Sunday, October 09, 2005

It would be a misreading of Europe's elites to see anti-American complaints as isolated gripes which can be overcome through patient dialogue

Karl Zinsmeister adds (emphasis mine):
Unlike some forms of bigotry, anti-Americanism is most virulent among Europe's elites. Everyday Germans and Brits and Italians tend to be more appreciative of American culture, economic achievement, and government than their political lords. But ordinary Europeans have relatively little influence on the direction of their societies. The thing about European governance most striking to American eyes today is its comparatively undemocratic nature. In much of the continent, elections mean little, unaccountable bureaucracies and elites commandeer the most important decisions, the same people hang onto power endlessly, and policies that would not survive the test of popular opinion are simply instituted by administrative fiat. To cite just one example, direct election of mayors has been blocked in many localities, with national authorities insisting on appointing local leaders themselves.

Because of this unrepresentative politics, lots of ideas supported by a majority of the European public--like the death penalty--have no chance of becoming law. The tradition of a peasantry ruled by its "betters" endures in numerous ways. Many of these habits are actually being deepened by the European Union, where decision making is dominated by unrecallable mandarins serving appointments in Brussels, who regularly ram through laws that could never pass by popular referendum.

… An irresponsible preference for moral dudgeon over useful solutions is now a hallmark of European foreign affairs, argues Charles Krauthammer:

“A leftist judge in Spain orders the arrest of a pathetic, near-senile General Augusto Pinochet eight years after he’s left office, and becomes a human rights hero... Yet for the victims of contemporary monsters still actively killing and oppressing—Khomeini and his successors, the Assads of Syria, and until yesterday Hussein and his sons— nothing. No sympathy. No action. Indeed, virulent hostility to America’s courageous and dangerous attempt at rescue.”

Krauthammer's conclusion is that the European Left's "concern for human rights turns out to be nothing more than a useful weapon for its anti-Americanism."

For evidence that obstruction of the U.S. is more important to many European elites than making progress in the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, look no farther than Afghanistan. …

Truth be told, continental Europeans have been making themselves scarce during times of crisis for more than two generations. Their current claim is that lack of a U.N. mandate is what has prevented Europe from standing shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks. But the Old World’s failure to make any proportionate contribution to the war on terror is actually part of a long historical pattern. Consider their response the last time a large U.N.-commanded force went to war—in Korea.

After North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, the U.N. responded militarily. Of the 340,000 troops sent under U.N. control, how many of these do you suppose were European? About 5 percent. In the crunch, only Britain provided meaningful help, sending 14,198 soldiers at the Korean War’s peak. The next biggest European contribution? Greece, with 1,263. France followed, providing all of 1,119 troops.

The U.S., meanwhile, provided more than 300,000 fighters. Do the math and you’ll see something interesting: The Korean War alliance included 16 nations, and America supplied 88 percent of the military manpower. The Iraq War coalition included 32 nations, and 85 percent of the G.I.s were Americans. (Poland, Holland, and the Ukraine each contributed more soldiers to the Iraq War coalition than the French did to the Korean War.) See a pattern?

…Some considerable part of today’s European hostility toward the U.S. is born of frustration over their own failures, and jealousy of American success. …

Unfortunately, a combination of ideological stubbornness and blind anti-Americanism makes many Europeans resist the economic modernizations they desperately need. It’s as if, updating the old slogan, they’d rather be economically dead than red (if we use red in the Election 2000 sense to symbolize Reagan-Bush-style economics). The French have long caricatured the American economy as a free-market jungle, where fatcats prey and the weak perish. Recently, leftists in other European countries have adopted the French stereotype and sought to distance themselves from what they call “Anglo Saxon capitalism.”

The irony is that for all their insistence on portraying the U.S. as a land of fired workers, poverty, and economic insecurity, it is now Europe where unemployment is twice as high and four times as deep, where immigrants and the young have far fewer openings, where the ladder of upward mobility has fallen to pieces. In terms of spending power, home ownership, educational opportunities, and so forth, even relatively low income Americans are now demonstrably better off than typical Europeans …

It is not the first time that Zinsmeister has detailed his personal observances of "the whole panoply of Eurocharacters," along with their "vehemence and envy and certitude" and their "animus, jealousy, and willful spite":
Many of the economic choices, cultural initiatives, and foreign policy decisions being made in Europe today are animated by simple competitive envy.

"It would be a misreading of Europe's political elites to see anti-American complaints as isolated gripes which can be overcome, one by one, through patient dialogue," warned Michael Gove, a perceptive editorialist for London's Times, when I visited his office. "Europe is not begging to differ in particulars, but beginning to diverge in fundamentals."

… We have conventionally thought of Europe as having about the same standard of living as Americans. This is less and less true. For the European Union as a whole, GDP per capita is presently less than two thirds of U.S. levels. America's poorest sub-groups, like African Americans, now have higher average income levels than the typical European.

[A] telling indicator of economic stagnation in Europe is the fact that many or most immigrants to that continent end up on welfare. In the U.S., almost all immigrants grab entry-level jobs, frequently more than one, and work their way up the economic ladder. The easy availability of work--indeed, our economy's insatiable hunger for additional laborers--is the main force that attracts immigrants to the U.S. in the first place.

Even corners of Europe that have resisted excessive government manipulation of the economy are now being dragged toward the statist norm by E.U. rules. Recently the European Court of Justice ruled that British employers must give all part-time workers four weeks of paid vacation, to align their policies with the rest of the European Union. In an effort to guarantee the "good life" by government edict, French, German, Dutch, and other continental finaglers have mandated short work weeks, long vacations, and fat social services, which has driven all dynamism out of their economies.

If no visible alternative loomed, citizens might not realize that better ways of achieving prosperity exist. But any European with eyes can observe that the United States makes very different economic choices, with very different results. Here is one root of the resentment felt by European elites, who would otherwise have a free hand to mold their societies according to their own visions. "The anti-American alliance," noted Michael Gove in the London Times earlier this year, "resents American economic success because it reminds them that their preferred cocktails of protectionism, state regulation, subsidy, and intervention constrict growth. America's practical success is a standing rebuke to their abstract beliefs."

A second divergence splitting Europe from America is defense strategy. When it comes to guarding the peace, current European leaders put all their faith in the endless talk, commissioneering, and resolution-writing of collective diplomacy--what they call "multilateralism" (a term nearly as feeble as the concept). Given Europe's history with the Treaty of Versailles, Neville Chamberlain's Munich Agreement, a biological weapons "ban" secretly violated with impunity by the Soviets and scads of other signatories, plus many more recent failures of "let's pretend" diplomacy in places ranging from Iraq to Rwanda to Bosnia, it's inexplicable that Europeans would bet all future peace on the security of parchment walls. But that's exactly what they're doing.

Charles Krauthammer diagnoses the problem this way: "After half a century under the American umbrella, West Europeans have come to believe that their freedom is self-generated. It is by now, they feel, a simple birthright, as natural as the air they breathe. When they see the United States slaying dragons abroad--yesterday Afghanistan, today Iraq, tomorrow who knows who--they see a cowboy whose enthusiasms threaten to disturb the perfect order of things, best symbolized by the hushed paper-shuffling at the International Criminal Court."

… American military spending now totals more than the next nine largest national defense budgets combined. Even more significantly, the U.S. now pays for almost 80 percent of the world's military R & D.

Without admitting it, the Europeans have essentially decided to rely on the U.S. to keep them safe. … Contrary to Euro myth, America isn't strong because it buys guns instead of butter. Military spending represents only 3 percent of U.S. GDP today. That's down from nearly 7 percent in the 1980s, a level we could return to almost instantly if any serious threat required that. America is powerful militarily simply because it is a highly productive nation, and utterly devoted to defense of its homeland.

… Wishful thinking will not man and equip a carrier battle group, build a missile shield, or otherwise instill the necessary awe in the world's tyrants.

Of course, most European elites deny such measures are necessary. To quote my British friend Mr. Gove again: "Europe's leaders seek to manage conflict through the international therapy of peace processes, the buying off of aggression with the danegeld of aid or the erection of a paper palisade of global law, which the unscrupulous always punch through. Europeans may convince themselves that these developments are the innovations of a continent in the van of progress, but they are really the withered autumn fruits of a civilization in decline."

A final, crushing, structural divergence separating America and Europe is demography. … Europe's disinterest in childbearing is a crisis of confidence and optimism. It is a spiritual indicator, reflecting millions of individual decisions to pursue self interest and material well-being instead of participating in the human future. These individual decisions will have profound collective effects.

… It's quite possible that in coming decades the European Union could simply lock up. The wrong-headed pressures toward centralization and state bureaucracy, the sheer cumbersomeness of its political mechanisms, the wide cultural gaps papered over by the union, could eventually lead to meltdown. How such a collapse might unfold is anybody's guess, but the possibilities are worrisome.

To American eyes, the most striking aspect of the European Union is its undemocratic nature. The E.U. apparatus is exceedingly closed and secretive. Relatively few of the confederation's important decisions are currently made by democratically accountable officials. On front after front, bureaucratic mandarins are deciding how everyday Europeans will live ….

Many Europeans, in a way Americans find impossible to understand, are willing to let their elites lead them by the nose. There is a kind of peasant mentality under which their "betters" are allowed to make the important national judgments for them. "Europe's leaders see themselves as wise parents, and their citizens as children," explains journalist and Briton Clive Crook. "In France, Germany, and the institutions of the European Union, elites take major political decisions and impose them on the voters without consulting them," summarizes John O'Sullivan. "Political elites feel that the people have no right to obstruct the realization of the European dream."

What happens to such a system of governance if things go wrong and popular unrest bubbles up is not clear. But the history of earlier multinational collectives in Europe, like the Hapsburg and Tsarist empires, Napoleonic France, the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, and the former Yugoslavia, is not soothing. And even if ethnic blow-ups could be avoided, a withered Europe would not be a good thing. Among other effects, "a weakened Europe is likely to grow more resentful toward America," warned British journalist Charles Moore in a lecture to the New Atlantic Initiative last year, "rather than blaming themselves."

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