Double Standards in Modern Politics
1. Double standards in the European Union:
1.1 Big Sharks bullies Fish
1.2 UN vs Israel
1.3 International law
2. US double standards:
2.1 Double standards at home and abroad
2.2 American exceptionalism and common criticism
One of the Noam Chomskys books is opened with a well-known story told by St. Augustine about a pirate captured by Alexander the Great who asked him: “How dare you molest the sea?” The pirate in return, relied: “How dare y o u molest the whole world? Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you doing the same thing with the great navy are called an Emperor”.
Since the time this story took place a lot of time has passed. Yet the double standards are still applied to the same actions taken by different people. The term double standard, coined in 1912, refers to any set of principles containing different provisions for one group of people than for another, typically without a good reason for having said difference. A double standard may take the form of an instance in which certain applications (often of a word or phrase) are perceived as acceptable to be used by one group of people, but are considered unacceptabletaboowhen used by another group.
A double standard, thus, can be described as a sort of biased, morally unfair suspension (toward a certain group) of the principle that all are equal in their freedoms. Such double standards are seen as unjustified because they violate a basic maxim of modern legal jurisprudence: that all parties should stand equal before the law. Double standards also violate the principle of justice known as impartiality, which is based on the assumption that the same standards should be applied to all people, without regard to subjective bias or favoritism based on social class, rank, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other distinction. A double standard violates this principle by holding different people accountable according to different standards. The proverb "life is not fair" is often invoked in order to mollify concerns over double standards.
The term can be applied to politics as well. The Emperors and the Pirates still exist, they still “molest the sea” and as well as many years ago their actions are treated in different ways.
1. Double standards in the European Union: Big Sharks bullies Fish
Sometimes in the press there spring up the statements that Brussels bullies smaller member states but is often feeble towards the big ones
EU bossiness from far away Belgium will be easy to endure by comparison. But "corruption" is a complaint which dogs the new EU Bulgaria (Romania too), so it is no surprise to hear today that Brussels is threatening to suspend financial aid and retain travel restrictions on work-seekers unless Sofia does more to crack down on organised crime and other forms of corruption. The promised reforms of the judiciary are also bogged down.
Bulgaria is the EU's poorest member which is counting on 7bn worth of euros ( £5bn-plus) to aid structural reform over the next five years, though a major road project linking the Black Sea coast to Serbia collapsed last month, according to the FT. The socialist-led government faces a no-confidence motion today.
So it's not hard to feel a bit sorry for the poor Bulgarians as they grapple with modernisation, evidently less well placed than several other recent EU entrants from the ex-Soviet bloc.
Doubly so, I think, because the EU admonition reflects a recurring habit whereby the European commission bullies smaller member states - but rarely the big ones.
Do you remember the fuss made when Jörg Haider's far right Freedom party - always dubbed neo-nazi in media-speak - made serious gains in the Austrian elections and nearly joined the coalition in Vienna in 2000?
Fourteen member states, admittedly not the EU formally, piled in to condemn Austrians, as if Haider had burned down the Reichstag.
The Portuguese and the Irish have been hammered over breaches of the eurozone's debt rules. The Danes and Irish were bullied over the "wrong" referendum results - and President Sarko was in Dublin the other day arm-twisting over the latest "No" to the Lisbon treaty.
Yet I'm stuck to remember the last time the French or German governments got threatened from Brussels - a city occupied many times by French and German armies - or the Italians got seriously hammered over its own corruption.
That has certainly eaten up a lot of EU aid south of Rome: you can see it in those half-finished motorways which come to an abrupt end (no more cash) in the middle of some Sicilian field.
Yes, I know, realpolitik requires a realistic approach to French breaches of European law or takeover rules - when did you last trying buying a French utility company? - over which there is a long list of charges dating back many years.
In Britain we not only take these rules rather literally, we gold-plate them in their domestic enactment. Health n' Safety is not something you will spot too much of in a French country market this summer.
Come to think of it, when Jean-Marie Le Pen got into the French presidential run-off against Chirac - a pretty disgraceful development - there was an embarrassed official silence.
In short, if Brussels is often feeble towards the EU big boys, wagging its stern, bureaucratic and pompous finger at the little boys looks like double standards.
1.2 UN vs Israel
The relationship between Europe and Israel is complex, tense, and historically loaded. A growing gap has developed between their political outlooks. European political actions can continue to cause Israel so many problems and harms that these in the longer run may increasingly dominate all other aspects of the relationship.
One strong gauge of Europe's negative political attitude toward Israel is its voting record in the United Nations. Another is the frequent condemnations of Israel from Brussels. A third is the financing the EU has provided for a variety of activities directed against Israel. France has been in the forefront of many European anti-Israeli initiatives.
The mood created by the political leaders of European countries toward Israeli government officials often permeates their societies. Their discriminatory attitudes are enhanced by many media, NGOs, and some churches. These factors together help build an anti-Israeli atmosphere in large parts of European society, which is expressed in opinion polls. This is often accompanied by anti-Semitic positions.
The relationship between Europe and Israel is complex, tense, and historically loaded. An increasing gap has developed between their political outlooks. At the same time, relations in areas such as trade, science, culture, and sport have continued to expand over the decades and have only been affected by the political divergences to some extent.
It is frequently claimed that when assessing European-Israeli relations, one has to attempt to establish an average of the interactions in the various fields. To consider this a balanced approach is mistaken. European political actions can continue to cause Israel so many problems and harms that these in the longer run may increasingly dominate all other aspects of the relationship.
The European Union (EU) consists of twenty-five states with a population of 460 million covering a territory of about 3.9 million square kilometers. Israel is a small country - covering a territory far less than one-hundredth of the EU's size - with a population of six million, partly surrounded by mortal enemies. Europe and Israel are not comparable entities. In view of the imbalance in power, populations, and geographic size of the two areas, an analysis must focus primarily on the much larger European side.
When looking for telling pointers in such a complex relationship, often a useful shortcut is to identify extreme attitudes. In turbulent times these become indicators of how Europe's attitude toward Israel may evolve if the world political situation deteriorates.
Analyzing extreme European attitudes is meaningful for another reason as well. It was against the Jews that Europe reached its absolute low of barbarian behavior in the twentieth century. Although Europe's current worldview is very remote from that of the 1930s, still there are several disquieting similarities with the demonizing of the Jews - mainly by Germans but also by others - before the Second World War. The focus of the defamation has shifted from the individual Jew to Israel, the Jewish state.
In the 1930s there were many Jews who closed their eyes, not wanting to see the signs of the times. In a large universe of events one can always find some positive pointers. Looking for those, while the power of Germany's Hitler regime was increasing, one could have cited the fact that in 1936 for the first time a Jew, the socialist Leon Blum, became prime minister of France. In 1939, Lodewijk Visser was appointed the first Jewish president of the Dutch