Guest Post: An Open Letter to My Friends in France by A. Belden Fields

This is a guest post from an old Yale graduate school colleague now a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and author of Rethinking Human Rights for the New Millennium (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003) and a distinguished expert on French politics. He  sent a copy of his insightful open letter addressed to his friends in France which I thought was worth sharing with our readers as it reflects wider concerns for all on both sides of the Atlantic. Harry Blaney .

Photo Credit via BBC

An Open Letter to My Friends in France

By A. Belden Fields

Last May, when we were sitting at my dinner table in Urbana, Illinois, my Parisian friend, Dr. Marie-Blandine Basalo, asked me if I thought that Trump had a chance of winning the election. I responded that I thought that Marine Le Pen stood a better chance of winning there than Trump had here. She gave me a look of horror. And I have said to others among you that I thought that Trump had a zero chance of winning.

I offer my apologies both because I was so wrong about Trump’s chances, and because Trump’s victory here has given the National Front and other ultranationalist and racist parties in Europe a boost–if not in their chances of winning, at least in their morale.  “If the US does it, hey why not here!”

How could this have happened in the U.S.?

The reasons are complex, some peculiar to the U.S. and some that are common to both the U.S. and Europe. The most significant that applies as well to Europe as here is the economic situation. There is very high unemployment, especially among younger people and the marginalized. In France, overall unemployment is higher than in the U.S.. That being said, the true unemployment rate in the U.S. is much higher than the official figures. In both the U.S. and France, there is a tendency among many to blame immigrants and minorities for it. They are also often seen as sapping the country in terms of social services that particularly strain local units of government. External entities are also held responsible. In the U.S. it is trade pacts like NAFTA that encourage employers to chase after low wage industrial workers abroad (even though there are plenty of low wage service workers in the U.S.). In Europe, it is the European Union which is seen as an unaccountable, undemocratic arrangement that forces austerity policies upon the individual countries to the detriment of the general population, and to the advantage of the upper, capitalist classes.

All of these factors produce high emotions of fear and anger, of ultranationalism and the attribution of otherness to minorities and immigrants, and to despair with the status quo and the hope that Far Right parties, usually with charismatic leaders, can save them from the calamity that they feel they are living.
Another interesting dimension to this is religion. In Poland and in the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches respectively are playing a major role in supporting right-wing politics. In France, a conservative Catholic bloc has been manifesting itself in the conservative Republican Party and can be seen in the programs of former President Nicolas Sarkosy and in the present Republican presidential candidacy of Francois Fillon. Gay marriage, abortion, and even secularism in public institutions, especially the schools, which has been a mainstay of French Republicanism, have newly become major issues in the mainstream of French politics.

This resembles, on a smaller scale, Trump’s appeal to the white evangelical voters in the American South and Mid-West. The big issue for them is who will be appointed to the Supreme Court and be voting on civil rights issues for women, minorities, and the LGBT population. The European Right, in both Western and Eastern Europe, has taken up the battle over cultural and social issues (the culture wars) that the American Right has engaged in for along time and that Trump has been playing so effectively.

But there are other variables that accounted for Trunp’s victory that are not so easily comparable to what is happening in Europe recently. The first is the Electoral College. If Trump and Clinton had been French, Clinton would have won because she had a sizeable lead in the popular vote, over two million more votes than Trump.

Aside from this, there was the difference between the two candidates themselves. Clinton was clearly the more politically experienced and qualified. She discussed policy issues in a serious way. And she would have been the first woman president, following the first African American president. That was both a plus and a minus. A plus for those who valued diversity in political life, a negative to those who despised “identity politics.”

Even some on the Left felt that she should have devoted more time to addressing the serious economic plight of many Americans than in stressing the breaking of the glass ceiling imposed by males. While this is not necessarily an either/or, many Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary felt that Clinton did not come across as sincerely attentive to the economic plight of so many people where industry had disappeared. Fairly or not, the association that was made between her and her husband’s support of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), and her hesitation in coming out against Obama’s Trans Pacific trade agreement, made her unpopular both on the Left and on the populist Right. Her vote for the Iraq War and other more hawkish positions also alienated progressives on the Left and noninterventionists on the Right. Her use of a personal server for public business when she was Secretary of State came back to haunt her. And her closeness to Wall Street when she was the Senator from New York, and refusal to release the content of speeches she gave to investment bankers for large fees, did not help her on either wing of the political spectrum.

Trump, on the other hand has had no political experience which could be held against him. His business dealings were marred by frequent bankruptcies, by refusal to pay for services provided by contractors, by a constant stream of threats and lawsuits against people and institutions. He broke tradition by being the first presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. Instead of seriously discussing policy issues, he offered a series of ad libs to please his crowd. He vilified all of his opponents in both the primary and the general elections. He referred to Clinton as “crooked Hillary” who should be criminally prosecuted. He refused to say that he would accept the result of the election. He degraded women, Mexicans and Moslems. He even ridiculed the physical gestures of a paralyzed reporter who asked a question at a press conference. He has bragged about molesting women and been accused by a number of women of doing so. He has encouraged violence against protestors at his rallies. He has defended the use of torture.

Since the election, he has appointed to be his attorney General Senator Sessions, who has spoken favorably of the Ku Klux Klan and opposed civil rights legislation. His special adviser with an office in the White House, will be Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart, a Far Right “news” outlet that has diffused racist and anti-Semitic material, and which intends to establish an office in Paris. His national security advisor is going to be former Lt. General Michael Flynn, who, along with his Trump-employed son, has spread fake stories on social media contending that Hillary Clinton was involved in criminal activity, including with child sex rings.

In Europe, you have had your Le Pens, and your Berlesconi whose sexual vulgarity equals Trumps. The former were established party leaders. Trump has captured a party. What he has behind him are largely the economically hard hit who are willing to forgive his sins in the hope that he will be their salvation, and white supremacists who see him as their vindication and leader. Trump is an actor who has created politics as a one-man spectacle, combining Mussolini’s oratorical style and facial gestures with a skilled use of Twitter, which the cable news media has retransmitted instantaneously to the public.

Indeed, the closer historical analogy to the spectacular Trump are the Nazis who used the technology of radio to mobilize the masses in their living rooms, vilified and crushed political opponents, dehumanized ethnic and religious groups, and repeated lie after lie with the assurance that their followers would believe them and that establishment politicians and business leaders would be afraid to confront them. It is precisely this complex of factors that foreshadowed the first totalitarian state in Western Europe in the late 1930s, which began with an electoral victory and which too few took seriously enough until it was too late.

I say to you, please do not be taken in the way we Americans have been.
Ici la lutte continue.

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VOICES BEYOND OUR BORDERS: WHAT DOES THE WORLD THINK OF OUR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN?

Image result for US Presidential Election 2016

By Harry C. Blaney III

We have focused rightly on the positions and statements of the key presidential candidates and American opinion as reflected by our media and our citizens, including experts in foreign and national security issues. But voices abroad do matter in an ever more connected world.

Here are some of the voices we have found which reflect on what leaders and others abroad think of our election debates, candidates, and the implication for their own lives and security.

SELECTED QUOTES ABROAD

EUROPE:

Great Britain:

Donald Trump is “no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland”, his views on Muslims “do not represent the mainstream views of people across America.” – First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon  – Independent.co.UK

“I want Donald Trump to come to London so I can introduce myself to him as a mainstream Muslim, very, very comfortable with Western liberal values, but also introduce him to hundreds of thousands, dare I say millions of Muslims in this country, who love being British, love being Western,” – London Mayor Sadiq Khan

“I thought that was an extraordinary thing for a candidate for the office of president of the United States to say. Basically because America as I understand it is a country built on the ideal of welcoming people irrespective of their race, religion, color or creed or whatever. And I think that’s a fine thing about America…very, very disappointed” about Trump’s proposed Muslim Ban – Boris Johnson  – CNBC

Trump’s claims that pockets of London are so radicalized that the police do not enter them are “nonsense” – British PM Theresa May BBC

Donald Trump’s Muslim ban “divisive, stupid and wrong” – Former British PM David Cameron – BBC

“I cannot possibly tell you how you should vote in this election. But you know I get it, I get it. I’m hearing you. But I will say this, if I was an American citizen I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. In fact, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me.” – UKIP Former Leader Nigel Farage, stumping for Trump in late August – Huffington Post

Germany:

“Whether Donald Trump, Marine le Pen or Geert Wilders – all these right-wing populists are not only a threat to peace and social cohesion, but also to economic development,” – German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel

“I value her long political experience, her commitment for women’s rights, family issues and health care.”I value her strategic thinking and that she is a strong supporter of the transatlantic partnership. Whenever I had the chance to work together with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Reuters

France:

Donald Trump “makes you want to retch” and his election could shift world politics to the right. He makes “hurtful, humiliating comments” and politicians “should be respected when they are respectable” – French President Francois Hollande – The Guardian

Italy:

“I think it is obvious for me and for a lot of us to prefer Hillary Clinton as commander-in-chief, because with her, there is a woman able to know every dossier, able to have a history and a future with all the partners.” – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – CNBC 

Ireland:

“I would have no difficulty in meeting Donald Trump” “Certainly. I would be very happy to. [explain why Trump’s comments are “racist and dangerous”]” – Irish Prime Minister End Kenny – Reuters

Austria:

“There might be one more thing that we don’t agree with Mr. Prime Minister, and this issue is Donald Trump. I am sure that there is only one thing that we can learn from him: that a man should never dye his hair.”– Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern – Euronews

Norway:

“A lot of what Donald Trump says makes for a more unstable world…
I hope this is part of local election campaigning and not what he will do if he is in office. He has said on a lot of topics different things, so we will see which Donald Trump he becomes.”– Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg – Politico

Sweden:

“Sweden should always make an effort to have good relations with countries around the world regardless of who is in power. But it is clear to see when you watch the [party] conventions that one is based on fear and division. Hate, I would almost say, or at least antipathy. The other one is based more on faith in the future.””I want Hillary Clinton to become president. There’s no doubt about it.” – Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven – TheLocal

Denmark:

“Now your presidency is coming to an end, and I have something to admit. I’m very fond of the Donald, too. I support him as a president. He’s pretty smart, shows great leadership skills, a true visionary. And I’m, of course, talking about Donald Tusk, who is president of the European Council.”– Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen – The Hill

Czech Republic:

“If I were an American citizen, I would vote for Donald Trump.” – President Milos Zeman – Bloomberg

Hungary:

“I’m not a member of Donald Trump’s campaign, I’d never have thought that it would occur to me the idea that he would be the best choice for Europe and for Hungary.” – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – Bloomberg

Russia:

Donald Trump as a “colorful” person. Both candidates “engage in provocations”, but are also “smart, very smart people who understand which strings to pull.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin – Telegraph

The All-Russian Center for Public Opinion found 34 percent of respondents found relations would improve between the US and Russia if Trump were elected, compared to 6 percent for Clinton. The same survey found that 53 percent of polled Russians would think relations would deteriorate between the two countries if Clinton was elected, compared to 12 percent with a Trump presidency. – Washington Times

EU:

“If a man who shows off by not having a clue ends up in the White House, a critical point will have been reached. Then you will have an obviously irresponsible man sitting in a position that requires the utmost sense of responsibility. Trump is not just a problem for the EU, but for the whole world.” – European Parliament President Martin Schulz – Express

NATO:

“I don’t think we have a right to lecture…I will not interfere in the US election campaign, but what I can do is say what matters for NATO. Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO. This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another.” – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in response to Trump’s comments about conditional commitment to NATO allies’ defense – CNN

 

ASIA:

China:

Experts find that China finds Hillary “is predictable, they generally know how she approaches China: There are aspects they don’t like about her, but they generally know what to expect,”

while with Trump “Donald Trump is a puzzlement… They don’t like his proclamations about what he would do in terms of tariffs on Chinese goods, and that he’d go after China on economic and trade issues. But having said that, I don’t think there are many who think he can follow through on what he’s talking about, or even if he knows what he’s talking about.”CNBC

Korea:

North Korea praised Trump’s suggestion of pulling US troops from South Korea in a commentary from the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, claiming the South Korea “attitude is best shown by the way they got scared by Trump’s comments and groveled”

Although South Korea’s elected officials have not commented on Trump’s suggestions, media commentary has opposed these ideas. Kyunghyang Shinmun wrote an editorial in May stating:

“It is scary just to imagine Trump, who often doesn’t remember what he has said, getting elected president and manipulating Korean Peninsula issues by drastically shifting his positions.”The New York Times

Japan:

In response to Trump’s suggestion about South Korea and Japan acquiring nuclear weapons of their own: “Whoever becomes president of the United States, the Japan-US alliance, based on a bilateral security agreement, will remain the core of Japan’s diplomacy” – Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary – Stuff

 

AMERICAS:

Canada:

“Regardless of the eventual winner, from one administration to the next, there are changes, and there are shifts, but we will engage … in a positive, thoughtful collaborative way that understands the importance of the North American trilateral relationship,” – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Reuters

Mexico:

“I invited you to come and apologize to all Mexicans. Stop lying! Mexico is not yours to play with, show some respect.”
“He has failed all along. His absolute inconsistency in his positions, this very lousy way of trying to gain votes in speaking one day badly and aggressively against African Americans and then the next day asking them for support, telling the Hispanic community you’re criminals, you’re rapists, I’m going to throw you out of this country, and now he’s trying to get through a message that he’s not that bad, that he wants to do that because he loves that community because he thinks there are great people there. He thinks that everybody is stupid, especially the U.S. voters and the Hispanics and African Americans. Who is going to believe him with these dramatic and profound changes in opinion and public policies? “ –     Vicente Fox – Time

“What is a fact is that in the face of candidate Trump’s postures and positions, which clearly represent a threat to the future of Mexico, it was necessary to talk. It was necessary to make him feel and know why Mexico does not accept his positions.”

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, defending Trump’s visit to Mexico – NY Daily News

 

AFRICA:

Egypt:

“No doubt [that Donald Trump would make a strong leader]” – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – CNN

 

SUMMARY COMMENTARY:

Many may ask whether the views of leaders abroad or the global media and foreign citizens even matter. My answer is yes, they do if Trump or anyone like him were to ever become president.  Entire decades of good will, acceptance of our leadership on key issues like climate change and support we have obtained by our many act of humanitarian assistance, of security given to many nations and not least our allies, will largely disappear. We will be standing alone, just 4% of the world’s population, with a globe wondering what happened to our democracy and inducing insecurity and fear for global order, economic growth for all, and mutual security.

We welcome your comments which can be posted here.

Visit our regularly up-dated Race to the White House section covering quotes, foreign affairs statements and policies of the presidential campaign candidates and parties.

W(H)ITHER THE WEST?

     The aptly labeled “euro crisis” has led to a good deal of speculation about the future of the common currency, the European Union and, as if to put to rest any doubt that U.S. national security interests are also at play, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Debate on all of these issues is building on the back of great changes that have occurred all over the world since the end of the Cold War, most particularly the redistribution of economic, political and strategic might and influence.  The very meaning and identity of “the west” can no longer be clearly defined, as serious differences between its various components threaten to undermine the solidarity forged over the decades, particularly since the end of World War II.

     The euro crisis itself has clearly demonstrated  substantial differences between the economies of the northern tier, led by Germany, and those of their Mediterranean partners, i.e., Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain,  Portugal and, not far behind, France.  Those differences and the solutions proposed or, more accurately, imposed by the austerity-mad forces of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have led to loose talk not only about the future of the Euro Zone but, as stated above and in more hushed tones, of the European Union itself.  (The IMF’s Christine Lagarde is now reported as working to soften Merkel’s hard line.)  The consequences of dissolution may well force face-saving remedies, but the crisis has exposed not only wide gaps in monetary theory but obvious political and cultural prejudices that will survive whatever technical solutions are hammered out.

     A danger of quite a different kind exists in political developments in the British Isles, where Scots will decide next year whether to remain in the United Kingdom or go their own way, and where a new political party, the “Independents”, is gaining strength while pushing loudly for British departure from the EU.  The Tory government of David Cameron is feeling the pressure.  Add to that the recent ill-concealed animosity between the conservative Merkel forces and the French Government of socialist François Hollande, both wary of loss of support from their own domestic constituencies.  (Merkel is up for re-election this coming September, and Hollande predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy seems to be rethinking his retirement as criticism at home and abroad of Hollande’s performance emerges on a daily basis.)   If the UK goes its own way, the world will not end, but if France and Germany cannot work out their differences, the European experiment is dead.  The betting here, based as much on hope as anything else, is that common sense will rule.

     What does all this have to do with American national security?  Everything!  Whether or not there must occur some shift in focus, with the United States paying increasing attention to its interests in both the Near and Far East, the importance of Europe, Western Europe above all, will never diminish.  Washington surely understands this simple truth and, we must assume, is acting on that understanding.  This may well explain the recent announcement that President Obama will make an official visit to Berlin on June 18-19, which the German Deputy Spokesman has specified will take place at the invitation of  Chancellor Merkel and will cover “a broad range of bilateral and global issues including the further deepening of the transatlantic relationship”.  We can be sure that the dangers facing European and transatlantic unity will be high on the agenda.

     “Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given.” This quote from an incisive article by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in the British daily The Independent of  May 12

says it all, no matter what hopeful optimism has been expressed above.  Schulz’s views, under the headline “Europe needs to change, let the debate begin.  For some the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ is in freefall,”   must be repeated in full:

“For some, the idea is in freefall. Europe is living through rising eurosceptism, unacceptably high unemployment, especially among the young, and weak economic prospects.  This is worrying, for the moment people withdraw their support from an idea, the idea is finished. The more populist protest parties may see the European elections this time next year as an opportunity to score electoral successes. 

“As a convinced European I welcome the debate, but I recognise first that Europe needs to change course, something many in Brussels seem not to acknowledge. We are living beyond our means. Budgetary consolidation is essential, if only because we cannot bequeath a mountain of debt to our children. 

“Second, some structural reforms – to the labour market and on retirement ages – are essential. But the austerity policies currently being implemented in Europe are lopsided. It is taking too long for the structural measures and the necessary budgetary consolidation to take effect and, at long last, increase competitiveness. In the meantime, some EU Member States are sliding ever deeper into a recession. Austerity, supposedly the cure, is threatening to undermine the European project.

 “Third (and this is surely a cause to warm a British Eurosceptic’s heart), the EU must tackle the vexed question of tax. Every year in the EU, €1 trillion is lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance – an enormous loss to the Union. This sum could be used to pay off debt, to set up youth guarantee schemes and to invest further in growth initiatives. European heads of state and government have a duty to agree on effective counter-measures at the EU summit in ten days’ time.

 “And yet, and yet. Just six months ago, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was one of my proudest moments. Indeed, many of Europe’s greatest successes are being taken for granted: Europe is the most prosperous continent on earth, Europeans can travel, work and live where they please. We enjoy a standard of living and a degree of protection of our fundamental rights which people in other parts of the world can only dream of.

“Perhaps paradoxically, a new European awareness is emerging from the crisis. Europeans are recognising how interdependent they are. One country’s failures can threaten the entire European economy, and can call into question the fruits of 60 years of integration. Peace, solidarity, and prosperity are not irreversible; only 27 countries, (28 when Croatia accedes to the EU on 1 July this year), working together can guarantee them. The peoples of Europe are taking a greater interest in what is happening on the other side of their countries’ borders. People want to know what the retirement age is in other countries, what the top tax rate is, why young people are demonstrating in the streets of European capitals. 

“However, some governments still refuse to accept that they are already working in a European context. They prefer to cling to national sovereignty, to the familiar trappings of carefully orchestrated Brussels Summits at which they mount a last-ditch defence of their national interests and then present the outcome at home as a victory. In so doing, they disregard the fact that it is in their countries’ very best interests that Europe should function properly. This, surely, is little more than posturing. 

“The European Parliament and the Council is currently discussing the EU’s long-term budget 2014-2020. It’s an important issue, but sadly it best illustrates the short-termist lack of commitment of some Member States to the wider European interest.  It is clearly misguided of EU governments, including the UK government, not to shift investment towards research and development, education, training, foreign relations and development aid, areas where European added value are at their greatest.

“The EU is about much more than its budget (capped at a meagre one percent of EU GDP since its inception).  The single market benefits the British economy hugely, and the EU remains by far the biggest destination for UK trade, accounting for almost 50 per cent of total exports The UK has played a leading role in forming many key EU policies (on the single market, overseas development, trade and climate change).  UK leadership in these areas has been highly appreciated and would be sorely missed should the British decide to exit.

“The UK has also played a major role in shaping policy on Justice and Home Affairs. In little over a year from now, these policies, including most importantly the European Arrest Warrant, cross-border criminal justice and policing become fully-fledged EU policies, meaning that any Member State failing to apply them properly can be brought to court. Yet the UK is moving ever closer to opting out of scores of those measures – in essence re-erecting national borders in the fight against cross-border crime. The UK’s own House of Lords EU Committee has concluded damningly that “…the Government have not made a convincing case for exercising the opt-out and that opting out would have significant adverse negative repercussions for the internal security of the UK and the administration of criminal justice in the UK, as well as reducing its influence over this area of EU policy.” Does the UK really want to puts its internal security at risk by exercising this opt-out?

“Next year’s European elections are of paramount of importance. For the first time there will be candidates from the European political parties for the post of European Commission President, this should engender a greater interest in Europe’s future. Those who say they want more democratic control can hardly complain at that. 

“Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given. A thorough, factually-based conversation on the virtues of deepening European integration needs to take place, starting in the UK. Britain would be sorely missed should it decide to leave. The stakes are high, so let the decision be taken with full access to the facts, rather than to narrow, outdated thinking. Let the debate begin!”

     W(h)ither the West?  However one wants to take that question, of this there can be no debate: the matter is of crucial importance to U.S. national security.

Europe Again – More Dysfunction in Both UK and Italy

There are signs again that Europe is off track with both the anti-European stance by Prime Minister David Cameron and his Euro-skeptics and the politics in a number of member states, not least in Italy, the third largest economy in Europe. But, Italy is not unique unfortunately.

Cameron’s foolishness has already been covered in a couple of our blog posts, and is especially sad since Britain could play a positive role if it could change its leadership’s narrow perspective, its anti-European stand and if it could seek real common solutions and not just protect its financial “City” institution’s desire to enrich their management, but not the nation. 

The political uncertainty in Italy has reverberations throughout Europe, with no clear winner emerging from the Italian elections.  None of the political parties have secured a majority in either houses of parliament. Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left Democratic Party gained a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, but he was behind former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing faction in the Senate. But, the comedian, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement will be strongly represented in both houses of parliament. Prime Minister Mario Monti’s centrist party garnered only 10% of the vote, and an alliance between his party and Mr. Bersani’s Democratic Party would not be enough to gain a majority in the Senate. Further, there is deep division between Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Grillon on anti-austerity policies. Thus, uncertainty about Italy’s direction remains. .

The deadlock is causing vexation throughout Europe. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said recently, “What is crucial now is that a stable functioning government can be built as swiftly as possible. This is not only in the interests of Italy but in the interests of all Europe.” Yet, Germany is at the forefront of the problem with its insistence on harsh austerity already proven a disaster throughout Europe. 

Other leaders in Europe are also expressing concern, but not taking the lead in a reversal of austerity, and are not acting to stem the move to radical largely right parties with anti-European nationalistic and bigoted agendas. The financial market’s reaction to the incertitude caused by the election appears to be reacting to a sense of downward and irresponsible politics and a lack of direction. Italian shares recently lost some 5% of their value. The yields on Italian ten-year bonds increased strongly. The Euro also dropped against the dollar and stock markets fell in France and Germany. But, we are likely to see wide swings depending on the news of the day without any sense of a firm future outcome.

We are not immune in America from these tribulations and dysfunctions in Europe. Europe’s collective move toward deep and thoughtless austerity policies have brought much of Europe to its knees economically, and despite the disaster these policies have brought upon the people of Europe, there is no clear sign yet that European leaders have learned any lessons.

But, Americans have no room to be smug. Our own dysfunction seems even more of a worldwide disaster given the global impact in terms of security, economy and international governance that the U.S. has. Together, these two groupings in Europe and North America represent about half of the globe’s economy and much of its scientific and technological talent. 

Further, there are signs that the worse, not better, may lie ahead, unless our collective politics gets better, both at the national, regional and super-national levels. On the latter, I hope that Secretary Kerry and the new incoming Secretary of the Treasury, along with President Obama will put back on the top of our agenda the healing of our economies, will put in place jointly growth strategies and programs, and as part of this, proceed with the idea of a Trans-Atlantic trade pact. But, they need to also act on reigning in the excesses of our private financial institutions, which seem determined to go back to their old greedy irresponsible ways of not investing in the “real economy,” but again in destructive “paper transactions,” which undermine a sound fair economy that creates jobs and not just riches for the very few.

 

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!