Peter H. Merkl

The Rift Between America and Old Europe:
The Distracted Eagle

Here are some excerpts:


Right after New Year’s Day, 2004, the brilliant David Brooks had an op-ed piece in the New York Times in which he labored mightily to dispel what he claimed were paranoid, perhaps even anti-Semitic allegations that “a sort of Yiddish Trilateral Commission” of neo-conservatives had taken over US foreign policy. He named “Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and William Kristol and a bunch of neo-conservatives” at the Weekly Standard (his former journal), being understandably careful to leave off Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Josh Bolton and others from this conspiratorial “neocon” list which, according to him, was a recurrent target of the Asian and European press: ”Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposé on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators”. Brooks also omitted the fact that at this point--when President Bush had to face reelection and had backed away from the tatters of neo-conservative foreign policy in Iraq and the disasters of associated economic policies--he (Brooks) was but one of a number of neo-conservatives scattering to the winds and insisting that there never was or is such a thing as neo-conservatism. Michael Lind, of the New America Foundation, a former Weekly Standard staffer and a reviewer of Richard Perle’s latest book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terrorism, has drawn up more than enough of a genealogy of the neo-conservative family, including its links to the Rupert Murdoch-owned media and conservative think-tanks and foundations. But, contrary to Brooks and other refugees from neo-conservatism, the point is not whether the neocons formed a “conspiracy” or whether this conspiracy has been very cohesive. Instead, we want to trace the ideas behind President Bush’s imperialist and unilateralist foreign policy--it is improbable that, as Brooks insists, ”Bush formed his conclusions independently”--though not all the way back to the tough-minded anti-Soviet liberals of the 1970s such as Senators Hubert Humphrey and Henry (Scoop) Jackson. President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski tellingly placed the “denigration of the Atlantic Alliance in favor of a new coalition of the willing” at the door of the neo-conservative launching of “a strategic coup de main to alter America’s fundamental geopolitical priorities”. We shall be content to start with the confused post-Cold War attitudes and some politically engaged Americans’ perfectly legal and understandable search for a new compass to action in the world. As Condoleeza Rice put it in the opening sentence of her Foreign Affairs article during the campaign of 2000: “The US has found it exceedingly difficult to define its national interest in the absence of Soviet power,” the familiar lodestar of the enemy of the last 40-some years. (pp. 93-94)

It is very important to acknowledge that the great rift between America and Old Europe did not start with September 11, 2001 and the subsequent refusal of Germany and France to follow President Bush’s bugle call to invade Iraq. It began with a number of very controversial policy disagreements initiated by Washington, including the refusal to go along with the negotiations over the Kyoto Protocols on industrial emissions and global warming, the adoption of the treaty establishing an International Criminal Court, and the unilateral insistence on a free hand in pursuing world-wide, imperial American interests without being hampered by international obligations to the UN, to disarmament treaties like the Nuclear Test Ban or the ABM treaties, and to international law in general. Let us examine in this chapter how each of these major confrontations with the allies and the world was linked to domestic policies of the new administration that differed from earlier practices and attitudes in Washington. In view of the vast spectrum of policies, foreign and domestic, we have to be selective. But all three of these policy concerns are intimately related to what has often been called the conservative revolution in American politics.

Let us begin with the profound differences of opinion on domestic environmental policies which made the American rejection of Kyoto so predictable. (p. 123)

Selected Works

Nonfiction
When Parties Prosper
The Uses of Electoral Success

This is a follow-up to When Parties Fail (Princeton University Press,1988) by the same editors and compares how stable, successful parties in 16 contemporary democracies have acquired and maintained their leading roles.
The Rift Between America and Old Europe:
The Distracted Eagle

The transatlantic rift of 2002-2004 originated mostly from unilateral policies of the Bush administration before the Iraq war.
Rightwing Extremism in the Twenty-first Century
This is a collection of essays on European rightwing extremist movements with emphasis on comparison.
A Coup Attempt in Washington?
A European Mirror on the 1998-1999 Constitutional Crisis

The Clinton impeachment, with all its questionable constitutional details, as seen by the European press.