Embarrassed bystanders

A few years ago, especially since the mid-90's, there were repeated demands that foreign policy in Europe becomes more ethical. Foreign politicians absorbed this and found a compromise; some countries do not export (much) military material into crisis zones, and occasionally a dictator is being criticized / encouraged in regard to human rights and democracy. The latter was especially visible in Beijing visits, it even looked as if such critique was previously arranged in a deal that included some form of political payment for the permission to school the regime in public.

The pro-ethical foreign policy crowd was nevertheless largely dismissed as something akin to tree-hugging hippies, unfit for the rough real world.

Oh my, it looks as if especially British, French and Italian governments should probably heeded the advice of those 'hippies' much more.

The British are embarrassed by their close ties to Libya, the French are embarrassed by their close ties to the old government of Tunisia (and the current one in Algeria), the Italians are just embarrassed by their government in general (and its support for Ghaddafi) and as a side-note the Americans are being embarrassed by their ties with the old government of Egypt.

The whole embarrassment is so thorough that their foreign policy looks terribly dysfunctional and ineffective these days. The U.S. government at least attempts to feign some influence with some speeches, the Italian government keeps choosing the wrong side of history and the British and French are simply paralyzed. The French minister for foreign affairs was so badly mired in the mess (after only a few months in office!) that she already had to leave it.

Future historians will most likely report that Europeans and Americans were mere bystanders in this chain of revolutions that changed the Near East.

Let's hope that there'll be a proper reset of foreign relations and we'll be smart enough not to grow unnecessary aversions. To have no foes is the cheapest form of defence.



  1. How interesting to split out the foreign policies of England, France and Italy from "European" foreign policy.

    Whatever happened to the EU?

  2. "European" foreign policy is only in existence if there's a consensus among the major European countries on foreign policy.