BUT ARE EUROPEAN POLITICIANS UP TO THE TASK?
So asks Anne Applebaumin the July 28, 2008 edition of Slate.
“This is the hour of Europe."
Way back in 1991, when an otherwise forgettable foreign minister of Luxembourg infamously pronounced that sentence, it seemed to portend great things. It meant that in the post-Cold War world, Europeans, not Americans, would resolve the conflicts that were about to become the Bosnian war—and maybe a lot of other things, too. He was wrong.
In a very real sense, 2009, not 1992, truly will be the "hour of Europe." By that, I mean that if the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Great Britain, and the president of France—backed by their counterparts in southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia—were to walk into the White House on Jan. 21 and propose serious, realistic, new contributions to, say, the war in Afghanistan, the reconstruction of Iraq, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and perhaps even climate change, the White House would listen.
Or perhaps I should put it more strongly: Not only would the White House listen, the new administration, Democratic or Republican, would immediately offer the Europeans the "leadership" and "partnership" they so often say they desire.
In fact, I'll wager I could find a dozen future members of either administration who would roll out the red carpet and greet them like envoys of a fellow superpower if the Europeans so desired.
Yet at the same time, I'd also wager that I could not find a dozen current members of any European government who have even thought about coming up with any ideas at all. This is the hour of Europe—but do the Europeans even know it?
Whether they know it or not this is a defining hour.
Since the end of the Cold War the US has been maintaining order in Europe’s backyard even though Europe, if it decided to commit the resources, could do it. However the US does this it’s way and not to specifications (good, bad, or indifferent) of Europe. This is complicated by Europe taking a lead in soft power activities so there is a serious discontinuity in general Western policy in the area.
After the withdrawal form Iraq and Afghanistan, it will be politically impossible for a US President of either party to send a large expeditionary force anywhere for at least ten years, and even longer to the Middle East, baring circumstances so extreme we don’t want to discuss them.
But the US is slowly executing a policy of withdrawal from Europe and it's back yard, especially since George W Bush came to office. While lost in the back and forth of the Middle East activities the permanent US presence in European area is much reduced and approaching nominal. Western policy in Europe's back yard will be European or there won't be any.
If they take Applebaum’s suggestion and come up with any sort of reasonable proposal for a joint policy it will be accepted without too much quibbling over details. Such a policy would cover much more that the Middle East but define exclusive and joint roles so both are happy with areas of primary concern. At a later point, a US President of either party will have more confidence; I think they will find the negotiations harder, especially to protect there interest in areas of stronger US influnce. But if nothing is done in ten years the US will be happy to give verbal support any reasonable activity they undertake, but if it is not part of an ongoing partnership they won't get much else. If they do not come up with a good plan, with or without US participation, events may drive Europe into a corner from which the US may not want to (or even can not) help.
It is their hour, but are European politicians up to the task?
6 months ago