01 March 2007


Economist.com has published an entirely incoherent article under the title, "We were there for America: But how long will America be there for Europe?" A better title might be "We Hate America Because They're Bloody, Incompetent, Torturing Warmongers, And They Might Not Even Be There When We Need Them."

Walking quietly pass casual mentions of the "disasters" in Iraq and Afghanistan, the coming humiliating losses in those wars and how our torture regime besmirches eastern Europe, the argument seems to be that eastern Europe likes America more than western Europe. As a result of western Europe's dislike, however, America (we're apparently also geographically ignorant) will not come to the aid of eastern Europe when its abandoned by western Europe.

The heart of the argument comes at the end:
Yet, if the Atlantic bonds do weaken, the ex-captive nations will suffer the most. It was America that got them into NATO, and it is America that looks out for them now, much more so than nearer but less friendly countries such as Germany. Any suggestion that the east Europeans can rely on the European Union to stick up for them against Russian bullying is, on current form, laughable.

New radar gear and rocket interceptors planned for the Czech Republic and (probably) Poland will probably not do much to change this, You do not strengthen an alliance by pressing on your allies weapons that their public does not want. Helmut Schmidt, Germany's chancellor 20 years ago, thought that having Cruise and Pershing missiles in western Europe would make America’s nuclear guarantee more credible. Instead, it cast America as the warmonger in the minds of the muddle-headed, and stoked peacenikery throughout Europe.

Barring an unlikely success in Afghanistan or Iraq, the strains on the Atlantic alliance will grow in the years ahead. The rivets have long been popping. Now great girders, such as Italy, are twisting and buckling. It was public anti-Americanism that brought down Romano Prodi’s government last week. Old Kremlin hands who remember how hard they once tried to destroy NATO must have trouble believing that the job is being done so well for them now by the alliance’s own leaders.
Of course, deploying the Cruise and Pershing missiles in the face of demonstrations by the idiot European masses was instrumental in bringing down the USSR. And now that there is no USSR, it's not entirely clear what NATO is guarding against. What crisis would follow today from the US and the EU disbanding NATO that is in any comparable to continental communist hegemony? Exactly why should we care if the EU is subject to Russian (non-military) bullying?

If any commentors can come up with an explanation of this essay that renders it coherent, I would be appreciative. But it seems to me that its incoherence follows from the incoherence at the heart of the European Union experiment. Is Europe one, or is it not? The author here switches paragraph by paragraph -- sometimes line by line -- between the two alternatives. Part of Europe likes America. Part of Europe hates America. America likes part pro-America Europe more than it likes the other part and more than the anti-America Europe likes the pro-America Europe. Because of the anti-American part, America will turn its back on Europe as a whole or Europe, following anti-America Europe, will reject America. As a result, pro-America Europe will suffer more than anti-America Europe.

See what I mean: incoherent.


pj said...

They are imagining a hierarchical world, in which European countries and peoples have relations only with the EU, and the EU is the only entity in Europe that has relations with outsiders. As a result, the pro-American views of Eastern Europeans can only influence relations of their countries with America if the pro-Americans can take over the EU. But since anti-American views are the majority, they cannot, and the EU will be anti-American. Since the EU is the only entity in Europe with foreign relations, Europe as a whole will perforce be anti-American.

Of course what this misses is that the world is not organized hierarchically, Europeans below the level of the EU are able to have relationships with Americans, and the EU Commission can obtain hegemony over Euro-American relations only through totalitarian coercion. Ultimately, the Euros will have to decide between the existence of some cooperative relationships with Americans, and totalitarianism.

Susan's Husband said...

And you think that haven't already decided that?

Peter Burnet said...

Now great girders, such as Italy...


This is a great example of the platitudinous style of The Economist I was complaining about the other day. It sounds so authoritative and knowledgable but it doesn't make sense. What it does suggest is that both pro-American and anti-American public opinion in Europe is based on the assumption the U.S. will be there if the going gets tough and as long as NATO is around they may be right. Once side is chippy as heck about their dependency, which it expresses by pulling the eagle's feathers, while the other thinks supportive rhetoric and sending a few observers to Iraq or Afghanistan will seal their permament protection.

I remember shaking my head a few years ago when everybody seemed to be applauding the expansion of NATO to Russia's borders, as if nobody understood what NATO is. We're compelled to go to war if someone attacks Estonia?

But I must say I haven't read or heard anything by any major American politician that would call either side's version into question.

David said...

Peter: Better Estonia than some other European nations.

PJ describes the flaw here better than I did. To American eyes, the simultaneous description of fundamental European differences (Germany will not come to the aid of eastern Europe if Russia starts throwing its weight around) and of European unity is incoherent. I wonder if it is less incoherent to Europeans?

But I still don't know what NATO is for these days. When Europe was threatened by Communist invasion, defending Europe made sense. It also made some sense to be military involved in Europe so long as it seemed inevitable that we would get dragged into a European land war. That day seems to be past now. If France and Germany went to war now, would we get involved?

David said...

To put it differently, isn't OJ right that India and Israel and Turkey and the Emirates are more important to us than Europe?

Peter Burnet said...

I wonder if it is less incoherent to Europeans?

Didn't Kosovo prove it isn't?

Yes, Orrin is compelling on that, but I have to wonder whether US thinking these days, whether neo-con, realist or isolationist isn't "all over the map", so to speak.

Oroborous said...

David, isn't the continued existence of NATO part of the same worldview that you claim will continue to compel the U.S. to involve itself in the M.E., even if we no longer need their oil ?

It's about being the world cop to A) prove how powerful we are, and B) discourage others from feeling a need to expend the resources necessary to be a military rival to the U.S.

Based on the present state of the militaries in the advanced Euro nations, B) has worked brilliantly.

A) has worked as well, despite the negativism of the world's nattering nabobs.

A clear and permanent victory in Iraq and/or Afghanistan would be smashing, but it surely hasn't escaped the notice of the world's rulers, (as it apparently has of the world's chattering classes), that both Saddam and the Taliban were defeated in less than a month, and despite ongoing hostilities, neither were able to regain power.

A "loss" for America in either place will not result in "victory" for the Ba'athists or the Taliban, and so the conflicts are effective in serving notice to the world that throwing down with America will be fatal for whomever dares to do so, regardless of whatever might later happen to the U.S.

M Ali said...

Two thirds of US and European companies' FDI goes across the Atlantic and they are each other's biggest trading partners, so they'll be relevant for some time yet.

pj said...

David - Yes, Nato is almost worthless. Its value, though small, could be positive. I'm not knowledgeable enough to judge such things.

But I do know that no politician has an incentive to be the one who breaks NATO. If its value becomes negative, US politicians will just de-emphasize it, make it a shell. NATO could break eventually, but not until the US clearly has enemies in Europe again.

Hey Skipper said...

Having spent a fair amount of time in NATO (ending just after the USSR did), I can say this about the continued existence of NATO ...

Umm. Errr.

Works better than the EU.

erp said...

They sure were there for us to pull their chestnuts out of the fire ... twice. Somehow I don't think there'll be a third time to be the charm. Listen to Enrico Caruso tell it like it is.

Over There


Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there -
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming
So prepare, say a pray'r,
Send the word, send the word to beware.
We'll be over, we're coming over,
And we won't come back till it's over
Over there.

erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...

Sorry the link won't work.