2002 November 03 Sunday
AEI: Europe and America over the next generation

In the December 2002 issue of The American Enterprise Institute's The American Enterprise Magazine has published comments made by various contributors to a symposium on the future relationship between European nations and America.

Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin:

Of course, we're likely to get through Iraq with the Europeans. More than anything they are afraid of being left out. But beyond that? Once upon a time, it was hoped that the inclusion of the central Europeans would re-invigorate the trans-atlantic alliance with a fresh dose of idealism and pro-American sentiment. As NATO heads to its next summit in Prague, prepared to enlarge again, it could yet happen. But time is running out. How long can an alliance really function when key allies believe that building themselves up means cutting America down?

Andrew Sullivan:

Europeans may believe that national interest is a thing of the past and military power an anachronism. Within the confines of a few European countries, they may be right. But in the wider world, especially the Middle East, history hasn't ended and a new threat to world peace is rising. If Europeans believe it can be palliated by diplomacy or appeasement, they are misreading their own times as profoundly as they did in the 1930s.

The question for European leaders is whether they want to be adult players in a new and dangerous world. Grow up and join in--or pipe down and let us do it. That's the message America is sending. It's a message long, long overdue.

Jonathan Rauch:

The deeper problem is that bureaucratic internationalism is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic values. Yes, American democracy features undemocratic elements (the federal courts, the Federal Reserve), and they are very powerful; but they are also exceptional and surrounded on all sides by elected officials. The plan of Europeans talking of "ever closer union" is to take governance ever further from voters. On principled as well as pragmatic grounds, this is a tendency that America will increasingly be called upon to resist, even at the cost of transatlantic rows like the one over the International Criminal Court.

Europeans are wrong to see bureaucratic internationalism as a stabilizing influence. In the long run, the unmooring of public decision making from popular sovereignty is a recipe for capricious policies and unstable politics. You would think that Europeans, of all people, might appreciate this.

Mark Steyn:

In defiance of traditional immigration patterns, Europe's young Muslims are less assimilated than their parents and grandparents. Instead of becoming more European, they're becoming more Islamist. If the "root cause" of September 11 is Islam's difficulty with modernity, we shouldn't be surprised that this manifests itself less in Indonesia than in Holland, the epitome of the boundlessly tolerant post-nationalist state, a liberal utopia of cannabis cafés and gay marriage--for now. Sheikh Omar's demand for the imposition of sharia doesn't seem so absurd when you consider that in 20 years the majority of the Dutch under 18 will be Muslim.

A multiculturalist society has a hard time even discussing these things. In the advanced technocratic Euro-state, almost any issue worth talking about has been ruled taboo. Continental voters, faced with a choice between Eurodee and Eurodum, have been turning elsewhere. The beneficiaries of this tune-out, in Italy, Belgium, Denmark, and elsewhere, don't have much in common--some are maverick magnates, some fascist nostalgists, others gay hedonists. What unites them is what they're against: the traditional European cultural consensus that's now sleepwalking its way to suicide.

Michael Kelly:

European public opinion--as represented in the European press--is mostly limited to elite opinion. And for decades, much of this elite class has cherished a sneering and jingoistic contempt for America and for American values. This attitude fulfills an obvious psychological need: As the former global ruling class of Europe saw America emerge overwhelmingly dominant in economic, political, military, and cultural terms, a natural response was to insist on Europe's moral and intellectual superiority.

John O'Sullivan's contribution is especially worth reading because he's the only one of the contributors who attempts to lay out a positive program for what to do about the US-European split:

America's ultimate interest in Europe is that European nations be reliable allies in a united West committed to liberal democracy. The combined power of America and Europe is so overwhelming that if the West remains united, it will dominate world politics and shape global rules along liberal democratic lines indefinitely.

What makes this an uncertain enterprise is the growing ideological disagreements within and between Western countries on the nature of the liberal democratic order and the classical system of nation-states it sustains. Progressive opinion holds that national sovereignty is discredited, patriotism atavistic, military force outmoded as a means of settling disputes, and that as a result power is rightly and inevitably shifting from nation-states to transnational organizations.

These new views are promoted most vigorously in Europe. In frustration, some Americans have concluded that Europe should be left to cultivate its post-modern garden, while America gets on with running the world.

But in reality, both the "American" and "European" viewpoints are found in both continents, and they are finely balanced in several important countries. There is no reason to concede Europe to the "national-interest-is-defunct" camp without a struggle, as this would only strengthen that faction everywhere--including in America, where the Democrats, the academy, the foreign policy establishment, and the media have already bought into much of the utopian internationalist view, as the Iraq debate has revealed.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 03 11:55 AM  Europe and America


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