Friday, October 14

Two sides of the coin called pandering

On Wednesday the UK Guardian reported that the European Commission is backing a demand by "developing" nations that the United Nations be given oversight of the Internet. (Hat tip: Belmont Club's The Battle for the Internet.)

Viviane Reding, the European Union's IT commissioner, said that if a multilateral approach cannot be agreed at a meeting in Tunisia next month, "developing" countries such as China, Russia, Brazil and some Arab states could start operating their own versions of the Internet.
The EU plan was applauded by states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, leading the former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt to express misgivings on his weblog: "It seems as if the European position has been hijacked by officials that have been driven by interests that should not be ours."
Carl Bilt's observation is on the mark but let us be frank; it does not take much to hijack the European position. When trade considerations are involved the European commission tends to ignore the plight of the masses ruled by despots.

Of course countries living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. But since 9/11 the White House and the Congress, and even at odd times the US Department of State, have come to understand that sooner or later very harsh penalties accompany pandering to despotic governments.

Now one would think that after decades of mulling over the messes left by their colonial adventures, the Europeans wouldn't need to be lectured on that point. But here we are today, with the European Commission backing a demand by the United Nations that the EC knows full well is not about who assigns Dot Com names. They know the demand is another move to choke the little freedom of expression among peoples ruled by despots.

Up until the US response to 9/11 the European Union had their excuse: Europe was tied to the United States via NATO. If the US wouldn't stand up to tyrants who controlled very lucrative trade deals, why should the EU countries stick out their neck?

So what's their excuse, now that US has served notice on despotic governments? It revolves in part around the very limited criteria applied to categorizing "developing" nations.

It's time for the European Commission to study the list of developing nations ruled by tyrants and ask just how long it will take before they pass into the Developed Nation category. The EC should recall western Europe's nations and also Japan -- pretty much bombed to rubble by the end of World War Two -- and ask how long after the war it took those countries to move back onto the Developed Nation list.

One can argue that the war-torn countries now among the developed nations received tremendous help from the United States and US-backed institutions such as the World Bank-IMF. Yet that's just the point: to whatever extent tyrannies have "developed" during the past half century they have been carried there on the backs of free nations.

Thus, the flaw in the European argument that despotic nations should be accorded their due in the spirit of multilateralism. It's silly to give a gun to a thug then claim he has a right to hold you up at gunpoint.

Why has the European Union gotten away with that much silliness? Because they haven't had to carry the responsibility of defending themselves. That responsibility has been left to the United States of America.

So the other part of the EU's excuse is that they know the USA will always be there to save them from the worst consequences of their colonialist mindset. The thinking behind the colonial enterprises has not changed; it's just been given a new label: "multilateralism."

Multilateralism translates to accords with heads of government. In a democracy the government is the people but by convenient oversight the EU ignores that this does not hold true in a tyranny.

As to how much longer the United States can afford to put up with the EU's ruthless disregard for the rights of people in countries ruled by tyrants, I do not know. I do know that I'd have to stop and think about it, if you asked whether I'd prefer to meet Osama bin Laden or Viviane Reding in a dark alley.

Then again, the two are just flip sides of a coin called "decades of pandering."

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