A new take on Eurobashing

Thomas P.M. Barnett, Pentagon pet intellectual and 4th Generation Warfare theorist, comes up with a new variant of the Eurabia meme I don’t think we’ve seen before. According to Barnett,

Nothing predicts Europe’s growing strategic irrelevancy more than their growing navel-gazing over the perceived threat of “Eurabia,” which speaks to a continent that’s gotten so fat, dumb and lazy that they’re fatalistically succumbing to fears of invasive species destroying their habitat. The reality is, of course, that thriving, self-aware societies can handle that influx and integrate the differences to make the whole stronger.

This is fascinating. All the usual US hard-right tropes are there, until the second sentence. There’s the blithe assumption of economic superiority (no mention, of course, of the US trade deficit with both the EU and China, currently 7% of GDP and climbing fast, nor for that matter the EU’s trade surplus with both..), and the corollary complacency that this will last (no mention of the gap in energy intensity between the US, the EU and Japan, for example). There’s the rhetoric of purity as applied to economics. There’s the complacent assurance of permanent strategic primacy, with (of course) no mention of Iraq or Afghanistan. But the really interesting thing is that he sees people like the Vlaams Belang’s representatives on Earth over at Brussels Journal as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Which should make Barnett far more worth reading than, say, Mark Steyn or any of the European far-right’s growing Washington lobby. His notions about “the Core and the Gap”, the “sysadmin force” specialised in postconflict reconstruction, counterinsurgency and peacekeeping, etc should make him that anyway. In a sense, I see him as a reasonable man struggling to get out of the husk of a hidebound reactionary, rather like his fellow guerrilla warfare theorist John Robb—they both make sense, but find it necessary to convince themselves and their audience that they aren’t perhaps turning – gasp – European by talking nonsense about nonexistent civil wars and cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

It’s tempting to use a Freudian reading.

Barnett actually knows what is going on, but the preconscious censorship exerted by the superego to comply with the requirements of society won’t accept it. If he was to come out and say that the Eurabia meme is bullshit, he fears, they would point and jeer in the Pentagon canteen, and what would his mother think then? But the repressed always returns, and so out it comes, before the superego claps a chunk of high-grade wingnuttiness on top. Phew! Near thing…

Characterising the hard right in Europe as an exercise in navel-gazing and fear-mongering seems bang on the money to me. As does the statement that thriving, self-aware societies can handle that influx and integrate the differences to make the whole stronger. In fact, it’s what we stand for.

A British point: note that, just as always, the US defence establishment actually favours more European integration. He’s not arguing against a “USE”, is he? Strange that so many Europhobes are convinced official Washington is behind them.

13 thoughts on “A new take on Eurobashing

  1. The trouble with all this free money is where it is all coming from. If you are not making enough to be taxed, than there is nothing to spread around but if all the government free be is coming for over there, than you have to pay their price one way or another.

    [Indeed. The US isn’t making enough to cover the government’s outlay nor its import bill – hence the monster twin deficit.]

  2. In fact the tropes only last halfway through the first sentence ‘perceived threat’.

    Anyone standing anywhere in relation to Europe and believing the US is for them is a madman, the US has no real coherent strategic policy for Europe. Witness their support for Turkish ascension – which is entirely a tactical policy from their point of view.

  3. But America’s economy IS far superior to Europe’s, and the rest of the worlds. The defecits are small potatoes. The per capita income of any European country would make it the POOREST State in the U.S. The National Debts of almost every European country, as well as Japan is much greater than the U.S. as a percentage of GDP. And Europes tiny little trade surplus, hasnt solved 10% unemployment or a 1% annual growth rate has it?

    Have I mentioned that European Universities are crap too? The future is grim for Europe, and still these dopey Euros sit around waiting for the “twin defecits” to blow up America. Well guess what? You have been waiting for 25 years, and it hasnt happened. Why dont you wait under water for the next 25 years?

    USA#1 – Always will be.

  4. To be fair…

    The US should have some type of trade deficit with the rest of the world (thought not as big as it currently is). We import more than everyone else because we have more disposable income than most countries. No matter how hard we try, we’re always going to have a trade deficit.

    …this is, of course, a minor quibble, however.

  5. Lastly, the US military is conflicted when thinking about European defense. For one, we would like the US taxpayers to not have to foot the majority of the NATO bill; but at the same time, we “kind of” control European defense by making a lot of their decisions through NATO, and we’re not prepared to let that go either. It’s confluted and bizarre, to say the least.

  6. @Will, indeed. But I think it is worth pointing out something that doesn’t seem to be widely appreciated in the US, which is that the NATO central budget is a very small fraction of NATO defence spending. Yeah, it’s nice that the US funds the office block in Brussels, the 7 (I think) NATO mixed-manned AWACS, and some C3 facilities. But don’t imagine that the NATO central budget ever paid for, say, the British and West German divisions that made up the old NATO AGNORTH and the bulk of AGCENT, nor the UK, German, Dutch and USAF squadrons that made up 2-TAF, nor the national stockpiles of armaments. In fact, the Germans used to subsidise both the British and US Armies’ costs of stationing themselves in Germany.

  7. [Essentially everything in this comment was factually inaccurate. The same went for your last. Moderator]

  8. Of course, as a European I’m biased. But, here goes…

    Regarding the military issues, well, the US obviously has the larger military when you look at the numbers and the specs. However, looking at how they have used it recently yes, I’m thinking of Iraq and Afghanistan), I’m not sure that helps a lot. It’s a bit like having a powerful sports car but not really knowing how to use it.

    When it comes the economy it is correct that the US is richer, has a lower unemployment rate and high growth rate. However, it’s not so clear cut when you look at things like median income (ie how the increase in wealth is spread), labor productivity and trade. And it gets much more uncertain when you look at welfare metrics like health care, infancy mortality, etc

    As for worrying about immigration. Well, my impression was that this was a pretty big issue in the US as well. And it’s not as if there hasn’t been any stories about muslims having a hard time in the US. Also, it’s important to understand a fundamental difference between the US and Europe when it comes to immigration – Europe is essentially a continent of nation states, ie composed of nations/peoples, while the US is a citizen state. It is the solidarity and community of a nation state that has enabled the European to build welfare states, while Americans generally don’t see that their state should have any responsibility for the economic well being of their fellow citizens. Naturally, immigration is going to be a bigger issue in Europe than in the US. European worry how people with different solidarity-sets are going to fit into their closely knit societies, while in the US immigrants are just additional labor.

  9. Things are looking pretty grim for the USA. Any European country is better off than even the best US States. Most places that I’ve been to in the US looked more like the former Soviet Union, with people dying in the streets and rampant crime and decay. The Official unemployment data (per what the regime says) is massively falsified and a realistic number would be a steady 20% unemployment across the whole US.

    The US educational system is also in its last throes. With the creationists taking over, it will soon be a society entirely composed of numbskulls. Already now more than 50% of all US-Americans are functionally illiterate and incapable of rational thought.

  10. Euro-Bert, sounds like you’re overreacting a bit there. There are plenty of things which European countries could learn from the US, especially in the economic field. However, because the US and European societies are based on such different cultural histories and contracts, you can’t copy paste solutions between them.

  11. Some of the comments above demonstrate that there is at least as much irrational contempt for the US in Europe as there is contempt for Europe among US right-wingers. Can I say something that I hope will be soothing and emollient? The US and Europe are at essentially the same level of economic and human development.

    The US ranked quite well in the most recent UN human development survey, better than most EU countries. We have high income, pretty good health, and a not bad educational system.

    The US has higher labor-force participation rates than most European countries; there’s certainly plenty of hidden unemployment in Europe as well.

    The US military, despite setbacks in Iraq, is certainly much more powerful than any European force is likely to be any time soon. Anyway, who is your preferred superpower? China? Russia?

    Government spending in the US, while playing a smaller role in the economy than its European counterparts, is massively involved in the provision of health care (to all retirees and disabled people, and some categories of poor people) and education (free primary and secondary education, subsidized higher education of quite high quality, student grants and loans, and extensive support for research and scholarship). It’s not the Dickensian nightmare of European fantasies.

    On “Eurabia”: neither the US nor Europe has a monopoly on bigotry against immigrants or domestic minorities. Still, it does seem as though there’s more acknowledgment of racism in the US than Europe. It came a as a shock to me and many others on this side of the Atlantic that France, for example, has violent, alienated slums, mainly inhabited by citizens of Arab and African descent. Maybe they’re better in some ways than the worst parts of Detroit, but the contrast is not as great as many people in Europe would like to believe.

    I agree that the term “Eurabia” is exaggerated and probably not very useful, as is the European fascination with neoconservatives (Jews?) in the US. But how about this: villifying the US and fawning on Arab dictatorships are unlikely to help Europe solve its problems of immigrant integration or rid itself of its radical Islamist cells.

  12. In a colonial war the American army is stronger but this is unlikely the case in a war between those countries as Europe has a greater industrial base

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