Wednesday 19 May 2010

The throbbing flaccidity of soft power

Over at Pajamas Media is an interesting article in which, without a sense of irony, V.P. Biden, dressed in a lavishly ornamental kimono he recently bought on ebay, stops felating Herman Van Rompoy long enough to say that Brussels has just as much claim to be the capital of the free world as Washington D.C. While quality Belgian beer has clouded my judgement on more than one occasion as well, I am still not inclined to let Biden off easy with this one. For the sake of context, these remarks were made in the democratically elected European Parliament. Together with the Consillium, the Parliament makes up the legislative branch of the European Union. Unfortunately, the Parliament does not have what is known in legal circles as legislative initiative. Legislative initiative is a power exercised solely by the appointed members of the EU Commission, the executive branch. That means that the powers to propose new legislation are centralized in a branch of government that is not now nor will it ever be subject to democratic approval. The elected Euro MP's have the right to amend and in some cases veto legislation, but they can never actually introduce a movement to actively write laws. Unfortunately in most cases, the legislative initiatives introduced by this decidedly antidemocratic process are able to override the sitting elected parliaments of member states. An appropriate comparison would be if UN president Ban Ki Moon was able to introduce legislation that could supercede and replace America's immigration laws or our ability to measure fruit by the pound.

I've been to Brussels a number of times, and I do have to admit, in many ways it is a fine city. It does not, however, have a legitimate claim as the capital of the free world due to a large democratic deficit that is an unfortunate feature of European Union decision making. I understand the meaning behind the somewhat trite phrase "You catch more flies with honey", but a policy of continual deference to other powers at our own expense has caught Obama next to nothing. What's next on Biden's agenda? Will he proclaim Athens the capital of fiscal sustainability or Teheran the capital of the rights of women? I understand that we are supposed to pay lip service to our European allies, but someone needs to explain to Biden that lip service involves pleasantries but no actual physical contact, despite the suggestive name. Of course we are talking about the same fountain of wisdom that wants to pull out his BP credit card to pay for petrol every time he meets an Indian, so maybe we should keep the bar as low as possible.

Biden's recent remarks cannot be considered a gaffe, since he spoke at quite some length about Europe's leadership in the world. The fact that this speech arrives in the same month that European naval gazing vis à vis the Eurozone's own sovereign debt crisis apparently required two lengthy phone calls from Barack Obama in order to finalize "le Tarp" was apparently not discussed. An unfortunate reality is that Europe has chosen the slow slide of state assisted suicide and cannot be relied on for much true leadership in the world. We may be able to beg a couple of vans full of 45 year old non-combat soldiers to man the espresso machines in Kandahar, but that is about it. While the United States has had to worry about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Brussels was busy churning out regulations governing the correct size and shape specifications for bananas. The central idea was always to be the soft power alternative to the Pax Americana that dominated in the 20th century. We invested in security, and instead of reciprocating, they took their kids out for shakes and happy meals through a massive redistribution scheme that was meant to ensure the economic stability at home to wield soft power to their advantage abroad. Even before Europe's vast flock of profligacy chickens recently came home to the Akropolis to roost, the EU found out that soft power was essentially just that: extremely soft. I guess you could say that flaccidity has hit the continent of geriatric teenagers in more ways than one.

As for Biden, it does lead me to the question of the week. Exactly how many years of yoga do you need before you can get your head so far up your own arse that you can count your own cavities?

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