Thursday, January 23, 2003
William Safire has a really good column today about Franco-Germany's position on Iraq and the coming changes in governance of the European Union.
There are a bunch of foreign-policy topics on which I am a heretic from the conservative consensus. One of the biggies is: I am very strongly against EU enlargement. Some conservatives want to keep Britain out of the EU. I want to keep Britain, Poland, Czechia, Turkey, Switzerland - if I could achieve it, I would limit the EU to France, Germany and the BeNeLux.
Why? The usual conservative argument for EU expansion is twofold: first, expansion will make it more unwieldy and ineffective, which is deemed a good thing; second, getting more pro-American countries into the EU will tilt it more in an American direction.
The second argument I think is badly wrong. The EU will necessarily tilt against America. The purpose of NATO was once described by a Brit as: keep the Russians out, the Germans down and the Americans in. The EU was designed by Charles de Gaul to give the French the bridle, the Germans the bit and the Yanks the boot. The whole idea of the EU is to create a counterweight to America.
Moreover, the center of gravity in the EU will always be the core region of France, Germany and the BeNeLux. Everyone else basically gets paid off in subsidies to support the Franco-German hegemony. The notion that the French and Germans would let the Czechs tell them what to do is laughable. The Czechs will simply be ordered to change their foreign policy to comply with dictates from Brussels (in fact, they already have when they demonstrated too much sympathy for Israel), and if their feelings are hurt they will be tossed some farm subsidies as consolation. If we let pro-American nations get swallowed up by the EU, we will simply lose those friends, not gain in influence.
As for the making the EU ineffective: why is this a good thing? Our prosperity is tied to European prosperity. Our ability to defend our mutual interests is hamstrung by Continental refusal to shoulder their share of the defense burden. And moreover, the weakness of our allies is a major irritant to them, a source of ressentiment that drives them in an anti-American direction.
But most importantly: a weak, sprawling, bureaucratic EU is credibly presenting itself to the world as an alterantive model for planetary governance to national sovereignty. This is very dangerous to America. By contrast, a compact EU would very clearly be nothing more than a new country in the making. It might be friendly or hostile to America, but it would not be by its very nature a threat to the international order.
And relatedly: a sprawling, ineffective EU will be of necessity undemocratic. Power is already increasingly flowing to unaccountable bureaucrats and away from elected bodies. The bigger the EU gets, the more that process will accelerate. But if the EU were compact and manageable, then the demand would be for an effective - and democratic - federalism, and therefore for power in the EU to be vested in a directly elected Europe-wide parliament. And if we believe all this talk we spew about how democracies don't naturally fight each other, then we should care whether the EU evolves in a liberal-democratic or an authoritarian-bureaucratic direction.
Prior to this last round of Franco-German deal-cutting, there was a real dispute between the two European powers about the future of the EU. The German vision was of a federal structure modelled on Germany, where the individual states retained considerable power and independence, but where Europe got a real national government, its power concentrated in a parliament that was directly elected. This served German interests; Germany will always have some difficulty throwing its weight around as Germany because of its . . . delicate history. But Germans, as equal European citizens, could certainly dominate a democratic Europe, much as California and Texas have enormous influence over American politics and cultural development. France, by contrast, favored a Europe of states, but one where the leading states would exercise direct power over the smaller states of Europe through a strong Presidency. This model favors French interests, because France would inevitably be the leading state to exercise this power, more powerful than any rival but Germany or Britain, and less likely to offend small-state sensibility than either of these. (France, moreover, has a stronger national identity than Germany, and would be less willing to give it up to a European identity - something that Italians, for example, have positively welcomed.)
Now it seems that Germany is backing France's vision, and making it clear that they will not be shy about throwing their weight around within Europe. What possible reason, then, is there for America to support the emergence of this new European nation? It is increasingly clear that it will not be a democracy as we understand such things. Its reason for being will be to thwart America. And it threatens to gobble up all the states who are inclined in a friendly direction. Why is EU expansion a good thing for the U.S.?
The only benefit the EU brings to the U.S. is that it makes it ever less plausible that France and Germany will ever go to war again. But if the price of continental peace is looming conflict with America, is it worth it?
Better we should drive a stake into this vampire before it's too late. Expand NAFTA across the Atlantic: invite Britain, Turkey, Poland, Czechia, anyone else we like to join. Upgrade our bilateral defense relationships with these same countries. Deny the EU access to NATO troops or NATO support for any defense infrastructure they undertake to build. Declare that any EU seat at the international table - at the U.N., for instance - comes at the expense of seats for member states.
No reason, of course, to specifically try to antagonize Franco-Germany. Our interests coincide in most ways. We have a lot of culture in common. Our economies are deeply intertwined. If they were more successful, they would probably resent us less, and be more useful allies. But let's not bet our security on it.