Posted by Lexington Green on January 19th, 2004 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I look at the website of In theNational Interest from time to time. There is usually something good on there, and I commend it to your attention.
I recently noticed this interesting review of a book called The Inevitable Alliance: Europe and the United States Beyond Iraq, by Vittorio Parsi. Since it is in Italian, I’m not likely to ever read it. Parsi is yet another person who notes that the international system based upon state sovereignty which originated in the treaty of Westphalia is disintegrating. This is often taken to be a good thing by liberals, who hope to see an over-arching, supra-national world order emerge. However, the reviewer summarizes Parsi’s view as focusing not on some new superstate emerging. Rather, “…the emergence of failed and other rogue states as well as the menace of non-state terrorism—the latter being essentially a return to the privatized violence that marred pre-modern times.” Parsi notes that it is the supposedly unsophisticated United States, not Europe, which has “avant-garde grasp of the ‘new world disorder’”.
Parsi makes much of the distinction between the “peace of equilibrium” (pace d’equilibrio) and the “hegemonic peace” (pace egemonica). The former presupposes that, in the absence of an overarching power in the international arena, the security of nation-states—in fact, their very survival—depends on their relative strengths, the balance between which becomes the condition sine qua non for peace and stability. The latter is the case when “respect for order, stability, and peace are guaranteed by the resources of the hegemon, resources that go beyond military power to encompass access to markets, technological sophistication, and financial means”—pretty much the role that Jean-François Revel, among others, has ascribed to the U.S.
Parsi argues that it is futile to try to seek a balance of power equilibrium against the United States, which is a truly hegemonic power, and even asserts that American hegemony is preferable to the “balance of terror” which prevailed during the Cold War. Therefore, rather than futile resistance to this power disparity, Europe must avoid isolationism as it expands to the East, and it must avoid allowing itself to become detached from the United States. Parsi sees leading roles being taken by Spain, Poland and Italy in preserving the ties between the United States and Europe. Parsi concludes that “[a]s long as America is the only one bearing the burden, any discussion of greater multilateralism risks being a mere rhetorical exercise.”
Parsi sounds like a solid thinker. Perhaps there will be a translation of the book.