I really and truly hope that there is more to this story for a U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian summit than has appeared in the newspapers. A face-to-face meeting with President Bush is a huge reward – even huger when President Bush comes to your region to visit you – and it is hard to see what exactly the new Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas has done to earn it.
And of course once presidential prestige is committed, it’s vitally important that the president come away with an achievement. We sure don’t need a repeat of Bill Clinton’s open-ended negotiations with Barak and Arafat.
Sharon’s conciliatory conduct over the past few days certainly suggests that he has been promised some sort of substantial reciprocation from the Palestinian side, but of course we’ve heard those promises before … and before that … and before that.
Chretien’s Big Mouth
So what was Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien thinking when he let fly his latest anti-Bush musings? Here’s my guess: Chretien is involuntarily retiring in February 2004, forced out by his own Liberal Party. One important reason for the heave-ho: Chretien’s maladroit handling of US-Canadian relations. Chretien bitterly resents being forced out – and willfully indulges himself while he still can in outbursts that tell his party that he’s still the boss. And what better way to salve his injured pride than by repeating the offense that got him fired in the first place?
Journalists need a term for stories whose real meaning is the very opposite of its apparent meaning. This item from the Financial Times, highlighted by Matt Drudge, purports to be a critique of President Bush’s tax policy. In fact, it – and the underlying study it cites – make clear that the real reason that the U.S. is threatened with large deficits in the years ahead is the unsound structure of Social Security and Medicare.
Too bad the reporter didn’t take the trouble to note that the best protection against the consequences of this unsoundness is rapid economic growth – and that the purpose of the Bush tax plan is to spur that growth ….
So That’s Why He Did It
The mystery of Chretien’s anti-Bush outburst is now clarified: Yesterday, Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum announced that Canada would after all enter into talks with the United States on continental missile defenses. It is a peculiarity of Jean Chretien’s psyche that whenever he makes a concession to the United States on any defense or security matter, he has to compensate by saying something rude about George W. Bush personally.
Since 1968, Canada has had six prime ministers. Only three of them have lasted more than a year: Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chretien. Each of those three has had his own distinctive approach to the American relationship. Trudeau was candidly anti-American – and under his leadership, Canadian-US relations froze to the coldest level in the 20th century. Mulroney was cheerfully pro-American, and negotiated the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Treaty that has undergirded the Canadian economy in the 1990s. Chretien has his own distinctive approach: On the issues, he is very nearly as cooperative with the Americans as Brian Mulroney ever was. But he matches his Mulroney policies with Trudeau-style anti-American rhetoric, thus depriving Canada of any claim on U.S. gratitude. Could there be a dumber combination?
Is There a Rabbit in This Hat?
It was (I think) Henry Kissinger’s rule that you don’t have a summit until you’ve first established exactly what’s to happen there. The alarming thing about Bush’s proposed three-way summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is that there seems to be no such surety. Or isn’t there? Reading the Israeli press does rather leave behind the impression that a deal is being cooked right now. Over the past few days, Israel has made a significant series of concessions:
It has accepted the so-called “roadmap,” which grants a role in the peace process to the pro-Palestinian European Union.
Ariel Sharon has condemned what he now calls the “occupation” of the disputed territories and personally commited himself to the principleof a Palestinian state.
Sharon has now offered to pull Israel’s armed forces back from city centers in the West Bank and to release some Palestinian prisoners.
In return, Abbas has till now done – not much. But would Sharon and Bush, two not exactly credulous men, have offered him what they have done if they had not some fair idea that he would be giving something substantial in return?
Bush’s Cracow speech
President Bush will be visiting Poland next week and will deliver a speech in Cracow. Bush delivered the first major foreign policy speech of his presidency in Warsaw in June 2001. In that speech, he urged the admission of the countries of Eastern Europe into NATO. This time, he is likely to encourage the Poles to vote for accession to the European Union in the referendum scheduled for June 7 and 8.
America has been advocating European union for almost half a century. Now that the European Union has grown up in many ways that Americans dislike (or should dislike), it is an odd paradox that probably the only way to improve matters is by making the EU still bigger, through the entry of the new democracies of the East. It would be well, though, if President Bush took time from his promotion of the growth of the EU to say a few friendly words about the kind of entity we’d like to see the EU become.
Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing is now presiding over a constitutional convention intended to write a guiding document for the coming EU superstate. The convention released its draft constitution only this past week. The document is very long and highly technical, but two things strike the reader immediately: one is that the Eurocrats are very eager to seize control of foreign and security policy – meaning that if this document ever becomes law, a future Prime Minister of Britain will be able to aid the United States in a crisis only with the permission of the Brussels bureaucracy.
Second, and maybe even more alarming, is the document’s disdainful attitude toward democracy. It creates a new position of “President of the European Council” – who will soon be known as the “President of Europe” – but this president is elected not by the people of the continent, but by the governments of Europe, with Luxembourg and Germany each having one vote. This new executive will have very considerable powers, unaccountable largely to anyone: He’d be a Kofi Annan with clout.
There are people in Europe – and people in Poland – willing to join the US in fighting for a Europe in which the Brussels bureaucracy counts for less and representative democracy in each of the European nation counts for more. They deserve a word of encouragement from him on this visit – for Europe’s sake, but much more, for America’s.