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Thread: America Needs a Strong Europe not an Irrelevant One

  1. #1
    Ubi dubium ibi libertas Senior Contributor
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    America Needs a Strong Europe not an Irrelevant One

    The frog and the ox
    Jun 2nd 2005
    From The Economist print edition

    Americans are finding it hard to understand what is going on in Europe

    THERE is a nice variant of one of Aesop's Fables which goes like this. A tiny frog shares a field with a giant ox. The frog tries to get the ox's attention by puffing himself up. The ox fails to notice the frog. The frog puffs himself up some more. The ox continues not to notice him. The frog finally puffs himself up so much that he explodes. But the ox still doesn't notice him.

    Something much like this happened last Sunday. Many of the supporters of the European constitution nourish dreams of creating a United States of Europe. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the constitution's leading light, frequently spoke of his admiration for the American constitution. But the American reaction to the French non vote was a giant yawn. The news networks gave as much priority to the simultaneous vote in Lebanon, and both elections seemed less important than the result of the Indy 500.

    Most of the excuses for ignoring the French vote are perfectly understandable. The results were released in the middle of a sunny Memorial Day weekend. The constitution is a turgid document that few Europeans have read, let alone Americans. Supporters like Jacques Chirac claimed that it was a bulwark against American-style capitalism; opponents like Jean-Luc Melenchon that it was “the law of the jungle turned into a constitution”. Eurocrats, implausibly, claim that they will continue to ratify the constitution whatever the people say.

    There is a widespread feeling in America, too, that Europe doesn't matter any more—or at least that America doesn't have a dog in Europe's internal fights. The polite version of this sentiment is that Europe is a problem that has been solved. The continent is peaceful, prosperous and civilised. America's vital interests now lie elsewhere—in tackling terrorism and managing the emergence of China. The less polite version is that Europe is a spent force, with slow economic growth, death-spiral demographics, unaffordable welfare states, simmering Muslim populations and little ability to project power abroad.

    Europe is clearly not as important as it thinks it is: that would be impossible. Yet America's indifference to it is wrong. It remains America's biggest trading partner and closest ally. Two-thirds of America's foreign investment since 2000 has gone to Europe. For all their problems, the EU and America work closely together in steering the world's economy: China is too undeveloped and Japan has failed to assume a leadership position. Since coming to office in 2001, George Bush has spent more time in Europe than anywhere else abroad—44 days, compared with 13 in Asia. And since being re-elected in 2004 he has put heavy emphasis on repairing the European relationship. For good reason: American action abroad is easier if Europe approves of it.

    Which makes it all the more striking that so many of the people who did pay attention to the European result, including some close to Mr Bush, were positively gleeful. Many conservatives broke their self-imposed embargo on French products to pop the champagne. The grand non didn't just mean the humiliation of Mr Chirac, the grand fromage in the Axis of Weasel. It meant the humiliation of a political class that has been a thorn in the side of America since the second world war. Right-wing blogs crowed about the imminent collapse of Eurosocialism. One even produced a map of the “red” parts of France that had voted “no”—and noted its similarity with the 2004 map of the “red” parts of America that had voted for Mr Bush.

    It would be churlish to deny the White House some pleasure. But that does not mean following those conservative mapmakers all the way to their eccentric conclusions. The no vote was driven by the most backward forces in France—the enemies of globalisation and Americanisation. And Mr Chirac promptly gave the prime ministership to Dominique de Villepin, an exponent of anti-Americanism in its most self-indulgent form.

    The only serious justification for Americans to delight in the EU's plight would be if last weekend had frustrated the emergence of a European counterweight to American power. Yet that was always surely a fantasy, given both the continent's refusal to spend a significant amount of money on defence and its unstable relationship with other possible members of a “counterweight coalition”. In reality, a weak Europe is much more of a threat to America's interests than a strong one. The no vote not only guarantees several more years of Eurodithering and introspection: it also makes it much less likely that Europe will be able to absorb Turkey, let alone Ukraine, anytime soon, if ever.

    Why America needs a stronger Europe

    The most sensible American response to Europe's failure is to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity that is fraught with risks, to be sure, but one that would allow Europe to start down a more sensible path, and would let America nudge it in a more Anglo-Saxon direction. Bill Kristol, a leading neo-conservative, likens the French non to the rise of Ross Perot. Perotism was noisy, confused and full of unpleasant elements. But it showed that people were no longer willing to tolerate the old order, and it prepared the way for the rise of Bill Clinton on the left and Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani on the right.

    There are signs that a similar revolution is stirring in Europe. There is a good chance that Mr Chirac will be replaced in 2007 by Nicolas Sarkozy, who claims to be more of a fan of the free market; and an even better chance that Gerhard Schröder will be replaced this September by Angela Merkel, a woman who backed the invasion of Iraq. The shake-up gives America an opportunity to find new friends and collaborators in Europe.

    Yet the paradox of America's European policy is that it only has a chance of influencing Europe if it is seen to be doing nothing. America needs to do what it can to make sure that the frog doesn't explode again. But in public at least, the ox needs to give the impression of being indifferent.

    http://www.economist.com/world/na/Pr...ory_ID=4033514
    "Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

    NEVER FORGET

  2. #2
    Banned Senior Contributor dalem's Avatar
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    Well, some of us are waiting for the "It's all America's fault" shoe to drop anyway.

    Also waiting to see if Europe learns a lesson from all this.

    -dale

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    there appear to be many lessons: most of them contradictory....

    however from intial reports across europe it appears that a slightly looser, more trade/free market based future is on the cards. germany appears to be thinking that - despite the neccessary yet badly handled reforms underway in german economic policy - a more 'anglo-saxon' based approach might be better for them in the long term and a political disengagement from france is high on the popular agenda.

    the new accession countries are much less enthusiastic about social europe, always have been.

    the french however believe no such thing, public opinion in france appears to be going 'leftward' over free-trade and political integration. they reject the treaty for exactly the opposite reason to the dutch and the british.

    the belgians and luxemburgers feel the same, italy is divided north and south and spain keeps changing its mind....

    from my political viewpoint things look good, but these are early reports and judging the moodswings of 280 million people in 25 countries using twenty different languages is a skill few have yet mastered.
    Last edited by dave angel; 09 Jun 05, at 22:54.
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

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    As someone who spends about 1 month each year in "Europe" (Eastern Europe - where the US is more respected), I must say I completely disagree with the basis of the article. In the article, the author refers to "Europe" as though it was some kind of political or national entity. It is not. It is merely a geographical place in the world where the various countries have succeeded in nothing more than agreeing to share a common currency and easing travel restrictions. There are no "Europeans" there. The Dutch continue to see themselves as Dutch, the Germans as Germans, and although I don't know why they would want to do this, the French see themselves as French. The driving force behind those who want to expand the EU into something akin to the United States of America is pure and simple: to create an entity powerful enough to oppose US policy in the world. Will they succeed? Perhaps, over time. However, any organization based on bringing people/nations together over a shared animosity is unlikely to succeed in the long run. Just MHO.

    Don

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    Staff Emeritus Confed999's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSR
    In the article, the author refers to "Europe" as though it was some kind of political or national entity
    Really? I just took it as talking about Europe as a whole. Anyone who lives in Europe legally, in any country on the continent of Europe, is a European.
    No man is free until all men are free - John Hossack
    I agree completely with this Administration’s goal of a regime change in Iraq-John Kerry
    even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act-John Kerry
    He may even miscalculate and slide these weapons off to terrorist groups to invite them to be a surrogate to use them against the United States. It’s the miscalculation that poses the greatest threat-John Kerry

  6. #6
    -{SpoonmaN}-
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    I guess this proves that European voters are indeed as short-sighted as anyone else. The stupidity of voting no to the constitution on the basis that it will reduce your national sovereignty it staggering. Why would anyone care about national sovereignty when they are going to be part of something bigger, richer and more powerful than their comparitvely puny nation ever could be?
    I guess this also proves that Europeans are indeed as predjudiced as their American counter-parts. They seem to be totally in favour of embracing muslim cultures, until they are actually exposed to muslim culture, and then they can't stand having to deal with someone different. I'll never stop laughing at Birtish nationalists who claim there is too much migration in the UK, when the non-European population of the UK is only about 5%, while it is more like 15% in Australia and we have no race riots, and are increasing our intake of migrants. And even our government is too conervative. The simple fact is that Europe's aging population means it HAS to learn to deal with multi-culturalism because if they do not take in enough migrants to sustain their workforce their economic woes will only become worse. And for all their complaints about the USA being the only super-power, they refuse to provide a real alternative, because they will not take in nations with large armed forces like Turkey because they are "too different". Do the French honestly believe they are a competitor to anyone? In my opinion, the EU should simply eject all nations which do not ratify the constitution, because this is indeed a case of a minority having a veto over the majority.

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    Ubi dubium ibi libertas Senior Contributor
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    Quote Originally Posted by -{SpoonmaN}-
    I guess this also proves that Europeans are indeed as predjudiced as their American counter-parts.
    Screw you too.
    "Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."
    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

    NEVER FORGET

  8. #8
    -{SpoonmaN}-
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    Sorry I don't mean to say that Americans are highly predjudiced or anything, more that the notion that Europeans are above it is wrong. You cannot deny that there is a lot of hate in the states, like there is in Australia (this Schappelle Corby crap has demonstrated it quite well), and China (Anti-Japan riots and ethnic conflicts) and anywhere else in the world.

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    Banned Senior Contributor dalem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -{SpoonmaN}-
    Sorry I don't mean to say that Americans are highly predjudiced or anything, more that the notion that Europeans are above it is wrong. You cannot deny that there is a lot of hate in the states, like there is in Australia (this Schappelle Corby crap has demonstrated it quite well), and China (Anti-Japan riots and ethnic conflicts) and anywhere else in the world.
    Where is the hate you speak of in the States?

    -dale

  10. #10
    -{SpoonmaN}-
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    Firebombings of abortion clinics, radical christian fundamentalists blowing up buildings and killing almost 200 people, the KKK, gang violence, LA's african population looting Korean stores and killing their owners, all sounds kinda hateful. I'm not saying that these things don't go on in other countries, indeed my point is that a lot of Europeans seem to think it doesn't happen with them, and they're wrong.

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    Anyone who lives in Europe legally, in any country on the continent of Europe, is a European.
    Confed,

    While this may be true in a geographical sense, it is certainly not true in a political or national sense as the author tries to imply. It would be like saying anyone who lives in the Americas is an American.

    Don

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    Quote Originally Posted by -{SpoonmaN}-
    Why would anyone care about national sovereignty when they are going to be part of something bigger, richer and more powerful than their comparitvely puny nation ever could be?
    Oh, so that's why Austria joined the Third Reich.

    Quote Originally Posted by -{SpoonmaN}-
    I guess this also proves that Europeans are indeed as predjudiced as their American counter-parts. They seem to be totally in favour of embracing muslim cultures, until they are actually exposed to muslim culture, and then they can't stand having to deal with someone different.
    Yeah, I'm sure that whole Theo Van Gogh thing had nothing to do with it.
    The more I think about it, ol' Billy was right.
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    Banned Senior Contributor dalem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dalem
    Where is the hate you speak of in the States?

    -dale
    I don't see how this equals "a lot of hate" as you state above. They are fairly isolated events and groups.

    -dale

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    Staff Emeritus Confed999's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSR
    Confed,

    While this may be true in a geographical sense, it is certainly not true in a political or national sense as the author tries to imply. It would be like saying anyone who lives in the Americas is an American.

    Don
    Yeah, they would be North Americans, Central Americans, or South Americans. I am a Floridian, an American (a citizen of the USA), and a North American. What did you want the author to do, list every country in Europe individually?
    No man is free until all men are free - John Hossack
    I agree completely with this Administration’s goal of a regime change in Iraq-John Kerry
    even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act-John Kerry
    He may even miscalculate and slide these weapons off to terrorist groups to invite them to be a surrogate to use them against the United States. It’s the miscalculation that poses the greatest threat-John Kerry

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    Quote Originally Posted by Confed999
    Yeah, they would be North Americans, Central Americans, or South Americans. I am a Floridian, an American (a citizen of the USA), and a North American. What did you want the author to do, list every country in Europe individually?
    Confed,

    The point is, the author wants us to think of Europe as a cohesive political state/entity, which I argue it is not. While you and I may be considered North Americans because of where we live, there is no political state/entity called North America. We cannot say the North Americans are for or against this or that, frankly because Mexico, Canada, and the US do not share a common political vision. Hopefully this makes it more clear as to the difference between a geographic location and a political state/entity.

    Don

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