In Sunday’s Washington Post, the often-astute Timothy Garton Ash argues:

If President Bush is reelected, many Europeans will try to make the European Union a rival superpower to the United States.

Led by French President Jacques Chirac, they will find the main justification for further European integration in counterbalancing what they see as irresponsible, unchecked American power. In the great European argument between Euro-Gaullists and Euro-Atlanticists, these Euro-Gaullists will be strengthened. The temptation for Europe to define itself as Not America will be increased. All this at a formative moment when an enlarged European Union is hoping to give itself a new constitution and work out what it wants to be.

Is he right?

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, The European Union and tagged , , by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

37 thoughts on “Well?

  1. I would certainly hope so.

    The US needs a counterbalance. But it can only be a Europe that does not try to out-US the US. It needs to be grounded in our tradition of secular (more or less), liberal social democracy, not the religious calvinist killer business and political ethics of the US.

  2. If Europe wants to become a ‘superpower’ again, should Bush be re-elected, all it has to do is stand still while the U.S. self-destructs.

    But the superpower-hubris game always, always ends badly.

  3. This is mere speculative nonsense. Europe can go about spending hundreds of billions of dollars on defense when Europe wishes. This will not happen.

  4. It is strange to see how non-Europeans consistently overestimate the cohesion of the EU. The regrettable truth is that we continue to be pathetically divided, with or without Bush. The reelection of that praying orang-outang might temporarily bring certain countries closer together, yes, but the road to European integration is still far too long for Timothy Garton Ash to worry about some sort of European counterbalance to US power.

  5. My take on this is that TGA has a point. It certainly would not be a surprise to see a rise in self-assertive political europeanism in case GWB is re-elected.

    I do not see this as a question of spending a cent on arms or anything else, but making up (or re-making) a political stand. It would make very little sense in today’s world to challenge US in its own — i.e. military — terms. In terms of moral/political discourse, europeanists would have all the ammo they need and plenty of volunteers.

  6. It is strange to see how non-Europeans consistently overestimate the cohesion of the EU.

    It is strange how Europeans often dismiss the tremendous change overtaking Europe since the mid-90s. This could be the first time in a thousand years that no Europeans are warring or preparing for war at home, and that so few have loved ones fighting away battles. This is the first time in history that anyone can even talk about Europe as a political entity and make any sense at all. There are lots of hurdles to go, but don’t lets forget we’re in the race now.

    This new found stability is also giving rise to a new sense of confidence allowing Europeans to feel that they are allowed to challenge American beliefs. They no longer feel the have to cringe whenever disagreeing with an American brings a sharp: “You didn’t object when we had to come over and sort things out for you. Twice.” Additionally, they feel that their history has actually taught them something about important issues such as power, ideology, terrorism, life-values and bigotry.

    The rise of self-confidence in Europe is bound to clash with the US at some point. It could easily be Bush’s next term because Bush either symbolises or embodies so many of the things that has brought so much misery in Europe. Things like: “Winning the war on terror.” Hey, GW, look at Europe: You don’t win wars, you stop them before they destroy you.

    I think Kerry is more in tune with European thought and so Kerry and Europe could make “music” together. But, either way, there will be a clash of ideology one day and I sincerely hope that the battle can be fought in some way other than militarily.

  7. there is no need for Europe to start a weapon race with the US. The US will take care of its own collapse itself.
    Patience is a virtue especially in a world were education level is much higher than 60 years ago.
    The higher the education level and the higher the information level, the most diffcult it is for politician leader to manipulate their “people”. that’s not a surprise that bush support comes from the population with little or no contact with the “outside world” or from southerner “petit blanc”. Bush is so old-america http://www.electoral-vote.com.

  8. John Kerry is likely to win election, but even if George Bush should win the country is aging and will become less conservative as a result. There will be a Democratic majority again in the coming few years no matter the election. And, John Kerry is likely to win even now.

  9. All in all, it seems to me that the French are a tad bit too strongheaded to ever shore up the kind of support they would need to be dominating an imagined EU superpower. From nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific, to dodging the Stability and Growth Pact, to telling the new EU members that they should shut up, it is doubtful that Chirac will ever stay less offensive than George W of America for long.

  10. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/25/politics/campaign/25cnd-clinton.html?

    Clinton Gets Rock Star’s Welcome at Kerry Rally in Philadelphia

    Former President Bill Clinton received a rock star’s welcome today in Philadelphia when he came out of his convalescence from heart surgery seven weeks ago to campaign alongside John Kerry just a few days before a tightly contested presidential election.

    Thousands of people crowded Love Park in Philadelphia’s Center City and watched Mr. Clinton and Mr. Kerry walk onto a stage arm in arm as they were showered with red, white and blue confetti as if they at a victory rally. Mr. Clinton, looking thin but fit, seemed touched by the reception of the wildly cheering crowd.

    “If this isn’t good for my heart, I don’t know what is,” he said.

    Mr. Kerry drew cheers when he countered: “Isn’t it great to have Bill Clinton back on the trail?”

    The two men appeared before the crowd for less than an hour, possibly a concession to Mr. Clinton’s condition. The former president was scheduled to travel to Miami later today to stump for Mr. Kerry, while the Democratic candidate was to travel to Michigan and Wisconsin.

    While Mr. Clinton acknowledged his recent heart surgery in his first public appearance since his procedure, he turned quickly to the task at hand, namely to pump up Mr. Kerry’s campaign.

    “I’m very grateful to be here today, and I want to thank all the people of Philadelphia and throughout the country for their emails and prayers and letters of support,” he said. “From time to time I have been called the Comeback Kid. In 8 days though, John Kerry is going to make America the comeback country.”

    While Mr. Clinton spoke for only a few minutes, an uncharacteristically short address for him, his speech was as punchy in trying to make the case for Mr. Kerry as the one he delivered in Boston during the Democratic Convention.

    “I know well that no one’s presence can change a single vote,” he said. “But I hope my reasons can affect a few votes.

    “You’ve got a clear choice between two men with great convictions and different philosophies, different policies with very different consequences for this city, this state, our nation and the world,” he said. As he has been at home recovering for the last few weeks, he said he has had time to carefully study the campaigns of Mr. Kerry and President Bush.

  11. Europe must act ‘in favour of’ Europe and not ‘against’ the United States.

    The United States is not acting ‘against’ Europe, it is acting ‘in favour of’ itself.

    The difference between ‘in favour of’ and ‘against’ is (relative) independency.

    I know I am being simplistic here, but I really feel we should be looking more at ourselves instead of defining ourselves ‘against’ the US.
    Let us look at what ‘we’ have and what ‘we’ can do first.

  12. Europeans and Americans are friends and allies, and this will not change no matter the temporary national leadership. Governmental differences can actually teach us much for there are mistakes to be made, and friends who are willing to disagree can help each other make fewer mistakes.

  13. “In a massive pre-election embarrassment for the Bush administration, nearly 350 tons of lethal explosives – which could be used to trigger nuclear weapons – have vanished from a military facility in Iraq supposed to have been guarded by US troops.” – from: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=576048

    Isn’t there some approriate Congressional award for stupendous incompetence over and above routine incompetence?

    “Though Defense has long been notorious for waste, recent government reports suggest the Pentagon’s money management woes have reached astronomical proportions. A study by the Defense Department’s inspector general found that the Pentagon couldn’t properly account for more than a trillion dollars in monies spent. A GAO report found Defense inventory systems so lax that the US. Army lost track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units.” – from: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/05/18/MN251738.DTL

  14. The EU is going to experience both demographic and economic implosion in the years to come. Competing with the U.S.? Funny.

    Currently, some EU cheerleaders are trying to replace the old French and German chauvinism with the silly idea of paneuropeanism. Especially the French are jealous because of their falling power. Poor guys.

  15. It turns out the munitions were gone by the time the Americans got there. The massive embarrassment is not on GW Bush, but on the main stream media all over the world for publishing this garbage.

  16. The EU is going to experience both demographic and economic implosion in the years to come. Competing with the U.S.? Funny.

    I dunno,
    I think Europe and the U.S. are facing many of the same issues (budget deficits, pension reform, health care, unemployment, aging population, etc) with only slight differences stemming from the pecularities of the countries involved. Nobody has a magic bullet for these issues as far as I can tell, not even the mighty U.S. of A.

    However, the U.S.’s economic position has degraded significantly in the past four years: Uncle Sam has been on the Supersize Me political diet, and another four years of that junk would cause unavoidable systemic failure.

    If that happens the immigration flow which does contribute to the U.S. economy will reverse. Look for Mexico to gain from this; My regional paper’s business section recently had a story of U.S. nationals with no ties to mexico increasingly retiring there because it was cheaper, higher quality of life, etc.

    To a lesser extent, I think Europe could benefit from that as well, so it’s more a question of who collapses first.

  17. If Bush wins I think TGA is right to predict that more of Europe will try to counter-define itself. I think this is a mistake. Europe and the US (despite occasional notable lapses on both sides, some recent, some more distant in the past) are the two areas of the globe that have moved most consistently toward universal recognition of human rights and democratic principles. For the two most democratic areas of the globe to get into a superpower pissing contest seems misguided to me. There are more pressing issues. See any other part of the globe for an example.

  18. Oh, Europe doesn’t have to look to its neighbors to see the results of superpower pissing contests, it only has to look back at the past 200 years (and you could conceivably push that date even further back).

    I suspect that what we would see would be an accelerated decoupling from the American military superstructure; a NATO defunct in all but name, for example.

    That said, I have a feeling a Kerry Presidency would make the split amicable, perhaps even delay it a bit, but wouldn’t and couldn’t prevent it.

  19. “Naturally, this must be a further example of the conspiracy in the mainstream international media against President Bush.”

    Certainly, if it was reported by Reuters.

  20. It turns out the munitions were gone by the time the Americans got there. The massive embarrassment is not on GW Bush, but on the main stream media all over the world for publishing this garbage.

    Perhaps you’d provide proof for this assertion.
    All we have right now is this as the story that has come out of the administration after they had some hours to come up with some excuses. At this stage, if you believe ANYTHING these people say without independent proof, well the simple fact is that you’re an idiot.

  21. “(AP) – One of the first U.S. military units to reach the Al-Qaqaa military installation south of Baghdad after the invasion of Iraq did not have orders to search for the 342 tonnes of explosives that are missing from the site, the unit spokesman said Tuesday.

    “When troops from the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade arrived at the Al-Qaqaa base a day or so after other coalition troops seized Baghdad on April 9, 2003, there were already looters throughout the facility, Lt.-Col. Fred Wellman, deputy public affairs officer for the unit, told The Associated Press.

    “The soldiers ‘secured the area they were in and looked in a limited amount of bunkers to ensure chemical weapons were not present in their area,’ Wellman wrote in an e-mail message to The Associated Press. ‘Bombs were found but not chemical weapons in that immediate area.

    “‘Orders were not given from higher to search or to secure the facility or to search for HE type munitions, as they (high-explosive weapons) were everywhere in Iraq,’ he wrote.”
    – from: http://www.canada.com/news/world/story.html?id=5e1f5802-cced-4435-84f1-74215300c10a

    Naturally, the Associated Press, the Canadians and the 101st Airborne are all part of the vast international conspiracy intent on discrediting God’s representative on earth . . .

  22. “Hey, GW, look at Europe: You don?t win wars, you stop them before they destroy you.”

    I don’t know what’s sadder about that comment: The ignorance of history it demonstrates, or the European post-war trauma that it reflects.

    I’m not a Bush fan, and think Iraq was mostly a dumb idea. But I hope like hell that this isn’t what passes for enlightened criticism on the other side of the Atlantic.

  23. Diligent followers of recent news reports will note that the column of Black Watch troops, on progress from Basra to some point south of Baghdad to relieve American troops, is prominently displaying the Scots and Union flags. They may also recall that in Gulf War I, British forces suffered more fatal casualties from friendly (American) fire than from enemy action.

    I mentioned this in a discussion group I belong to and a Brit, who served in WW2, related a wry army joke from those times: When the British bombed the Germans ducked, and the Germans ducked when the British bombed. When the Americans bombed, everyone ducked. Evidently, not much has changed since.

  24. Doug: “Not much, including the British assumption of superiority without anything like evidence to back it up”

    ROFL! The accumulating evidence of the pervasive incompetence of the Bush administration is widely reported in mainstream American media – like the Washington Post on the “disapprearance of nearly 400 tons of explosives in Iraq” – and by Americans on US-based blogs. It is hardly secret – are regular web surfers supposed not to notice? A few links are on display here above in the thread.

    I’ve a long memory for political affairs, extending back to the end of FDR’s administration, and can’t recall a time when the American presidency was so universally reviled around the world with the possible and ominous exception of Nixon’s second and mercifully brief presidency.

    It is widely observed and even admitted that the Pentagon sent too few troops to Iraq to secure the peace after the invasion of Iraq and despite many prior warnings by informed commentators of the likelihood of increasing insurgency. And I certainly never expected to read charges against an American administration and military of extensive violations of the Geneva protocols.

    Whatever happened?

    Let’s hope the Black Watch regiment arrives safely at its intended destination without an attack from either insurgents on the ground or a strike from the air by friendly forces.

  25. Wasn’t intending to defend GWB (short may he reign) or current Pentagon planners. Was recalling (from history books rather than experience) the alleged Brit quip in WWII that the “Americans are our Italians.” Somehow I don’t think so.

    Chap 1 of Walter Russell Mead’s Special Providence is a thorough defense of the long arc of US diplomacy. In short, though, Brits are supercilious because they are no longer in charge. (To use as broad a brush as was done in the jokes. I also find the subservient anglophilia that I see so often on the US right weird and creepy. But that’s a post of a different color.)

  26. Thanks for the tip about Walter Russell Mead’s Special Providence. As shamefully chauvinist as this may seem, Niall Ferguson makes a fairly convincing case in: Empire – How Britain Made the Modern World (Penguin Books, 2004), if we tot up the downstream consequences of common law, parliamentary government, Isaac Newton, the practice of central banking, the steam engine, industrialisation, electric induction, James Maxwell’s unification of the theories of electricity and magnetism, Jenner’s smallpox vaccine, Lister and antiseptics, the discovery of the electron, splitting the atom, television, radar, jet engines, Flemming and anti-biotics, Tim Berners-Lee and the web etc, without mentioning Adam Smith, David Hume, David Ricardo, JS Mill, Maynard Keynes and an illustrious literature. Didn’t President Clinton take to quoting Lord Palmerston as a guide for America’s foreign policy?

    “We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual and those interests it is our duty to follow”? – from: http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/page149.asp

  27. “Hey, GW, look at Europe: You don?t win wars, you stop them before they destroy you.”

    I don’t know what’s sadder about that comment: The ignorance of history it demonstrates, or the European post-war trauma that it reflects.

    My bad. Ambiguous sentence. The context of the paragraph was the war on terror, it was wars on terror that aren’t won. No excuse for sloppy writing.

  28. …subservient anglophilia…

    Not in Hollywood. The Brit is either the butler or the super-baddy 🙂

Comments are closed.