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December 06, 2005

Euro-Leaders to Rice: Thanks, We Needed That (Not.)
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Ever have a life partner, colleague, or friend who interrupted your brilliant storytelling at cocktails with the words, "that's not how you told it last time?"

That's more or less what Secretary Rice, who had been getting oodles of good press for her diplomatic abilities,  did to our European allies this week.

But today in Germany it seems that two can play at that game.

Merkel went to the podium in Berlin today and announced that the US has "accepted its error" in detaining al-Masri, the guy apparently picked up in Macedonia and subjected to "extreme treatment" for having the wrong name.  Hours later, Rice's staff begged to differ -- "they didn't talk about errors," is how Der Spiegel has it.

As I'm writing, Merkel and her staff have not commented.  But that's an interesting little taste of her own medicine for Rice.

Her speech before leaving the US was right, in point of fact -- we did "respect the sovereignty of our partners," and, more directly, at least some senior people in those European partner governments did have quite a good idea of what we were doing with planes over, and prisons on, their territories.

And yes, it is terribly tedious to catch one's fellow leaders in hypocrisy, as they assure their citizens they are shocked, shocked over this turn of events.  (Although you'd think the Bush Administration, given its "shocked" response to claims that the military has been paying for good press in Iraq, would recognize the genre.  But I digress.)

Now we have this pushback, to ABC from anonymous sources, apparently intended to demonstrate to us just how effective these secret prisons and "enhanced interrogation techniques" are.  We learn that one individual "begged for mercy and began to cooperate" after just .31 seconds -- wonder who held the stopwatch?  and that terrorists, like Saddam Hussein, love KitKats.  (Ah, the glories of a free press.  But I digress again.)

Point is, if we think these tactics are so great and we want to keep using them, why would we make it harder for allied European governments by rubbing their faces in it in front of their own citizenry?  European human rights circles are just salivating to see whether investigations by European judicial bodies can lead to sanctions, up to and including Poland losing EU voting rights and Romania being penalized in its accession process.  The former, at least, seems unlikely to me.  But it's more furor and more fanning of anti-US sentiment -- which makes it harder for EU states to cooperate with us on fighting terrorism, or anything else for that matter.

This isn't even about the morality of renditions or torture, both of which I find odious.  This is about carrying through competently whatever policy you've chosen.  Have we really forgotten so completely in a decade how to manage alliances?

It looks as if the Financial Times , among others, agrees.


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While there are paper treaties, in spirit there is no alliance between Europe and the US.

The de Gaulle program is the de facto policy of the EU. It is more proper to regard Europe as an emerging threat than as a friendly alliance partner. Indeed, the EU was founded on the idea of countering US interests.

The EU's main weakness is just that: it was founded on a negative. With no clear positive diplomatic vision, it is reduced to mere opposition. I don't think that will last forever.


With all due respect, what does de Gaulle have to do with Heather's post?

Jeff is certainly right that, in spirit, there is no alliance between Europe and the US.

Why didn't we give it the decent burial it deserved?

The feeling of betrayal may be mutual; the paranoic fear for the other is however not yet.

Why make a big deal of ending the alliance?

If something comes up that gets us allied again, that's easier if we never made a point of being unallied.

Like our former alliance with turkey. The alliance is defunct, but who benefits by trumpeting that to the world?

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