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Overcoming that hurdle would require Europe to overcome a substantial internal hurdle as well: To realise how other people feel about last time Europe had empires.

My impression is that most Europeans remain in flat denial of most of the two or three centuries preceding the last world war. Europe cannot reassure former colonies of our benign intentions if we don't display some measure of awareness of historical reality.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 05:21:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I beg to differ. At least in France, probably thanks (!) to the defeat in Indochina and the Algeria war, there is a widespread negative opinion about colonialism and the French colonial history, except for a shrinking group of former colonists.

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 06:19:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... interminable meddling in the national affairs of former colonies, though it does ensure that a pretense of a request for assistance from the former colony precedes the most visible interventions.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 01:38:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but what we call Françafrique is a policy maintained by the political and economical ruling élites (from the right and the left, alas!). Most of the French people have no sympathy (or don't care) for these neo-colonialist practices.

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 02:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's just reiterating your comment and my reply in one place. The fact that the French populous is not into it does nothing to prevent it from happening, it only modifies the way that it is portrayed to the public.

In Congo-Brazaville, CAR, Chad and Gabon, whether or not the French public supports French policy makes very little difference.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 05:28:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly, and I don't disagree. But I was answering Jake's claim that
most Europeans remain in flat denial of most of the two or three centuries preceding the last world war


"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 05:52:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but also likely not very necessary to his thesis if government policy proceeds in indifference to the view of the majority of the populace.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Aug 23rd, 2010 at 09:07:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

In order to project a non-hostile, non-threatening image, all of the following must be true:

  • Actual, objective policy towards the rest of the world must be non-hostile and non-threatening. Good PR can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but if you're holding a loaded gun to their head, you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

  • The political institutions must be able to articulate their policy in terms that do not carry associations to previous hostility. Having a nitwit like Tory Bliar saying that he's proud of the British Empire is not helpful, regardless of actual policy and his influence on it.

  • The parts of civil society that interact with the rest of the world - engineers stationed abroad, businessmen attending conferences, producers of cultural products that can be expected to find their way across borders, even simple tourists - must meet the rest of the world with an attitude that does not carry associations to arrogant colonial overlords.

If any of these fails signally and consistently, projection of soft power fails.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 24th, 2010 at 03:10:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The bottom line is that as far as Washington, London, Paris, etc are concerned, it's still the 19th century.

The fact that their populations are living in the 21st is neither here nor there - the decision makers don't much care what their populations think.

This single fact has more predictive power about likely future foreign and domestic policy than almost any other.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 24th, 2010 at 08:01:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the decision makers don't much care what their populations think.

Until that fact changes, not much else will.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 24th, 2010 at 01:34:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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