Tuesday, February 18, 2003
I was arguing well before the current fracas with France that America should be opposing the growth of Europe because every nation that joins the EU will become a French satellite. We should have no objection if France and Germany want to unite into one country, any more than we did when Czechoslovakia decided to become two countries. But we should very strongly oppose a dynamic whereby all sorts of friendlies - like Poland - are made to understand that they *must* become French satellites if they are to be economically viable. An independent Poland is more valuable to us than a Poland advocating for us inside the EU. Ditto Britain. To that end, pace Mark Steyn's very insightful column, our interests and France's are not so much opposed. France wants Britain outside of the EU. So do we. Also Spain, Italy, Poland, Czechia - any country willing to be free of the EU is probably still a valuable ally, and one we want outside of the EU.
I don't think Steyn is right that Chirac is politically vulnerable. I think he's a classic Frenchman, and that the foreign policy he's following is classically French. Regardless of the outcome of the war in Iraq, France - not Chirac - is moving in the direction of not being an ally. They might be helpful on one issue but not on another. They are unlikely in the extreme to actually go to war with America. They are probably best compared to Russia: not really an ally, and certainly a rival, but a country useful to have a positive relationship with. Better than China. Nothing comparable to Britain, or Australia, or Poland, or even India or Turkey.
If there's a country at the crossroads, it's Germany. Before the recent election and the Iraq war, the Germans were moving in the direction of favoring a more democratic, federal EU modelled on Germany itself. This was at odds with a French vision of an EU as a confederation of states with a strong Presidency. In the former vision, populous Germany would be like California in America: the most powerful region, capable of politically swaying the Continent by sheer bulk. The EU would provide Germany with a way to escape the horror of German history without renouncing all claims to power and influence. In the latter, French vision, diplomatically dominant France would be the dominant power, as the strong French state projected itself into the EU Presidency and so held sway over the entire continent of Europe. This was the logical conclusion of DeGaul's original vision of the EU as an instrument of French national aggrandizement.
At the time these visions were first articulated, I argued that the German vision was not particularly threatening to America. If the EU became a democratic nation, it's not obvious to me that its interests would strongly diverge from America's; and if a settled political structure developed with popular authorization, then new states would know what they were joining (and would not join it if they cherished their independence). Well, since the elections and the Iraq war, Schroeder has thrown himself fully behind the French vision and effectively repudiated the historic post-war alliance with America. It's not 100% clear to me if this has made Schroeder less or more popular. His poll numbers stink - but they did so before he turned into an anti-American radical. I'm not sure the German people know what they want. For that matter, I don't think the Italians or the Spaniards know what they want. Italy and Spain have right-wing governments with an interest in supporting the U.S.; Germany has a left-wing government with an interest in opposing the U.S. If Spain had a Socialist government and Germany had a CDU government, their positions might be reversed.
I think it's important for America to get the message out to Germany that it is indeed at a crossroads. That the historic path laid out by Konrad Adenauer is in jeopardy, and the road back may be difficult. German identity as part of a united West is at risk. Those Germans who flinch from the horror of German history should fear the path they are heading down. How humiliating would it be, after all, to trade being an American ally for being a French poodle?