Today’s Solutions: January 30, 2023

Europe is a philosophy to be reckoned with.

Luke Disney | October 2003 issue
‘Where is the world going: toward perpetuation of rule by power, or instead evolution to communities of consent?’ Graham Fuller, former vice-chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, put a fine point on Europe and the United States’ conflicting approaches to world affairs in the American political affairs quarterly NPQ (Summer 2003). Did US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, get it backwards? When it comes to international relations, should we be talking about ‘Old America’ and ‘New Europe’?
Its frequent inability to speak with single voice in world affairs, and, to back its words with military muscle when it needs to, has lead many observers to conclude that European unity doesn’t measure up to American hegemony. As empire-historian Dominic Lieven puts it: ‘If Europe is to be taken seriously, it will need to be more “imperial” in the defence of foreign policy sphere.’ (Prospect, June 2003)
But in the post-9/11 world in which passenger airplanes can be turned into cruise missiles more and more analysts are questioning the ‘might is right’ approach to world politics. If we consider the promotion of democracy as a leading Western policy objective, military force has a decidedly poor record. Harper’s (August 2003) says that the United States deployed its troops 14 times between 1900 and 1993 in support of this noble aim. Unfortunately, ten years after their arrival only four of these countries were democracies. The tenuous situation in Iraq following the most spectacular display of ‘shock and awe’ tactics has so far done little to alleviate these uncertainties.
It would seem that US military supremacy has been equally ineffective at increasing the sense of security among its own citizens. According to an ABC News/Washington Post opinion poll, eight years after the end of the Cold War almost half of Americans felt their country had gotten weaker since they had become the only remaining superpower.
But do the ‘Euro-weenies’ (a.k.a. ‘Cheese-eating surrender monkeys’) really have a viable alternative? Up until recently, the United States itself was very keen on the ‘European experiment’. At one point Henry Kissinger stated that America’s top priority was to get a Europe ‘with a single phone number’.
The Bush administration, however, has adopted a divide-and-rule approach to its trans-Atlantic relations; a stance that threatens to split the Union at this critical point in its history as it prepares to expand into Eastern Europe.
The best counter measure, according to Mark Leonard, director of the Foreign Policy Centre in the UK, is to re-brand the EU. In an article in the New Statesman (June 16, 2003) Leonard says that Europe needs a communications strategy showing the strengths of its modern approach to international relations.
He points to the strength of Europe’s lack of vision, which has resulted in its near invisibility on national and international radar screens alike, despite its far-reaching powers. Thus, ‘like a mythical spirit’, the EU is able to ‘spread its influence without provocation’.
Diversity is another European strength. Although allies may complain about the lack of a single European voice, one need look no further than the corporate world to see the advantages of a networked organisation: a global presence with true local input. The absence of a single power centre means that everyone can continue to innovate without fear that their efforts will be quashed or misappropriated.
Finally, there is Europe’s ‘passive aggression’. Supported by the 80,000 pages of legislation developed since its inception, the EU has been able to spread its values across the world. Everyone wishing to do business in the EU, whether they be Russian, American or Chinese, has to comply by its laws. As a result, slowly but surely European norms on human rights, genetically modified foods and a whole host of other topics are creeping into the world’s cultures through the backdoor being held open by multinational companies.
Five centuries of war, including two world wars, were enough to convince Europeans that strong armies did not bring peace and prosperity. Instead Europe decided to blur the boundary lines between nations to the point where the interests of one could not be unravelled from those of others. The European Union’s founding fathers set out not to create a superstate, but a suprastate.
The EU’s past failures in the Balkans – not part of the EU – and its continuing struggle with the integration of immigrants make it clear that the European model is not a panacea for civilisation building. But it is equally clear that for all its faults and despite the high price of admission in terms of national sovereignty lost, Europe is a success formula in which many would gladly share. In May 2004, the EU will open its doors to seven new member states bringing its total to 22. Four more countries, including Turkey, are pacing impatiently in the waiting room. For these and other aspirant members states there is nothing ‘old’ about Europe.

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