by Andrew Reding
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed Franco-German
opposition to U.S. moves toward war with Iraq as the reaction of the "old
Europe." Now, President George W. Bush has trotted out eight leaders of
what presumably is the "new Europe" who support his position. Both men
are seriously misreading European reality.
To begin with, support from eight of 25 leaders of European Union (EU) member and candidate countries is not exactly a ringing endorsement. Much less so when one considers opinion polls that show those leaders' positions are not supported by their respective populations.
The "old" and "new" Europe characterizations point to an even greater delusion. Germany and France are unarguably the prime movers in the continuing consolidation and expansion of the European Union. And the EU is advancing a bold new model of world order that is arguably more likely to succeed in achieving peace and stability than Washington's old-fashioned recourse to the sword.
The Bush administration is unwisely viewing Europe through an aging institution. "If you look at the entire NATO Europe today," Rumsfeld said, "the center of gravity is shifting to the east." True, the United States is gaining the support of several new Eastern European members, as evidenced by the endorsement given to the president's position by the leaders of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. But these countries are economically and militarily insignificant in comparison to Germany and France.
What is more, NATO is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Without a Soviet menace, it has no clear common purpose. The Europeans continue to rely on it as a form of military subsidy from the United States, sparing them from having to make substantial increases in military budgets. But they are increasingly unwilling to pay the price of allegiance to Washington as U.S. and European foreign policy interests diverge.
Further contributing to the decline of NATO is the rise of the European Union. Burying two centuries of enmity, Germany and France have been -- and remain -- the driving forces behind the development of the EU. They recently announced a joint formula to strengthen the EU's executive powers, with elected presidents for the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, and a common foreign minister.
It was at that same Paris meeting that President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder challenged U.S. plans for war with Iraq. Far from a sign of the impotence of an "old" Europe, it was a sign of the EU beginning to flex its muscle by staking out a foreign policy course independent of the United States.
The Franco-German declaration reflected a deep discomfort with the unilateralism of the Bush administration and its reliance on military solutions. Opinion polls show that uneasiness is shared by most Europeans, even in countries whose leaders -- as in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Denmark -- back President Bush.
From their traumatic history, Europeans know only too well that war engenders only more war. Now, with Europe having at last achieved extended peace under the new multinational institutions of the EU, Europeans believe they have found a better route to peace and prosperity than reliance on military might.
There are no major wars in modern Europe because there are no major quarrels. The European Court of Human Rights enforces the same standards throughout the continent. The people in every EU member country elect representatives to a common European Parliament. The wealthier, established countries are providing hefty subsidies to develop the economies of the newer members. In the foreseeable future, even Muslim Turkey is likely to enter the European fold.
Extending that model worldwide, Europeans are the driving force behind political globalism -- as shown in their leadership on the new International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, the campaign to abolish the death penalty, and Mideast initiatives that do not turn Arabs and Muslims into adversaries. On all those scores, European multilateralism is increasingly in conflict with American unilateralism.
America menaces its growing number of adversaries with a big stick as it jealously guards its position of hegemony. Europe is instead extending a big carrot -- the opportunity to join a privileged club. The only "old" thinking, unfortunately, is on this side of the Atlantic.
January 29, 2003 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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