April 26, 2003


Thanks, Mr President: Bush's actions are helping Europe to fashion a new sense of identity (Jeremy Rifkin, April 26, 2003, The Guardian)
Love him or hate him, but at least acknowledge the fact that President Bush has a knack for bringing the most unlikely people together. Could anyone have imagined that Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims - historic foes for centuries - would unite in a Baghdad mosque to oppose US occupation of their land and vow to work hand in hand to remove the infidels from their ancestral ground? Equally impressive, President Bush's Iraq policy has helped millions of Europeans, who often find themselves at odds with each other on the most banal considerations of life, to find their common identity in opposition to the war. [...]

What we are witnessing is historic. Europeans are finding their identity. That is not to say that the millions of people who are beginning to speak as one suddenly identify with the European Union. I doubt whether a single protester sees himself or herself, first and foremost, as a citizen of the EU. While Brussels is far from most people's minds, what unites Europeans is their repudiation of the geopolitics of the 20th century and their eagerness to embrace a new "biosphere politics" in the 21st century.

The telltale signs of the nascent identity are everywhere. Europeans are concerned over global warming and other environmental issues. They support the international criminal court to ensure universal human rights. They favour generous development assistance to the poor in the third world and they back the United Nations as the appropriate forum to settle disputes among nations.

A growing of number of Europeans see the US government openly opposing these things they so ardently care about. And even on what they regard as the most basic questions of morality, such as opposition to capital punishment, they feel that a chasm is growing between their views and the views across the Atlantic. The US refusal to sign the Kyoto accords, the biodiversity treaty and the amended biological weapons convention, its withdrawal from the anti-ballistic-missile treaty and now the US decision to bypass the UN security council and act virtually unilaterally in Iraq have convinced many Europeans that the US is hopelessly locked into a Hobbesian view of the world. Europeans, on the other hand, have had their fill of wars and centuries of conflict. They are in search of Immanuel Kant's vision of universal and perpetual peace, and increasingly they see US policies and objectives as an anathema to the forging of a truly global consciousness.

It is this kind of fundamental difference in perception that has led so many Europeans to conclude that their interests, hopes and vision for the future are diverging from their old friends in America in ways that may be irreparable by diplomacy alone.

Of course, while Europeans, especially the young, are pacifists and champion dialogue over confrontation, the fact is that were it not for the US willingness to maintain and employ military power around the world to keep the peace, warfare between feuding ethnic and political groups and sovereign states might long ago have turned the whole world into the perpetual Hobbesian nightmare so many Europeans loathe.

Mr. Rifkin manages not just to undercut but to totally eviscerate his entire column with the last paragraph quoted above. Just as any vacation comes to an end, so too the European vacation from reality seems unlikely to endure. Given that America's natural stance is isolationism and that we're fast approaching the day when our Welfare State will render us unable (unwilling) to defend ourselves, never mind Europe, they're in for a rude awakening in the not too distant future. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2003 5:18 PM
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