October 19, 2002
New National Post Column Fr...
New National Post Column From Me -- 'The U.S. Version of Adult Supervision': In which I fret about our deliberate policy of not devolving global responsibility to our friends. The column kinda chops off at the end there, due to space and quality reasons, and to my inability to turn in a column at a decent hour. If you want to, go read it, and then come back here and finish off with this strange nugget:
The surprise is that they haven't been joined by a more mainstream group: The Wilsonians.
Posted by at October 19, 2002 04:21 AM
As The New Yorker's Zakaria put it, "Almost every American President in the past half century has been, at least rhetorically, a Wilsonian." Woodrow Wilson despised colonialism, and believed passionately in the right of nations to form their own democratic states, a truly radical concept in an era of competing empires.
Wilson reckoned, just like his intellectual descendants would eight decades later in the newly opened countries he was instrumental in creating, that free, responsible democracies made for the most trustworthy allies, and gave humanity its best chance for world peace.
Modern-day Wilsonians are too busy debating the weighty issues of the day, like the looming war in Iraq, to notice that the very "national self-determination" Wilson championed is being undermined worldwide by the dominance of the U.S. military, no matter how noble its intentions and actions. America can't bear every burden indefinitely. It's time to spread the risk ... and the responsibility.
Well, maybe we are taking too much on. I agree that it would be better to let states pursue their own foreign policy.
But lets get one thing straight. No matter how much power and responsibility we cede to the "children" of the world, we will gain nothing from it, save a whole lot of risk.
We're in a damned if we do, damned if we don't situation where if we do continue play Father Knows Best to the world, we're imperialists, bent on yaddah-yaddah-yaddah.
If we don't. If we say, "That's not our problem, that's your problem" we become neo-isolationists, bent on turning our back on the blah-blah-blah-yakkedy-schmakkedy. Oh, and in addition to the carping and second guessing, we also won't be in a position to deal with wacko nutjob nimrod fascist terrorists that want to bomb us.
This is not quite like the situation where in order to let the child grow up, the parents must put them on their own and let them suffer the consequences of their own actions. This is more akin to, say, Parents kicking kids out of the nests, whom (the kids) promptly go piss off a coke-crazed biker who comes home and cuts mommy and daddy to iddy biddy pieces.
I'm sorry, Matt, but I just don't see how any American Government can actually do this and fulfill the singularly most important role for which it was created: Guarding the lives, rights, and liberties of its people.
Just some thoughts on the column.
-- Thomas Bianchi
Oh, this isn't to say that the points aren't topical or important. Very good stuff.
If I had to sum it up from a "rest of the world" point of view: weakness corrupts, and in the worst possible way at that. What's happening with the Arab world is a good illustration of just how.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if anti-americanism picked up steam in Europe as well, if for no other reason than few people want to be constantly reminded of their weakness, and U.S. is doing an exceptional job of it nowadays. And at least in Europe, it makes for an increasingly attractive domestic political tool (The more visible U.S. influence in internal affairs of other countries,the easier it is to use).
That said, if the preventive doctrine becomes the basis for policymaking it'll be interesting to see how it pans out with regional powers. If one of the aims is to keep down competition, it'll out of necessity be aimed against countries on the second step on the ladder. China,India, maybe European majors,etc.
I'm not sure if this is a case of the U.S. trying to take all responsibility or whether Europe has abdicated their responsibility in their search for the perfect social welfare state. I don't believe that since the end of the cold war it has been the American policy that most of Europe spend less than 2% of their GDP on defense, but that is the current environment. I agree with the premise that we would like to keep an overwhelming military advantage over any non-democratic contender to help ensure that we will not get into a second cold war type situation.
It's a bit odd to note that Europe has not shown maturity in recent diplomatic conflicts such as the Balkans and find the US at fault in some way for their immaturity. Europe has never shown maturity, they've spent the past 500 years in near constant internal and external conflict, blew up the world twice in the last century, whelped the most destructive world views the world has ever seen (class and race universalism) and currently have no coherent views at all.
There is no reason to believe that Europe would not once again degenerate into chaos if it increased military spending and became assertive. There is no reason to belive that they could behave in mature and constructive ways in world affairs. It is a distinct possibility that the EU will collapse, that the street will riot and that a charismatic European dictator or a new (or old) totalizing ideology will emerge from one of the marching societies (greens?) to once again irrigate the countryside with the blood of patriots.
Europe has been inhabited for a long time but there is no history of durable government or self government. The US is a senior citizen in the world. England was a monarchy when the US was created. Germany and Italy didn't exist. France has had a half dozen governments in that time. Russia, China, India, most of Africa and S. America have writhed in turmoil all along and still haven't got a good grip on self governance.
Some say that respect must be earned. Others say respect should be given freely but must be retained by acts. Europe fails either way and it isn't the fault of the USA that no country in the world respects Europe or that Europe respects no one. The whole world has suffered at their hands while none have been assisted. There is no region of the world I fear as much as Europe, no nuclear power more dangerous than the European nuclear powers, except perhaps Israel which is a recent European derivative.
The problem is that they have yet to transition from the totalitarian mind set of monarchy to a modern world view. They bungled democracy preferring totalitarian governments based on either class universalism or race universalism. Both the socialists and the nazis failed but the allure of totalizing ideology still attracts Europeans. The EU and the UN are their current sweethearts and the only vehicles available for universalism... except the US and the US doesn't want to rule the world or be ruled by it.
It is incorrect to see the US as seeking world domination when the American character is so disdainful of big government. It is more accurate to see the US as a sleeping dog some idiot poked with a stick. All the snarling and biting will end at some point and the dog will go back to sleep, or play or some other private interest such as licking its own crotch or that of a friend.
In game theory, such as itererative PD, one of the best strategies is tit-for-two-tat, give cheats a second chance but not a third. Europe has had two chances and can now be considered a persistent free rider, defector and cheat until they somehow demonstrate a change of character. There is no indication that they have yet grown up or become a trustworthy, cooperative world citizen. It would be foolish to trust them, turn our backs on them or put ourselves in a vulnerable position.
The US is different, was settled by dissidents from Europe and founded as anti-European. The "old country" was abandoned, often without a backward glance though sometimes with a bit of wistfulness. European mistakes were the failed examples that informed the founders of the US about useful ways to organize society. As a collection of former European colonies the nascent US was well aware of what they disliked and why they chose different organizing principles. Europe has continued to provide new lessons, new failures, new atrocities and so the US has had a continuing education. Continuing to tell that history, discuss those ideas, note the lack of intellectual progress in Europe and avoiding becoming vulnerable are useful ways to keep the spirit of the US elevated and keep the US within its borders except to chase off villains. It's the Cincinnatus ideal, a people able to repel and punish miscreants but disinterested in careerism, always willing to return to hearth and home after inducing the other fellow to die for his country.
Thomas -- I agree with many of your worries, and some of your points, especially the "damned if we do, damned if we don't" business, which is largely what worries me. Later, I'm going to take Glenn Reynolds' advice and lay out my ideas of how we can be *un*damned as we do, while prudently figuring out areas where we need not. What I *don't* agree with you is here -- "No matter how much power and responsibility we cede to the 'children' of the world, we will gain nothing from it, save a whole lot of risk." -- I think we will eventually gain *hugely* from this, in the form of more mature behavior from more responsible democracies (and a greater number of democracies in general, who will trend toward peace & the pursuit of happiness), but I also believe that the *short-term* impact of this will be anti-American in nature, and that it will be a strong test (one that I don't necessarily think Bush is passing) to avoid the temptation to give the ungrateful curs the back of our hand.
Teemu -- I wonder, I truly do, whether "anti-Americanism" is actually increasing or decreasing in the Arab world. I honestly don't know, knowing nothing about the place; on a surface level I've found it to be increasing among Europeans, but I'm going to come into contact with a select type of European (my in-laws, and my fancy big-city friends). I think it's *possible*, at the least, that the U.S. is *increasingly* popular in more countries than us hand-wringers might expect. It was a terribly rude shock for many left-leaning intellectual types in 1989-91 to see that Central Europeans actually took our "simplistic" good-evil talk seriously, and wanted to thank us for it. Just thinking out loud here, quite obviously.
Kevin -- I don't think the U.S. is trying to take "all" responsibility, just the lion's share of the *military* responsibility, which by definition means a good portion of *political* responsibility. If, as you say, it's a case of Europe consciously abdicating military concerns in favor of universal health care (which, for the record, I personally prefer to the American system), then I think that indicates the U.S. should be consciously seeking out areas in which we can literally dump responsibility on their laps, and say "Here, *you* take care of this. It's about time." Our policy should be to give more, not take more, in my view. I am sympathetic to maintaining an advantage (especially over Russia and China), but I oppose the policy that wants to assure "preponderance" over even our European allies.
Back40 -- Feel free to weigh in with your own name, BTW. I disagree strongly with your broad-strokes definition of Europe. I think the EU is in absolutely zero danger of collapsing, I think the chance of a dictator (especially a Green one!) ladling blood on the cobblestoned streets is akin to me flapping my arms and flying to the moon. I know, and am related to, hundreds of Europeans, and not a single one approaches anything resembling "totalitarianism." Well, one's a Maoist, but I've met far more Maoist Americans than Euros. I think it's more than incorrect to say they have "bungled democracy" -- what, exactly, do regular free elections, free press and market economics indicate, if not "democracy"? That they have been assisted toward peaceful, non-expansionist market-oriented democracy by the United States is certainly true; what *isn't* true, in my opinion, is that giving them more responsibility for their own military affairs will lead inevitably to fratricide. It's increasingly popular, on weblogs and in political discussion, to deride everything EU and Euro as some kind of anti-democratic, quasi-totalitarian nonesuch doomed to fail. But while I share the concerns over the accountability of such supra-natural structures, it is my opinion that those predicting the Fall of Brussells do not adequately appreciate how squishy multilateralism helped *end* precisely those hundreds of years of European bloodshed you so worry about, and helped weave more than a dozen vital countries into a strong partner for global good, as opposed to the source of world trouble. As tempting, and simple, as it is to say "they're fucked, and they've always been fucked!" ... this position strikes me as both ignorant and mad.
Dear Mr. Welch, The main flaw in your argument is that Europe is militarily impotent not as a result of any American policy, but because that is what Europe wants. The European Union has deliberately chosen to ignore defense so that it can build up a vast welfare state. They live in suspended adolescence by their own choice, dependent on American protection while they constantly whine about it. Until they adopt a more realistic view of the world there's nothing the U.S. can do about this.
As for Wilsonianism, isn't that the direction in which the Bush administration is now headed? I know it's early days yet, but recently there have been clear signs that the administration is swinging toward a policy of nation-builing in Iraq and spreading democracy in the Middle East. Of course this will not be done through "national self-determination" as Wilson wanted, but let's be realistic, Wilsonian self-determination has not worked. If democracy is to be spread it will have to be through the patronage of a hegemonic power. Maybe this is too ambitious a policy, but it is not "colonialism," and introducing such terms confuses the issues. Yours, Doyne Dawson, Professor of International Affairs, Sejong University, Seoul
"I think the chance of a dictator (especially a Green one!) ladling blood on the cobblestoned streets is akin to me flapping my arms and flying to the moon."
Read again. It says "a charismatic European dictator or a new (or old) totalizing ideology will emerge from one of the marching societies (greens?)". Get it now? The key word is 'or' which means alternative possibilities. The greens are on the 'totalizing ideology' side of the 'or' rather than the dictator side. Charismatic dictators flourish in troubled times, when people are unhappy or feel threatened such as when economies collapse or populations shift. Isn't Europe having financial problems? Aren't they having immigration problems? Aren't there demagogues whipping up hatreds, demonizing opponents? Aren't there people in the streets with their fists in the air? Where is the tipping point where marching societies become mobs?
Your small circle of friends and relatives may not seem to you to be devoted to some sort of universalism but have you thought about it before? It's the age old European way, every ideology from the Christianity of the Holy Roman Empire to the socialist dream is of the same type... totalizing universalism.
" think it's more than incorrect to say they have "bungled democracy" -- what, exactly, do regular free elections, free press and market economics indicate, if not "democracy"?"
A recent and perhaps temporary behavior inconsistent with their philosophies and history. The history of European bungling in self governance is long and bloody. Remember the 'red terror'? Is there good evidence that Europeans can manage to avoid melt down for more than a few decades? Aren't there continuing conflicts all over the continent? Isn't that the way it has always begun? It's only been a little over a decade since the wall came down. How will Europe stabilize itself and avoid another war of all against all when there is so much animosity, so many old grudges, so little tradition of moderation and cooperation?
"what *isn't* true, in my opinion, is that giving them more responsibility for their own military affairs will lead inevitably to fratricide."
Nor did I claim it. My assertion is that there is no evidence, no reason to trust that they will do right given their repeated failures in the past and their current muddled behavior, that we should remain watchful and aware of their propensity for self destruction. It is not inevitable that they will implode/explode again, but they are in a tenuous position and don't seem to have the ability to manage their affairs. They haven't yet dealt with their baggage and lack insights about the basis of peaceful, cooperative coexistence. It's both an intellectual and a political failure.
"it is my opinion that those predicting the Fall of Brussells do not adequately appreciate how squishy multilateralism helped *end* precisely those hundreds of years of European bloodshed you so worry about, and helped weave more than a dozen vital countries into a strong partner for global good, as opposed to the source of world trouble."
It didn't happen. Europe is still in turmoil and the methods used by western Europe to sedate and isolate combatants during reconstruction and the cold war is too expensive to extend to the east and south. They didn't deal with their issues, they are still there waiting to erupt if the economy slows too much or populations come into close contact. They still define themselves in terms of ethnicity. To be German means you have German blood. If your father was born in Germany to immigrant parents you are a third generation immigrant rather than a German. The multi-culti veneer of the large cities is neither deeply valued nor widely held nation or union wide. Europeans are confused, unsure whether they require immigrants to accept the local culture or maintain their quaint and colorful native culture. They want both, and neither, depending on the situation. They have no coherent views.
"As tempting, and simple, as it is to say "they're fucked, and they've always been fucked!" ... this position strikes me as both ignorant and mad."
And yet you say it when no one else does. Ignorance is sad and fuzzy thinking is too. We need good information and careful analysis rather than beliefs. Europe is fragile, has no history of stability and has no intellectual basis for forming a peaceful and cooperative society. If this is to happen there is much work to do and significant risks.
Matt: No clue about Arab world and what the trend is. Pulled it out of thin air as an example of the sort of sentiment can do. As for Western Europe in particular (Good point on former eastern bloc , Matt. They are indeed much more pro-U.S.), if public opinion will change for the worse, it'll be a result of local politics. Someone figuring it's cheaper to divert attention to U.S. maneuvers than try to fix the economy. Pull off a Schroeder, in short.
As for your comment about left-leaning intellectual types vs. local central/eastern European intellectuals and the contrast between them, it tends to remind me of Vaclav Havel for one reason or another. His case would be instructive enough (say, Chomsky vs. Havel,Fisk vs. Havel ,etc. vs. Havel spats.)
What comes to military spending and relative impotence, I suppose one thing to keep in mind is that it's impotent relative only to U.S. Aside from that, European (mostly EU countries) military spending is still 150+ billion $ a year. Ineffective and doesn't get much in the way of power projection capabilities, but it's still far beyond anyone else aside from U.S. In short, not so much about spending but spending it incredibly inefficiently.
Maybe. Interestingly I found a
details a "loyalty" clause in the proposed European Constitution. Pop over for the full quote, but the essense is contained in
[the member states] shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness
No federalism there. In fact, that's more restrictive than the Union which forms the United States. It's also the standard sort of language totalitarians use.
discusses the "European Arrest Warrant" and how it removes habeus corpus from British law. Moreover, it comments that European Police are immune to prosecution based on their actions on behalf of the EU. In essence, if they abuse or torture prisoners, the victim has no recourse. It's difficult to think of a more defining characteristic of totalitarian states than making its enforcers immune to protest from the citizens.
That's really just the start - the post outlines other fun things like the looming ability of the EU (by member state majority vote) to institute the regulation of political parties in any member state. So much for democracy.
As for free markets, we can turn to
yet another post
from the same source discussing agricultural policy in the EU, or Steven Den Beste's
on cellular phone technology (which is not an isolated circumstance, but emblematic of European "free markets"). Or talk to your associates over at
Samizdata. So much for free markets.
And of course we can think
. Not good signs for free speech. (Although
Oriana Fallaci escaped)
So, Mr. Welch, read these posts and tell me that the EU is not literally, today, working directly towards a totalitarian state that will dispense with truly free markets, democracy and speech, whether the citizens like it or not (like
the vote in Ireland)
Well, Mr. Welch, this time I agree with you.
It should be our policy to pull troops our of most of Europe, with the possible exceptions of Britain and the former Moscow satrapies that have recently joined NATO. Maybe them too. Let the Europeans face dealing with their own problems.
Far be for me to disagree that giving Europe and the world more responsibility would be in the long term to our benefit -- its a no brainer, and I agree with you. I never meant to convey that I thought that the risk was permanent.
What I meant to say was that the risk was very real for the short to perhaps mid term, and the risk would be shouldered almost entirely in American lives. We are basically asking a group of nations whose military preparedness doesn't come close to our own, even when they are combined! This is a bitter pill to swallow, and I doubt that any US President would have the length of sight or willingness to buy it in American lives.
Now if there was a way to continue to cede power and responsibility in the world to those who should really be holding it, and do it in a way that doesn't get more Americans killed, then I am all for it.
Matt, quite a discussion. Your key question, tho, was why weren't the Wilsonians joining those on the margin. Prof Dawson addresses this, but I think your premise is wrong. After all, the Wilsonians are interventionists, albeit in a naive, selfdestructive, Carteresque fashion.
I also think its futile to believe that we or the world would be well served by assigning "spheres of influence" to the second level powers. Granted, this may satisfy and make less infantile the Western Euros, the Russians, Chinese, Saudis, S Africans and maybe others, but at what cost. I somehow doubt the populations being subjugated by these second tier powers would fare too well or take too kindly to a blithely uninvolved U.S. You know in a barnyard full of hens, the top chicken doesn't get and stay there by failing to inculcate alliances. The trick is tho to help and support those hens that are three or four levels down the pecking order, not those that are going to challenge you. In today's world, the major challenges are Islamisism, and China. The EU also represents a major irritant and possible challenger if it continues along current path of consolidating the levers of power. This, of course ignores Africa and Latin America where I agree a lot of growing up needs to done, primarily by paring back IMF & World Bank. But back to the three main challengers to the Pax Americana- there is no shortage of nations that can become more mature and helpful in stemming these challenges. India, Turkey, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Britain, East Europe, and yes Russia
can all benefit from our help & support and become stronger & more mature in the process. So yes-devolve responsibility & enlist help from our friends, but lets just be smart about knowing who are real friends are.
Perhaps it would help to read the old Atlantic article Matt's piece derives from.
...the Kosovo conflict made apparent the disparity between America's geopolitical power and Europe's, inciting Europe to take its first serious steps toward redressing that disparity by acquiring—through the European Defense and Security Identity—the kinds of military capabilities it would need to act independent of the United States. If the European Union fulfills EDSI's longer-term goals, it will emerge as an unfettered strategic player in world politics. And that emergence will have been driven by the clear objective of investing Europe with the capability to act as a brake on America's aspirations.
Here's where their hands become completely disconnected from their wrists and the magic trick fails. Today France is proposing a five year plan to strengthen its military to equal the power of...the UK. This is an exceedingly modest aspiration but even so it will put a tremendous strain on an already large and growing budget deficit. Germany is in even worse shape financially and will exceed the EU debt limits without any increase in military spending. There will be costs associated with the planned expansion of the EU in 2004. European countries have high structural unemployment and high social costs related to welfare and subsidies, especially to agriculture.
It's hard to see Europe being able to afford to project much power beyond its borders for a couple of decades and to do that they will have to reform the EU stability and growth pact, the common agricultural policy and probably several other social programs. The EU expansion in 2004 may present an opportunity to make these reforms so as to avoid extending transfer payments to the poor agricultural countries of eastern Europe, but it may result in social unrest. French farmers may be dumping loads of manure in the streets of Paris, unemployed eastern Germans still not recovered from communism may become surly, and southern Europeans who now benefit from EU transfer payments may be resentful of eastern Europeans who are the cause of ending their welfare checks. It may not be politically feasible to make the reforms however much heads of government wish to do so.
Japan is in bad shape to assume a larger defense role in East Asia. They have been in recession for a decade, unable to make economic reforms needed to reverse that condition. Russia too has economic problems and has difficulty even keeping its equipment functional.
It is useful to consider the reality behind vacuous gaullist posturing about military strength. However much the US wants to reduce its military costs it may not be possible to do that for a couple of decades and retain security. A power vacuum in Europe and east Asia would put pressure on those nations to build up their military strength to protect themselves and the imported resources they depend on. The US could do without Arab oil but east Asia, especially Japan, would be hard hit.
It seems that only China might benefit from such a US pullback. The rest of Europe and east Asia would be thrown into turmoil spending wealth on armaments to the detriment of their domestic economies. There are several plausible scenarios where Eurasians would once again fall to bickering among themselves, each trying to elbow its way to the head of the queue or just avoiding the elbows of another.
And for what? The naive idea that all of these belligerent nations will somehow work it out and sing kumbayah in multi-part harmony? It's not impossible but it is exceedingly unlikely given all that we know, all that has happened and a strategic analysis of the present. As E. O. Wilson said (in another context): nice theory, wrong species. Could they hire it done? Perhaps a global strength military capability as an extension of a reformulated UN-like entity? How feasible is this given the inability of existing European nations to even agree on what type of aircraft to purchase in joint defense pacts? Could it be privatized, the current popular solution to bureaucratic failure? In either case, what would prevent that organization from becoming the new hegemon? What would be gained? It's just churn, change for the sake of change, providing nothing but entertainment.
This is a hard problem and the feckless nattering of critics of the US position offer no realistic alternatives to the current situation. They are harmless, irrelevant since no change will result from their spit wads launched at the US administration, but they can help keep the world in a useless snit and keep pressure on strategic thinkers to work the problem. In the end all of the talk is for domestic political consumption, intended to either strengthen or weaken favorite sons and daughters for local government jobs. In the end it is a demonstration of why it is so unlikely that nations will cease their bickering and live cooperatively.
You were a lone voice of sanity at WorkingForChange in the wake of 9/11, and now you seem to have become a lone voice of sanity among the warbloggers. Judging from the above comments, you are likely to suffer the same fate with them as you did with the lefties, but I, for one, will remain a fan.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments, all! I am squeezed by time and attention-span issues, so I'm going to hold off responding for now, but I intend to further the discussion in an upcoming article about Euro-Atlantic relations.