Thursday, September 16, 2004

Bush vs. Kerry: Does it make a difference on Europe?

Yesterday, I had a chance to attend a lecture by Hans-Ulrich Klose , who is a member of the German Bundestag (Parliament) & has been involved in international politics for a while. It was one of the most inspiring & visionary political speeches I have heard in a long time. He didn't allude anyone to any miracles in the future, but talked about the importance of diplomacy, grass-roots international exchange to promote peace & security. Throughout the lecture, I kept thinking how nice it would be if some of our politicians were as intelligent, diplomatic & visionary as he was! The main points I got from his presentation were:

  • There has been a growing sense of anti-Bushism amongst Europeans, and he fears that it will turn to anti-Americanism & anti-Israelism if unchecked. About 80% of Europeans would prefer another US president.
  • Although Americans & Europeans have similarities in goals such as human rights, democracy, etc., the first term of President Bush has increased a a sense of "European identity" to differentiate themselves from Americans.
  • Differences in policies between America and Europe didn't start with Iraq: right after the Cold War, and the reunification of Germany, there was a shift in geo-strategic issues for both regions.
  • The "Middle East" for America is the "Near East" for Europe, because it is closer to the region geographically & it is vital for Europeans to see it stabilized.
  • Will anything change if Kerry became president? Not in political or economic terms. It also isn't very likely that Kerry will sign the Kyoto Protocol or join the International Court of Justice.
  • What may change is the language and philosophy. Europeans are weary of Bush because his language & philosophy is all about right & wrong, black or white. To most Europeans, this is a dangerous approach. Due to the bloody religious history in the region, many Europeans are also fearful of Bush's political beliefs & his will to impose it on others as God's mission. Kerry's diplomatic & multi-lateral approach to global issues probably is closer to Europeans than Bush.
  • Europeans seek for long-term solutions, rather than the "instant gratification" approach of most Americans. They don't believe that conflicts can be solved by military force - Mr. Klose emphasized that Afghanistan was the exception & not the rule to the "War on Terror," because terrorism is a political problem. Iraq was not a terrorist haven before the invasion.
  • The strict travel & visas rules have benefited Europe, especially Germany in two main ways: more Arabs come to Germany & other European countries for medical treatments. In fact, the popular Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has felt the negative impact. Additionally, more Arabs are going to Europe than the US for education. Mr. Klose also pointed out that the "brain-drain" of Europe to the US has slowed down dramatically after 9/11 and the war in Iraq.
  • He was pessimistic about Iraq: he hopes that the country will stabilize within the next 10 years but realizes that it will take a great amount of commitment & support from the international community. He did not agree with the strategy of targeting & destroying houses in Iraq, because it is a misguided policy & not effective. Germany is helping train Iraqi security forces in the United Arab Emirates, and will train pioneer units in areas such as reconstruction. Another goal, it is pursuing under NATO is the removal of landmines - this has not yet begun.

Mr Klose's most important message was that the United States needs to partner with other nations for common causes and that it is vital for the US to regain respect in the world that it has lost. He was not hopeful that the European nations would act as a unified nation in the near future, but that it would be possible in another 20-25 years. He said that the progress most European nations have made after WWII is remarkable & could stay that way if the right decisions are made in the future.