Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, February 07, 2003  

Today the skies above the City of Roses are not low and flat and gray but blue and bright. Thus it must be that it is the first week of February, when the skies clear briefly and predictably. Next week and for the next 20-some following, it will be back to the flat and gray and low. But that’s next week. So, like my fellow webfeet, my mood’s artificially high, and I’m not particularly in the mood to document atrocities.

Nevertheless, the blogging must go on.

To wit:

Q. What’s America’s most dangerous weapon? A. Donald Rumsfeld.

Grasping for defeat after Colin Powell’s triumphant victory, you'll recall that Rumsfeld remarked on Wednesday: ”Then, there are three or four countries that have said they won't do anything. I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are ones that have indicated they won't help in any respect.” A comment destined to inflame, not encourage. And of course, a most successful inflament. Following the comment, Germans were momentarily confused--Germany houses a massive US military force--and then became enraged.

What’s particularly bizarre about the comment is that Rumsfeld’s headed for a conference in Munich. It almost seems like Rumsfeld forgot there were actual Germans in the world. Now that their perplexity has shifted to fury, they're taking to the streets to greet Don as he arrives in Munich. Apparently the State Department doesn't believe it will be a red-carpet affair: it's telling Americans to avoid downtown Munich.

As a result of Rumsfeld's visit, the state interior minister of Bavaria, Günther Beckstein, said he feared that "outbreaks of extreme violence" could occur. To prevent such battles, Munich police have assembled a force of 3,500 officers, including some from other German states. They have also closed off the area around the hotel Bayerischer Hof where the conference is being held.

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Even while Munich boiled, I was reading some nice analysis about the White House’s swagger syndrome in the New Yorker on the bus this morning. It’s a long quote, but makes a nice bookend to the Rumsfeld bumble:

The President's swagger is the sort of thing that Europeans, especially "old" Europeans, have in mind when they grumble that our President is a callow cowboy. But the difficulty goes beyond the personality of George W. Bush. One cannot spend time in any of the other developed democracies without being struck by the damage the Administration's wise-guy unilateralism has done, not only on the issue of Iraq but also on strategically marginal topics like the Kyoto environmental agreement, family planning, and the International Criminal Court. Everyone expected this pattern to change after the attacks of September 11, 2001. It didn't. The opportunity presented by Europe's instinctive solidarity—epitomized by NATO's decision to invoke, for the first time ever, the provision of its charter declaring that an attack against one is an attack against all—has been wasted. It's only natural that Europe, absorbed in creating a continental order based on nonviolent shared sovereignty, and the United States, whose unmatched military power confers unmatched responsibility, should view the world differently. Some degree of American unilateralism is inescapable. But this Administration seldom bothers to observe the minimal decencies.

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posted by Jeff | 10:51 AM |
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