While President Nicolas Sarkozy of France did not repeat an earlier threat to walk out of the conference – “I just got here,” he joked – he made it clear he would reject an agreement that puts off stringent new regulations on banks, tax havens, and hedge funds.
“The decisions need to be taken now, today and tomorrow,” he said. “This has nothing to do with ego. This has nothing to do with temper tantrums. When it comes to historic moments, you can’t circumvent them.”
Mr. Sarkozy added that tougher regulation – he has called for a “global regulator” that would be able to reach inside the borders of the United States and other large nations to deal with international financial firms – is “nonnegotiable.”
The Chinese author Lu Xun’s greatest work was the short story The True Story of Ah Q (I also got to see the movie when in Hong Kong on my last trip to China.) One of the more memorable characters was the Imitation Foreign Devil, shown at right affecting the Western top hat, coat and cane. He was obviously not to be confused with the real article.
Obama is, along with many other elitist snobs in this society, an Imitation European. He wants to impose a European socialist model on this country, and has the legislative initiatives to prove it. He is prepared not to waste this crisis to make to make that a reality.
Well, the Real Europeans aren’t prepared to waste it either. They want to further their own agenda, which includes a) striking a blow at the tax cheats which are part and parcel with European business and b) getting at the Americans who, in their opinion, have snookered them with what Alan Greenspan famously referred to as “irrational exuberance.”
Unfortunately their agenda is unacceptable to Obama for two reasons. The first is that many of those irrationally exuberant were his major supporters and contributors. They may be having second thoughts about their exuberance for him but he can’t afford to expose them to the tender mercies of the Europeans, just yet. The second is that Americans–even such as Obama–only recognise one form of extraterritoriality: their own. (That will make Obama’s response to Spain’s attempt to arrest Bush officials really interesting.)
Beyond that, Obama is in the process of repeating his father’s mistakes, or at least those of his father’s generation of African leaders. Coming straight out of the chute of colonialism, these leaders (of which Robert Mugabe is the last of the breed) saw a European model of socialism and bureaucratism (I’m not sure that’s a word, but it’s the best I can do) as the model for Africa. Needless to say, it degenerated rapidly, and Africa is only now coming out of that. Barack Obama’s attempt to be an Imitation European will have similar consequences if he pursues it on these shores.