Monday, June 04, 2007

World Order, Kosovo and Palestine

I want to conclude my series of dispatches from London with a warning: it may appear from my earlier postings that there was a clear and easy divide between “Americans” and “Europeans.” I want to correct that simplistic assumption. A wide range of views was expressed across the spectrum by both American and European participants. Some of the Europeans put forward views on foreign policy that would be considered quite “neoconservative” from a U.S. perspective, and there was ample proof around the table at Chatham House why synergy occurred between the Bush and Blair Administrations when it came to Iraq.

One, however, could detect two general “European” approaches to world affairs on display during our discussions. The first was a version of the “global NATO” approach—that a reinvigorated trans-Atlantic relationship, perhaps guided by a renewed EU-3 under the troika of Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, could reach out to Washington and forge a new consensus about how to deal with both geopolitical problems (Russia, China, the Middle East) and issues such as democracy promotion, energy security and climate change (on the last point, of course, President Bush’s speech damped expectations about finding common ground). In keeping with Sarkozy’s point he made to The National Interest, that one goal of foreign policy must be “to promote the universal values of liberty and the respect for human rights and dignity” , some of the participants argued for a vigorous trans-Atlantic effort to push back against the “democracy backlash”.

The “neo-Westphalians” were also very much on display, however. They argued that most of the world’s pressing problems require the active cooperation of both democratic and non-democratic states, and that even a tighter U.S.-Canada-EU alliance was not sufficient to address the issues in sufficient depth. Cooperation in pursuit of shared aims would in turn require a greater willingness to accept divergences in domestic social, political, and economic arrangements. This group was much more skeptical about proposals for a community of democracies, although some agreed that the community framework made sense in terms of providing a blueprint for ordering trans-Atlantic (rather than global) relations.

Finally, one other point of trans-Atlantic divergence. In recent posts, I highlighted the divisive issue of climate change. Another one emerged, in that of how to deal with the Palestinians. And here, there is a Kosovo connection.

Many of the Europeans have adopted the same logic for Kosovo and Palestine—that what prevents Palestinians and Kosovar Albanians from dealing with terrorism, organized crime and violence is the lack of a final defined status that guarantees statehood. Therefore, many have adopted the logic of “status producing standards”—that linking further progress in both places to achievement of benchmarks in security and law-enforcement is counter-productive.

The problem is that while the U.S. has moved away from the “standards before status” approach with regards to Kosovo, it still insists strenuously on strict Palestinian compliance with such benchmarks before there can be significant progress. And this appears to be a widening point of divergence across the Atlantic.

I'm not sure the analogy of Palestinian Arabs and Kosovar Albanians works. The Arab League has offered to trade recognition of pre-1967 Israel for Palestinian statehood on the West Bank and Gaza but I don't recall the Palestinians agreeing to this.

Gaza is now for all practical purposes independent but we don't see the kind of reconstruction there that would support the notion that statehood will lead to new standards. Perhaps the situation in Gaza is still burdened by the larger uncertainty over Palestinian statehood, but I wonder if the situation there isn't also a reflection of realities that must qualify any comparison with Kosovo.
Japan (unlike China) does not once come up in these posts, does it?

No, Nick, I'm not complaining. It's just an observation. After all, to Mr. Everyman (Everyperson?), there's an upside to irrelevance.
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