November 24, 2003


Czech warning (Arnaud de Borchgrave, 11/24/2003, UPI)

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Europeans are living "in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions, and cradle-to-grave social security" and are yet to realize "they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana."

The Czech republic is a candidate for European Union membership, but in an interview with UPI, Klaus, who was elected president last February, made clear his distaste for the European Union. But he conceded "the political unification of Europe" is now in "an accelerated all aspects and in all respects."

Klaus said the forward motion to a single political entity of 25 European nations "will not change until people start thinking and realizing they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana." The Czech president remains "convinced you cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state."

Asked whether he could see the nation-state disappearing "with untoward consequences," Klaus replied, "That could well be the case. Remains to be seen whether it will be the nominal disappearance or the real disappearance. We could see the scaffolding of a nation-state that would retain a president and similar institutions, but with virtually zero influence. That's my forecast. And it's not a reassuring vision of the future." [...]

The Czech republic is one of 33 nations in the coalition of the willing with boots on the ground in Iraq, but Klaus has been critical of the post-war transition to an Iraqi civilian government. "My concern was always what to do after the end of the war because I know something about the transition from a totalitarian regime to a free society," the Czech president told UPI. "This cannot be done by soldiers, or by foreigners. After we won back our freedom at the end of the cold war, there was a proposal to bring back Czechs who had escaped to Western countries and make up a new government of those people who had been living in free countries. Those who had lived the tragic communist experience said no the idea of foreigners organizing our transition back to freedom. We said we had to do this ourselves without outside influence dictating what we should do."

Mr. Klaus seems wise on both counts--the danger of the EU and the importance of rapid Iraqification--though the latter is of more immediate concern.

UPI interview with Czech president (Arnaud de Borchgrave, 11/24/2003, UPI)

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2003 9:09 PM

The situation in contemporary Iraq is different from Czechoslovakia.

(1) The Czech Republic peacefully separated from Slovakia so that neither Czechs nor Slovaks had to worry about foreign domination. Is a peaceful separation between Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds feasible today?

(2) No-one in the Czech republic claims to have a mandate from God to govern. But in the parts of Iraq Saddam controlled he destroyed civil society so thoroughly that the only political groups left are religiously based.

The "transition back to freedom" is far more difficult for Iraq than the Czech Republic.

Posted by: Peter Caress at November 24, 2003 10:30 PM

The Caresses of the 50s were writing that Eastern Europeans were ill-suited to democracy.

Posted by: oj at November 24, 2003 11:06 PM

The Caresses of the 50's might have realized that Eastern Europe was mostly the victim of foreign domination, but no foreign country imposed Saddam upon Iraq.

And since we're discussing Eastern Europe, the disaster of Yugoslavia shows what might happen if we immediately hand all power over to the Iraqis.

I don't believe a democracy can be imposed externally on Iraq for long -- the best we can do is clear out the Ba'athists and ensure that democracy has a fighting chance. So we can lay the groundwork for some sort of federal republic and hope that Iraqis reconcile themselves to the status quo. I'd be surprised, though pleased, if the Iraqis transitioned to stable democracy as smoothly as the Czechs.

Posted by: Peter Caress at November 25, 2003 1:12 AM

The very idea of "Iraq" was imposed on them.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2003 8:10 AM

True OJ, but for a majority of Iraqis all they know is Iraq. If anyone can find any real poll data suggesting that Iraqis prefer to split into 2 or 3 different nations I would be very surprised.

Posted by: BJW at November 25, 2003 10:51 AM

The Kurds obviously want autonomy. The Shi'ites want to govern the Sunni and the Sunni don't want to be governed. That ends in three states, no? Or a Sunni minority with little power.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2003 11:57 AM