Friday, November 03, 2006

Europe and Integration, Pitfalls of Analogies

Articles on the two events held at the Nixon Center are available now.

Robert VerBruggen reported on the talk given by Jyllands-Posten culture editor Fleming Rose (AKA the man who published the Muhammad cartoons.) In speaking about Muslim immigrants in Europe, Rose observed:

Many in Denmark see themselves as living in a value-neutral society.

As a result, there is no pressure to become European. Whereas seven-year immigrants living in America often identify with the United States, foreigners in Europe normally identify with their home countries, Rose said. For example, in Denmark, 20 percent of Muslims identify themselves primarily as Danes, 40 percent do not identify themselves as Danes and 40 percent see themselves as both Muslims and Danes.

Rose argued that European countries should stand together to make the demand of integration more explicit. He believes Western media outlets could have reduced violence by reprinting his paper’s cartoons, because such a move sends a strong message. He pointed to the French anti-veil law as a supporting example—the French population stood squarely behind the legislation, and no notable violence took place in protest.

Another specific step he mentioned was welfare reform. In America, the employment gap between immigrants and citizens is 2 to 3 percent; in Denmark, the difference is about 40 percent, despite labor shortages.

“In the U.S., the labor market is the most effective mechanism for integration,” Rose said. “In our society, immigration has been an economic burden.”

A radical cleric Rose referenced was even allowed into Denmark so his son could get medical care—on the taxpayers’ dime. While in Denmark, the cleric did not learn Danish and made inflammatory comments in his mosque.

It will take some adjustments for Muslims to hold up their end of the deal, Rose said. He went through a litany of statistics revealing immigrants’ mixed feelings.

The most telling numbers: 9.5 percent of Denmark’s Muslims think freedom of speech should always take precedence over protecting religious sensibilities, while 51 percent think religious sensibilities are always more important. The general population reports opposite sentiments at, 65 and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Marisa Morrison reports on yesterday's "Misappropriating Munich" event.

An excerpt:

If analogies—in particular, the lesson of Munich—often lead to incorrect judgments, why are they still present in policy discourse? As part of the prologue to America's "last great war", the Munich Agreement remains imprinted on the collective U.S. imagination. In the discussion following the comments of Record and Dueck, Michael Vlahos remarked that World War II-related analogies connect Americans to "our mythical past", allowing us to preserve our sense of national identity. The war's continued relevance is such that Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, neither of whom actually experienced that conflict, used examples from that era to justify certain policy decisions.

Furthermore, the lessons of Munich are unlikely to be discarded because Americans tend to have a poor knowledge of history. In order to gain approval for proposed military interventions, American presidents often present their policies in moralistic terms. To successfully appeal to the citizenry’s sense of moral outrage, presidents and policymakers must paint their enemies as wicked and irrational. As Hitler may be the only recent historical figure that almost all Americans recognize as unquestionably evil, policymakers have been quick to point out the resemblance between the German dictator and contemporary U.S. adversaries. Of course, these comparisons tend to be faulty. Even the cruel and aggressive Saddam Hussein was not as disposed to risk-taking as Hitler was.

Indeed, the Munich Agreement has cast a long shadow over U.S. foreign policy. For instance, its troubling influence can be perceived in the United States' refusal to consent to direct talks with the North Korean government. The failure of Chamberlain's policy of appeasement almost seven decades ago has convinced the Bush Administration that the desire to negotiate is an indication of weakness of will.

I think that point about the economy is very, very interesting.
I've only spent five years in the US, so I cannot state with confidence what you guys over there think about when you make decisions. However, it seems a little too far fetched to trace the Bush administration's unwillingness to talk directly with North Korea to the Munich Agreement. There are very few parallels between Hitler's German economic and military juggernaut on the European subcontinent and Kim's pathetic rump state that has all but given up on its unification dreams.

There seems to be a more simple reason for the aversion to a one-on-one. President Bush's aversion to the Kim dynasty is well-known, likewise his policy of regime change as evinced in Iraq. The axis of evil is what it is, and Mr. Bush put his foot down. Once he does that, he has a hard time changing his mind in public. And I have the sneaky feeling that the Munich Agreement is not the kind of historical subjects that people around Mr. Bush use to bring him around. Hitler? Sure. The Holocaust? No doubt. Exodus (the movie)? Of course. And Pearl Harbor? Slamdunk. But the Munich Agreement? Unnnnnh.

Speaking of the axis of evil, though, there is a clear parallel between the Iran issue, where the US has basically had the UK, France and Germany, with Russia hovering, negotiating with the next great Middle East power, and the Munich Agreement between Germany and the other European Great Powers. In fact, the Six-Party Talks seem… Just sayin'.
There is absolutely no clear parallel between Germany of 1939 in Europe and Iran of 2006 in teh Near East.

Iran has no territorial claims on any state, has the lowest absolute defense expenditure of the 12 states in its immediate vicinity (excepting Afghanistan) and is an inward looking country.

This Munich anaology just goes to show the depth of historical ignorance of the commentators, politicos, and assorted public intellectuals.

Are there no other pertinent historical analogies out there?
I think a better historical analogue is Spain between 1619-1649. Except that we have no one like Olivares in sight.
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