Thursday, February 13, 2003

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WILL IRAQ DESTROY THE EUROPEAN UNION?: Josh Marshall has been pretty consistent in blaming the U.S. for the current fraying of transatlantic ties, specifically NATO. [Doesn't Marshall refer to non-European areas as well?--ed. Yes, but that's not what this post is about.] I've written that the U.S. could have been more tactful in their dealings with France and Germany, but Marshall has to face facts -- the current fracas is largely a result of Franco-German bullying and blundering, not U.S. bellicosity.

Critics of the U.S. posture are forgetting that the current split among European countries is not just about Iraq, but the future of the European Union. France and Germany have tried to restore their co-leadership of the EU. They've blocked agricultural reforms, propsed reforms to the European Commission that would weaken the influence of small republics, and generally been prancing around convinced that their bilateral comity would cause the rest of Europe to march behind them.

Well, they screwed up. As the Economist points out, "The [pro-U.S.] gang of eight have, quite deliberately, undermined the idea that the Franco-German couple can continue to set the EU's agenda." Recall Bill Safire's description of the genesis of the gang of eight: "The draft document was then circulated by the Europeans among other leaders thought to be (1) critical of the Franco-German proposal to assert dominance in the European Commission; (2) genuinely worried about their nations' exposure to weapons of mass destruction being developed by Saddam; and (3) eager to express solidarity with the United States, which three times in the past century had saved them from tyrannous takeover." The (now) 18 European countries are sympathetic to the U.S. position on Iraq, but they are most decidedly opposed to the French and Germans trying to speak for them.

Marshall's railing about the fraying of NATO, but neglects to point out that this isn't a case of the U.S. vs. France, Germany, and Belgium -- It's the other fifteen NATO members vs. France, Germany and Belgium. No wonder a German analyst was paraphrased in the New York Times stating, "the debate over Iraq has left in shambles Europe's own supposedly growing unity on the most basic matters of foreign policy and defense."

Now, according to the FT, these intra-European divisions are threatening the EU as well:

"there is a growing sense of foreboding in European capitals that the summit could turn into a showcase of EU division and disharmony.

Romano Prodi, European Commission president, warned that the "total lack of a European common foreign policy" was a disaster in the making.

'If Europe fails to pull together, all our nation states will disappear from the world scene,' he told the European parliament in Strasbourg. 'Unless Europe speaks with a single voice, it will be impossible to continue working closely with the US on a longstanding basis while retaining our dignity.'"

Read the FT article -- there's some good stuff in there about how France, Germany and Belgium are blocking the participation of Eastern European candidate members precisely because of their pro-American views.

The U.S. has not been blameless in recent transatlantic tiffs, but Marshall makes a mistake in apportioning most of the blame on the Bush administration. France and Germany started this latest row, and they now stand to lose the most if these disputes continue.

posted by Dan on 02.13.03 at 10:43 AM