Research / Other publications
It described those eminent persons -- the heads of professions, business leaders, retired politicians, distinguished judges, foundation executives, trade union notables -- whom the government would occasionally call to serve on boards, commissions and other bodies as non-partisan representatives of the public interest. Their main role on such commissions is to identify a particular public policy as necessary, desirable and, in effect, binding on all political parties. Few British governments can withstand a really determined Royal Commission. Today the British refer to such people, only half in jest, as "the Great and the Good." Americans, cherishing the myth of a classless society, are more reluctant to admit an establishment of their own. The original WASP version is popularly believed to have died away circa 1965. But it is in the nature of establishments that they are accurately identified only in retrospect. No-one talked about the WASP establishment until it was in visible decline. And today's establishment, no longer WASP but still WASPish in tone and method, also hibernates much of the year in colleges and boardrooms, emerging only occasionally to instruct Washington on how to deal with some particularly intractable crisis.
Earlier this month, there was a rare sighting of the establishment at one of its regular habitats -- the Council of Foreign Relations in New York -- where it emitted its familiar mating cry: a report on U.S.-European relations. Many such reports have been issued over the decades. But there was a peculiar force and poignancy to this particular cry, as if the establishment sensed a mortal threat to its favorite stamping ground.
The names on the report were in themselves testimony to the establishment's concern. Its joint chairmen were Dr. Henry Kissinger and Harvard President Lawrence Summers. Ordinary members included such stalwarts of official Atlanticism as Gen. Brent Scowcroft from the first Bush National Security Council, Reginald Bartholemew, a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and Harold Brown, formerly Defense Secretary in the Carter administration. They were joined by distinguished European counterparts such as the former Italian Prime Minister, Giulio Amato, and the former Polish finance (and foreign) minister, Andrzej Olechowski.
What makes an establishment an establishment, however, is its ability to absorb and digest potential critics from all parts of the spectrum. And the younger members of this committee included such wayward intellects as the neo-conservative Robert Kagan (who popularized the argument that Americans will be the dominant hegemonic power for the indefinite future as Europe declines into moralistic senescence) and the liberal internationalist Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University, the CFR, and the Clinton Administration (whose last book argued that Europe was destined to be a great power that would limit and correct the dangers of U.S. hegemony in a unipolar world. )
Agreement would seem very unlikely in such a heterogeneous group. Again, however, it is in the nature of establishments to blur differences and to smooth edges in the larger interests of bending governments to their will.
In this case, the establishment wants to compel the Bush Administration to take alliance relations more seriously and, in particular, to abandon any hint of unilateralism in rhetoric and policy. And it produced a united report to that solemn effect.
The report's starting point -- that U.S.-European relations are extremely important -- is undeniable. A united Western alliance would shape world institutions in line with values and practices rooted in liberty and democracy and coax rising powers such as India and China into going along with this international status quo for the foreseeable future. Indeed, this is already happening as China accepts liberal economic rules at home in order to enter institutions such as the G7 and the World Trade Organization.
By contrast, a disunited West would tempt such powers to play off Europe and America against each other and foster a global jockeying for power not unlike the maneuvering between a half-dozen great powers that led to 1914.
The Committee also identifies some of the specific underlying problems in the Atlantic relationship and suggests reasonable solutions to them. Thus, it is certainly true that the Iraq war dramatized a difference in outlook on international affairs between the U.S. and continental Europe that had really existed since September 11. And it is equally true, that if Europe and the U.S. were to make greater use of multilateral institutions to define and respond to common threats, then the Atlantic alliance would function more harmoniously (though that would also require neither side employing multilateralism as a device to frustrate the other's policy.)
In the middle of these almost platitudinous proposals, however, there suddenly erupts this point (as quoted in the New York Times): "Europe's leaders must resist the temptation to define its identity in opposition to the United States; American leaders must resolve their long-standing ambivalence about the emerging European entity. As long as the EU frames its policies in complementary terms, Washington should continue to regard Europe's deepening and widening as in America's interest."
As the old academic joke goes, this is like the clock striking thirteen. The thirteenth stroke is not only false in itself, but it casts doubt on all that has gone before.
In the week that the Spanish government had been making clear that it intends to join France and Germany in their stance of hostile suspicion towards the U.S., this juxtaposition blithely underestimates the developing dynamic of European politics namely, the rise of anti-Americanism as the dominant ideology of a united Europe.
This dynamic arises from three powerful undercurrents in European politics:
Taken together, these three trends ensure that the more united Europe becomes, the more anti-American it will be. Asking European leaders not to employ this anti-Americanism as the building block of a new European identity is a wholly inadequate response to this dynamic. European leaders will be perfectly happy to make statements to this effect, as they have in the past -- some sincerely, some not -- but such statements will neither determine nor predict future policy. Even Tony Blair¹s assurances that Britain would halt the common European defense policy before it undercut NATO melted away into nothingness when France and Germany turned up the heat. Their main effect was to sedate the U.S and in particular President Bush.
Similarly, some of the CFR's practical proposals might temporarily soften the edges of this developing anti-Americanism. For instance, asking Europe to accept the principle of preventive war in return for Washington's agreement to keep it as a solution of last resort is a reasonable compromise that might appease responsible European public opinion. But such measures can do little more than retard the anti-American dynamic of unity.
In these circumstances, the report's plea that the U.S. should continue supporting ever-closer European integration amounts to an argument for entrenching that anti-Americanism and making it even more powerful. If a united anti-American Europe were inevitable, there might be a case for appeasing it in advance by these methods. But it is very far from being inevitable; indeed, the present degree of integration and thus of anti-Americanism would not have been reached if the U.S. had not anticipated the CFR's advice more or less consistently since the early fifties.
There are in fact several possible European futures inherent in the present -- some federal, some not, some anti-American, some not. And these different possibilities rest on the central fact that not all Europeans are anti-American. There are strong sectors of pro-American opinion in every European country. But consistent pro-Americanism is in a minority throughout Europe even when it is the majority opinion in particular countries such as Poland and Britain. And in addition the institutional rules and incentives of the EU push even pro-American countries to adopt integrationist policies that have anti-American implications. As a result of both tendencies, closer European integration ensures that an anti-American "common European policy" -- most significantly in defense and foreign policy -- is likely to override the pro-American attitudes of European Union member-states.
Some observers thought that this could be avoided. They calculated that "New Europe's" arrival inside the European Union, together with the pro-Washington stances adopted by Spain and Italy over the Iraq war, would give the pro-Americans an equality of power and influence with the anti-Americans inside EU structures. Even if that calculation had been correct, the balance of that power would have been an exceedingly fine one.
It would almost certainly have been tipped on most issues in an anti-American direction by the institutional biases of the EU towards de facto anti-Americanism. But even the slender chance of occasional pro-American victories has now been removed by the results of the Spanish election. Spain will now join France and Germany in institutional anti-Americanism. There no disguising the reality that Europe is building an anti-American structure. Yet the CFR argues that the U.S. should continue its long post-war policy of assisting and encouraging that construction.
Of course, a committee that contains distinguished European politicians was never going to reach any other conclusion. "The European Idea" has replaced Christianity as the principal religion of France, Germany and most of Western Europe. It is a slight mystery, however, that a panel of distinguished Americans should unanimously go along with them.
One can perhaps see the fine Italian hand of Professor Kupchan in this recommendation. After all, he thinks that a strong social democratic Europe restraining the U.S. in a multilateral world would be a desirable outcome. Mr. Kagan's acquiescence may also be understandable since he believes that Europe has left the power game forever and that the U.S. can afford to let Europeans cultivate their garden in peace and quiet while Washington runs the world. From entirely opposite standpoints, both men think that the rise of a united anti-American Europe is nothing much to lose sleep over.
Surely Henry Kissinger, however, cannot share this complacency. He knows that rising powers rarely cultivate gardens -- and Europe, though apparently senescent today, might start having babies and marching again with very little advance warning. Given these historical possibilities, the U.S. might be better advised to quietly divide Europe in order to keep the West united and the world unipolar.
Perhaps, however, the key word in that sentence is "quietly." European integration has proceeded to the point where open U.S. opposition would provoke a serious crisis within Atlanticism. Washington might not emerge the victor from such a crisis. In addition, a policy of candid realpolitik is not to be expected from a CFR committee. Establishments cloak daggers and place velvet gloves on iron fists from habit as much as from policy. It is not impossible that some members of the CFR committee were placing two quite different bets when they made their eirenic proposals.
One bet was that Europe would respond with a genuine willingness to reach a new Euro-American "Grand Bargain" -thus demonstrating that its anti-American drift was reversible and undermining the thesis of this article. If so, well and good. The CFR committee could be the start of something big.
On the other hand, if Europe resumed its current anti-American course after a polite interval, the second bet would come into play. The CFR's recommendations would kick off a covert American campaign to win over some European states to Washington's viewpoint much more permanently and thus to undermine (or "disaggregate") the undivided European integration that America has supported until now. A covert campaign might begin with encouraging some friendly European governments to lose their referendums on the proposed European constitution. But it would eventually have to advocate "harder" and more controversial policies: the transformation of the EU from a federal state into more flexible confederal institutions; urging pro-American countries to retain their sovereignty and independent foreign policies inside these looser arrangements; and establishing Atlanticist structures s such as a transatlantic free trade area to entrench the Euro-American link against Franco-German resistance. This "deep" Atlanticism would finally need to be backed by a serious U.S. public diplomacy campaign to counter the ideology of anti-Americanism as European communism was ideologically opposed from the early days of the cold war.
If the CFR proposals contain the germ of this approach, then they amount to a very late start to a very necessary campaign. If they are what they seem on the surface, however, they mark the Washington establishment's sorrowful acceptance that the West is finally ceasing to exist.
Original article here.