As our readers may know, I took part in a discussion at King’s College, London on the subject of European identity. (My colleague is talking about enlargement even as I type these words.)
The discussion afterwards was quite lively and confirmed my view that the big division is between those, no matter what age, nationality, gender or generation, who think that institutions are essential for everybody’s well-being and decisions on everything must be taken by experts, and those who actually believe in freedom and government accountability.
Inevitably, the question of “Europe” as a strong player on the world scene came up. As usual, I replied that while you can put together any number of structures, committees and commissions, until there is a core agreement on what it is “Europe” wants to achieve, what the purpose of all those structures is, there can be no question of it becoming a superpower that rivals (in a friendly way or otherwise) the United States.
Well, there we are. No sooner said than done. For a time, anyway. “Europe” is once again united, as it was over the mess in the Balkans, once NATO, led by the Americans and the British imposed a kind of a solution.
“Europe” is united in praising the Iraqi elections, which would not have happened if some of those “Europeans” had had their way. It is also united in offering aid to support efforts to support security. Good of them.
France and Germany are now grudgingly agreeing to train a few (800 I believe) Iraqi police officers. Well, every little bit counts.
President Chirac, apparently telephoned President Bush and told him rather grandly that
“The strategy of terrorist groups had partly failed.”Did President Bush manage to keep a straight face? I’d like to think so. Partly failed? Ahem, what was it supposed to achieve? A break-down in the electoral process, I believe. It failed completely. And how much did France or the European Union contribute to that failure? Well, there is that unspecified sum paid over for the two journalists, not to mention peevish opposition to all attempts to rid Iraq of a noxious (but really rather profitable for some people) regime in Iraq.
Joschka Fischer was also quick to make a statement to praise the courage of Iraqi voters.
“They deserve great recognition for the will they have shown to shape the future of the country peacefully and democratically, despite massive intimidation.”They do, indeed and we must not stint our praise and admiration. But, should there not be some acknowledgement of the people who made all this possible: the American, British, Australian, Polish and various other soldiers? And, of course, the Iraqi soldiers and policemen who bought the right "to shape the future" with their blood?
Still, we do now have a “European” consensus. As I have mentioned, we did before, in the Balkans. In fact we had two lots of consensus. First, there was the consensus to prevent a “level killing field” in the fragrant words of the then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, to keep Yugoslavia together even if it meant complete support for Milosevic’s bloody policies.
Then there was another consensus. When Bosnia was allowed its independence and Kosovo a form of autonomy (both Muslim countries, incidentally) by NATO troops, “Europe” once again united to further freedom and democracy in the former Yugoslavia.
None of this precisely makes “Europe” a superpower that will have some influence in the world, especially not influence for what one might describe as liberty. Of course, only those crude Yanks would use such unnuanced expressions.