Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A pint of Irish coffee and a packet of specific proposals, please

Today's New York Times brings an update on one of our recent themes -- the lax behaviour of the Irish immigration authorities in the face of continued entry of undesirables to the country. We refer of course to the presence of "smart conservative" (TM) pundit David Brooks and assorted other hacks and politicians who stopped off for a quick one at Shannon on the way home from that very important international security conference in Munich last week, the one that Rummy eventually decided to go to when the immediate threat of him facing a war crimes investigation was removed.

Anyway, Brooks tells us that it was Irish coffees all round for the strolling solons and pacing pundits, notwithstanding his earlier prescription that it would require pints of plain to really get the US policy process moving along.

Full credit to Brooks for pulling the trick of turning his travels into column fodder, as he recounts witnessing US troops in transit in Shannon, emblematic of the Irish Republic's membership in the shadows of the Coalition of the Willing. Leading into the usual drivel about Americans and Europeans being so different. For example, Senator John McCain went to Munich and showed how tough he was:

Then it was time for a little straight talk. He ripped the Egyptians for arresting opposition leaders. (The Egyptian foreign minister held his brow, as if in grief.) He condemned the Iranians for supporting terror. (The Iranian hunched over like someone in a hailstorm.) He criticized Russia for embracing electoral fraud in Ukraine. In the land of the summiteers, this was in-your-face behavior.

But while pundits are never done swooning before McCain and working in pleasing references to the Straight Talk Express, McCain's act is getting pretty old at this point. It's one thing to fly to Munich and yell at a few suits. It's quite another to take a real stand back at home, where the Straight Talk Express seems stuck in the station on the question of Dubya's torture policies, an especially bizarre lacuna for the former POW in North Vietnam.

Brooks then goes on to describe words he might have said to the Marines in transit at Shannon to convey the spirit of the Munich meeting:

But I'd tell the marines that I didn't hear too many Europeans giving specific ideas on how to make Iraq a success. Instead, I heard too many speakers evading this current pivot point in history by giving airy-fairy speeches about their grand visions of the future architecture of distant multilateral arrangements.

Indeed, there is much frustration in a process where one side is offering specific plans and proposals, but the other side only wants to talk about grand strategies and visions, the kind of thing that Europeans always want to do. Which must explain why Saint Condi of Palo Alto's recent visit to Europe went down so well. Because after all, back in March 2001, it was that pesky terrorism czar Richard Clarke who was offering mere "plans" to deal with Al Qaeda, which Condi spiked on the ground that it needed to be part of an overall strategy. Fluent in French, Russian*, and Eurovisiony. What a woman!

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