By John Williams
Question: What links the first public opinion poll comparing American and European attitudes towards American foreign policy to demonstrations at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales on the north Yorkshire Moors? Answer: Geo-political logic? Question: What triggers this fidgeting within the European political establishment? Answer: The dichotomy between received political wisdom and geo-political logic.
Received political wisdom has it that the process of European integration is ultimately compatible with Atlanticism. This received political wisdom, accepted even by those adamantly opposed to Atlanticism, assumes that rifts within transatlantic relations are the exception rather than the rule.
The history of Atlanticism, viewed from a detached perspective, embarrassingly highlights the mythological content of such received political wisdom. Perceived from such a detached perspective, Atlanticism’s history is as follows:
1940s United States opposition to European Colonialism;
1950s United States dictates Anglo-French withdrawal from Suez, symbolising the end of European colonialism and the assertion of United States colonialism;
1960s Failure of supra-national transatlantic defence project symbolised by French withdrawal from Nato’s military command;
1970s transatlantic conflict over Middle East oil;
1980s transatlantic conflict over Siberian oil pipeline and European grass-roots opposition to deployment of United States missiles on European soil;
1990s Escalating transatlantic trade conflicts failing to be suppressed by crisis management;
2000s Escalating transatlantic trade conflicts failing to be suppressed by crisis management, transatlantic conflict over global environment management, European opposition to United States intelligence surveillance of European commercial interests, transatlantic conflict over Europe’s assertion of it’s security and foreign policy independence.
That received political wisdom successfully presents Atlanticism’s historical record as, in essence, harmonious reflects the skilful maintenance of political mythology against the increasing incursions of evolving geo-political realities.
Not only does geo-political logic question received political wisdom; the logical evolution of geo-politics is unavoidably supplanting the assumed logic of received political wisdom.
The emergence of geo-political logic asserting itself over to Atlanticist mantra of received political wisdom recently found expression in the form of a public opinion poll comparing European and American attitudes towards United States foreign policy. Published by the New York Herald Tribune and conducted by the Pew Research Centre, a Washington based public opinion poll organisation, the survey illustrates the growing dichotomy at the roots of European Union foreign and security policy development and implementation.
The essence of the survey’s findings is as follows:
The Europeans had significantly more confidence in their own national leaders. For each – Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of West Germany, President Jacques Chirac of France, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy – a majority of respondents in his country had a fair amount or a great deal of confidence in him.
“By and large, the American public approves of Bush’s handling of foreign policy,” said Mr. Kohan of the Pew Centre…
By contrast, Europeans expressed little confidence in Mr. Bush. Only 2 in 10 French respondents and somewhat higher proportions of British (30%) and Italians (33%) said that they had a fair degree of confidence, or better, in his conduct of world affairs.
Admittedly the survey observes that: “If there is a bright light in the poll results,” said Andrew Kohan, director of the Pew Centre, “it is that most reject the idea that the U.S. and Europe are drifting apart.” Given the hegemonic Atlanticist interpretation of international relations, however, such findings are inevitable.
The knee-jerk Atlanticist response to this evidence will be that President Bush is exceptional in his apparent lack of sophistication and that the Clinton Presidency was more in tune with European perceptions of American foreign policy. As the above chronology of Atlanticism shows, basic geo-political splits within the Atlantic Alliance increasingly re-occur irrespective of the degree of sophistication of the Administration in Washington at a given period of time. The cold war enabled these re-occurring splits to be hidden. The cold-war era enabled received political wisdom to be hegemonic; to question Atlanticism was to irresponsibly question the so-called realistic balance-of-power. The post-cold-war era is not only making such questions increasingly responsible; it is making such questions obligatory to pursue and act upon.
Post-cold-war logic is asserting itself in the strangest of places, and not just in public opinion polls. Specifically, geo-political logic asserts itself on Menwith Hill and Fylingdales to the latent political advantage of Euro-federalists. Read Nick Cohen:
“Alan Wilson, the chief executive of the North York Moors Park Authority, cuts a nervous figure. The jump repairing landslips on the Cleveland Way to diplomacy of mass annihilation is a long one, and breathlessness must be expected while he is in mid-leap…
“In these circumstances, some ministers and advisers look with pleading eyes towards the councillors of the Yorkshire moors. If the Americans are to turn Fylingdales into a Star Wars base, they must expand the facility and apply for planning permission to the National Park Authority. Suppose, ministers muse, the councillors and quangocrats tell the Americans to get lost. A national park, after all is meant to encourage hiking and biking, not nuclear proliferation. US officials are hearing whispers from London that expanding the base will lead to protests from not only CND, but also the more formidable forces of the Women’s Institute, the Ramblers’ Association and righteous Yorkshire nimbies.
There would be a fine symmetry if North Yorkshire resisted. Europeans have grown weary of hearing from regretful Americans that the US cannot sign treaties to stop, say, the execution of children, or to eliminate landmines, because Congress won’t stomach any constraints. Imagine the pleasure it would give Cook if he could echo their sighs and tell General Colin Powell Bush’s secretary of state-in-waiting) that, much though he would like to let US forces spread across Yorkshire, Councillor Harold Broadbottom OBE (for a lifetime of service to the sheep-dipping industry) won’t have it.”
Having read Cohen’s observations, place them in geo-political context, a context that relates the requirements of self-sufficient European security to the concept of federalist democratic accountability.
Placed in this context, the relevance of federalist criteria as the means of linkage between local democracy and the geo-political in European security terms comes into focus. It is a focus that not only highlights Nato’s inadequacy as the system of maintaining European security in terms of transnational European democratic accountability. Of greater potential significance, it is a focus that highlights the need for the application of federalism as the means of rooting European security within a framework of democratic accountability based on the principles of subsidiarity.
The phrase suppressive schizophrenia crystallises the European political establishment’s conceptualisation of Europe’s security requirements. Denying the inevitability of unavailable conflicts of European and American geo-political and geo-strategic self-interest, the European political establishment denies to itself the necessary means of achieving genuinely self-sufficient, democratically accountable European security. The result is that the conflict of Euro-federalist and Atlanticist geo-political logics is resolved through a process of crisis management ensuring the preservation of Atlanticism attitude cost of European security. The cost of achieving this genuinely self-sufficient and democratically accountable European security is a European security tax. This confronts Euro-federalists with the political challenge, a challenge bordering on an obligation, of campaigning for such a European Security tax and the only unite credible means of achieving self-sufficient and therefore democratically accountable European security.
This article was contributed by John Williams, who may be contacted at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.
Read a response to this article by Sir Anthony Meyer here.