Tuesday, August 23, 2005

To the New Transatlantic Intelligencer

As promised, here is the link to the new Transatlantic Intelligencer site:

www.trans-int.com .

Please bear with us. The site is still under construction. But you will be able to have a look, get an idea of how everything will work, and read a first edition of "Spots: a Round-Up of Notable Quotes and Curious Occurences in Europe" in the new trans-int blog.

Thanks for your continued interest in Trans-Int!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Forthcoming: A New Transatlantic Intelligencer Site and an Online Magazine

August is as a rule a "slow news" month and it is especially so in continental Europe, where those long summer vacations mean that there is less opportunity for EU bureaucrats, French civil servants, German "political foundations" and the like to be creating momentous events. So, this seems like a good a time as any to take a much-needed pause from blogging.

Please check back here on Tuesday, August 23. What you'll find at that time is a single link that will take you to the new Transatlantic Intelligencer site. The new site will, of course, still include the blog and the more-or-less real time coverage of European and Transatlantic developments that I try to provide on it. But it will also include new elements: most notably a periodic Transatlantic Intelligencer magazine featuring substantial contributions from some of the most knowledgeable - and critical - European observers of European affairs: authors whom I frequently cite on Trans-Int, but whose work has hitherto only rarely, if at all, been made available in English

The first issue of the Transatlantic Intelligencer magazine will be devoted to the topic "Europe, Radical Islam, and the Middle East Conflict".

Among other contributions, it will include:

  • Paul Landau writing on "Islamic 'Reformism' and Jihad: On the Discourse of Tariq Ramadan";

  • Matthias Küntzel on the potential legacy of Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Germany's "Red-Green" Coalition to Middle East diplomacy;

  • Thomas von der Osten-Sacken and Thomas Uwer on the understanding and sympathy diplayed by the "anti-globalization" left for violent jihad;

  • and yours truly on the latest report of the French Consultative Commission on Human Rights and what it tells us about the extent of anti-Semitism and "Islamophobia" in contemporary France.

Many thanks for your continued interest in Trans-Int.

Please mark your calendars and come back on August 23rd to get to know the new site!

(Until then, and as always, newcomers are invited to check out the dossiers of popular topics previously covered on Trans-Int that are available a bit further down in the sidebar.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reading Notes: Jeremy Rabkin's "Law Without Nations?"

In the introduction to his new book Law Without Nations? Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States,

Jeremy Rabkin describes the aim of his volume as follows: “to explain why American constitutional traditions make it hard for the United States to embrace schemes of global governance which find so much favor in other countries, particularly in western Europe”.

Underscoring why this approach to current transatlantic disputes might be of particular interest, he writes: “it is ultimately the Constitution that makes the United States a nation”. This phrase – which will, I think, seem more or less self-evident to Americans – nonetheless gives cause to pause, since precisely in its self-evidence it highlights the chasm separating the essentially political conception of nationhood underlying the American order from the “völkisch” or ethnic conception that has been and remains fundamental in Germany and is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout Europe. Not only would the claim that “it is ultimately the Constitution that makes Germany a nation” not be self-evident – though it only came into being in 1949, the current Federal Republic of Germany, nonetheless, considers itself to be the legal successor of the 2nd or Wilhelmine German Reich, which pre-dates even the Weimar constitution – but the very phrase would in German seem not entirely colloquial. In the sense of nationhood proper to German tradition, it is fundamentally “the” Germans (or “the Americans” or “the Czechs”, etc.) that are a nation. This is shown by, among other things, the large interchangeability in German usage of the Germanic word Volk and the Latinate Nation (see, for instance, Fichte’s famous Addresses to the German Nation [Reden an die deutsche Nation]. Germany is – “merely” – a state. (And, in still more remote traditions, it not even that, but only the territory traditionally or predominantly inhabited by “the Germans”.)

The undermining of constitutional government by what Rabkin calls “Eurogovernance” might have something to do with the retreat of the political conception of nationhood before the “völkisch” conception that is so conspicuous in Europe nowadays. For political nationhood is, in effect – and as Jeremy Rabkin’s remark suggests – a function of constitutional government. The “people” or “nation” in a political sense is just the totality of those who under a given constitution are entitled either to exercise legitimate authority or to select those who do. As Rabkin’s presentation makes clear, however, “Eurogovernance” more closely resembles (and seemingly draws its inspiration from) imperial schemes of government (i.e. in the medieval European sense of “imperial”) that subject a multiplicity of “peoples” – hence, necessarily, “peoples” in a “pre-political” or, in effect, ethnic sense – to a common authority of which they are not the source.

Jeremy Rabkin’s book will be of great interest to all Europeans (and others) of good faith who want to discover the principled basis for the American rejection of contemporary European “multilateralism” – an expression which has become, in effect, just a buzzword for Eurogovernance writ large and applied to the entire planet. (In the literal sense of the expression, American foreign policy is, of course, already “multilateral”, notwithstanding the fact that the leading continental European powers – i.e. those powers who most frequently accuse the US of “unilateralism” – have not of late been privileged partners.) It is especially highly recommended for Americans who want to understand better what they stand to lose if they take the path of least resistance – i.e. the path recommended with increasing virulence by most of the leadership of the Democrat Party nowadays – and concede to European demands for the US to join European-inspired "global governance" schemes like the Kyoto Protocol or the International Criminal Court.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Who are You Calling "Pro-Palestinian"?

(Note: For background, see "Franco-Israeli Détente?".)

Le Monde devoted the editorial in its weekend edition (dated 31 July-1 August) to Ariel Sharon's visit to Paris and, like myself or Emmanuel of Politique arabe de la France, attempted to decipher the reasons for the apparent softening of the French line toward Israel. According to the editors of Le Monde, the "essential reason" lies in the "image" that France has in Israel of being "a partisan country - systematically pro-Palestinian - and even anti-Semitic." This "image" is, the unsigned editorial continues, "largely a caricature" - or rather "of course [bien sûr] largely a caricature" - but it is "the Israeli perception" and this perception must be changed if France is to have influence in Middle East diplomacy.

Apparently without intended irony, the editorial concludes:
To mediate, one has to have the confidence of all the parties. From this point of view, the new tone between Paris and Jerusalem is good news for the Palestinians.

Franco-Israeli Détente?: Emmanuel Responds

On Thursday, in "Franco-Israeli Détente?", I wrote on Ariel Sharon's visit to Paris and took issue with the relatively optimistic prognosis for Franco-Israeli relations of one of the web's sharpest observers of French Middle East policy, Emmanuel of the French-language blog Politique arabe de la France. Emmanuel's response follows:

1) Both men (Chirac and Sharon) have of course a hidden agenda and are posturing for local consumption: I do not deny that. This is true for Chirac who gets a good grade from Sharon on his fight against anti-Semitism (on which he is, I believe, absolutely sincere). You are right, however, in saying that anti-Semitism in France is far from a settled matter. Sharon, for his part, also gets some political benefit at home by receiving such honors from one of the most pro-Arab heads of state in the world.

2) I do believe also that the détente has more profound reasons that are closely related to France's weakening and Chirac's low personal standing (both at home and in Europe where he is about to lose his foremost ally in the person of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder). Sharon is keen on turning this weakness to his own benefit. True, France is still pro-Palestinian. What I am saying in my analysis is that its pro-Palestinianism cannot afford to be relentless any longer: France just cannot pay such a high price in terms of internal destabilization. Sharon's disengagement plan and Arafat's death have given France an opportunity to adopt a much needed more balanced stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Now France wants to capitalize on this new stance by taking on a more important role in the peace process. Never underestimate the passion that French leaders have regarding the place and rank of their country in the world: this is the most sensitive issue of all (in this sense, the French political class is overwhelmingly Gaullist).

You cannot blame France for not being totally aligned with Israel : even the US is not. But when things get more serious, at the time of the real bargaining, I am now convinced that France will be willing to compromise on its positions and will push the Palestinians to do so as well. This is, I believe, why Sharon is willing to give a weakened France a stronger role : it still has a lot of influence in the Arab world and Sharon wants this influence to work in his favor. Spending 3 days with the guy who gave arch-enemy Yasser Arafat the funeral of a head of State is worth it.