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Thursday, February 27, 2003

WHAT AILS THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE AND DIVIDES EUROPE: PART THREE

This is the third of a four-part series on the US global and European roles at present, and how various countries in Europe, in both the western and eastern halves, line up on the desirability of maintaining and supporting those roles or opposing them. It will help, no doubt, to jog the minds of readers here what Parts I and II established. Both unfurled a complex argument. To that extent, a detailed summary seems in order.

PART I: A SUMMARY

WEST EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

In our scrutiny of US-European relations at the start of this series, both with the EU and inside NATO --- for that matter, across the divide between east and west Europe --- one clear, overarching trend stood out, recall: the Iraqi conflict has brought to a head marked divergences within Europe over the global and European roles of the US, the world's only superpower.

Take the EU again . . . now 15 countries large, slated to expand by 8 more next year from East Europe, Rumania and Bulgaria hoping to join soon afterwards.

Our first finding: The EU countries have sharply divided on the pivotal issue of relations with the US, now and essentially in the future . . . and both globally and within Europe itself, the two American roles inseparable, even if Europe itself is no longer the center of US security concerns, and the military role of friendly European countries to those concerns is far less important than during the cold war itself. More specifically, on one side of the opposing line-up are the French and Germans, two of the four big EU countries --- France 60 million, Germany 80 million --- together with the support of tiny Belgium, and three of the four tiny EU non-NATO countries that were neutrals during the cold war: Sweden and Austria and Finland. (For concrete details, see the table below). Considering that the EU has about 380 million people, the French-German-neutral camp boasts about half of them. Pitted against it are the two other big EU NATO members, Britain and Italy --- each 60 million --- along with Spain, (40 million), and tiny Portugal, Denmark, and Holland.
 

BASIC POWER INDICATORS US, JAPAN, THE EU-15
  population
millions


GDP
trillions
$
xxper capita
income
$
per capita %
of US
military
spending
billions $
NATO
member
USA 280 10.1 36,500 343.0 yes
EU 15 380 7.9 23,000 64.0 130.0 yes
Japan 120 3.3 25,000 70.0 46.0 no
         
Germany 80 2.0 24,000 67.0 24.0 yes
France 60 1.4 23,500 65.0 35.0 yes
Britain 60 1.4 24,000 67.0 37.0 yes
Italy 60 1.3 24,000 66.0 21.0 yes
Spain 40 0.78 19,000 54.0 6.0 yes
Holland 15 xxx 25,500 77.0 xxx yes
Portugal 10 xxx 18,000 49.0 xxx yes
Greece 10 xxx 17,000 45.0 xxx yes
Belgium 10 xxx 25,000 73.0 xxx yes
Denmark 4 xxx 26,000 78.0 xxx yes
Luxembourg 0.3 xxx 45,000 127.0 xxx yes
Sweden 10 xxx 24,000 66.0 xxx no
Austria 10 xxx 25,000 71.0 xxx no
Finland 4 xxx 24,500 68.0 xxx no
Ireland 4 xxx 29,000 80.0 xxx no



 

Our second finding: with one exception, the division in the EU follows along political lines. All the pro-US countries --- for that is what we are talking about, the Iraqi conflict and controversies only the culmination of long- simmering discord on foreign and security policies within West Europe, and not its main cause --- are governed by moderate centrist or conservative governments. That includes Tony Blair's government in Britain, British Labour a centrist party by Continental standards . . . . scarcely different in its policies at home from Bill Clinton's administrations in the US. The countries in the anti-American camp --- again, a perfectly apt tag, with the future of Europe and the US role in it far more important than Iraq and Saddam Hussein for either the Germans or the French --- are all governed from the left, with the exception of neutral Austria (moderate conservative) and France, governed now from the right --- the latter observation leading to . . .
 

. . . Our third finding: French efforts to organize and lead the European Union, 50 years in the making now, as a way to leverage French power and influence.

Politically, for the last 9 months, both the French National Assembly and the presidency --- the only elected one in Europe, whose office-holder that has a powerful role in French politics co-equal to the Prime Minister responsible to the National Assembly --- are dominated by the right-wing coalition led by Jacques Chirac, and essentially the heirs of Gaullist nationalism on one side and centrist conservatism on the other. Not that it matters essentially; not in foreign policy anyway. Whichever party dominates the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, and his Cabinet, foreign and security policies are essentially the exclusive matter of the president himself --- some President de Gaulle insisted on when he and his henchmen drew up the 5th Republic's Constitution in three months back in 1958; and whether he's on the right like Chirac since 1995, or before that for 14 years on the left like Francois Mitterand, nationalism and a quest for French power, influence, and prestige remain the dominant set of goals --- call these France's grand strategy if you want --- but adjusted to take from day-to-day to take into account the problems and opportunities that international relations creates for France, in and out of Europe.

Something else closely related to this. Ever since de Gaulle's reign in the 1960s, French foreign policy has also been used and manipulated for domestic purposes: above all, as a way of generating national cohesion and support whenever Frenchmen divide too much over domestic issues, or suffer from what seems to be the longest-standing national identity crisis in world history --- now two centuries old ever since the second defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and France's steady decline in power and influence --- aside from the 6 century decline of Imperial China after the Ming dynasty in the late 15th century clamped down on Chinese technology and scientific investigation as a threat to the Celestial Empire's social and political status-quo. As Chirac's latest French biographer, Raphaelle Bacque notes, "I think last year's elections convinced him that France was suffering an identity crisis," said Raphaëlle Bacqué, author of the political biography, "Chirac or the Demon of Power," published early last year. "So one traditional way of repairing the French identity is to make France exist vis-à-vis the United States, exploiting the undercurrent of anti-Americanism that has always existed here."

Note the point about anti-Americanism, something the buggy prof has written about extensively in his commentaries the last few weeks, including the translation of Le Monde's review of Jean-Francois Revel's "L'Obsession anti-americaine". More to the point here, anti-Americanism comes into play whenever the French seem too divided internally or to be suffering from a recurrent fretful bout of national anxiety and identity --- Bacque just observed --- or, externally, if the slightest opportunity arises for advancing French power and influence without jeopardizing French security in any fundamental way. Both, for decades now, but especially since the end of the cold war and any direct threat to French security and independence, tap into and exploit the long-lived anti-Americanism in French life. Long-lived, decades old; almost a century now. And simultaneously drawing on an even longer-standing anti-British complex, centuries old, though the anti-Americanism all the more powerful because of the enormous cultural weight and influence as well as economic dynamism and 60-year old European role of the US and NATO and, since 1991, American unipolar primacy in the global realm.

The anti-American currents, it's important to add, aren't confined to French intellectual life. Far from it, they have had a concrete foreign policy impact for decades now, with France sliding into the role of half-ally at best since de Gaulle forced the US and NATO forces and headquarters off French soil in 1966 and declared its nuclear forces weren't aimed at the Soviet Union any more but served French independence in all directions (tous azimuts). More generally, save for a brief period at the start of the cold war in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and in the early 1980s when Francois Mitterand was acutely worried about the drift in German opinion toward neutralism and pacifism in the cold war --- in both cases, the French governing elite fearing that French basic interests were in jeopardy --- French governments have generally been more concerned and worried about American influence and power, not least in Europe, than a close ally in the British, Italian, or even German sense (until the last two years in the Schroeder era).

We've talked about all this at length, especially in regard to one of the two recent books on French anti-Americanism, both of which argue that it is a deep-seated malaise and obsessive mania in French intellectual and political life, reflecting more French fears about their own failures and declining influence and creativity than any realities about American behavior per se. For a very good recent American survey of these two books, see Why Do the French Hate Us, by Walter Russell Mead, an astute
 

Our fourth finding. The current German government --- a Social Democratic-Green left-wing government headed by Gerhard Schroeder, just re-elected last September in a clear anti-American campaign that evoked wild claims from a Minister that Bush was as bad as Hitler if not worse --- has also been vigorously tapping into and exploiting German anti-Americanism.

Remember, anti-Americanism runs deeper --- is essentially an ideological mind-set --- than any disagreement or dislike of a particular American president and his policies. Such disagreement has occurred throughout the history of NATO, at times even in Britain as in the mid-1950s over the Suez canal and the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt in 1956. It also runs much deeper too than any specific style or policies of George Bush, who, however --- like Reagan before him --- grates much more on left-wing, politically correct sensibilities in West Europe than Bill Clinton's administration ever did. Instead, anti-Americanism as an ideology is a volatile mixture of resentment and envy and dislike of American values, American life, American capitalism, American culture, and American influence . . . on the rise throughout public opinion in West Europe, even in the countries whose conservative governments support the US over Iraq and have reaffirmed their desire for a strong US presence in NATO, throughout the 1990s. The more successful US capitalism, economic growth, innovation, and cultural impact has been, in other words, the more envy and resentment have leapt ahead. It preceded by several years, this growing trend in West Europe, but especially in Germany and France, the arrival of George Bush's administration in power two years ago.

Where Germany differs from the rest of the EU save for France is in having a left-wing government that has deliberately used the powerful currents of anti-Americanism in German life and public opinion --- on the upswing for 20 to 30 years --- for both domestic and foreign policy reasons. If anything, not only did Schroeder and his colleagues owe their re-election last September to exploiting those currents vigorously, but Schroeder himself --- the most unpopular Chancellor within a couple of months after re-election in the Federal Republic's history since 1949 (for economic reasons) --- has nothing essentially to draw on for maintaining his coalition at home in the face of growing public criticism save the anti-Americanism, with his policy of rigid dig-his-heels-in self-righteous morality getting around 80% approval in German polls.

The German role in the anti-American camp --- its leadership shared with the far more cynical, opportunistic French --- differs from the French strategy not just in adhering to moralizing principles that Paris world-wise elites must find other-worldly and coo-coo, but also in having strong domestic opposition: specifically, from the Christian Democratic party, worried increasingly that Schroeder and Fischer are destroying the Atlantic Alliance on which German and European stability and peace repose. There are also powerful voices in the German media that vent similar feelings, and for that matter, Schroeder has been openly criticized for his excessive moralizing and anti-Americanism by members of his own party . . . and from Fischer himself, his Green Minister of Foreign Affairs, who also apparently worries that Schroeder has gone too far.

The French nationalists face no such opposition within France: not in any political party, nor from any newspaper (controlling the tv and radio, the government has the news reporters in its pockets anyway)

We also noted that German pacifism and moralizing sanctimony have been reflected in German defense policies. Right now --- see the table again below --- Germany is spending something like 1.4% of its GDP on defense (and may spend less as the economy still struggles along in another year of stagnation), a derisory sum that has prevented the German government from even meeting its paper-commitments of allocating 20,000 of its troops for the phantom EU Rapid Reaction Force, which was supposed to come into existence last year . . . and is about as operationally ready to fight anybody as any Santa Barbara cub-scout troop taken at random. Morale in the German army is so bad --- most of its troops don't even have up-to-date assault rifles --- that the professional officer corps is quitting in large number. Not that this seems to worry anybody but the CDU and conservative papers, very much a minority. For the Germans apparently --- intellectuals, media types, university professors, students, school teachers, pastors and clerics, and the fervent readers of Der Spiegel, a German weekly of importance that has been an organ of anti-American sentiment for half a century now --- militant and aggressive utopianism and moralizing righteousness seem to be the equivalent of aggressive militarism of the Germans in the 19th and early 20th century. It's as though a middle-course between extreme militarism and extreme flights of utopian fantasy doesn't exist for them . . . a conclusion, by the way, that wouldn't surprise anybody who knows much about traditional abstract German intellectual style, including its marked distaste for industrial civilization and capitalism.
 

Our last finding: what has divided the European Union countries --- come to that, the East Europeans all joining the pro-American camp to further isolate the Franco-German duo --- is a sharp clashing difference in how they perceive the threats to their security and basic national interests, both within Europe and globally.

In France for decades now, with the exceptional times when French policymakers drew close to the US when basic French interests seemed jeopardized in the cold war (and in the Balkans briefly in the late 1990s), American power and influence and cultural and economic impact have been consistently seen as the major threat to French national identity and interests . . . not to forget the perennial quest for French power and influence the world that extends back to the defeats of Napoleon, then two defeats at the hands of German invaders in 1871 and 1940, then futile imperial wars between 1945 and 1963 in Indochina and Algeria. Even the efforts at times, subscribed to by the intellectual elites --- now backed by a Ministry of Culture and subsidies --- to redefine French influence and its global mission in cultural terms, have been badly pummeled for decades now by American cultural influences around the world, and not least in France itself . . . on all levels of cultural creativity, including novels, poetry, short-stories, mystery and science fiction literature, the plastic arts, dance, music (of all sorts), drama, the cinema, photography, architecture, science, mathematics, technology, computer software, space exploration, scholarship, and philosophy (analytical philosophy of the Anglo-American sort now creating powerful inroads into both French and German professional philosophical circles). To say nothing of the influence US television and food have had too.

Even MacDonald's restaurants, despite Jose Bove and his trashing of one of those restaurants, plus a couple of copycat firebombings that killed one French employee, continue to proliferate all over France, approaching 1000 in number now. They employ almost 40,000 French workers, are co-owned and managed by Frenchmen, buy most of their food from French farms (save increasingly beef, which even the French are wary of because of disease, including the mad-cow sort), have clean facilities, offer playgrounds for children, adapt their menus to French tastes, and even --- staying open late, whereas the rest of France outside of Paris shuts down around 9:00 at night --- offer a chance for chary, cynical Frenchmen ("'se mefier" --- gotta be on your guard) to meet one another and talk as their kids play and eat.

All of which, to put it bluntly, is a blow to French amour propre --- French pride, something a great British scholar of France, Theodore Zeldin, noted 25 years ago in his two volume magnum opus, FRANCE 1848-1945, the French translation running three volumes.

As for the current left-wing German government, it now seems to share the French belief that the US is a the big threat to German identity and a specific European identity --- the latter conviction frightening, it appears, all the rest of the EU if it's defined as a Franco-German condominium --- but remember quickly: Gerhard Schroeder himself has begun to worry, it seems, that Paris is using him and his government --- which has backed itself into a self-made end-corridor closet marked Moralizing Piety, No Exit! --- will leave him in locked in there . . . holding fixedly to no-war-with-Iraq-over-my-dead-body, uh-uh! while the French government joins in the inevitable US-UK war with Iraq (mainly to keep open the area for French influence and French economic interests). Simultaneously, his naive siding with the erratic Chirac --- who, like all French presidents, prefers to treat all others as clients and inferiors, habits inculcated in treating former French colonies in Africa as overseas French dependents and seeing the average Frenchman as a fool who couldn't pass an exam to get into ENA (l'Ecole Nationale de l'Administration, an elite finishing school), and uses a Head-Master tone and scolding rhetoric in dealing with them all --- has led him to alienate the East European countries where, among other things, German industry has a pivotal interests . . . to say nothing of his selling out another powerful German economic interest when he did a somersault and recently endorsed the French insistence that the European Common Agricultural Policy, so profitable to French farmers, is as sacrosanct as the Koran for true-believing Islamic fundamentalists.

But note. In Germany, these policies of Schroeder may cater to widespread anti-American sentiments, cultivated by politically correct ideologues for at least three decades now in the media and universities and school system, but they don't seem to gladden the hearts of faltering German manufacturers, taxpayers who can calculate 2 plus 2 and see how much more money the German government shells out to the European Community than it gets back --- the exact opposite of the French --- and the Christian Democratic party and the few foreign policy specialists in institutes who aren't convinced that the world would be all peaches-and-cream, or well on its way to that status, if the New German Way in Foreign Affairs would revive the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 by giving a moral lead to the rest of mankind. The rest of mankind whose memories stretch back to 1999 might wonder how this new German moral leadership ever emerged in Teutonic minds. In March of that year, after all, the Green-Social Democratic duo of Schroeder and Fisher went along with the US decision to withdraw a resolution condemning the Yugoslav government over Kosovo --- precisely because it would have been vetoed by the Russians and Chinese --- and not only agreed to go to war, but for the first time since 1945 sent German troops into combat.

In France, by contrast, the number of people worried about alienating East Europe, the rest of the EU, the US, and NATO might count for something, but even they, save for a few Yankee 5th Columnists, appear swept away by tantalizing pie-in-the-sky vistas of France having at long last pushed its way into global great-power status and getting in a few slaps-to-the face of Uncle Sam, his true nature, apparently in French orthodox thinking, embodied in the detested face of the Toxic Texan. We, for our part, doubt all this. The French, we've noted, are the perennial losers in international life. They have been for two centuries now, save in WWI (the stupidest fought war by advanced countries in world history, not least on the French side), and their clever schemes invariably turn out to backfire in their own faces. Next week, at the UN Security Council, we'll have evidence of this one way or another. Essentially, it's a no-win situation for Paris. The US-UK position is likely to get 9 or 10 of the 15 votes that will be cast, 9 being the necessary number for passage. Either the French will then have to make good on their commitment to stymie the US and veto the resolution --- further isolating themselves with their rigid German chumps in Europe, while undermining the authority of the Security Council further (this already happened with German and French approval when NATO ignored it in 1999 and went to war with the US over Kosovo) that has given them some influence finally; or, alternatively, they will have to climb down from their hobbyhorse diplomacy and abstain . . . their only way to get in on the post-Saddam spoils in Iraq and retain any influence in the Middle East.


  By contrast, all the rest of the EU save the tiny neutrals --- and even then, Ireland's government has been publicly outspoken in wanting a strong US presence in Europe --- seem to see the US not as a threat in the French-German sense, but as a continued source of reassurance and stability in a dangerous world full of flux, first in the Middle East, then in the war against terrorism, both linked by the dangers of rapidly proliferating weapons of mass destruction. And as Josef Joffe, the sage German editor of Die Zeit and a Harvard Ph.D. in political science noted two weeks ago observed here --- see our commentary on Joffe and others in early February here -- the more the uptight French Head-Master and the current clod-hopping German Head-Prefect appear determined to hector and push all others around in the EU and among all applicant countries, the more all these other countries in and out of the EU see in a continued powerful US presence in Europe as a way of fending off French and German diktats.


 



THE EAST EUROPEANS AND NATO AND THE US ROLE IN EUROPE

We will continue this tomorrow. In the meantime, you might look at this first table that will help clarify the country-actors and their relative capabilities in the EU and elsewhere.


 

Replies: 2 comments

I was wondering about your thoughts on certain economic statistics that The Economist has cited in recent issues comparing the US and EU, which purport to explain how EU workers produce more value in less time than Americans. The first reference I saw was to a study by a US academic who sought to explain how the EU system (assuming you're lucky enough to have a job) is able to offer workers a superior quality of life at less cost to the overall economy because European leisure is cheaper than American leisure based on the fact the American can't produce as much value per hour as the European). Accordingly, Americans may be wealthier but they have to work so much harder than the Europeans to obtain that little bit of additional income (and I add it's a margin that gets whittled down by taxes anyhow). The statistics supporting this assertion are that while US workers are more productive than EU workers and GDP per US worker is greater than GDP per EU worker, and these gaps are growing, GDP per hour worked by the EU worker is greater than the GDP per hour worked by the US worker. The only way this makes sense to me is as follows: productivity is measured as a ratio of the weighted value of various outputs on the one hand and the weighted value of various labor costs (including capital) multiplied by hours worked on the other. So the EU productivity lag appears to be explained by the fact that even though the output side of the ratio is greater for the European than for the American, the cost side of the ratio is just that much more expensive that it skews the ratio lower for the Europeans. Based on this logic, even if the EU labor costs are brought down to raise productivity, they could still be sustained at a higher level than the US while maintaining an equal level of productivity. Accordingly, to the extent the American and European were to work the same hours, then the European would receive higher total compensation per head (ignoring the capital component). To what extent does this describe a latent strength of the European economies that just needs to be unleashed through labor market reforms-- and then watch out America about who is eating whose dust in (a view I've heard argued by friends). And to what extent does it suggest that Europeans' GDP per head would be much higher than the US if they just worked as hard as we do (recognizing this ignores diminishing returns)?

Posted by John @ 02/28/2003 04:10 AM PST

Prof Bug: I thought I'd call your attention to an article on the BBC News webpage entitled "Analysis: Power Americana" - if you have not already seen it <>. it is very much apropos of your recent essays on US & European global relations. By the way I still like the website over the old list serve. Your essays remind me of the hefty readers we used to by for your classes. Best to you, Jerry

Posted by Jerry Sturmer @ 02/27/2003 11:39 AM PST