Thursday, June 9, 2011

DSK in another context

Looking through Harold James's 2006 book The Roman Predicament: How the Rules of International Order Create the Politics of Empire (having taken it out of the library, I was trying to decide whether to actually read it), I ran across a reference to Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a discussion of European identity (pp.132-34):
...Europe can probably most easily be defined by what its makers think it is not. It is not empire and it is not America....

A need to compensate for American mistakes or to resist American policies has in practice often been behind the momentum to create new European institutions. The European Monetary System in 1979 was in large part a response to the mismanagement and weakness of the U.S. dollar in the late 1970s. These were initiatives of policy-making elites frustrated by American high-handedness or incompetence; but the European response ran largely along technocratic lines.

It is only relatively recently that commentators have thought that they observed a more deeply embedded transcontinental assertion of a new identity. European civil society was mobilized by resistance to the 2003 Iraq war. One analysis, initially set out by a former French finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, spoke of the mass demonstrations against the Iraq war across Europe on Saturday, February 15, 2003, as the sign of the new civic consciousness. "A new nation was born in the street. And that new nation was the European nation."
James's cite is: D. Strauss-Kahn, "Une nation est née," Le Monde, Feb. 26, 2004 [I assume that should be 2003]

James goes on to observe that "[b]y 2005, President Chirac was appealing for a 'yes' vote in the French referendum on the European constitution on the grounds that it offered a defense against America, and that the 'Anglo-Saxons' were trying to frustrate a new Europe." (p.134) But the French and the Dutch defeated the constitution in the 2005 referendums.

The EU then went back to the drawing board and came up with something called the Treaty of Lisbon. Among other things it created a post called High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, popularly if not accurately referred to as the EU Foreign Minister. I'll end this little potted excursion into contemporary history with a question that Herman Cain might ask (assuming that he's heard of the EU Foreign Minister): How's that working out?

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