A neocon no to Europe

Robert Kuttner, editor of the American Prospect, praises European developments while criticising neocons in the US.

Gerard Baker, writing in the current Weekly Standard, the neoconservative journal, criticizes the administration’s olive branch and warns that Europe is seeking to become a counterweight to the United States in world affairs. The real European goal, writes Baker, is to undermine NATO, America’s greatest source of trans-Atlantic influence, and to initiate policies of its own that are less bellicose than Washington’s.

A prime example is the joint German-British-French initiative on Iran, which would offer economic incentives in exchange for Iran’s agreement to dismantle nuclear weapons capabilities.

American conservatives have relentlessly disparaged the Iran initiative as naïve or opportunistic.

In fact, the initiative is actually making some headway and may spare us a military confrontation. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who provided crucial cover for President Bush’s effort to portray the Iraq invasion as the work of a broad coalition, is with the Germans and French this time.

Other neoconservatives take an even darker view of Europe. In National Review Online, Andrew Stuttaford attacks Europe’s proposed new constitution as “an unreadable mish-mash of political correctness” and faults Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being “either delightfully insincere or dismayingly naïve.”

Some on the right believe that the United States should explicitly oppose Europe’s new effort to have a common foreign and defense policy, as antithetical to American interests, and want to actively contain Europe.

Others applaud Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s effort to divide the “new” Europe of former Soviet satellites from the “old” Europe of major states that have been our most steadfast allies except on Bush’s dubious Iraq policy. (This divide-and-conquer tactic won’t work. It’s the new European nations that look most closely to Brussels rather than to Washington.)

Especially with EU structural funds on their way. He continues:

European integration has been a core U.S. goal since the Truman administration. President Harry Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall blessed the antecedents of Common Market, which eventually became the European Union.

The original policy goal was twofold. First, contain Soviet expansionism. Second, anchor Germany within a larger, democratic European collectivity. The policy worked, magnificently. Europe, viciously divided against itself for centuries, has knit together into a democratic and civil society.

Of course, Europe developed its own social institutions – universal health care, generous retirement systems, free or subsidized child care for working parents, less commercialized and more robust elections, far less extremes of wealth and poverty, less militarism. And much of the world sees this as a more attractive model than the one the Bush administration is promoting. America, statistically, is slightly richer on average than western Europe, but more than 80 percent of western Europeans live better than their U.S. counterparts because our wealth is so concentrated at the top.

How like the neocons to see Europe’s success as a menace! In the 1990s, the American right disparaged the project of completing a single European market, and the effort to build trans-European social, parliamentary and regulatory institutions. American conservatives ridiculed the idea of a common European central bank and currency, but the euro is a phenomenal success and Bush could take some lessons from Europe’s fiscal discipline.

But Bush has kind of been successful on Egypt, perhaps Syria in the future, and Libya with the help of the UK. Europe has been successful in taking in and 10 countries in one go. Yes the EU economy is semi-ok at the moment, but growth is slow, and the looming crisis with an aging population is not easy to ignore, while the US strides ahead with fiscal ‘indiscipline’, but has meant growth since Bush took office. The deficit now seems set to narrow in Bush’s second term. Europe isn’t getting any younger though.

3 thoughts on “A neocon no to Europe”

  1. “American conservatives ridiculed the idea of a common European central bank and currency, but the euro is a phenomenal success…”

    …in preventing economic growth in Europe’s core economies, certainly.

  2. Europe developed its own social institutions – universal health care, generous retirement systems, free or subsidized child care for working parents…

    God this Europe place sounds like heaven – I must look into moving there!

  3. “Europe is seeking to become a counterweight to the United States in world affairs”

    I certainly hope it does. Although if I were the US I would worry more about China’s growth.

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