With all the attention given to the confrontation on war policy between France and Germany on one hand and the U. S. and Great Britain on the other, it is useful to look at some underlying issues that do not usually make the evening news. For example, Charles Krauthammer has recently noted that the phenomenon of “old” vs. “new” Europe is not only not new, but not really even mostly about war with Iraq. We should remember that everything about the world order that we new from the end of World War II ended with our victory in the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and that global institutions are slowly being transformed to adjust to this reality. Frankly, a case can be made, and Tom Friedman has made it well, that World War III began on 9-11. France, for one, doesn’t like the new arrangements for dealing with such events, with the U. S. as the only remaining superpower, and is behaving, in John McCain’s words loosely quoted “like the aging movie star who has gotten by on her looks for too long and they are now failing her”.
So who is out of step here? Some, like former CIA official Graham Fuller, believe the U. S. is, that France and Germany represent “the coming world”, that the European Union is the new model for states who are willing to give up large parts of their national sovereignty in order to join a “new civilizational project”, and that America in this sense represents the old world. To me, this is internationalist utopianism to the max, but no less an authority than Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott has written, “all countries are basically social arrangements……within the next 100 years, nationhood as we know it will be obsolete. All states will recognize a single global authority”.
Robert Kagan, in his new book, Of Paradise and Power, has it pegged much better. He believes that there is a culture gap between the U. S. and Western Europe over a range of issues from global warming to religion to the death penalty and that Europe no longer wants to hear about issues of good vs. evil in the world, given their disastrous experiences in the previous century. This gap has enormous consequences for our relationship with Europe and it has destroyed the Cold War consensus on foreign policy, therefore, there is much work to be done to forge a new one. In August 2001 (“Bush And The U. S. In Europe”), I wrote of America’s history as the “anti-Europe”, a nation founded in opposition to the social contract theory of Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau, in which the individual relinquishes his sovereignty in exchange for security and social welfare and in deference to the “general will”. The nations that are being called the “new” Europe, those we freed from Soviet totalitarianism, have had quite enough of this model. I said previously, and I repeat, that President Bush’s belief in American exceptionalism within the context of a shared history “reaching from Jerusalem and Athens to Europe and Washington” will enable him to craft a new post-Cold War order based on freedom, self-determination, and the rule of law.
Membership and leadership in the global institutions that supervise order (the United Nations or whatever replaces it), however, should require more than self-determination exercised by tribes with flags. This is probably too much for some, but there should be objective thresholds for determining membership in the responsible order. It befalls this generation to lead, and enforce when necessary, this transformation, which should have begun more seriously in 1991. I repeat a quote by Margaret Thatcher: “America’s duty is to lead. The other Western countries’ duty is to support its leadership………under American leadership, the West will remain the dominant global influence; if we do not, the opportunity for rogue states and new tyrannical powers to exploit our divisions will increase, and so will the danger to all.”