Thursday, May 26, 2005

Since I've been in Europe for the majority of the last eight months, I'm not sure whether the NYTimes itself has been running John Vinocur's and Roger Cohen's columns for the International Herald Tribune (the IHT is owned by the Times).

If not, it's a shame: their collective coverage of the EU ratification process has been some of the best journalism of the year.

This is typically true of Cohen's piece yesterday, which ends with an irony I hadn't considered before:
Because the [EU] constitution does involve some measure of change, if only that of closer interaction with other systems, it is inherently suspect.

Chirac has been a consistent agent of that conservatism. In this sense, he is merely a potential victim of his own indecisiveness.

If his vision is defeated Sunday, after Schröder's defeat last weekend, the world will face this paradox: The lauded European leaders of resistance to an unpopular war in Iraq punished at the polls after that war's proponents - George Bush and Tony Blair - have been endorsed. That outcome is not inevitable, but it's likely - and worth pondering.
For an American audience, that's a lot to unpack. Chirac a conservative? A liberal like Schroder lost? What is going on in Europe?

The quick answer is that Europe's local politics is conservative in the true sense of the word -- as being averse to change. That reactionary instinct is the reason the EU constitution is in serious trouble, as well as the reason (when extended to a national scale) that the bulk of "old" Europe was against the Iraq war.

Clearly, that doesn't fully explain the paradox of the passage, but it is at least a start. Schroder and Chirac are currently losing because they're violating the very principle on which they protested the invasion of Iraq: the conservation of the status quo.


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