Don’t cry for me, Europe. The time for diminishing Europe’s self-esteem is over. It’s time for toughness and retaliation. Even a personal intervention by his favourite European head of State, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, failed to move President Donald Trump on the gravest of all policies- his decision that the Iran nuclear deal, meant to reduce its nuclear prowess, will be scrapped by the US in favour of a policy of confrontation.
Many observers, in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and China- all signatories to the historic agreement of 2015 -- are worried stiff that this will lead to war between Iran and Israel, in which Trump will feel moved to intercede if Israel is being badly hurt.
As for the future, Trumpism looks bleak. He jokes about wanting to rule for life and has threatened to find a way to shut up a good part of the press and to send Hillary Clinton to jail. His ideology seems to be nothing more than whatever Barack Obama was for he’s against.
Such a war will not only cause immense damage to Iran it will, unlike when in 1973 Israel fought the combined Arab armies to a standstill well away from its borders, inflict an enormous amount of damage inside Israel. Despite the so-called iron-dome that protects Israel against rockets, enough will get through to cause immense loss of life.
Europe doesn’t want to live cheek by jowl with that kind of inflammable neighbourhood. It doesn’t want to see more chaos, as after the US military intervention in Iraq which helped trigger the civil war in Syria and gave birth to ISIS.
The long-established unity of purpose and liberal, democratic, ideology is being incinerated by the day. Putting America first has meant elbowing aside everyone else on the planet, often in the most unapologetic way. Even the British who since 1941 have usually gone along- the Suez crisis and the Vietnam war excepted- with whatever Washington has decided have got to the stage when they feel they have had enough. The British pro-American consensus is being eroded. Prime Minister Theresa May has been personally insulted by Trump and Britain is 100% committed to the Iranian deal.
As for the future, Trumpism looks bleak. He jokes about wanting to rule for life and has threatened to find a way to shut up a good part of the press and to send Hillary Clinton to jail. His ideology seems to be nothing more than whatever Barack Obama was for he’s against. He’s often a racist. Let’s not even talk about his past subterranean links to Moscow or his sexual liaison with a porn star. Having done these things before he will find a more subtle or more secretive way of doing them again. Worst of all, he plays on the cruder emotions of the less-educated part of the electorate, appealing to their lower values while Obama played to their best. (“When they go low we go high”, as Michelle Obama once said). They ended up voting against their own economic interest.
This is how Trump goes and will go. There is nothing on the horizon to suggest better times in US realpolitik. An agreement with North Korea on nuclear disarmament is impossible now he has demonstrated any deal can be torn up on a whim.
Trump is a twenty-first century “Hitler type”. Hitler came to power by a democratic vote. Hitler mesmerized the German people. Hitler then bribed them with economic recovery: autobahns, longer holidays, kindergartens, raised pensions and socialized health services. By Hitler’s standard Trump is a higher achiever- he wins his base over not by help for the lower working and middle class but by hip hip hooray nationalism, smashing it to peoples abroad. Hitler re-armed and became threatening abroad much more slowly than Trump has.
Europe must stop being shy. It should look at itself and realize it is a super power and a finer one than the US. It may not be militarily in the same class as the US, but that is a good thing. In its schools, access to the best of the universities for all, free or cheap health services, honesty of elections, design of its parliaments and power structures it is far ahead.
The quality of the majority of its newspapers, radio and television is much higher. Crime and murders are much less. Its arts are more developed- in classical music, ballet, art, architecture, literature, film, (Hollywood blockbusters aside), theatre, museums, and art galleries. Just count the number of opera houses, symphony orchestras, theatres and publishers across the continent. And don’t forget the Beatles.
This is without including Russia which, in the round, is arguably the most cultured country in the world.
Of course, the US has a lot of these but counted per head of population it is far behind. Perhaps the carrot of a better society and way of doing things will never be attractive to Trump. The time has come for Europe to be tough, to stand up for its interests and give Trump the stick. How to do this is what Europe now has to work out.
For 17 years the writer had been a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune/ New York Times