Here’s a pretty interesting post at Crooked Timber arguing that the European Parliament will make future EU-US relations sticky regardless of who wins the November election. Since the University of Washington regards me an expert in this field. . .
It’s an interesting argument, but I’m not sure I’m convinced. The EP still plays a fairly minor role in European political life, and I doubt that the members are going to spend much of their time whipping up anti-American sentiment, or that anyone will listen if they do. The EP needs to break through two barriers on its path to relevance, and only one of them has anything to do with its institutional power. The EP could dominate the EU, and would still compete for relevance with national parliaments. National parties can already stir up anti-American sentiment for local reasons, and I very much doubt that the EP will have much marginal effect.
The bigger question is what the general European reaction to a Kerry victory will be. I’m beyond believing that the Europeans will welcome Kerry with open arms and that all will be forgiven, but I still think that it will make a positive impact. Even our European buddies, with the exception of Blair and possibly Berlusconi, support GW through gritted teeth. His replacement with anyone rational will have a general effect of making the US look better. There is an opportunity for a President Kerry here; if he can pass off the “unpleasantness” on Bush, then he has the opportunity to build a stronger and better relationship with Europe than the one that existed prior to January 2001.
How much would this matter? On trade, quite a lot; the brewing war between the EU and the US might go away. On Iraq, I’m less optimistic, because Chirac and Schroeder and whoever replaces Schroeder aren’t just going to up and send a couple divisions to bail us out. However, there are ways of assisting short of that, including financial and advisorial support, like we see in Afghanistan. Kerry might be able to pull that off, especially if he has a good Sec State (Bill Richardson, anyone?) and a pleasent Sec Def (I’m thinking here Wesley Clark, if he’s not the VP). Both those guys are popular with the Europeans. Just showing that we care would help. . .