Henry Kissinger once sarcastically asked whom he should call in Europe if the world caught fire.
However nasty, Henry the K was right. At the time, the EU had no recognizable chief.
That has been the EU’s problem since birth. The EU’s power and identity were fragmented between its vast, Kafkaesque Brussels bureaucracy, the European parliament in Strasbourg, the EU Council, and national governments.
Now, after a long, excruciating process of tightening governance and revising rules under the Lisbon Treaty, the 27-member EU is finally ready to name a powerful president. That is, if the Czechs drop their last-ditch opposition to the Lisbon Treaty because ratifying it could expose them to property claims by the descendants of three million Germans who were ethnically cleansed in the 1940’s from Sudetenland.
Alas, the EU is having trouble finding a respected, popular, supranational leader. Many of its current political leaders are so bland and faceless that Europeans cannot even name them.
Unfortunately, Europe’s most popular politician, Barack Obama, already has a job.
But just in time for Halloween, Britain’s perennially smiling former prime minister, Tony Blair, rose wraithlike from the political grave.
Britain’s current prime minister, Gordon Brown, is urging Blair be named EU president. So, discreetly, is Washington.
The glib Blair is light years ahead of any other European politician when it comes to name recognition, profile, and media glitz. Compared to Blair, the other candidates so far being considered for the EU presidency look like zombies.
But Blair is also widely despised, even hated, in much of Europe and Britain. He still bears the curse of George W. Bush, on whose lap Blair sat for so long, wagging his tail.Tony Blair remains a hero to many Americans.
Blair acted as a shill and facilitator for Bush’s brazen aggression in Iraq. He is always defined as “America’s best friend.” But a real friend would have tried to curb George Bush’s aggressive instincts rather than acting as an artful propagandist and sycophant for the inarticulate, low IQ president.
Prime Minister Blair also betrayed his Labour Party, the interests of Britain, and his former image as an honest politician.
Clare Short, a highly respected former British cabinet minister and MP, summed up Blair:
“Blair’s craven support for the extremism of US neoconservative foreign policy has exacerbated the danger of terrorism and the instability and suffering of the Middle East.
“He has dishonored the UK, undermined the UN and international law and helped to make the world a more dangerous place.”
Many Britons and Europeans still see the unctuous Blair as a creature of George Bush. Why he decided to facilitate Bush’s illegal acts remains a mystery. Perhaps it was a misguided effort to pick up imperial crumbs from the American Raj. Perhaps generous donations from Blair’s discreet neoconservative backers.
In the end, Blair got a lot of British soldiers killed for nothing — not to mention huge numbers of Iraqis and Afghans — and made his nation an enemy of the entire Muslim world.
Britain’s Labour Party returned the favor by shooting a poisoned arrow into Blair’s back. Last week, Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke warned Blair would wreck efforts to restore frayed British-EU relations. Britain’s Conservatives warned of “war” with Europe if Blair became its leader.
Germany’s reelected Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President, Nicholas Sarkozy, had reportedly favored Blair, who has spent a lot of time schmoozing these kingmakers.Off in Brussels, the head of the European Parliament’s Social Democrats said his bloc would veto Blair who had “turned his back on Europe over Iraq.” Bush’s war against Iraq, bitterly opposed by western Europe, may not have gone ahead without Blair’s fulsome support.
But a senior Merkel aid just leaked that she could not bear “listening any more to Mr. Flash.” Sarkozy just reversed course and came out against “my dear friend” Blair’s candidacy. Au revoir Tony.
Nor have Europeans forgotten how Blair thwarted efforts to bring Britain into the Euro zone or integrate its defenses with the EU.
Blair continued Britain’s traditional strategy of undermining European unity while pretending to be a supporter. Many saw Blair as a Trojan Horse for a US also intent on keeping Europe weak and divided. He came to symbolize the French stereotype of two-faced Britain as “Perfidious Albion.”
The three leading candidates for the EU presidency are Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, Dutch PM Jan Balkenende, and former Finnish MP, Paavo Lipponen are a triple yawn.
But boring in politics may be a virtue. Most Swiss can’t name their federal president, yet Switzerland runs like a…Swiss watch. Maybe a competent plodder is just what Europe needs. It certainly does not need any more of the undead Mr. Flash.
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.