BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. If the American press is guilty of chasing after news, real and imagined, like a pack of slobbering wolves, then bolting off suddenly for fresh prey-- the European papers are more like domesticated pets -- obsessively shaking the same knot of rawhide day after day, month after month. And that obsession is -- ? -- American hegemony. Joining us once again to examine the latest twist in the rawhide is UPI chief correspondent Martin Walker who says the European papers see trouble to the east and even more trouble to the far east.
MARTIN WALKER: Well the, the European press is really obsessed with two things -- one has been the way in which they see the new North Korean nuclear crisis as casting real doubt upon the wisdom of the Bush administration focusing upon Iraq, and the other big theme has been the European outrage at the kind of pressure that was being put upon the European Union to bring in Turkey at its, at its summit when it had the big enlargement, increasing its-- the European Union by 10 new member states.
BOB GARFIELD:And the fear there, that there is now a fox in the henhouse - an Islamic state in the heart of Europe - or is it something more subtle than that?
MARTIN WALKER: Oh, it's much more subtle than that. I mean if you - if you look at the French press, it's clearly all an American plot. On the whole the French and the German press are very, very suspicious of American and British pressure to bring Turkey into Europe, and on the other hand the Spanish, the Italian, the British press tends to support the idea of bringing Turkey in, in part because they see it as a way of fending off the prospect of a clash of civilizations and as the - as the Times put it, "By bringing in a moderate Islamic state like Turkey, Europe shows it is not a Christian club and is open to a much wider image of the world."
BOB GARFIELD:You mentioned the coverage of the burgeoning North Korea nuclear crisis and it has gotten coverage here in the United States on page one, but surprising little vis-a-vis the buildup to a war with Iraq. Does that dominate the coverage in Europe and elsewhere in the world?
MARTIN WALKER: Well it-- absolutely. I'm looking at, for example, the French Liberation. "In the last two days North Korea has reminded the U.S. of its existence and placed America in a most embarrassing position -- that of a superpower so obsessed with changing Iraq's regime that it's forgotten about the real priorities. Obviously the danger now is North Korea." Berlin's "Die [...?...] Spiegel," a very centrist paper: "The Americans are clearly applying double standards. North Korea with its nuclear policy has so far not faced serious consequences while Iraq is about to be attacked because of its weapons of mass destruction which so far do not appear to approach the nuclear threshold." However President Bush might enjoy Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid The Sun which had a wonderful big editorial this week: "When Bush branded Iran, Iraq and North Korea an axis of evil, the chattering classes scoffed. But Bush's warning was not just rhetoric. Now the world sees the proof of the threat presented by North Korea. The war on terror is most definitely not about the size of egos in the White House or Downing Street. It's a fight between good and evil and good will win." I think President Bush would have loved that.
BOB GARFIELD:It sounds to me as if he may have written that! [LAUGHTER] You know the-- I'm bemused by the discovery -the shock-shock that there is a double standard applied. Isn't geo-politics all about double standards? Where's the news there?!
MARTIN WALKER: Well-- except that - as I keep sort trying to sort of say on this program - one of the really curious and almost touching things is that the world does tend to expect better from the United States. We expect this sort of low cunning of real politik from the wicked old Europeans, but Americans are meant to be somehow rather-- rather purer, more idealistic, and rather more clear! And I've been looking at the Indian press --here is the, The Hindu, a very centrist paper: "American policy is confusing at best; crudely hypocritical at worst. And we expect better from the leader of the free world." That's, that's putting it quite strongly. Curiously enough, the most waspish comment came from-- the Italian newspaper Il Giornale. "For many observers, it's difficult to forget that at the present time, the main producer, user and seller of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles is, in fact, the United States."
BOB GARFIELD: Please tell me -- what is the verdict on 2002? Good year or bad year?
MARTIN WALKER: Well the British weekly The Economist wrote a long editorial this week saying that in fact 2002 had been a great deal better year than we had any right to expect. There were bombs in Bali and, and in Kenya, but no huge 9/11-scale terrorist disasters. The world economy didn't collapse; it could have been worse.
BOB GARFIELD: Could have been better.
MARTIN WALKER: It could indeed.
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Okay. Well, Martin, thank you very much. Happy New Year/
MARTIN WALKER: And to you.
BOB GARFIELD: Martin Walker is the chief correspondent for United Press International.