perceptions of the US in the world (or anti-Americanism)?

GC -- Anti-Americanism appears to be a pervasive phenomenon of our times. But despite all the attention that it receives in the media, in the statements of political leaders, and among policy pundits, it still remains a poorly understood phenomenon. We should first acknowledge that anti-Americanism subsumes patterns of behavior and attitudinal stances that span the entire spectrum from the murderous hatred of the 9/11 hijackers to the fleeting and superficial opinions of ordinary people captured in opinion polls. And we should also acknowledge that when we say America, we evoke a large array of images, sentiments, aspirations, and ideals. This combination of competing and contradicting feelings makes the study of anti-Americanism particularly interesting.

A second set of reasons should also be considered. When we study international politics, we focus on the distribution of power and the patterns of interests. These two variables indeed help us understand a great deal of what happens in the international arena. But, as we try to understand the features and characteristics of the American world order, we very well observe that such an international order entails more than power and interests. It entails a normative and ideational dimension. The study of foreign attitudes towards the United States allows us to grasp such an ideational and normative dimension insofar as it tells us what is accepted and what is rejected, under what political conditions, by ordinary people.

-- WorldAndUs: Which effects might be expected from rising anti-Americanism?

GC -- We don't really know much about the political consequences of anti-Americanism. Conjectures abound about how popular opposition to the United States would affect the ability of the United States to pursue major policy initiatives and how such an opposition would create an international political context detrimental to American security. Several scholars have pointed out how the exceptional position of the United States in the current international system is buttressed by a special feature of America's, its soft power, to use Joseph Nye's catchy expression. If popular anti-Americanism is mounting, it might very well undermine American soft power, one of the pillars of the American world order. But, I think, we should avoid the temptation to draw immediate and linear connections between mass level negative attitudes towards the United States and the state choices in the international arena.

-- WorldAndUs: How is it possible to study the evolving nature of this phenomenon in a way so that it can be used as a policy tool?

GC -- When we think of the policy-implications of the scientific and academic research on anti-Americanism, we have to keep two aspects into consideration.

On the one hand, we have the aspiration to a "Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind," which is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

On the other hand, we have the statements of policy makers in the realpolitik tradition, such as Dean Acheson, who argued about 40 years ago that American political leaders should disregard any infatuation with the image of America abroad and, instead, place the course of America's foreign policy on the firm ground of the pursuit of American national interest. In more recent times, the neoconservative intellectuals who have framed American foreign policy under the reign of George W. Bush have made a similar argument and claimed that America should be "unapologetic" and not concerned about the views of foreign publics.

In other words, the policy implications of the study of anti-Americanism are indeed a politically contested battleground. But, regardless of the view we adopt, the knowledge produced by systematic analyses of anti-Americanism would have much more relevance if it followed from well-crafted research design. All too often the treatises on anti-Americanism simply "sample on the dependent variable," that is, select only instances of opposition to America for their analysis. In so doing, they do not show how mass attitudes vary over space and time and over the infinite features of the United States.

Once we start to analyze the rich variation in how America is perceived and appreciated abroad, we can start having a more realistic understanding of the phenomenon. We can start understand what exactly riles opponents and detractors of America, and what about America appeals to so many people. No sound policy advice can follow from analyses that only focus on the "hate" part, and miss out that America is also much loved as well.

Posted 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2005

EU or US? Czech Republic's 1st Year Back in Europe

Jeremy Druker is the executive director and editor-in-chief of Transitions Online (www.tol.cz), an Internet newsmagazine covering Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union. He submitted this comment from Prague.

As the Czech Republic celebrates its first anniversary of membership in the European Union this month, the country’s press has been full of reflections on the changes—as well as lack of them—that the last year has actually wrought. One area, however, where little has changed is in the country’s relations with the United States, or in how most Czechs view America.

Foreign policy pundits worried that the country, like other members of the “new” Europe, would be a “monkey in the middle,” caught between its obligations to the European Union and to its long-time friends in the United States-on issues such as Iraq and the International Criminal Court. And yes, politicians may have to dance a bit more gingerly with Washington, as they try to balance U.S. and European interests, but they were already doing that in the years leading up to entry-careful of doing anything to threaten accession and dreamed of West European living standards.

But ordinary Czechs have not suddenly felt closer to Brussels since entering its embrace. They have not discarded their general affinity for the U.S. in favor of closer relations with France, Germany, and the rest of the EU. The population actually tends to take good relations with America for granted. Safely anchored in NATO, hungry for German tourist dollars rather than fearful of Germany, and 15 years removed from the Soviet bloc, the country does not have any immediate threats to warrant an over-dependence on Washington. There may also be an unexpressed feeling, a carryover from the years when Vaclav Havel led the country, that the Czech Republic still has friends in high places in the United States.

In fact, most Czechs only think about the country's relations with the US when a high representative visits Washington-and that doesn't happen often. Most recently it was President Vaclav Klaus, garnering front-page headlines because the White House had pointedly not invited Klaus for a visit after a well-publicized spat with the American ambassador in Prague. (The ambassador at the time apparently had not exactly appreciated Klaus's opposition to the war in Iraq). But a few weeks ago, in early March, Klaus--as egotistical a foreign leader as you will ever come across--abruptly received an invitation while on a private trip to the U.S. And a few days later, he had his photo op with Bush.

Czech newspaper columnists debated the reasons why the cold shoulder had suddenly melted, with some throwing out the far-fetched notion that the White House was trying to make up for an embarrassing error on its website, when a caption on a photo mixed up Klaus with Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic. Other writers reminded their audiences not to personalize U.S.-Czech relations too much.

“The American president in [the person of] Vaclav Klaus received above all the Czech Republic, which is…a close friend and ally of the United States,' ” wrote Daniel Anyz in the daily Mlada fronta DNES (www.mfdnes.cz). His colleague Milan Vodicka went further in another column: “The country, it is true, didn't agree with the war in Iraq, but sent there its soldiers-and also to Afghanistan. It does what it can. It is an ally that made clear that when America needs it, it will be there--even when it grumbles. Czechs are like that.”

Mlada fronta's political leanings are rather in the center or center-right, but left-wing papers likewise value the importance of healing transatlantic relations. In an editorial, Pravo (www.pravo.cz), once the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, placed Klaus's visit in the context of a series of American meetings with European leaders that had "as their task overcoming disputes between allies over the war in Iraq." The paper judged that Bush and Klaus had moved beyond their differences of opinion and could focus on other points on the agenda--“for instance, one theme that the Czech public watches especially closely: easing tourist travel to the U.S. by simplifying the granting of visas."

If polls around the anniversary of accession show declining empathy toward America, those figures will have little to do with the European Union and much to do with the US administration's unilateral approach to problem-solving, the war in Iraq, and overall trepidation about having a single superpower. Some polls in other Central European countries have indicated that more people now want the EU to act more like a superpower counterweight to the American ogre, but that type of data isn't yet available here.

But when pressed, even though they may certainly grumble more than they did a decade ago, most Czechs would probably say almost nothing has changed in the way they view America--European Union or not. The reality of being back in Europe and now a part of the European project does not seem to have had a corollary of transforming feelings toward the U.S.

You've got some people here that love everything American, no matter what, and you've got others who think Americans are a bunch of hypocritical, conceited, wanna-be world rulers, no matter what. In the long-term, here as in the rest of Central Europe, it's the people in the middle that the administration should be worried about.

Posted 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2005

Madrid-Massachusetts: Could the "gay-link" make us closer?

Parejahomosexual-elmundo.jpgSir, do you take this man to be your husband? Lady, do you take this woman to be your wife? Male-male and female-female weddings will be a common thing this summer in Spain. It is not likely to improve the relationship between George W. Bush and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, his Spanish counterpart.

The Socialist government has just passed a law that makes Spain the third country in the world to allow gay marriage with the same rights as heterosexuals, after Holland and Belgium. And many couples are now preparing to say: "sí quiero" (yes I do) to their long time non-recognised partners. Taxes, inheritance and even child adoption -which is only allowed in Holland- are some of the rights gay couples have finally accomplished in this country.

Though the bill still has to pass through Senate, where the Conservatives hold the mayority, it's taken for granted that the proposition will become law around this summer, as even if its rejected at the Upper House of the Spanish Parliament it has to return to the Congress again, where it has a secured mayority.

The move comes almost a year after the Supreme Court of Massachusetts allowed gay marriages in that state, the only one in the US that legally recognises homosexual unions. Could this become a link uniting both countries? Hardly, I'm afraid.

George W. Bush has clearly declared his firm opposition to this kind of weddings, and the Spanish decision will likely not improve the -little- sympathy the US president has for his Spanish counterpart José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Critics of gay marriage have also flourished in Spain, mostly in the ranks of the Catholic Church. The Church had recently lost a battle where it demanded that homosexual unions not be certified as “marriages” as it believed that only unions from the opposite sex could fully deserve such terminology.

Also, the Vatican, which has just welcomed a new Pope who has already
vowed to continue the same conservative line that defined John Paul II's papacy, hasn't waited long to condemn (once more) the Spanish leftist government for this measure. Colombian cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Family Council in the Vatican, said that gay-marriage is an "inhuman" law that amounts to the "destruction of the family". The Vatican also urged the Spanish civil servants not to accept carrying out gay marriages, which would infringe the law.

The main Spanish opposition party, the Partido Popular (PP) of former
president José María Aznar, a close friend of Bush, isn't happy, either. Only one of its members of parliament voted affirmatively for the law. And its new leader, Mariano Rajoy, hasn't yet condemned the "disobedience-appeal" of the Church. Some local mayors of his party have already announced that they won't marry gay couples.

Fortunately, though, it's quite possible that more US gay citizens will decide to spend their next holiday in Spain, doing much good to Spanish tourism and, probably, to the better understanding of both
countries, at least between the "liberal" members of them.

Posted 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2005

Democratic Change in the Former Soviet Union

By Grigory Yavlinsky
In our series on democratization in the former Soviet republics, we post a contribution by Grigory Yavlinsky, a well known political figure in Russia. As one of the most visible economic reformers in the Gorbachev period, he was the main author of the “500 day” program for economic transition. He has been the founder and leader of the "Yabloko" party (centrist liberal) and was a Presidential candidate in Russia.

All these three republics have something in common: they are post-Soviet states. All of them, as well as Russia and other post-Soviet states got caught in crony semi-criminal economic systems after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The political systems in all post-Soviet states, while formally democratic, are actually not democratic at all, since there is no public control over institutions of power and the polity is dominated by different but still very similar oligarchic elites.

As far as Kyrgyzstan is concerned, the revolution there did indeed happen under the banner of democracy. But those who came to power after the previous regime had been toppled still belong to the same “nomenklatura”, just to a different faction of it. It is not clear at all if they are going to build a truly democratic system. The eventual outcome may well turn out to be similar to that of Russia, where a democratic revolution in 1991 eventually ended up in “Termidor”, that is, in the retention of power by party-Soviet “nomenklatura”.

Ukraine might have seen bigger changes, which may be related to the fact that the country has had an experience for the past 15 years that was quite different from that of Russia, to say nothing of Kyrgyzstan. Firstly, both former presidents Kravchuk and Kuchma had been stressing that Ukraine belongs to Europe and they seem to have convinced the people of that. While neither of them actually took any meaningful steps to implement those “European values” in practice, the development of such sense of belonging to Europe has been a very important step in the formation of the Ukranian society. People realized that the existing system cannot lead to the goal they came to cherish, which is integration into Europe. Secondly, Russia has had 10 years of war in Chechnya (and still counting) and it experienced a terrible political conflict that could have easily escalated into Civil War in 1993. Ukraine has had nothing like that. Finally, Ukraine did not experience such a criminalized privatization as Russia did, nor did it have oil and gas resources that have no doubt contributed a lot to making the system in Russia hopelessly corrupt. Hence, the Ukrainians could create more diverse unofficial civic organizations than Russia, and this allowed them to organize and stand up against election fraud. Something similar also happened in Georgia, although the economic and socio-political situation there was even more desperate than in Ukraine because the previous regime had been more criminal and more oligarchic. I think we can say that the developments in Georgia and Ukraine do constitute steps toward democracy, although it is a little premature to say how far they will go in this direction.

I think that the events in those three republics suggest that the transition from the Soviet-type system to a democratic system is perhaps a multi-stage process. During the first stage a system that is no longer Soviet but not yet democratic either is created, some kind of a “gray zone”. The second stage is trying to get out of this “gray zone” by establishing the true division of power, freedom of speech, transparency of the political process and economic competition. If this kind of two-stage development is indeed general, then Russia will probably follow suit sooner or later, although it may happen in very different specific forms.

It may not be the right approach to talk about “contagion”. The events such as happened in those three republics are caused in each case by country-specific and deeply rooted causes, and they cannot be imposed from the outside. Russia today may not yet be ready for any change like that. Fundamentally, the current regime clearly cannot resolve basic political, social and economic problems of the country. But the Russian society currently seems to be stuck in a very passive, almost lethargic state, so it is very difficult to predict at this point what shape the civil protest against the semi-criminal system crippling Russia will take in the future.

Posted 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Democracy working and not working in the post-Soviet republics

While the US foreign policy aims at strengthening democracy in the Middle East and in the world, recent popular mobilizations in favor of democracy in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgizstan appeared unexpected. Are there differences between democracy imposed from outside like in Iraq or from below by popular movements like in those countries? Are these genuine movements in favor of democracy or merely signs of dissatisfaction with existing regimes?

We have asked Serguey Braguinsky, one of the best known Russian economists to give his insights and comments on the recent changes in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Georgia .

1) Would you qualify the events in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Georgia as real and permanent democratic changes?

In my view it would be totally premature to speak about "real and permanent democratic changes" in all the three cases, although for different reasons.
In Kyrgyzstan, there was a popular revolt against an autocratic leader who had ruled the country ever since the Soviet Union collapsed and whose family members and other cronies usurped all political and economic power and apparently looted the country amidst wide-spread poverty. The election results were rigged to such an extent that it was impossible to guess what the actual people's will was even approximately. The structure of the new government, its ideology and the degree of commitment to democracy remain absolutely unclear.

In Georgia the ousted leader (Shevarnadze) was also corrupt and inefficient, but those who overthrew him were hand-picked and mentored in politics by him and had been his loyalists until they decided that they didn't need him any more. I am not sure there is much change there apart from personalities. The biggest challenge for the new government is how to deal with separatism in Abkhazia and South Osetiya, both of which, with almost open support from Russia have de facto become independent. After a few years of a bloody conflict Shevarnadze effectively dropped all attempts to reestablish Georgia's sovereignty over those breakaway republics, but the new leadership seems to be more radically nationalistic and this is a cause for concern (fortunately the action so far has been limited to rhetoric).
As for the Ukraine, the country had been split into two business and political clans (partly along the East-West division) all along. The "Eastern" clan that had been in power under former president Kuchma tried to foster its own commercial interests and the government was without any doubt extremely corrupt and inefficient. Its grip on power, however, was far from being absolute, so it never really came close to being a dictatorship. That could be seen even in the first election; although the vote counting was rigged, they could do as much as to throw in some extra 8-10% of votes for the pro-government candidate, and the power of the opposite clan was enough to challenge those results and win a decision to hold re-election. In contrast to Georgia, the re-election did not produce a landslide for Yushchenko but just a moderate margin of victory that was very much in line with what one could estimate from exit polls in the first election. This underscores the fact that the ousted clan still enjoyed the support of almost half of the population, especially in the ethnically Russian Eastern regions of the country. Most of my friends familiar with the situation hold the opinion that this was simply a clash between two politico-economic clans, neither of which is particularly committed to democracy or to eradicating corruption and inefficiency. However, the fact that the Yushchenko-Timoshenko clan had to enlist popular support and also Western support gives some hope that the country may make some headway toward a more democratic system in the long run.
As a general remark, the institutional change can happen only slowly and incrementally, so it would be totally unrealistic to expect "real and permanent democratic changes" to come out of a simple change in government. But the Ukranian case may contain the best long-term hope for such a change.

2) Are these events contagious?
It should be noted that all the three "revolutions" were triggered by national elections the date for which was determined by the Consitution. In this sense, they show that democracy is both not working and working in the post-Soviet republics. It is not working because instead of holding fair elections the ruling clans attempted to rig the results. It is working, however, because a popular revolt said "no" to this vote-rigging and because the transition of power did happen around the date determined by the Constitution, although it required street action to be implemented. In Russia, the next date set by the Constitution is 2008 when Putin will not be eligible for reelection (unless he attempts to change it, which by itself may trigger a revolt). In 2000 and 2004 there was undeniable vote-rigging but it did not affect the big picture as Putin clearly had the support of at least 60% of the voters. Especially in the 2004 elections the opposition simply disintegrated and, Hakamada's desperate run notwithstanding, there was not even a serious attempt to challenge Putin from the liberal, democratic flank. Since nothing is likely to happen until the next election in 2008 it is really hard to make any predictions at this point. It is not yet clear whether the ruling clan would be able to pick a unified candidate, and whether the ostracized oligarchs together with the liberal flank would be able to regroup and put forward a strong challenger. If they do and if there is a split among the ruling clan, then a situation similar to that in the Ukraine may play out. But this probably should not be called "contagion" anyway.

Posted 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2005

From Keohane and Katzenstein: “Anti-Americanisms, not Anti-Americanism” *

Contribution from Peter J. Katzenstein , Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies, Cornell University and Robert O. Keohane, Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. In this letter, Katzenstein and Keohane answer the following question posed by WorldAndUS:

How can "Anti-Americanism" best be defined, operationalized, and used as a tool for analysis?

We have been working at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, during this academic year on the topic of "anti-Americanism." Together with a group of scholars from various social science disciplines, we are completing a joint book on "the politics of Anti-Americanism," to be published in 2006. This book explores public opinion poll data on opinions toward the United States; examines Americanism in the United States and anti-Americanism in China, France, and the Middle East; and views anti-Americanism from the perspectives also of anthropology and social movement theory.

One of our major conclusions is that "anti-Americanism" serves as a label for several quite distinct phenomena, with different sources and implications for policy. We distinguish six sets of views, all of which might lead to "unfavorable" ratings of the United States in public opinion polls, and which therefore might well be coded as "anti-American":

1) Liberal Anti-Americanism. Liberals may share the values of "the American creed" but criticize the United States for not living up to these values. Whether these views should be called "Anti-American" at all is questionable.

2) Welfarist Anti-Americans. People in this category may be very critical of the United States for its lack of a highly protective welfare state, and for such policies as the death penalty. But on other dimensions -- for example, support for democracy and opposition to terrorism -- they may be quite pro-American.

3) Sovereign-Nationalist Anti-Americanism. Nationalists in a variety of countries are likely to resent the United States when it appears to threaten their sovereignty or other interests, but not to have strong negative views toward the United States at other times.

4) Radical Anti-Americanism. Marxist-Leninists (of which only relatively few remain) and radical Islamists have in common rejection of what they view as dominant American values and a desire to weaken the United States as an actor in world politics.

5) Cultural Elitist Anti-Americanism. In France and to some extent elsewhere, intellectuals have for many decades, or even centuries, rejected the United States as culturally dominated by commercialism and crude popular tastes.

6) Legacy Anti-Americanism. Legacy anti-Americanism stems from resentment of past wrongs done by the United States to another society. For instance, Mexicans still resent past military interventions by the United States and American seizure in the 19th century of large amounts of Mexican territory.

Whatever the merits of this particular typology, the general point should be clear. Anti-Americanism is an heterogeneous phenomenon. It has highly diverse roots. It should be expected, therefore, that different American practices and policies would stimulate different types of anti-Americanism, and that people holding different types of anti-American views would do so with different intensity. Liberal anti-Americans (if they can even be called "anti-American") are unlikely to engage in suicide bombing, while radical anti-Americans may under certain circumstances do so. Detailed analysis of anti-Americanism, as in our forthcoming book, will only be valuable if it begins from an understanding of anti-Americanism as heterogeneous.

* Copyright by Peter J. Katzenstein and Robert O. Keohane. Text: 492 words.

Posted 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2005

English: Language for Detouring the United States

{Ana Alfaro is a regular contributor to La Prensa, the premier newspaper in Panama, and writes the Lingua column for the paper's Sunday magazine, MOSAICO.}

The March 7, 2005 edition of Newsweek International ran a story about the English language which stated that three fourths of the English speakers of the world are not native speakers. That is, they are not British, Canadian, Irish, U.S. or Australian citizens. And that eighty percent of the electronically stored information is in English, and sixty six percent of the world's scientists read in it. ESL-UnivAdelaide.jpg

English is no longer one of, but THE most important workskill for the global Agora--just as Latin was in the heyday of the Roman empire.

What happened to the Roman Empire? It was too large, too unwieldly, and finally, had frontiers that were too porous. The conquered peoples wished to become citizens, and they simply marched into--and out of--the Empire on those very fine roads built by the Romans themselves.

Nowadays, the road is English, and the information superhighway knows no frontiers. Like Rome in its final century, the roads that all once led there are now spinning off into a thousand new tributaries. And those roads are paved with English-language textbooks and dictionaries.

Dorothy from Des Moines has absolutely no idea that the voice confirming her air travel reservations is that of a twenty-three year old in Panama City, Panama. And the English she has mastered is also a tool she can use to contact her peers in all the corners of the new empire--where English is the master key to all gateways.

A couple of centuries ago, the British Empire began laying down the groundwork for the current world domination of English, which was picked up and carried forward by the United States. English was the export vessel for U.S. technology and pop culture. The rest of the world wants some of that dollar bounty: The Chinese (and Japanese) traditional pictogram for the United States is the same used for “rice;" whoever has plenty of rice, has plenty, period.

But now the Internet, the headless monster created for defense purposes, has made it possible for the rest of the world to become connected--and makes it possible to bypass the U.S. altogether. When China buys beef from Argentina, when Mexico buys airplanes from France, the common denominator is always English. English has, in effect, allowed the rest of the world to bypass the United States and create new strategic alliances, new trade pathways, which herald the end of the world as we know it, dominated by the Northern hemisphere and by the Caucasian English-speaking elite.

Add to that the diminishing popularity of the current U.S. administration in other countries, more and more of whom are reporting mistreatment at the hands of U.S. immigration authorities. In 2003, the heir to the Spanish crown, Prince Felipe and his then fiancée, journalist Letizia Ortiz, were detained by a U.S. Immigration agent in Miami, and held for interrogation for several hours. The incident was not given much press coverage in the United States, but soon thereafter, Iberia, the national airline of Spain, moved its Miami hub to Costa Rica. The general feeling is that the U.S. behaves as if the rest of the world's inhabitants are second class citizens.

Let the U.S. not forget that no man is an island. Neither can a country live in isolation, and the U.S. and its citizens make precious little effort to learn the languages of the rest of the world. Now the Global Village is learning theirs, and leaving them out of the equation. Rejection is a two way street.

Posted 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2005

From Professor of Peace Studies Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung is professor of Peace Studies and Director of Transcend. He established the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research in 1964. He has published hundreds of articles and over 50 books, including recently "Human Rights in Another Key", "Choose Peace" and "Peace By Peaceful Means. Galtung holds numerous honorary degrees and awards, among them the Right Livelihood Award.

In this letter, Galtung answers the following questions posed by WorldAndUS:

What is the prospect of a continued US dominated world order in the long-term, and what role do the world-wide opinions about America play in this regard? Or in other words, how and why do world perceptions of the US matter?
Most non-Americans have an attitude very similar to my own: I love the US Republic and hate the US Empire. Hence what baffles some: "love and hate, often at the same time, often within the same person" – because they refer to different things. The US itself also has brilliant and dark spots, like all societies. But, what do we have against the US Empire?

Mainly this:

[1] The US Empire kills 12-16 million in 70 interventions after WWII
[2] The US Empire condemns people to misery by hyper-capitalism and [1]
[3] The US Empire manipulates the whole world including the UN politically
[4] The US Empire knows only its own approach and is unfit for dialogue

A system like that is condemned to decline and fall; that will also happen to the US Empire (for more on that, and for contradictions much beyond "world-wide opinions about America", see my On the Coming Decline and Fall of the US Empire).

I think what most people want derives easily from the list above:

- stop killing all over
- stop spreading misery along with wealth
- stop manipulating, arm-twisting, spying, coercing
- enter into dialogue as an equal party, also in the UN

In short, join the world. Step down from that platform above Planet Earth, "under God", as Chosen People with a Promised Land and a Manifest Destiny to change the world to your desire. This mentality came with the Pilgrims; the only new point about Bush is that he is more explicit.

The country that would benefit most from the decline and fall of the US Empire will be the US itself, getting rid of that killing, strangling, manipulating, autistic albatross around its neck. We from the outside join you in that struggle as nothing much can be expected from paranoid politicians seeing any dissent as a security threat, unable to see the underlying conflicts and simply go about solving them. And yet, enact the four points above, and gone is not only the US Empire, but the threats to US lives.

As a first step from the UC Berkeley stop referring to your country as "America". This is an insult to non-imperial Canada and to the countries of Latin America struggling under the burden of the US Empire. The name of your country is the US, the United States, or -- if you want to add a postal indication -- the United States of America. The citizens are not "Americans", they are very numerous, but "citizens of the US". How about USians for short?

Please also stop talking about "anti-American", presumably being a misnomer for "anti-US". We know perfectly well how to differentiate between Germany and Nazism, Russia and Stalinism, England and colonialism and so on, even if they were all deeply rooted. Most of us love the former and hate the latter. The USA is not (yet) fascist. But it is geo-fascist, killing directly and structurally all over the world. May your web-site make more of you people wake up and see the realities, not only the myths.

Posted 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

Chile faces U.S. opposition in the OAS Election

The tie in the OAS election last Monday and the United States´ clear decision to back the Mexican candidate, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Ernest Derbez, and not his contender, Chile´s Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza has raised many questions in Chile about the country´ s relationship with the Bush Administration.

It is well-known that since September 11, the U.S. has called for greater intervention of multinational organizations such as the U.N or the OAS in troubled countries such as Haiti and Venezuela. It is such policy that led the Bush Administration to support the removal of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004 and to indirectly back up the attempt to depose leader Hugo Chavez in 2002.
And that’s where problems start for Chile. According to Peruvian analyst Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Chile’s friendly relationship with Chavez´ government has everything to do with the U.S. opposition to Chile’s leadership in the OAS.

“The reason (of the U.S. opposition) stands in the friendship that Chile has been forced to develop with Chavez government in this campaign to build a solid south American front in a context in which Bolivia was always ruled out, Perú was a tough cookie to crack and Paraguay - because of the Foreign Secretary’s aspiration to obtain the second most important position in an organization that assigns positions according to geography- was never taken into consideration. To Washington, this reality led Santiago to put Chavez in a position of “factotum” to the Chilean candidacy. Venezuela was sometimes more visible than Brazil in Insulza´s effort to obtain the support of the Caribbean countries”, Vargas LLosa wrote in the Chilean newspaper La Tercera, last Sunday.

The columnist added that in any circumstances the “Chavez factor” would have put U.S. support at risk, but that the situation is all the more delicate now that Caracas has ordered the acquisition of combat planes, helicopters, patrol ships and rifles from Brazil, Russia and Spain. Also, Venezuela increasing subsidies to Cuba has made the situation even more complicated.

The Venezuela factor, however, does not necessarily mean that Chile has already lost the election, says Vargas Llosa.

“Chile is the only Latin American country that has reduced its poverty level in the last decade and that offers to the continent an alternative “model” to the Andean chaos or to the revival of the populist left-wing. This logic indicates that there may be countries that will think twice before turning their back to Santiago”, says the analyst.

Posted 07:14 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2005

From Virginia Visani in Milano : The cost of being Bush’s friend

Virginia Visani, a free lance journalist sent us this letter from Milano (Italy) commenting on the regional elections that just took place in Italy:

Last Sunday, the 3rd of April, elections for 13 regional governors took place in Italy.

The result was a “débacle” for the coalition of Berlusconi, La Casa delle Libertà.
They have lost 6 Regions, whereas the coalition of Romano Prodi, leader of the left, is presently ruling on almost every Italian region but Lombardy and Veneto.

According to commentators and columnists this can be caused by people’s disappointment regarding the promises Berlusconi made before being elected and was not able to deliver. But this is not all. Some anti-Bush sentiment might be involved.

The opposition coalition ( whose name is L’Unione) is composed by moderate ex communists who strongly opposed the war in Irak, are against Bush administration--but not against America, they say (they were fans of Kerry last November). The same coalition, however, includes under the names of Rifondazione Comunista and Comunisti Italiani many radical communists, strong opponent of the U.S..

Both these parties receive votes from different groups and mouvements generally known as “protesters” like the “No global” network, anarchists, pro-Palestinian and Islamist movements, violent groups ironically named “mouvements for peace.”

They are the “people of Puerto Alegre,” and their antiamericanism has grown in these last weeks. Among the reasons that might explain this phenomenon that also affects the moderate communists, one should note in particular:

Irak post-war
- according to the left, the responsiblity for this “disastrous” event is only and “in toto” American. They fault Berlusconi for having joined and supported Bush’s war.

Giuliana Sgrena - as soon as the Italian journalist landed in Rome after her liberation, the main claim, supported by several media, was against the American patrol who shooted because, it was said, Sgrena had collected some war news and interviews that the U.S. did not want to be known.

Terry Schiavo
- against Bush’s engagement for her life, leftists are pro-eutanasia and insist that her no-life should have been interrupted already 15 years ago.

This is why Berlusconi’s friendship with Bush seems to be an important, if not the principal, cause of his defeat.

The only recent occasion in which the leader of La Casa delle Libertà has been unanimously, entusiastically, applauded by the Left, Right and Center wings of the Senate was when he “showed his muscles” against the U.S. and urged for a bi-lateral enquiry in the real responsibilities in the Giuliana Sgrena episode that lead to the death of an Italian officer.

Posted 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

From ex Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen

Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen served as Denmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1982-1993. He was president of Venstre (the Liberal Party) from 1984-1998, leading Venstre to become the largest Danish party. In this letter he answers two questions posed by worldandus.

1. How can a small country like Denmark influence the policy of a superpower like the United States?

We can do that first of all by demonstrating our qualities as a trustworthy friend and partner – in words as well as in deeds. Our motives have to be cut out crystal clear: We share the values behind our alliance – and we are not looking for ways in which we can act as a “counterweight” to the role of the United States on the global scene. On this point a small European country has probably got a better position than some of the big countries, who seems to find it hard to put their glorious past in a modern context. (It is after all so many years ago that the Danes ruled over England, that we can no longer be suspected of dreaming of a restoration of past positions).

The above mentioned policy has been followed by Denmark since the end of the Cold War: We were active participants in the first Gulf War, i.e. by sending a warship to the Gulf – we sent special forces to Afghanistan – and we are part of the Coalition in Iraq. By doing that, we demonstrate our earnestness as a partner – and that of course earns us a right to be listened to, also when our views might be different from those of the United States.

2. Does it matter whether the US listens to the world’s perceptions of US foreign policy or not?

Yes, of course it matters! Being the only superpower left the US will always be suspected by everybody else for not caring about anything but narrow American interests. And the only way to do away with that suspicion is to listen – and react to what differences of opinion might arise, either by changing positions or explaining (patiently) why positions are not changed.

The US needs partners – even small ones like Denmark – to share the burdens of keeping the moral high ground in international policy. Therefore we also share an interest in securing an international rule of law.

Posted 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2005

From Silvia Ayuso - Is the Spanish “yes” to the EU constitution a “no” to the US?

Spaniards have massively (77%) approved the European constitution in a recent vote. This comes after they withdrew their troops from Iraq, and in the midst of much cooler relationships between Madrid and Washington.

Silvia Ayuso, a journalist for DPA in Madrid, and a friend of WORLDANDUS sent us this letter commenting on the deeper meaning of the vote as a potential indicator of evolving feelings towards the US.

With this we open WORLDANDUS to your contributions. You can comment on the entries, and you can send us longuer letters. We will publish the most relevant ones in the core section of the site.

Don’t hesitate…

Silvia Ayuso’s letter:

European leaders have praised the Spain’s vote as a "success" and an example for the countries that still have to decide via referendum over the EU's treaty.

But, what lies behind of that overwhelming approval of the text that's going to give the first Constitution not bounded to a concrete nation but to 25 and over 450 million people?

Could it be read as a stance against the US? The answer is far easier... and even selfish: For most Spaniards, this was a mere question of benefits.

The Eurobarometer states that the Spaniards are the most enthusiastic "pro-Europeans”" of the continent. They feel that their lives have improved enormously since the country entered the EU 1986.

In fact, in the past 19 years, Spain has evolved from an almost third world country to play in the "major league".

So even though 90% of the Spaniards admit that they had not read the constitutional text before going to the polls, they were convinced about voting "yes" as the main parties -the governing socialist and the conservative in the opposition- had promoted.

Still, it should not be forgotten that the abstention rate –over 57 %- was very high, though similar to the last European elections in June 2004. The “no” campaign was very strong too, exposing the many lacks in social matters, welfare and equality that it has.

But maybe this was not that important for most Spaniards compared with the feeling of belonging to a bigger community that has given them so much and that, why not, may represent a stronger position towards the unilateralism of the US.

Posted 10:46 AM | Comments (1)