2002 October 07 Monday
Robert Kagan: Power and Weakness

I've posted references to articles that are a reaction to an essay by Robert Kagan about America and Europe. It seems appropriate to post a link to the Kagan article so that any interested readers can read it. Kagans's article from the June 2002 Policy Review, entitled "Power and Weakness", is quite a good essay. Its rather long but very rewarding and highly recommended. Here's an excerpt that encapsulates a central argument of this article:

The current situation abounds in ironies. Europe’s rejection of power politics, its devaluing of military force as a tool of international relations, have depended on the presence of American military forces on European soil. Europe’s new Kantian order could flourish only under the umbrella of American power exercised according to the rules of the old Hobbesian order. American power made it possible for Europeans to believe that power was no longer important. And now, in the final irony, the fact that United States military power has solved the European problem, especially the “German problem,” allows Europeans today to believe that American military power, and the “strategic culture” that has created and sustained it, are outmoded and dangerous.

Most Europeans do not see the great paradox: that their passage into post-history has depended on the United States not making the same passage. Because Europe has neither the will nor the ability to guard its own paradise and keep it from being overrun, spiritually as well as physically, by a world that has yet to accept the rule of “moral consciousness,” it has become dependent on America’s willingness to use its military might to deter or defeat those around the world who still believe in power politics.

The biggest cause of the frictions between Europe and America is that many European intellectuals are unwilling to accept that the bulk of the rest of the world is a Hobbesian jungle that can't be tamed by international institutions and treaties. The Hobbesian jungle is in no way ready to engage in anything resembling the supranational institution building and the constraints on national entities that are characteristic of the EU. The EU is not a model for how to solve the political problems of the world. The conditions that made the EU possible (including, among others, a grinding defeat of Germany, lengthy partition, and a continued US military presence) are absent in the rest of world.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq or the North Korean regime can not be neutered by voluntary international institutions - even more so since those institutions are dominated by the very types of regimes that are most in need of not just containment but replacement. But even if the international bodies were dominated by liberal democracies they still couldn't bring such regime's as Iraq's to heel any more than defenseless civilians could stop an armed band of thugs. Many nations are not even proper nation-states in the Western sense. They are just tyrannies ruled by an individual or a small ruling class and the governments exist quite apart from the people they govern. With technological advances generated by the Western nations making it easier for brutal regimes to develop WMD the Western nations can ill afford to engage in the kinds of political fantasies that are the basis for the European complaints about the United States.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 October 07 07:18 PM  Europe and America

Steve Sailer said at October 7, 2002 11:05 PM:

While I've said much the same thing myself, I would point out that Europeans do know more than we do about the costs of empire, so we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss their skepticism about the neoconservative neoimperialism.

Randall Parker said at October 7, 2002 11:54 PM:

Steve, they are throwing up any terminology they can find that will strike chords with some people to oppose the war. But their motives are not primarily about opposing imperialism, traditional or neo. I find criticism by stereotypical label (cowboy, neocolonialism, etc) to not be at all persuasive.

godlesscapitalist said at October 8, 2002 2:15 AM:

Another point is that the Euros' antipathy to imperialism is really an antipathy towards what they perceive as judgmental,patronizing attitudes. After all, the assertive nature of US policy towards Iraq boils down to a judgment call: Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. For the Euros, this smacks of the white man's burden.

However, the European left doesn't realize or acknowledge that their stance on (say) human rights or environmental treaties or globalization or antidemocratic third-world governments is just as judgmental and patronizing, yet far less likely to produce concrete benefits for the 3rd world.

Their MO now is to just throw whatever monkey wrench they can find at the US to stop it from pursuing its chosen course of action, because the only fixed point on their compass is that the US is always wrong.

As I said before:

"More to the point (and probably closer to the heart of lefties), I for one have been at a loss to understand the opposition of the humanitarian left to our campaigns Afghanistan and Iraq.

A humanitarian with any sense of the practical would realize that the Taliban and Hussein could only be deposed by force. And if a humanitarian's *true* consideration is the plight of the people - rather than "stability" - s/he would grant that the Karzai regime is better than the Taliban (or else millions of refugees wouldn't be voluntariy returning) and that the post-Saddam government would be better than the current government.

Yes, these are side effects of the respective intervention, but does that taint them to the extent that the ends are no longer desirable?

Wolfowitz had an interesting comment in the Times the other day on this topic: if it is acknowledged that there are dictators whose human rights violations can only be curtailed by force, and if interventions with purely humanitarian motives are the only ones desired, then perhaps we should start a volunteer armed force that's sort of the complement to the Peace Corps. Call them the "Peacebringer Corps..." "

Point being: the humanitarian left doesn't really care about the people in these countries. They just use them as a tool to induce guilt in capitalists/Americans .

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