'OLD EUROPE' -- OR 'OLD AMERICA'?
By Graham E. Fuller
Graham E. Fuller is a former high-ranking CIA officer, former vice
chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council and the author of
the forthcoming book ''The Future of Political Islam.''
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent scathing
remark, voiced out of frustration, claimed that it was only the ''Old
Europe'' that formed significant opposition in Europe to the U.S. plan
to attack Iraq. Rumsfeld, of course, had our erstwhile allies France and
Germany in mind, and the barb obviously hit home, producing a sharp counter-reaction
from both countries.
But whatever we may think about French and German caution (or limp-wristedness)
in opposing a rush to war in Iraq, the interesting question is, was Rumsfeld
right? Who really represents the ''old thinking'' here? The better case
might be made that it is in fact America that represents the ''old values,''
not France and Germany. Old or new doesn't automatically mean good or
bad. But we better consider this formulation because it says a lot about
which way the world is evolving into the future.
In fact, a more convincing case might be made that France and Germany
actually represent the ''New Europe'' or even ''the coming world.'' Think
about it. These two European powers have put five centuries of wars behind
them, including two devastating world wars, to form a new union with shared
currency and desires to forge a broad common foreign policy. Such a step
is revolutionary among ancient nation-state rivals with quite different
But it doesn't stop here. This European Union is a remarkable experiment
-- the first time in history when states have been willing to give up
real hunks of their own national sovereignty in order to join a new civilizational
project. Turks, Bulgarians and Latvians are begging to pay the considerable
admission fee to be let in. The reigning premises among them are that
states must be truly democratic, they must protect human rights and civil
liberties, and that war among its members should be an unthinkable option.
These states see themselves as a gradually expanding community, acquiring
ever new members and geographical spread -- but only after they meet quite
strict criteria. They aspire and indeed are on the way to forming a new
force in the world. This is the first time we witness a new emergence
of an ''empire'' built on consensus and common desire rather than power
and conquest. Hardly the stuff of the ''Old Europe.''
In fact, it is America that actually represents the ''Old World.'' This
is a statement of fact, not a pejorative aspersion. America now sees itself
as the benign hegemon -- or the policeman -- of the world that will undercut
any and all efforts by potential rivals or regional hegemons, friendly
or not, to cast a shadow over overwhelming U.S. power.
Now, this Pax Americana may have many positive as well as negative features,
but its foundation based on monopolization of power rather than consent
can hardly be described as the ''New World.'' Power, and not international
law, is very much the basis of ''Old Power'' and the ''Old Order'' down
through the ages.
But wait, isn't America the ''new world'' in terms of its multiethnic
character? Not really. While America is a remarkable and pretty successful
experiment at multiculturalism, it is near unique in being a nation of
immigrants. No old ethnic homelands here. But Europe indeed is a place
of old ethnic homelands -- de patries, as Charles de Gaulle said.
That makes the experiment all the harder, forging ethnic homelands into
a new cooperative whole. Again Europe is the model for a world of ethnic
homelands, not the nation of immigrants in North America.
The world is indeed a dangerous place. Saddam Husseins and Kim Jong Ils
will never disappear entirely. Indeed, power will be required to meet
some of these challenges on occasion. But the view of the future is that
it will be the power of a gradually expanding international community
of consent of the ruled that will slowly emerge to fulfill that function.
Nobody can deny that U.S. power can be beneficially employed to meet certain
crises. But when other states, even friends, feel they have little stake,
or have no voice, in the way the unelected sheriff runs the town, we are
working on old principles of power-based politics.
This is not some utopian sketch of an ideal. In fact the world has already
been heading slowly and painfully in this direction of freely established
communities of common consent, including, above all, the United Nations.
Of course, the United Nations can be ludicrous, indeed frustrating on
occasion, in its dithering and querulousness. So can the U.S. Congress.
These are not the fastest mechanisms in the world to get results. But
think how far we have come in less than a century, when an international
organization is starting to exercise real clout on multiple issues, including
human rights, standards of behavior, international fact-finding and inspections,
peace-keeping and the provision of troops. This reality has forced even
the Bush administration to seek U.N. blessing and support where possible.
These, too, are signs of motion in the direction of a New World, and not
America's task is to work with this evolutionary process and not against
it. That doesn't mean we don't go to war in Iraq, but it does place high
premiums on trying to work on forces of the future and not the King-of-the-Mountain
rules of the last several millenniums.
Of course, France and Germany have their own interests and agendas, often
scathingly dismissed as petty and narrow by Washington policy makers.
But don't we in the United States also have our own narrow and parochial
interests? Don't we, too, want a piece of the oil? Don't we, too, want
the vulnerable oil states of the world to strictly ''buy American'' when
the arms dealers come around? Isn't it domestic American politics that
grants the most right-wing government in Israel's history a carte blanche
in doing what it wants in the occupied territories? Doesn't Washington
basically thrive on the inability of other states to ramp up huge arms
budgets? None of these are evil, but they are parochial American interests,
just as all the other states out there have.
So where is the world going: toward perpetuation of rule by power, or
instead evolution to communities of consent that are gradually building
up a formidable structure of their own? EU military power will be slow
in coming, but the French and the Germans have now, before our eyes, fatefully
turned a corner in which the old automatic alliance with the United States
no longer holds. Insults aside, those days are not coming back. France
and Germany throwbacks to the ''Old Europe''? I don't think so.
(c) 2003, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 2/10/03)