The vast neocon conspiracy lives!
WHO KNEW? The French Europe minister, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, has declared that American neo-conservatives bear much of the blame for the Irish no vote to the Lisbon Treaty. Speaking to a pro-European jamboree in Lyons on June 21st, Mr Jouyet (a former aide to Jacques Delors recruited by Mr Sarkozy for his knowledge of the corridors of Brussels power), offered the following thought:
"The fight for Europe is not over, Europe has powerful enemies with deep pockets, as we have seen during the Irish referendum. They come not from Europe, but from the other side of the Atlantic."
"The role of the American neo-conservatives in the Irish referendum was very important," he went on, to applause.
According to a French news agency report of his remarks, Mr Jouyet (normally rather a sober, technocratic type), called on pro-Europeans to keep up their "courage" in the face of such financial pressures.
The Economist sums up the many problems with this theory:
There are a number of problems with his thesis (which was picked up by Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel in Germany and other press outlets).
The original allegation came from an Irish member of parliament, Lucinda Creighton, in a statement attacking two businessmen, Declan Ganley and Ulick McEvaddy, who had poured considerable time and money into part of the no campaign. In Ms Creighton's analysis, they were opposed to Lisbon because it would make Europe stronger, which was against American strategic interests, and would threaten their contracts with the American military. But let Ms Creighton's words speak for themselves:
"Messrs Ganley and McEvaddy have major business interests in the US (Omega Air - McEvaddy; Rivada - Ganley). US foreign policy has traditionally been opposed to EU integration. The US supports the EU as an economic bloc but nothing more. The idea of a politically strong EU, acting as a check or counterbalance on the US does not sit well with our transatlantic friends. This policy has long been evident in NATO, where the US has consistently opposed the expansion of NATO to the new EU member states. And now as stronger political union becomes likely, these two figures with close links to the US military are trying to derail the process.
"The businesses of both Ulick McEvaddy and Declan Ganley are heavily dependent on contracts from the State Department, the Pentagon and US Government Agencies. I believe that these men are a lot less concerned about Irish sovereignty and the wording of the Lisbon Treaty than they are about the potential hit to their own personal business interests."
Leave aside the question of whether Mr Ganley and Mr McEvaddy are linchpins of the American military industrial complex (Mr McEvaddy supplies mostly rather old Boeing airplanes to clients including the military, and Mr Ganley sells communications kit to bits of the military, including the national guard).
Leave aside the question of whether a secret band of "American neo-conservatives" still holds sway in Washington DC, steering American foreign policy (and communicating via the fillings in their teeth, no doubt). Others might argue that this rather disparate ideological faction has been weakened and scattered by the failure of their big centrepiece policy, namely the invasion of Iraq.
Leave aside the painful question: have most American neo-conservatives ever heard of the Lisbon treaty, and if they have, do they care? It is possible that they might be conserving their dwindling political capital for a push against Iran's nuclear programme, say, rather than Lisbon's plans to extend co-decision to the European Parliament in the domains of asylum and migration policy, or to merge the external relations services of the European Commission with those of the secretariat of the Council of the European Union.
Leave aside the fact that when your reporter met an American official heading to Washington a couple of days ago, and asked if he expected to be asked about the Irish no vote, he laughed loudly, and said: "I can guarantee that is the one thing I will not be asked about."
Examine instead the simple factual nonsense that is Ms Creighton's claim: "the US has consistently opposed the expansion of NATO to the new EU member states", and her related claim that America opposes more political integration in Europe. The Americans could hardly be keener on NATO expansion, indeed the last NATO summit saw President George Bush energetically pushing the candidacies of Georgia and Ukraine against strong opposition from European leaders. It is also a long-time source of chagrin to British conservatives that their American counterparts do not share their deep Euroscepticism.
I am reminded of PJ O'Rourke's comment that America is like the most popular (and hated) girl in the class. Canada and Europe, particularly, seem to be prone to the illusion that we spend all of our time thinking up ways to make them feel bad, when in truth we barely think about them at all. Probably we should, more. But it's hard to imagine a situation in which our first thought would be: "Let's make Irish voters reject the . . . what was the name of that treaty again?"