Understanding Europe

"bitter sanity" has an incredibly astute piece on how the US and the EU view the UN under two totally different frameworks.

Steven den Beste suggests that the UN, driven by European and Europe-influenced members, has now adopted opposition to America as its purpose. I agree that this is the effect of what’s happening. But I don’t think anti-Americanism is the fundamental principle driving UN actions. I also don’t think that the European conception of the organization’s purpose has suddenly changed.

Rather, I think that Americans and Europeans have always accepted the UN on fundamentally different grounds. I think that for a long time these different principles resulted in the same practical positions, so the differences could be ignored. I think that the new divergence of opinion on the subject of UN legitimacy, and the limits to UN moral relevance, is not really new, but simply exposes a fundamental difference that has been there all along.

This is exactly what I have found. The EU sees itself as the bearers of a new transnational future, and the US seems to them to be an atavistic throwback to a bygone age. Considering the horrors that nationalism brought to Europe in the past few centuries such a view is understandable.

However, the US is not the Europe of the past. Our goal in Iraq is not to colonize and exploit, but to liberate and leave. Conservatives only reluctantly accepted nation building after September 11, and only then as the only way of guaranteeing security. Imperialism is not in the national character of the US, and it never has been. Our actions are no more imperialistic than our actions in the Spanish-American war, and yet America did not suddenly become a imperial police state. Rather we got in, dealt with the problems, and tried to leave the places better than they were. In some cases we largely suceeded (the Phillipines, Puerto Rico) and in others we failed miserably (Cuba).

It is clear that the conflict between the US and Europe is broader and deeper than just Iraq. It is about a fundamental view of the world political situation and how best to manage our increasingly dangerous world. The Europeans want to transcend power while America wants to flex it, and as long as both sides cling to their presumptions, the conflict will continue regardless of what happens in Iraq.

4 thoughts on “Understanding Europe

  1. I don’t quite understand this logic. France, Germany, Russia and China are on friendly trading terms with the United States. Are they on even friendlier terms with Iraq? Would they prefer trading with Iraq now rather than have the US loot Iraqi oil fields in a war, and then trade with us? I find it hard to believe that even with our current self-induced diplomatic stalemate with these countries, that they would prefer dealing with Iraq now rather than the US later. Your conspiracy theories need a little more fine-tuning to be credible.

  2. Simple: they view the US as being a bigger political threat than Iraq. (Which from their perspective is true.)

    The EU has long desired to be the counterbalancing force to the US, and the only way they can do that is by somehow weakening US military and political power, and Iraq allows them to do that. Plus, they think that there won’t be any long-term fallout between them and the US if they side against war. (Which is something that could well be true.)

    If they manage to win on this, it means that nations like France can use diplomatic pressure to influence US policy. That is exactly the kind of win that the EU has wanted for some time, and Iraq provides them with a nearly perfect vehicle to attempt to limit US hard power with their diplomatic soft power.

  3. Hmmm….wouldn’t it be in France or Russia’s best interest to invade Iraqi oil fields before the US got the chance then? Seems like that would be a much less convoluted way to “score one” on the US economically. As is being repeatedly said, any military could take on Iraq and win at this stage. Certainly Russia could do it….even France might be able to score a rare military win taking them on. If their only priority was economic competitiveness with the US, why wouldn’t they be waging the same foolhardy “pre-emptive war” on Iraq as we are, only beating us to the punch?

  4. Militarily speaking, only Russia could even conceivably defeat Iraq, and they would take heavy casualties. Neither the French nor the Germans have the military capacity or technology to beat Iraq, and if they did, they don’t have the logistical support to get their forces there in the first place.

    Besides, why invade when you have a friendly dictator who would gladly cut you a deal on oil while you take the moral high ground.

    The EU vision specifically eschews military force – mainly for ideological reasons, but also because Europe has no military power of any significance. (With the notable exception of Great Britain.)

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