2003 March 17 Monday
Views On The Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations

Former British Conservative Party leader William Hague expects a continued decline in the influence of Europe.

What the present crisis underlines is that Western Europe is losing its influence. In the coming decades, the greatest growth of manufacturing will be in China, the fastest growth of population in the Middle East and India, and the strongest enterprise culture and greatest military power will remain in America. The sound we can hear from Paris and Berlin is not the march of ever closer union, but the rage of ever closer impotence. Once again, when the world gets dangerous, it is the Americans, British and Australians who respond. The vacuum left by others leaves us no choice.

For Europe's demographic future Mark Steyn sees either demographic decline or the Islamization of Europe.

If that ratio of workers to retirees keeps heading in the same direction, the EU will have the highest taxes not just in the Western world, but in most of the rest. A middle-class Indian or Singaporean or Chilean already has little incentive to come to the Continent. If the insane Bush–Steyn plan to remake the Middle East comes off, even your wacky Arabs may stay home. If it doesn’t, the transformation of Europe into ‘Eurabia’, as the droller Western Muslims already call their new colony, will continue.

Either way European culture loses. How many decades will it take before a European nation adopts Sharia Law as a result of an Islamist party sweeping into power?

Craig Kennedy, President of the German Marshall Fund, examines causes for the disagreements between the United States and Europe. A broad range of differences in outlook and perception are at the base of the widening split. John Clark of the Hudson Institute took notes on a recent Kennedy speech at the Hudson Institute. Kennedy sees different assessments of risks, problems, and of the best tools to address them all feeding the widening split.

The current problems between the United States and Europe have nothing to do with Iraq. The key is the control of the use of American military power. All European leaders want a say in how the United States deploys its military; no American political leader, Left or Right, wants to cede control at all. In this sense, Tony Blair is doing the same thing as Jacques Chirac, only using a different strategy.

Europe is not going to get control of US foreign policy. Chirac et. al, have so overplayed their hands over the Iraq war that their influence over US foreign policy looks set to decline if anything. However, Blair shares some of the same goals of Bush and therefore he's not simply trying to get more influence over US policy. Blair has consistently spoken about the dangers of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. His convictions seem genuine.

Kennedy runs down some of the differences in how most Europeans and most Americans see the world.

Third, Europeans have a different sense of risks. They don’t feel vulnerable to terrorism in the same way Americans feel; and if they do feel vulnerable, they blame the United States because its power draws attacks. Kennedy has been asking European leaders: If your country experienced an al Qaeda style terrorist attack, would it draw you closer to the United States or further apart? All say further apart: they would think that they were attacked because of their connection to the United States.

Kennedy sees four main possibilities for future transaltantic relations. I've included the two most interesting ones here:

I. “Multilateral quagmire,” meaning more of the same. He thinks this is most likely. The United States won’t leave the UN, at least for several years. Even after Iraq it will keep trying to work through the UN and NATO; France will block the U.S. initiatives; the United States will try to divide Europe. The result will be that multilateral institutions are in shambles. This combat will extend into the economic sphere. For instance, the WTO will increasingly be the site of trade disputes over genetically modified foods, privacy, and other issues. This fighting will spread to the IMF and World Bank. Kennedy thinks the business community on both sides of the Atlantic will keep it from spiraling completely out of control, but it will be very damaging.

How much the relations between Europe and the United States decay will depend in part on pure luck. Terrorist attacks, election outcomes, and a host of other factors may accelerate changes.

For his fourth possibility on the future of trans-atlantic relations Kennedy sees "The New Transatlantic Project" proposal by Ronald D. Asmus and Kenneth M. Pollack as a non-starter:

IV. New Trans-Atlantic Bargain. The United States will allow Europe a voice in how American military power is used in exchange for European help in grand projects. GMF Fellow Ron Asmus and Ken Pollack have written a reply to Robert Kagan called “The New Transatlantic Project,” that calls for the United States and Europe to transform the Middle East.[5] Fred Bergsten of the Institute for International Economics envisions cooperation between a new “G2” of the United States and EU extending beyond economics. Kennedy thinks this is unlikely. For instance, on the Middle East Asmus and Pollack don’t appreciate the gap between the United States in identifying the problems: Americans focus on tyrants, support for terrorism, clashes of civilizations; Europeans see poverty and Israel as causes. Europeans don’t think democracy is possible in the Middle East, the United States thinks it’s necessary, at the very least a plausible goal. They disagree about means: The United States emphasizes force; Europeans constructive dialogue, trade, aid. This makes Kennedy skeptical that a new trans-Atlantic project will ever take off.

I agree with Craig Kennedy that the prospects for that approach are bleak. On one hand the Europeans are right in their skepticism about the prospects for democracy in the Middle East. On the other hand, if the Middle East is not culturally transformed to make it a more hospitable place for democracy then it will continue to be a large terrorist threat to the West. The advance of WMD technologies will make it easier for terrorist groups to make weapons suitable for terrorists to use to kill large numbers of Westerners.

I think European intellectuals tend to underestimate the degree to which trends taking place outside of the West make the maintenance of a status quo international system impractical. Advances in an assortment of technologies combined with the spread of religiously based political movements are destroying the status quo. That the neoconservatives in America underestimate the size of the cultural transformation job (no, not everyone loves liberal democracy and individual rights) entailed in trying to counter the dangers thrown up by these trends does not disprove their conclusion that there is a need for drastic action to meet the threats.

As for Israel and poverty being at the root of the Muslim hostility toward the West: Its the modernising Islamic cultures that are the biggest sources of terrrorists. The foot soldiers are coming from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not from Bangladesh. Even impoverished Afghanistan, while it was a useful base of terrorist operations, did not produce legions of Afghans eager to go off to the West to conduct terrorist attacks. The Arab dispute with Israel is a contributing factor to Muslim hostility toward the United States. But there is no plausible solution to the Palestinian desire for statehood that would end that source of hostility. As long as Israel exists and the US supports its existence many Muslims will be angry about it.

Update: As for whether the Western nations could economically transform the Middle East if the will existed in the West to try: The history of attempts to use foreign aid programs to cause economic development is littered with failures. The countries that have industrialized and become contenders did not rely on foreign aid programs to build modern economies. Quite a few long term recipients of foreign aid have remained mired in poverty. It is possible to use foreign aid to fund the training of technically skilled workers. But without an economic system that will allow those workers to form companies and compete the most likely outcome of such training programs is going to be the emigration of the most skilled workers to lands of greater opportunity.

What the Middle East needs is a transformation in religious beliefs and in cultural practices. Both of those types of changes are hard to engineer from the outside and will happen only very slowly if at all.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 17 02:56 PM  Europe and America


Comments
Jake said at March 17, 2003 3:51 PM:

Excellent writeup. Very informative.

M. said at March 17, 2003 6:27 PM:

I believe Steyn is correct,but just try to convince libertarians and orrin judd conservatives that one does not casualy replace one population group with another and expect happy results.
Especialy population groups with such radicaly different cultures and value systems.

razib said at March 18, 2003 3:04 AM:

great post randall-the eurabia and eventual imposition make me want to puke. this is the kind of shit my family fled, consciously or not.

now, one thing about religious change in the islamic world-i'll blog this at some point, but i suspect that the change will be kind of seismac with little warning. i think this is true because islam is more like protestantism than catholicism-and like judaism, it is an inflexible faith. protestantism in europe died in just 1-2 generations, while catholicism continues in a weaker but still recognizable form. but the thing is historically muscular fanatic christianity was the hallmark of protestant states. similarly, the jewish community was very "orthodox" and religiously observant before the enlightenment hit them-and it hit them hard (though it is hard to generalize from askhenazi jews since they are just brights intellectually). i think islam is a religion like glass-it is brittle, and you won't see it coming when it shatters-the world will turn upside down and islam will come crashing down as fast as it exploded upward.... (just like protestantism exploded to its present range within 2 generations)

Dan Van Zile said at March 18, 2003 9:15 AM:

While I agree to a large extant with the article, it does not take into accout one variable , regime change in the US. I do not think the neo-conseervative group is necessarily a permament feature of the future in the US. I think it is likely that in 2008 Hillary Clinton will vecome president. I would not even say that 2004 is more than likely. If one looks at demographics the issues and the long term population trends favor the Democrats. I do not think a adventurous foriegn policy will have long term staying power. Bush may be awinner short term, but Im far from convinced of the long term results of his policies. DAN

Michael said at March 18, 2003 6:25 PM:

Dan,right on the neo-cons,they have little appeal beyond national security concerns(and that is,as has been pointed out else where a domestic issue now).On other issues they sound rather left.Letfies don't like them because they are Repubs,and Righties don't like them because they seem to left on many issues and openly dislike the consrvative base of the party.The WSJ more or less called for the party to purge itself of white southern voters.

Wrong on Hillary,too much baggage,her appeal is to the left wing of her party,the wing now in decline.She simply does not have Bill's political and acting skills.She will run '08,but will go no where or polarize the race.The long term trends actually point a poorer and more divided country,polarized identity groups fighting over the remains of the spoils system as our economy moves offshore.The current demand for free prescriptions for seniors has absolutely nothing to do with the elderly today,the boomers are merely feathering their own retirement nests.That will be hugely expensive as this is merely the first entitlement they will vote themselvs.Not much will be left over for vote buying.


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