Although he may not subscribe to its more radical tenets, Charles Hill’s column yesterday (“The question now is: Who lost Europe?”) fits into a growing anti-European discourse in this country, one identified by Timothy Garton Ash in his piece “Anti-Europeanism in America.” One impact of this discourse is a rise in the sentiment that asks: Who cares what the Europeans think?
Adopting anti-Europeanism is a mistake the United States cannot afford to make. As Michael Ignatieff notes, the United States cannot maintain global order on its own: “European participation in peacekeeping, nation-building and humanitarian reconstruction is so important that the Americans are required, even when they are unwilling to do so, to include Europeans in the governance of their evolving imperial project.” Hill would surely agree with Ignatieff’s historical lesson that empires survive only by understanding their limits.
Along these lines, even the conservative critic Robert Kagan, recently famous for his polemic “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus,” argues that the United States should “begin to show more understanding for the sensibilities of others, a little more of the generosity of spirit that characterized American foreign policy during the Cold War. It could pay its respects to multilateralism and the rule of law.” The rule of law is surely preferable to rule by force. But, as former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin, in his review of Kagan’s book, asks: Is America prepared to spend the money on peacekeeping that the Europeans are?
In most of the rest of the world, the current administration is seen as being fixated on military power and not interested in teamwork to solve common problems. The Bush administration’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, its attempts to weaken the chemical and biological weapons conventions, and its opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the International Criminal Court do not inspire confidence.
Indeed, the vast majority of Europeans believe that Bush makes decisions based entirely on certain narrowly defined U.S. interests, with no regard for the rest of the world. As Eric Alterman emphasizes in his article “USA Oui! Bush Non!,” there is a pro-American world out there, particularly in Europe, but it is waiting for an America it can respect as well as admire. Clinton’s “I feel your pain” worked much better than Bush’s “I don’t give a damn what you think.”
In addition to the administration’s cavalier attitude, many worry about the president’s ties to big oil. One way to reduce American consumption of foreign oil is to decrease demand by devoting resources to alternative energy sources, but Bush has done the opposite. Perhaps the existence of Iraqi oil explains the administration’s sudden interest in enforcing a U.N. resolution, when other resolutions elsewhere are left to gather dust?
Similarly, the credibility of the position that “regime change” is necessary in Iraq in order to defend human rights — rather than being driven by the long American tradition of realpolitik which prefers (often undemocratic) stability to human rights and democratic values — would be bolstered by spending more resources on foreign aid than on military build-up, working with NGOs, encouraging local initiatives in agriculture and education, and the like. In other words, committing to wage peace. But here, too, the Bush administration’s record is not promising.
Finally, a key thorn in the side of more effective U.S.-European cooperation is the perception on the part of many Europeans that the Bush administration is not committed to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which many see as essential to lasting peace in the region. Here, as on the Korean peninsula, hard-won peace initiatives are being jettisoned in favor of a return to force.
Yesterday, at a special European Council meeting, E.U. leaders called for full and effective disarmament of Iraq, concluding that the “unity of the international community is vital in dealing with these problems. We are committed to working with all our partners, especially the United States, for the disarmament of Iraq, for peace and stability in the region and for a decent future for its people.”
In contrast to unilateralism, multilateralism means discussion, deliberation and compromise. Who lost the United States of the likes of George Marshall, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy and others? Le Monde’s headline after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was “Nous sommes tous des Americains” (“We are all Americans”). Let us work to ensure that the Bush administration does not forget the experience, wisdom and moderation of the Europeans and of their own precursors.
Willem Maas is a graduate student in the Political Science Department completing a dissertation on European citizenship. Full references, with web addresses of articles, are available in the online edition.
Timothy Garton Ash, “Anti-Europeanism in America”
Michael Ignatieff, “The Burden”
James Rubin, “Frail Europe, Brawny America: A Mismatch With Consequences”
Eric Alterman, “USA Oui! Bush Non!”
Special European Council meeting, 17 February