Alex Massie

New American Leadership, Same American Leadership Style: Do As You Are Told.

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Times change, of course. It wasn't so long ago that the American left wondered why Democrats in Congress couldn't "stand up" to the Bush administration in the way that, say, France and Germany opposed the American-led War in Iraq. Now that the worm has turned in Washington, of course, everything is different. Why won't those annoying europeans do as they're told?

This time it is the failure of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, among others, to endorse the Americans' "solution" to the financial crisis that is irritating pundits in Washington and New York.

Hence, Michael Tomasky*: "confidence has never been especially great here in the states that, even with Obama's massive worldwide popularity, European nations would just do what America wants." Oh noes!

Hence, Ezra Klein warning that Germany's concerns about fiscal "stimulus" may not be "absurd" but they're still an argument for "letting the world's economy collapse."

Hence, Paul Krugman writing today that:

"The details of our current crisis are very different, but the need for cooperation is no less. President Obama got it exactly right last week when he declared: “All of us are going to have to take steps in order to lift the economy. We don’t want a situation in which some countries are making extraordinary efforts and other countries aren’t.”

Yet that is exactly the situation we’re in. I don’t believe that even America’s economic efforts are adequate, but they’re far more than most other wealthy countries have been willing to undertake. And by rights this week’s G-20 summit ought to be an occasion for Mr. Obama to chide and chivy European leaders, in particular, into pulling their weight."

So there we have it. The President has told everyone what to do, so why won't our friends do as they're told? Once upon a time - and not so long ago neither - Democrats thought it was important fro friends to speak candidly to friends and stand up for what they thought was right. Now? Not so much. Now friends must remember that their independent analysis of the economic troubles afflicting the globe  counts for nothing and they should fall quietly into line and accept their marching orders from Washington.

As I say, how times change. We've swapped a military and foreign policy sense of imperial entitlement for an economic one. How refreshing!

What if the Americans are right, however? Well, maybe they are. But what if they're wrong? Is it really necessary for every country to adopt identical responses to the current difficulties? How likely is it that there can be a global one-size-fits-all answer? Might there not be some sense in sharing eggs between different baskets? That is, different approaches and regional variation might work better than ex cathedra pronouncements from some of the very people who helped get us all into this mess in the first place. Perhaps not, but the costs of the Americans bullying everyone into following a policy that they themselves admit they have no idea of knowing will work seem, potentially, anyway, to be quite high if they are wrong. And, at least putatively, possibly higher than the benefits that might accrue if the Americans (and Gordon Brown**) are right.

*Tomasky's piece, to be fair, is at least partially tongue-in-cheek.

**Brown's endorsement of Obama's ideas is not good news for Obama's policies of course.

 UPDATE: Ezra responds here. Now, as I say, perhaps the Americans' analysis is correct, but it's not self-evidently clear that it is or that it's equally applicable to all countries. Nor does it do language any favours to treat "co-operate" as a kinder, gentler way of saying "agree with us." But, yes, Ezra is right to highlight one difference between this transatlantic dispute and previous ones: Democrats aren't calling for reprisals against europe or replacing Sauerkraut with "Freedom Cabbage" i the Congressional canteen. (That's so very 1917). At least they're not doing so yet...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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