Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sure, but how big's your aircraft?

Babble on.

Much has been said and written about the new Airbus A380, the biggest passenger aircraft the world has ever seen, and the first aircraft to challenge the almost forty-year hegemony of Boeing's long-reigning 747.

To me, the plane is pure bling.

Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with a little bit of national - or continental - glam. But the thing about luxury is that you have to have something more substantial to back it up. Is there anything more pathetic than the guy whose car is pricier than his house; the guy who wears more around his neck and on his fingers than he has in his bank account; the guy Texans describe as "all hat, no cattle?"

At least one man in Europe is asking the same question:

Everyone complains about American management of this unipolar world, and, as one looks at some of the Pentagon's recent miscalculations, such as post-war Iraq, one can see why. But at present the Americans can and must make all the relevant decisions, because it spends easily more than twice as much as all 25 EU countries on defence, and that is with the dollar at a deep low. If Europe wants the kind of political influence that goes with supplying the world's fattest aircraft, it will have to do more than out-subsidise Boeing.

Europe will have to build the choppers and the fighters that go with world leadership, and there is no sign of that whatsoever. The most that can be said is that Americans will buy the Airbus 380s to ferry their troops around the world.

This worldview dismisses Axworthian 'soft power' as so much empty posturing. Regular readers of this site (hi Mom!) know I agree with this point of view - or at least agree that if 'soft power' is to have any effect at all, it must be backed up by something harder. In fact, if you're going to use the word 'soft' in relation to diplomacy at all, I say you should just quote Teddy Roosevelt and leave it at that: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

So I congratulate all the chest-thumping, nose-thumbing, stuff-strutting EUro-types on an unquestioned aviation accomplishment. I hear you speaking softly. I see your bling. But I can't help asking: what else you got?

Babble off.


At 9:03 p.m., Blogger treehugger said...

I am going to tippy toe around the politics on this one Damian, but you do raise some very interesting points about "soft" power.

While I am truly fascinated with modern aircraft and find the sheer size of the A380 compelling, I must say that for me the era of luxury romantic airtravel died with the Concord. What a magnificient looking beast! In comparison the A380 looks like a big fat cat that is about to expire.


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