Sunday, May 04, 2003
The Future of Europe: A Neo-Conservative Viewpoint - 4th May 2003, 21.14

Victor Davis Hanson, in the National Review, provides the systematic and moralistic position of the neo-conservatives on post-Iraqi Europe. Through the very assumptions on which the article rests, one can see how a moral stance renders an analysis semi-detached from current diplomatic developments. Hanson argues that the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis requires expulsion from the existing institutions of the Atlantic Alliance in order that they may fully appreciate their current military and political weakness. Now, such an action would actually cement an axis that exists more in the minds of American commentators who have developed a taste for dividing the world into those who are for the US and those who are against the US. Perhaps simplifying international relations is the first step towards proper management in a unipolar world.

Hanson's problem is that he does not distinguish between "Europeans" and the French, the Belgians and the Germans. For the first four paragraphs of his column, the two appear to be interchangeable so that every European member of NATO is tarred with the same brush. The current stereotyping of Europeans stereotyping Americans flows from the Kaganite rhetoric popular amongst the foreign policy entrepreneurs of Washington but, in the longer term, such generalities will obtain a life of their own. Individual countries are targeted but opprobrium is directed at the Continent, simplifying a discourse that needs to retain an understanding of the sharp differences between members of the European Union.

In return, many European elites ridicule American values, naïveté, and insularity — even as their countries have raked in billions of American dollars in trade surpluses and tourism from mostly oblivious, aw-shucks Americans. We self-absorbed, parochial yokels laughed and paid little attention to the fact that some in Europe had forsaken Christianity for this weird, emerging boutique religion of anti-Americanism.

Who could take their ankle-biting seriously? Who, after all, would give up all that they had gotten so cheaply — that dream of all spoiled teenagers: to snap at and ridicule their patient and paying parents, even as they call on them in extremis for help whenever the car stalls or the rent is short?

Such labelling will anger US allies in Europe who read this column. There is a 'take your friends for granted' contempt that does not appear to take into account any number of deaths British soldiers suffered in Iraq. As Britain is lumped in with the 'Europeans', one can take exception to Hanson's character assassination of this country on the grounds of misrepresentation and ingratitude.

That aside, what is most interesting about the neo-conservatives who adopt a Kaganite perspective, is that a 'special relationship' falls off their radar. The UK is a part of Europe and is perceived as useful rather than as a trusted ally. Hanson reorders the foreign policy of the United States from this moral foundation and leaves out the two concepts most appropriate to diplomacy: negotiation and compromise.

To bring back moral clarity and maturity, we must begin to establish a more reciprocal relationship with the willing.

Hanson provides a wish-list for a world that America can guide with its muscular morality: Removing the French veto in the United Nations; removing all non-democratic states from the United Nations (though he doesn't mention how China would react to this); downgrading NATO and removing all US bases to more supportive and compliant countries; updating the United Nations to recognise current powers like Brazil, India etc.; and placing the analysis and implementation of US foreign policy from the State Department to ambassadorships with "resolute, principled men and women there [in Europe] to present our new views forcefully". As the above quotation demonstrates, Hanson argues for a more reciprocal relationship with friendly powers but his agenda shows little flexibility in accommodating the needs of allies.

It is unclear if a formal neo-conservative policy agenda in Washington, filtered through a Kaganite lens, would be of benefit to the United Kingdom. The harsher language that Hanson provides, if ever adopted by the United States, would strip away the 'rose-tinted' mystique that politicians in the United Kingdom use to obscure the 'special relationship'.

However, Hanson undermines his own credibility by confusing Gibraltar with a quagmire (his term for security concerns over here) and calls on Europe in one breath to sort its problems out and for the US to maintain cordial relationships with Britain and Spain in the next. It is an issue between two staunch US allies unless he views Gibraltar as a staging post for terrorists.

Cyprus, tension in the Aegean, Turkish EU membership, Gibraltar, North African disputes — all that and more must remain exclusively Europe’s quagmires. We wish them well, but cannot under the present circumstance hope to send a single soldier to resolve a single one of their own internal crises — unless it involves the safety of our own bilateral allies: perhaps a Britain, Poland, Italy, Holland, Spain, or others in such future coalitions of the willing.

The column may be marred by this factual lapse which does call Hanson's basic knowledge of European affairs into question. However, the more interesting question is why those conservatives who support the concept of the Anglosphere have not identified the stark differences between themselves and the neo-conservatives. A strong strand of neo-conservatism includes an 'America first' ideology that does not recognise the importance of cultural affinities as foreign policy is subjugated to a strong moral position that the United States embodies all that is best in the world. The universalised values that they promote are wedded to a hegemonic approach and do not require the recognition of cultural or ethnic ties; indeed, these would undermine and adulterate the purity of their foreign policy, since they argue that the US brand of constitutional republicanism can be planted, with local variation, in any soil, no matter how forbidding. Anglospherists need to examine their relationship with neo-conservatism. The moral foundations of the latter preclude the cultural reciprocation that underlies the 'special relationships' of the 'Anglosphere'.


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