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The World and President Bush: A New Start?

Brent Gregston, Worldpress.org contributing editor, Paris, France, November 5, 2004

European headlines

Headlines from the European press on November 4, 2004.

Newspapers around the world have engaged in tense speculation about the global fallout from Bush's victory.

In Europe, the press generally reflects the widespread disapproval of Bush and his policies. "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" asked a Daily Mirror headline, beneath a photo of the American president.

"Whether we like it or not America has become more conservative, more religious and more unilateralist," commented Le Monde newspaper in an editorial. According to a poll in the daily Le Parisien, 65 percent of French citizens thought Bush’s re-election was a “bad thing.”

"We can't help wishing that Bush would stop being Bush," said Germany's weekly Die Zeit. "In other words, less arrogant and self-righteous…[F]or whatever America hopes to achieve in the next four years, it will require friends…But they will want not just a hearing but respect. How else will Bush stop the Iranian and North Korean from acquiring nuclear weapons, save the dollar, defeat the terrorists and protect democracy in Iraq (which is also in Europe's interest) from its bloodthirsty enemies?"

Former Dutch defense minister Joris Voorhoeve, in an interview with Radio Netherlands, said that Europe and the U.S. have no choice but to meet each other half way. "The current damaged transatlantic relationship benefits no one," he observed "I think it's in [Bush's] interest to seek more international cooperation, because the tasks which the United States has taken upon itself are so large and so heavy that the country needs the support of its allies."

One of the tasks for Britain, according to a story in the Scotsman, is to influence Bush on the issue of global warming. Blair "Must Press Bush on Climate Change" ran the headline of an article quoting Liberal Democrat Norman Baker who said that Bush has been “by all measurements...the worst U.S. President in living memory in terms of protecting the environment...We cannot afford to have another four years, not just of inactivity, but of increasing US emissions; we need to act." Baker was also quoted as saying that the world expects the UK to act as America's “critical friend,” not its “best buddy.”

Knee jerk pro- or anti-Americanism is a manifestation of Europe's total passivity, argued Jacques Attali, a columnist in France's weekly L'Express. "We cannot ask the American administration, be it Democrat or Republican, to share the leadership of the world with a divided, feeble and pusillanimous Europe," he wrote.

According to Attali, Europe "has no wish to exercise leadership, no army, no diplomacy, no development strategy... and not even a clear notion of its own interests….We act as if we didn't want, above all, to play a role in history so that we will be not be held responsible, or scapegoated, for the surrounding chaos; as if we thought that inaction constituted our best protection against someone taking revenge."

Christian Wernicke in Sueddeutsche Zeitung mused that some supporters of a strong Europe will rejoice in Bush's re-election: "…based on their calculations, the electoral victory will force Europe to develop its own, independent foreign policy. Their logic is not unlike that of the Mullahs in Teheran who made no secret of their preference for Bush before the election wishing for an enemy to keep their own followers in line."

"Second only to Ariel Sharon in terms of unpopularity among Arabs, US President George W. Bush's re-election victory was greeted in the Arab world with a sense of disillusionment and foreboding," reported the Daily Star of Lebanon. The paper interviewed Samir Khalaf, a professor of sociology at the American University of Beirut who said, "Just like 9/11 became a watershed in American foreign policy, this election seems to me another watershed that might be much more ominous."

Nevertheless, the Daily Star insisted in an editorial that a "new start" is possible if the U.S. will apply "a single, consistent set of values that applies to all countries, including the United States and Israel in their treatment of the Palestinians and others in this region….This is a major lesson of the experience of this Bush administration, and should be a guiding light for its policy in the next four years."

In Israel, there is widespread apprehension at the idea of a new start. A report, prepared by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and just made public, warns Israel will likely face greater pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians and make concessions.

Israel's Ha'aretz analyzed the possibility: "Regardless of the incumbent president, Republican or Democrat, neo-con or bleeding-heart, born-again or scandal-stained, Israel's unspoken fear of Washington applies. So does the prescription: Keep your enemies close, and your re-elected allies closer."

However, although Bush might try harder attention to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, the paper quoted analysts who concluded it would not be "enough to put a significant cramp in [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's policy style."

South Korea's security and prosperity will depend for the next four years on "how it fares with the second Bush administration," according to The Korea Times, which expressed the hope that "the re-elected Bush will listen carefully to why Europe favored Kerry and his flexible multilateralism over Bush's own unilateral and imperialistic foreign policies."

"Washington's goal of regime change in the North could prove to be quite dangerous," the paper suggested, "destabilizing not only the Korean peninsula but also the whole of Northeast Asia. The Seoul government has to play a much more active role in strengthening its alliance with the re-elected Republican administration, while dissuading Pyongyang from its trademark brinkmanship diplomacy."

Henry Hilton of Japan Today, claimed to have heard "audible sighs of relief in Tokyo" after the George Bush's reelection. He reminded readers that the Japanese prime minister has resisted the temptation to cut and run from the war in Iraq and can be expect to be rewarded "politically and materially…."

"The Bush-Blair-Howard-Koizumi partnership is still very much in play," Hilton argued. "All three are now entitled to feel vindicated. [Australian PM] Howard has already secured an almost unprecedented new mandate with the Australian people, Koizumi is perfectly safe for now and Blair is rumored to be thinking of calling a snap election in the new year which no one but a fool thinks he can possibly lose."

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