Politics & Policy

London Diary

I did the British Newsnight program with Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation last night. I have to give the woman credit for one thing at least: She has amazing breath control. Ask her, “So how are you?” and five minutes later she’ll still be rattling off words without drawing air: “How would I be with the reckless war policies of the Bush administration filling our fields with genetically modified organisms and oppressing the Palestinians by investing their pension funds in 401Ks managed by Cheney and his buddies at Halliburton.” I paid tribute on air to her dazzling long-windedness; later it occurred to me that I’d seen this microphone-hugging stunt often before on the hard left. Noam Chomsky, for example, is a veteran practitioner of it. Is this something they teach at Communist summer camps? I should ask Ron Radosh, whose excellent book Commies has the goods on exactly who did what and when.

Our British Friends Want to Know…

…why exactly the United States is keeping so very quiet about the series of referenda this spring and summer in which Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, and Latvia will vote whether to accede to the EU. Outside the EU, these countries loyally supported the United States in the Iraq war. But inside the EU these countries may well react very differently to a future crisis. Today Poland is free to speak for itself; tomorrow it will be subject to the rule of the EU’s permanent bureaucracy. Today Hungarian politicians worry about their country’s relationship with America; tomorrow they will be angling for one of those wonderful tax-free Euro patronage jobs that the EU system dispenses to those who do as they are told.

American policy has favored European unification for half a century, but if there was ever a time when a unified Europe looked like a good idea, that time has passed. The State Department would surely squawk if the United States were to reappraise Europe. Foreign-affairs bureaucrats believe in “continuity,” which means persisting in a stupid policy even after its stupidity becomes not just apparent but undeniable. And State would have at least this point: The United States is not about to stoop to France’s level and sabotage negotiated agreements purely in order to make a spiteful point. But ought not the United States at least to be talking to the peoples of Eastern Europe about the dangerous course the EU took in the past year–and on the reforms we hope they will be pressing for if they do after all vote in favor?

Unsolved Mysteries

That was a very odd press conference Colin Powell gave yesterday alongside the foreign minister of Jordan. Asked point-blank whether the State Department had concealed from the rest of the administration for maybe as much as two weeks information that the North Koreans had confessed to reprocess nuclear material, Powell never quite denied it.

Yeah. That’s nonsense. Over a period of time, the North Koreans have made different statements about reprocessing and whether they are or are not reprocessing, and we always examine those statements and we try to determine the validity of those statements. And our intelligence community still cannot give us any validation or confirmation of what North Korea has said at various times and in various places with respect to reprocessing. So what we were told on the 31st was shared within the administration. I’m not sure if everybody in the administration got it, but it isn’t relevant because it didn’t seem to be anything that was terribly new or different from what we had been told on a regular basis over the last several months. It was not, in our judgment, anything that was particularly new or newsworthy.

Certainly not newsworthy enough to be allowed to derail State’s preferred policy of negotiation with the bomb builders of Pyongyang.


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