The Transatlantic Rift

In September of last year, I posted on the efforts of Germany, Japan and Brazil to gain a seat on the UNSC. I wasn’t impressed. Neither, apparently, is David Frum. In his piece, The End of the Transatlantic Affair, he writes:

Over lunch at a Washington think-tank some time ago, a high-ranking German official told the room about his country’s determination to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The reaction? From the Americans present, indifference verging on boredom. For the Europeans, though, it was as if the official had dropped a concrete block on their toes.

It was a fascinating moment of culture clash that demonstrates some ominous truths about American-European relations. The first truth is the traditionalism of American policy elites. Even when the evidence is thrust into American faces, it is hard for them to accept that things have changed in the old alliance. From 1947 until 1991, US-European relations were guided by the rule that America would provide the protection and Europe the deference.

With the collapse of Soviet military power, the deal became obsolete. Yet this large geopolitical change has made little impression on American policy elites. Indeed, John Kerry won the backing of almost all of this elite by running a presidential campaign that promised that the alliance could be restored with just a few sweet words.

Frum continues:

So, the colossal fact that Germany is no longer willing to trust the US, Britain or France to represent its interests in the Security Council–that its leaders believe themselves to have achieved a status equal to that of the US, Russia and China–elicits nothing more than a ho-hum from Americans. Despite the confrontation over Iraq, despite German technology sales to Iran, despite the enthusiasm of Germans for the conspiracy theories of Michael Moore and Andreas von Bulow (polls show that one out of three Germans under 30 believe the US government staged the attacks of September 11 2001), Americans continue to believe that the Europe and the Germany of 2005 are the same as those of 1985.

Frum is sounding a lot like Robert Kagan in Of Paradise and Power, which I highly recommend, if you haven’t already read it. Europe is banking on soft power alone to carry the day. It certainly has its place, don’t get me wrong, but when confronted with tyrants and their armies, it’s useful to have alternative methods of persuasion at you disposal. And be actually ready to use them.

It’s interesting how my own views of Europe have changed over the last three years. With the guarded exception of the British, I no longer have any faith in them as allies. None. They are strategic competitors for the most part. They will attempt, by almost any means, to frustrate the goals of the US. This is not unique. It’s the same relationship we have with, say, China or Russia. And it’s closer to the relationship we had with Europe for most of our history.

The French-Belgian axis, on the other hand, is in a category all it’s own. They are outright enemies of the US and should be treated as such. Nothing they say to us should be taken at face value and we should expect them to be actively working against us at all times. It’s time we faced reality regarding our Gallic cousins. Let’s face it, they mean us harm.

All of which brings me to NATO. For most of US history, we kept Europe at arms length, trusted them very little, and certainly didn’t carry their water for them. Since WWII, the US has considered it in our best interest to align ourselves with the Europeans to oppose Soviet expansion. That threat is long past. Yet still, Americans are stationed in Europe and Americans are still pledged to risk their blood and treasure in Europe’s defense.

What does it gain the US to continue this? I claim the benefits we gain are outweighed by the costs. The biggest, larger even than the monetary expense we incur and lives we risk, are the political costs: A) The Europeans are dissuaded (maybe deluded is a better word) from investing in a realistic military deterrent. B) It fuels a dependency based resentment against the US. C) We treat the Europeans as if they continue to need our guidance and protection when they clearly no longer do. In doing this, we deceive ourselves into believing an inaccurate view of the world. In David Frum’s concluding words:

Whatever course America takes, the world has arrived at a turning point. Everybody else seems to realise it. It is time for Americans to notice it too.

I think it’s high time the US began a slow withdrawal from NATO. It’ll be the best thing for both Europe and the US.

Lots more good reading at The New Atlantic Initiative

34 thoughts on “The Transatlantic Rift”

  1. I have no problem w/them beefing up their military


    They’re going to aim it at US and not everyone else.

    1 EU, 1 voice, 1 vision – 1 seat at the UN.

    No more 25-1

  2. Much as I agree with all your analysis, I cannot agree with your conclusion regarding NATO.

    The Europeans simply have too consistent a track record of plunging their continent into tribal wars that assume global dimensions. Were The U. S. to leave Europe, I have no doubt it would be in another such war within 25 years. The world cannot yet afford to watch Europe take it into global war again.

    The only nations that would welcome the end of NATO, I’ll bet, would be Germany and France, and perhaps not even Germany. That alone should tell you something. Certainly the screams fromn Warsaw would be sufficient to assure that any President who would consider such an idea would lose the Polish vote.

    NATO keeps the Russians out, the Germans down and the Americans in. The Russians are in a bad patch but it won’t last for ever and the way it ends may not be pleasant. And were the Americans out, who would keep the Germans down?

    No, better to leave them there and save the cost of having to invade again.

  3. Some Europeans are fine. The Poles stepped right up, for example, and so did several other countries, even very liberal Holland. Don’t denigrate all Europeans along with the French and Belgians!

    On the other point, whether more countries should be added to the UN Security Council, well, why not? More members means more vetos, means that the UN steadily loses power and prestige as it becomes less and less effective. How is this bad for the US, and the rest of the world too, for that matter? Good good all around. I especially would like to see India and Japan added. Playing them off against China would mean absolute paralysis.

  4. I think the bigger reason for the Shrug is simply that Germany doesnt have a foreign policy and hence is hardly worth listening to.

  5. Richard, it wouldn’t be the end of NATO. The Europeans will still have Canada.

    Seriously, the EU has 50% more population than the US and a higher GDP. Why are we subsidizing their defense?

    Let the Europeans handle the Russians. That’s the first order of business of government, protecting it’s citizens. They *won’t* do it as long as they believe we’ll do it for them.

  6. Tom’s got it right. I’d like to see Germany, Japan, India, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and maybe Malaysia get given permanent seats and vetoes in the UNSC. If that happened, it would be so constipated that even its biggest fans and supporters would eventually abandon any hope of it doing anything non-trivial and useful.

  7. First: anyone who still thinks the UN should not be shut down should go see Hotel Rwanda.

    Second: Do not worry about the EU. It is doomed. The constitution will be rejected by several countries. The growth and stability pact behind the EURO is a joke. Their economies suffer from slow growth and high unemployment. Demographically they are on the edge of the abyss. They are not having children and their imigrants are muslims who will not assimilate, cannot be employed at anything other than menial labor and are becoming a terrorist fifth column.

    Smile baby. You are in the cat bird seat.

  8. Robert, the problem is that if France is converted into an Islamic Republic, it will still have France’s Navy — including its four SSBN’s, each of which carries 16 SLBM’s.

    SSBN == nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine
    SLBM == Sub launched ballistic missile

    I don’t care if the French fry, but I’d rather not join them in the flames if I can avoid it.

  9. If British diplomats were present the pained look on their face was probably due to trying to think of a polite way to say “up yours, Fritz.”

    But in respect of NATO, the issue has othes angles to it.
    The end of NATO and its replacement by an alliance nominally European, effectively directed from Paris (albeit practically useless), has been a French goal since the end of the Fourth Republic, and seriously played for since the Soviet collapse.

    IMHO this (rather than economic interests, “Arabist” strategy, domestic opinion, or *snort* the personal touchiness of Jaques Chirac) was the prime motivator of French policy re. Iraq.

    By exploiting German politics of a weak SPD government vulnerable to its left, and on the UNSC, France moved Germany into an increasingly anti-American position, and sustained this by repeatedly re-igniting the issue even after the UNSC nonsense was over.
    (If Russia was aware of this, it might also partly explain Putin’s approach: Russia too would like to see NATO gone, and a US/German breach is the most rapid route there.)

    If Washington/Berlin estrangement can be made permanent, and translated into changed security policies, Paris at last has a chance of reconstructing European alliances.
    If France directs policy, and Germany remains in tow, Belgium follows naturally, and then it becomes a matter of playing on various political alignments and economic and diplomatic levers within the EU. At which the French are very adept.

    For much of the rest of Euro-NATO, including states inclined to US alliance, such as Poland, Italy, UK, Czech Republic etc., this would be disaster.

    Granted, it would not be much of setback for US security if NATO does fold, given the political unreliability and/or military incapacities of many of its members.
    But NATO in itself is hardly so harmful as to warrant being discarded entirely.
    Particularly at the cost of severe damage to the interests of genuine US allies, and doing exactly what the French govt. wants you to do, merely for the pleasure of saying “screw you” to Germany (oh, and Belgium, as if it mattered).

  10. Well if they overthrow the republic, we can always do like the brits & deliver an ultimatuim to the navy. & then blow the piss out of it…

  11. Michael, You see NATO as a defense organization. I see it as a cover story for an Army of Occupation. As long as it keeps the peace it’s worth the money for me.

    And, as Mr. Farren p0oints out, how it advances our interests against our true enemy, France, is unclear.

  12. I’ll comment about this later at length. Just a couple of points: I don’t see why it is an enormity that Germany wants a set in the Security Council. I especially don’t see why Frum is so upset about it, for he thinks that the UN is obsolete anyway.

    And there is this:

    Despite the confrontation over Iraq, despite German technology sales to Iran, despite the enthusiasm of Germans for the conspiracy theories of Michael Moore and Andreas von Bulow (polls show that one out of three Germans under 30 believe the US government staged the attacks of September 11 2001), Americans continue to believe that the Europe and the Germany of 2005 are the same as those of 1985.

    Disagreements over Iraq or not, Germany has thousands of troops in Afghanistan, Germany stopped selling the sale of nuclear technology to Iran as soon as the Shah was gone, and there are a lot of conspiracy theorists all ovcer the world, so there is harldy anything unique to Germany about this.

    There also is a good argument for a common defense: Europe and America are Siamese twins, as far as their economies are concerned, and the mutual integration and dependence are constantly growing.

  13. Robert,

    the EU is not doomed. That is just your wishful thinking. Some Eastern European countries will lose a lot people, but not France and Germany. Neither wiol be overrun by Muslims. And even all that you said were true it would be absolutely catastrophic for the US.

  14. IMHO {the end of NATO} (rather than economic interests, “Arabist” strategy, domestic opinion, or *snort* the personal touchiness of Jaques Chirac) was the prime motivator of French policy re. Iraq.

    John, I agree. Except I think an Arabist policy also contributed. I fail to see how that changes anything. Chirac, DeVillepin, Schroeder, et al, understood what they were doing. The Euro-US fight over Iraq was *not* a misunderstanding in any way shape or form. It was the result of a deliberate change in Euro policy direction. The Europeans know this. The Russians and Chinese know. Everyone knows except Americans, who’re in denial. This is what Frum is pointing out.

    My point is that while the US remains in NATO, the Europeans are free to make all the mischief they want without facing the consequences. Whatever trouble results, they know the US will deal with it regardless of they do. That’s a bad situation. It’s counterproductive for them and us.

    for the pleasure of saying “screw you” to Germany

    This has nothing to do with screwing the Krauts. The longer we coddle Europe and shield them from their own policy choices, the longer they’ll make mischief. If they’re left to face the world, without the option of running to the US when things get dangerous and ugly, the more likely they’ll begin to make rational long term policy choices.

    NATO is retarding the development of Europe as a mature society.

  15. You see NATO as a defense organization. I see it as a cover story for an Army of Occupation.

    Richard, that was true for a long time. It stopped being true around 1980, at the latest.

    As long as we continue to believe that NATO is good for the US, or even good for the Europeans, we’ll continue to make bad policy choices. Believing in NATO is like believing in the UN. It’s a mirage.

  16. I don’t see why it is an enormity that Germany wants a set in the Security Council

    Ralph, see my original post I linked above.

    From the perspective of European nations, which is what Frum is talking about, the question is, Why? Is the EU to be a single nation or not? If it is, why does Germany want a UNSC seat to itself? Does California have it’s own seat? Aren’t the UK and French seats going to be combined into a single EU seat. Aren’t you supposed to have a single foreign policy? Is Germany putting itself above the other EU members? Or merely separate from them?

  17. “The sometimes hysterical aversion of many in Europe to George W. Bush is not the cause of this drift. It is a manifestation of the drift…”

    I remember Lex once asking “who are ‘we’?”, we meaning the “West”. The two centers of the developed world are drifting apart for reasons more profound than those regularly discussed. This article (some philosophy, be alerted) is a shot at explaining why.

  18. Michael,

    the EU is never going to be a single nation. The constant expansion alone will see to that. We just took in 10 new mebers, in 2007 or 2008 Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria will join if everything works as planned, and in 2015 to 2020 it’s going to be Turkey. The EU is going to become less, and not more integrated.

    The same goes for a common foreign policy. We are lucky if we can avoid working at cross-purposes, which is what we did as far as Yugoslavia was concerrd. Germany was pro-Croatian, France and Britain were pro-Serbian, and the European paralysis resulted from that.

    All that said I don’t think that there is a convincing case for permanent German membership in the Security Council. Schröder basically wants it as a status symbol, and I haven’t heard anyone giving me a better case for it.

  19. Ralf,

    After the formation of US, Many Americans labored under the illusion they were Virginians first, Americans only incidentally. That’s what led to the civil war.

    You’ll have a common currency, a common market, open internal borders, and a federal structure and constitution that supercedes local laws. If that’s not the definition a single nation, I don’t what is.

    The first generations there will feel more German or French or Italian that European. That will fade away over time. They’ll see themselves eventually as regions of a common country.

  20. Michael:
    I think Arabism, economics and corruption were factors too. Just lower-order ones.

    But I think Frum is making a fundamental mistake. Such developments don’t represent a change in European policy. For the very simple reason that there is no such thing as “European” policy. There are interacting, often opposing policies of various European states.
    German calls for a pemanent UNSC seat demonstrate this.
    (Gaullist)France believes in an abstract Europe least of all: the policies of Paris are intended to serve the interests of France.

    Sure, France is trying to screw you; this is new? But France, with or without Germany (plus Mini-Me Belgium) does NOT equate to Europe.
    Look at the UNSC votes; IIRC the US/UK resolution had stronger support from Europe than ANY other continent.
    And this is not just the “old Europe/new Europe” thing; as well as UK , Poland, Baltic States, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the coalition has included such pillars of “old” Europe as Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal.

    Europe as a whole is NOT set in an immovable anti-American stance. Just because the French throw a hissy fit and the Germans stalk out with them (“Me too! Me too!” Shut up, Belgium.) and motley leftists cheer them on, does not mean some abstract blob called the “Euros” are glaring across the Atlantic at you like a Borg collective with better cheese.

    If you identify Europe with “Chirac, DeVillepin, Schroeder” (and add Zapatero and Prodi for good measure) you are taking the French and the “Franco-bloc” at their own estimation.
    This is what they want you (and us) to believe; this what they want all Europe to accept: that to be legitimate, all European countries’ foreign and security policy should, MUST, follow Paris.

    OK, there are worrying anti-American shifts in European countries public opinions; defence spending could be scaled up (though numbers should be OK – EU states armed forces excluding conscripts c. 1.4 million); I agree that a cold shower of reality might be salutary.
    And, yes, the formal end of NATO could do that. But likely downsides make this a high-risk play; other approaches should be tried first, unless a crisis arises:
    IF the EU constitution is ratified (if it passes in the UK you can paint me green and call me a gherkin) and IF the resulting neo-EU pursues current Franco-bloc anti-American policies THEN Nato is a dead dog.

    But short of that all I can say is, once again: Don’t fall into the French/Gaullist/leftist trap. Don’t do what they so desperately WANT you to do.

  21. Steve: Tutti Respecto, Don. By the time France becomes an islamic republic (~2060) those subs will have long since been sold to Brazil. But now that you mention it. Aren’t we the least bit concerned about how they are targeted now? I would assume that it is the US.

    Ralf: My money is where my mouth is in $.

    Economically, I wouldn’t want to trade places with them. Remember Sweden

  22. This topic is too big for one post.

    We should stay in NATO but we should do two additional things. We should relocate most of our bases to Poland and other parts of New Europe. We should also reduce our troop levels overall. Air and naval forces should stay roughly the same.

    France is too weak to be our greatest enemy. I know they have nukes but so do other, stronger nations. France can harm us but not fatally.

    Finally, with all due respect to the European commentators here, the real reason we are drifting from Europe is that Europe’s day is done. Asia and the Pacific Rim is where the action is this century. After we get deal with the Arab teror menace, our competition with China and budding alliance with India will consume US attention.

  23. France is drifting closer to China and Iran all the time, not because of any common interests beyond anti-Americanism and commercial gain. Down the road, they will have done us a great deal of damage through their dealings with our more belligerent enemies though they will never have the courage to confront us directly. Just as they did in Iraq, supplying Saddam and pushing the Turks to keep the 4ID at sea.

  24. Robert,

    when Europe *stagnates* the world economy is suffering from drag. If Europe’s economies effectively vanished, the consequences would be catastrophic, especially the US. We are talking about many trillions worth simply go8ng away. And don’t forget, in that case the Asian economies won’t be able to grow at all. And even if they, by some miracle, were able to grow (it would take super natural intervention, but just make the assumption right now) it would take them 50 years or more to make up for the loss. That would mean many decades of not just worldwide stagnation, but depression. And without competition from European goods, the Asians would be able to demand far higher prices from you.


    you can put your troops whereever you want to, but why reduce the number of ground troops? THat would put unnecessary restrictions on your strategic options.


    Michael Leeden is the only one who ever claimed that France made Turkey block the 4 ID. He never offered any proof for that, and relied on a single source. If it had really happened a lot of proof
    would have emerged by now.

  25. “when Europe *stagnates* the world economy is suffering from drag. If Europe’s economies effectively vanished, the consequences would be catastrophic, especially the US.”

    Europe has stagnated for the past decade and we have muddled through. By the time it has turned into an oilless province of arabia, India China, latin america and Africa will have long since passed it and we will not miss it.

  26. Robert,

    actually only Germany and to a lesser extent France have stagnated. The rst of Europe has been doing pretty well. And if the supply of European goods and capital suddenly vanished, so would a large part of Amercan wealth, while Latin America, India, China etc would collapse along with us.

    I mean look, economies aren’t autonomous systems. A lot of the wealth you enjoy depends on Europe, and vice versa. That really should be obvious.

  27. Ralf Goergens,

    “if the supply of European goods and capital suddenly vanished”

    Its the “suddenly” that seems important to your thesis. If any area of the world suddenly disconnected from the world economy it would cause real problems.

    Just as a thought experiment consider that if China nuked Taiwan tomorrow it would cause a world wide depression. Conversely, if Taiwan just became slowly uninhabitable due to volcanic activity or the like over a couple of decades, everybody would adapt.

    Likewise, if Europe just slowly stagnates economically the rest of the world will just adapt. The rest of the world need Europe because we are currently so tied into it. Long term though, Europe has no economic function that could not be performed elsewhere.

    Of course, that is true for everybody these days and should give us all pause for reflection.

  28. Shannon. Thank You

    Ralf: Shannon has the point. The time frames I am talking about are decades and generations. Not months and years.

  29. Shannon may have a point, but Ralf is also correct about Germany and somewhat France being the primary stagnant economies in Europe. And the stagnation seems to be due to politically imposed inefficiencies that neither country has the will to rectifiy. They seem to be in the process of implementing the Morgenthau plan voluntarily. This wouldn’t particularly bother me except the French and Germans have been responsible for most of the wars fought in Europe for the past 200 years, at least. As things fail to go well for them, they will be sure to take it out on others at our expense in blood and treasure.

  30. I think the real issue here is not whether Europe is going to implode into a black hole but rather an overall lack of vigor in contemporary Europe. In the parlance, “It’s no longer a happening place.”

    Nobody looks to Europe for intellectual, scientific, technological or cultural leadership or innovation anymore. Europe is where one goes to retire, not to make ones mark. Europe feels old in attitude.

    Perhaps, Europe will shake off this decades long state of clinical depression but I am not optimistic. I hope they do. American having to be the designated driver for planet earth is getting pretty tiresome.

  31. Europe has not and will not recover from 1914 for a long time. Centuries. Unlike the Thirty Years War, all the alternative paradigms proposed by Romanticism have proven to be failures. Europe is without the low level ideological motivations that push a culture to the forefront of human achievement. That is why Islam constitutes such a threat to them. It has more contact with the human spirit than does post-modern Europeanism.

    America is the designated driver until it suffers comparable internal difficulties. As still the last best hope for mankind, I hope that is a long time away. Really, can you imagine anyone but the Americans painting so many Iraqi fingers blue?

  32. Just one comment from the other side of the Atlantic. NATO as it is today is as effective as the UN. I do not think that it will (or should) disappear since it still has a role to play (make France and Germany foreign policy ineffective).

    As of Europe, it will not disappear. It will be more “brown” as is the US now (remember the Mexicans). One thing that is currently happening is that the “caucasians” are moving to the US (including the French). It would be interesting to see inmigration data to the US. How many Europeans are moving or are planning to move in the next five years? I bet that the ones moving are “Stuarts”, Olafssen´s, and even the Ledout´s and not the Abdullah´s, Alí´s…

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