Magazine article The Spectator

Spurning Bush

Magazine article The Spectator

Spurning Bush

Article excerpt

Warsaw

AS I write this, thousands of ardent young people are boarding trains and buses, heading towards Spain, towards Sweden, towards just about every place that President George W. Bush might possibly appear in public on his first official visit to Europe. By the time you read it, you may already have seen them waving their posters and shaking their fists and shouting their slogans on your television screens. Indeed, three days before his arrival, 10,000 of them had already packed the streets of Madrid, protesting against American policies towards Iraq and Cuba, against the evils of missile defence, against the rejection of the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gases, against the `American imperialist who thinks that the whole planet is his back garden'. So panicked was the Swedish government about the disruptive potential of these ardent young people (bombs were found in Madrid) that it sent special police squadrons and even army troops to Goteborg, where the American President was due to meet his EU colleagues for the first time.

And yet one detects a certain half-heartedness about this apparently stellar Swedish effort. The Swedes may have sent soldiers to defend the American President, but they also offered the protesters free accommodation in state schools. The Spanish, too, have been less than grateful for the President's unprecedented decision to make their country his first European port of call. The newspaper El Mundo recently published an editorial declaring that `the only hope we have for the energy plan developed by George W. Bush is that it contains so many blunders that Congress will throw it out'. But then it, too, was in good company. A recent Suddeutsche Zeitung headline read `Bully Bush', while the French are regularly treated to a satirical puppet-show in which the Bush puppet can never remember the Chirac puppet's name.

Only Warsaw, a city that Bush is visiting on Friday, towards the end of his European tour, makes a curious exception to this pan-- European wave of hatred for the American President and his foreign policy. There may be a demonstrator or two here as well not long ago, a 19-year-old Polish anarchist threw a well-aimed egg at the former president Clinton. But the fact is that the centreright Polish government bears no particular grudge against Bush's centre-right administration. Broadly, the Poles support American foreign policy - in Iraq, in Kosovo, probably on missile defence. Interestingly, the Poles have no special qualms about American domestic policy either. The current Polish government is also committed to cutting taxes; abortion is already more or less illegal here anyway; a political party calling itself `Law and Justice', led by the tough-talking justice minister, is surging upwards in the opinion polls. I suspect that there is a connection between the two, for aren't American domestic policies really what this otherwise inexplicable wave of anti-Americanism is all about?

To see what I mean, it helps to compare Bush's foreign policy with that of his predecessor. Look carefully: on issue after issue they are virtually identical. OK, Bush discarded the Kyoto treaty; Clinton had abandoned it already, not least because he couldn't get it through Congress. Bush is cooler towards Russia; Clinton had already cooled towards Russia, post-Yeltsin, in the last year of his administration. Bush is in favour of missile defence; Clinton, given the chance to quash missile defence, failed to do so. …

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