Monday, June 16, 2003
Most Reliable European Ally - 16th June 2003, 23.14

Andrew Sullivan, no need to guess who he is, argues that the possible outcome of the European Constitution will be a foreign policy reversal for the United States. For a commentator who was born in Britain, he has few words of grace or comfort for the land of his birth if he deigns to spare us a glance in his commentary, apart from our singular role as "most reliable European ally".

Perhaps the most exasperating theme within Sullivan's article, "The Euro Menace: The USE vs the USA", is his stance as Cassandra whilst admitting that the United States is unable to contain the rise of this new counterweight. The problem is that Sullivan, a man who has not seen this problem arise, although there have been plenty of other voices raising concerns about European integration, now undergoes a Damascene conversion and concludes, "It may, alas, be too late to prevent the worst. But better late than never." For a commentator on the Right, an ex-Brit, to come out with this face-saving formula, whilst admitting that this could be a huge blow to the aims of US foreign policy, strikes one as closing the barn door after the carthorse has bolted. A further example of his defeatist and appeasing theme strikes here: "The point is, the European idea has won every major battle it has fought. And it would be foolish to bet against it now."

However, the developments that Sullivan foresees, do not agree with the reports that have been coming out of the European Convention. The article states that a United States of Europe is essentially complete and that the new political structure will be dominated by both France and Germany. Political hegemony will be strengthened by economic supremacy as the new entrants from Central Europe will be "supplicants" who will have to obey the dictates of Europe's political masters. All of the other big countries, Spain, Britain and Italy will also be forced to kowtow in foreign policy and other matters or "foreign policy intransigence could possibly lead to marginalization within the European Union, with all the costs that could entail." Here, Sullivan demonstrates that he is unable to recognise the economic costs that individual nations already bear under membership of the Union. Marginalisation would, no doubt, be a fillip to economic growth, if it was accompanied by liberalising policies.

The weakness of Sullivan's arguments lies, partially, in the lack of engagement with Europe's fundamental demographic and economic crises. These arguments have been much rehearsed but one short-term example will suffice:

The new euro helps fulfill French ambition by becoming a fledgling counterweight to the dollar in international markets, helping erode the critical U.S. economic advantage of having the uncontested global currency. As it reaches record heights against the dollar, we will soon see whether it can at some point rival the greenback as a global currency, thereby severely limiting America's flexibility in economic policy.

A record high for the Euro limits further the inflexibility of economic policy in Germany, France and other nation states. The Netherlands are in recession, France is having a riot and Germany could soon be facing unemployment figures of five million. The reason lies in their inability to pursue structural reform, due to the sclerotic policies of their political parties and the prohibition of corrective policy during a downturn under the Growth and Stability Pact, or is that Decline and Stagnation. Under this economic cycle, the rise in the value of the Euro has come at the worst time for Euroland, especially as it is far more dependent upon exports than the United States.

The other problem with the article is its acceptance of the draft constitution as a final settlement and underestimating the power of other European countries to form alliances against the Franco-German axis. After all, the constitutional convention has been divided between large and small countries, the intergovernmental states and the Commission, the periphery and the core, without evidence of one dominating force. The Franco-German alliance had the greatest influence, through the role of Giscard D'Estaing, but the conclusion was an abandonment of their prize: the domination of Europe. Before the Iraqi war, the European Union was split but neither side was able to master the other and a face saving formula was found to paper over the cracks. The convention agreed on a common foreign policy , to be implemented at a later date.

Whilst festering over here, I recognise that De Havilland on Samizdata was right in one respect. Sullivan is unable to present a strategy that holds Britain's interests at heart:

Above all, the United States can let its most reliable European ally, Britain, know that it prizes the relationship, that it does not necessarily believe British adoption of the euro is a good or necessary thing, and that it values Britain's independent military capacity immensely. Keeping Britain both in the USE and outside of it militarily, diplomatically, and monetarily should become a prime U.S. objective in foreign policy. Without it, the United States could lose its most valuable military and diplomatic ally. If you think that's unimportant, imagine the Iraq war--diplomatically and militarily--without the fig leaf of British support.

This is the voice of a Reasonable Republican and repeats the long-term mistake of British foreign policy, usually made at America's behest, of maintaining a presence within the European institutions as a safeguard for US interests. The problem is that this conjuring act required political space to function; a political space that is fading away. It is disheartening to see a Republican of British origin repeating the failed nostrums of a foreign policy that has led us to this crisis. It also reveals that mainstream republicans, who take Sullivan's stance, agree with the foundations of Blair's strategy. Nevertheless, any shift in US foreign policy to a more Eurosceptical stance, whatever its basis, is to be welcomed. Perhaps in six months time, Sullivan will be championing withdrawal, if he values our worth as an independent ally more than our role as a stalking horse within the European Union.


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