Thank you, georgeob1, for a very level-headed and sensible response, and for putting us back into place, kinda, when it comes to - in this case my - crude generalisations.
I was very deliberately making a generalisation, of course - hence the "deap-seated prejudice" quip with which I introduced it - and I do hope y'all didnt take all of it as wholly earnestly as my usual posts ... there is also an actual point in the generalisation, too (which will crop up again far below, in the Iran bit of this post), but yeh - first of all, george rightly raised the overwhelming relativity of such categorisations, in the face of the divergent connotations, especially across borders ...
For example, in the article I just translated, that I'll post next up, you'll find the Ayatollahites in Iran called "conservatives", and President Khatami, on their behalf, brushing off the Nobel Prize in much the same way as Timber did: "unimportant" and "a political decision". Yet to confuse things, the pro-Ayatollah newspaper called the Prize part of an "American-zionist plot", and the thugs in the piece denounce it as "the prize that was given to the American Jimmy Carter last year".
Now when did you last hear people denouncing Jimmy Carter as part of the American-zionist plot, only to then be called "conservative" for doing so? <grins> The confusions are boundless, when it comes to political terms. In the Perestrojka years, orthodox communists were called "right-wing" and the demonstrators calling for democracy and reform "left-wing". In many West-European countries, its the far left that takes up the cause of immigrants and minorities - but in much of Eastern Europe, its the freemarketeer (right-wing!) liberals who stand out in opposing xenophobia, while the post-communist left is murky about it. Its fascinating, really.
A generalization which is also subject to these contradictions, but which in the current situation appears to be slightly more reliable is the (growing, in my view) divergence between the world views of American and European political classes and elites. My image is one in which Europeans tend to see America as too powerful, too full of itself and its peculiar version of history, inadequately sensitive to the differing perspective and interests of Europeans, and probably a bit dangerous. Similarly Americans see Europe as the spawning ground for the radicalisms that caused so much misery and destruction in the last century, and now bent on imposing its latest solution for the very problems which it created for the world on the rest of us. In particular a Western Europe that generally failed to carry its share of the load during the Cold War, and which, again, now seeks a share of control well beyond the contributions it makes to the solutions.
Actually agree with all of this - quite astute (yes, the bit about Europe too <smiles>) - except for the last line, of course ;-). How exactly did "Western Europe fail to carry its share of the load during the Cold War"? I mean, I'll admit us peace protestors did our best - but we failed, didnt we? <grins> And how are we claiming a share of control "well beyond the contributions we are making to the solutions"? That all depends on what you think the solutions are, doesnt it? The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries spend 1% of their annual GNP on development aid - much more than the US does. The US spends a much greater share of its budget on military operations. Concerning which budget posts within such spending patterns we consider to make a contribution to "the solutions" or not, we'll predictably disagree.
One (other) bit of nitpicking still (also neatly seguing back to Iran):
It is neither fair nor accurate of Nimh to suggest that supporters of Ronald Reagan's vigorous confrontation with the Soviet Empire were either unaware or unappreciative of the crucial contributions of Vaclav Havel (and other Eastern European leaders) to the downfall of that unlamented Empire.
It would be unfair to say "all supporters" were so - thats why I didnt - but some
American conservatives, oy - I've been amazed, really, at meeting people who truly thought "Reagan had liberated E-Europe". Not to belittle the role that the arms race played in straining the Soviet plan-economy to the point that it started falling apart, necessating some Soviet leader or other to change things drastically - but, a), Gorbachev could
have tried taking Li Peng's road instead of yielding E-Europe to democracy, and then a lot more blood would have flown, and b) these people really seemed clueless about the Leipzig demonstrations, the Prague and Budapest dissidents, even the Polish trade unionists - they truly saw Eastern Europe as a Communist monolith, that Reagan pushed over - end of story. That
I think is - apart from mere ignorance, and sad, really, also indicative of a certain populist American-conservative mindset.
It comes up again in the debate on Iran, where, away from our nuanced posts, you have the populist-conservative impression of Iran as an ultra-fundamentalist, evil monolith
- an impression that would logically lead to the idea of an Iraq-style military approach by ways of solution.
Whereas in reality, you've got your evil people in the regime there, you've also got your Gorbachev-style reformists, voted into office in actual, free elections - but, though of good will, perhaps, impotent and mired in compromise; you've got your radical rebel students and your principled dissidents, rightly criticising the government from without - and you've got your armed guerrilla's, partly rooted in dubious exile groups.
Personally I'd go for the third group (the principled dissidents, like Ebadi), while keeping a dialogue with the second group, in order to get the first group out - but in any case it's important to realise this entire landscape, first.