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Rift Between Europe & US Widens « Previous | |Next »
February 11, 2003

The rift between 'Old Europe'----Russia, France and Germany--- and America over the war with Iraq continues to deepen. The first wedge was over the threat posed by Iraq to the international community; then we had the France-Germany plan to increase the role of the UN inspectorate to avoid an early war favoured by the US; now the fallout is over an American request for defensive equipment from NATO for Turkey in anticipation of a possible war against Iraq.

For the New York Times editorial see Divisive Diplomacy With Europe. Chris Bertram has some comments on the rift within Europe.

Why the increasing divide? Why the increasing prospect of Moscow, Berlin and Paris collectively opposing Washington? The view from Washington is that it is due to anti-Americanism. See Sneers From Across the Atlantic: Anti-Americanism Moves to W. Europe's Political Mainstream; or Rabid Weasels: The sickness of "old Europe" is a danger to the world; or The Rat That Roared.

This neo-con stuff all starts to get a bit hard to take after a while. Anything critical of the US neo-con Republican position, no matter how worthy or considered, has to be blasted away. Europe becomes the Other. Something a lot more considered, and which rejects the 'its strongly held anti-Americanism' is given by Stephen Den Beste at USS Clueless (Stardate 20030210.1415), where he argues that, "like France the reality is that what Germany really opposes is this particular war, by the US and UK, which will remove Saddam from power."

You work the way through this post only to come to the neo-con conclusion that Anne Coulter had got to earlier---France is an enemy. This is Den Beste:

'For all practical purposes, both nations [France and Germany]are now enemies. Or rather, their governments are not acting like "allies". They're acting like enemies.

There is no alliance, and there is no friendship. This is no longer a deep difference of opinion between friends; it is fullblown opposition. They are actively opposing us and actively supporting our enemies, and there's no other way we can consider them now except as active cobelligerents against us. Their reputations and their influence are now direct threats to us, and we will need to damage them. This is, effectively, war now between the US/UK and France/Germany.'

So what needs to be done? Den Beste is quite clear on this point. He says:

'And it has now reached the point where we (the US, the UK and nations who are allied with us) will actually need to damage France and Germany. They are now revealed as being dangerous to us as long as their diplomatic influence remains at current levels. They must be defanged.'

Not that much different from Coulter's Attack France!

Why the increasing divide between American and Europe? Paul Krugman offers one acount in his The Wimps of War. He says the Europeans do not trust the Americans and for good reason:

"And though you don't hear much about it in the U.S. media, a lack of faith in Mr. Bush's staying power — a fear that he will wimp out in the aftermath of war, that he won't do what is needed to rebuild Iraq — is a large factor in the growing rift between Europe and the United States.

Why might Europeans not trust Mr. Bush to follow through after an Iraq war? One answer is that they've been mightily unimpressed with his follow-through in Afghanistan. Another is that they've noticed that promises the Bush administration makes when it needs military allies tend to become inoperative once the shooting stops — just ask General Musharraf about Pakistan's textile exports."

An alternative account centres around the underground current of fear and distrust of American power, policies and motives arising from the Americans pushing their weight around; and doing it with a rhetoric that goes down well in some parts of the U.S. but rubs Europeans and Australians up the wrong way. This resentment is caused by the rise in American power and the decline of European power --see European Arrogance and Weakness Dictate Coalitions of the Willing.

For a good ongoing discussion of the recent state of play in international relations see Airstrip One. It has a realist orientation, is English, and critical of the Australian preference for working through the UN. For example:

".... any state primarily exists to preserve the security of its subjects and that its role in foreign policy should therefore be to preserve the state's security and independence. This war in Iraq will not improve our security one jot, and will degrade our military, cost us lots of money and increase the likelihood of terrorist action against us. In short all minuses and no pluses. No mystical invocation of the Anglosphere or vapid equations of Saddam to Hitler will change this calculation. We don't need to hate America, or worry about whether she will get a de facto Empire (too late chaps) just as we don't need to hate non-Belgian Europeans or worry about whether the EU will develop into a superstate (again, too late). All we need to do is keep out of those spheres of influence, which surely is not too hard a feat for the next largest economy in the world."

It is refreshingly different. If we accept this realist account of the relations between nation states then why do France and Germany oppose this particular war, by the US and UK to remove Saddam from power?

Is it, as Den Beste suggests, a case of the French and German opposition to the US being motivated by a desire to dominate the EU, or by fear of damaging revelations coming out of post-war Iraq about the support their companies have provided the to current Iraqi regime?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:12 PM | | Comments (0)