As our readers will readily recall, every negotiation in "Europe", small or large has been prefaced by a great deal of swanking on the part of the British mandarins, who assumed for themselves and informed anyone who would listen and many who would not, that, of course, British diplomacy was the best and they would run rings round these stupid foreigners.
All warnings notwithstanding, they kept saying it. What happened? Each time those despised foreigners ran rings round the FCO’s finest, Britain was taken to the cleaners and the mandarins were left to use their undoubted verbal ability to twist the truth in order to justify whatever surrender had been effected.
They are still doing it, though this time the swanking is done on behalf of “Europe” or the EU, depending on what they are trying to justify and glorify. This time the people we are going to run rings round are the Americans. Well, it ain’t necessarily so. Those despised Americans are not doing that badly.
Of course, according to the Eurocrats and their ideological gurus, the despised Yanks simply do not understand what this new European foreign policy and “soft” power is about, but listening to President Bush, Secretary of State Rice and sundry others, one gets the feeling that, actually, the problem is that they understand all too well. (Sometimes husbands have the same problem with their wives.)
Take Robert Cooper, for instance. He is described as “one of the chief architects” of the common foreign policy, by Saturday’s International Herald Tribune, though one rather wonders how that squares with the history of many decades during which the idea of a common foreign and security policy was being put together.
No matter. A British civil service mandarin is surely the best person to be a chief architect of a supposedly new policy. According to this
Cooper has helped develop the idea of a voluntary, liberal "imperialism": The European Union persuades countries to adopt its peaceful and democratic ways,not by armed conquest but by offering access to its markets, its aid budgets or even the ultimate prize of membership and entry into its councils.Well, one could argue that in order to have armed conquest one must have armed power and the European countries are singularly reluctant to pay for it. Or one could argue that the presence of an ever growing number of French troops in the Ivory Coast is not far short of an armed invasion.
This is not what liberal "imperialism" is about. This is the old way of speaking, the way those nasty Yanks talk (well, some of them). Europe will exert its power differently. It will have armies (what are those planned rapid reaction groups are if not armed forces?) but these will be nice armies. Or so I was told by Gerard Batten, UKIP MEP, who sits on the European Parliament’s Defence and Security Sub-committee.
These nice armies will move into trouble spots and police them. Hang on. Isn’t that what old-fashioned armed conquest about? No, no, no. How could you even think of it in such a way? You do not understand, any more than the Americans do. Or so we have it on Mr Cooper’s authority:
It is an amorphous style of foreign policy that seeks to change the world in ways other than through confrontation or conflict. It is a philosophy, as Bush may discover during his visit, that is at odds with U.S. thinking, at least in its current neoconservative incarnation.Well, he may. Then again, he may discover, or, indeed, has already discovered that:
...in the late 1990s, EU countries agreed to share some aspects of defense. Last year, they set up a European Defense Agency to coordinate aspects such as procurement.Hmm. No wonder the Yanks are confused. This sounds awfully like old-fashioned power display, especially as only a very odd knowledge of geography would describe Congo as being a "nearby trouble spot". And while we are on the subject what precisely did those 800 soldiers achieve in DR Congo?
They are developing "battlegroups" of 1,500 soldiers that the EU can send quickly into nearby trouble spots. Brussels has already sent small forces into Congo and Macedonia. Last autumn, it began its biggest military operation yet when 7,000 troops wearing blue EU armbands took over from NATO soldiers in Bosnia.
Then there is the unfortunate fact that the 7,000 troops were not precisely EU troops, but NATO ones (including Turkish and Canadian ones) who changed arm bands and insignia. Again, the purpose of that change-over does not seem to be all that novel in concept – power strutting of the traditional kind.
What Mr Cooper is advocating and outlining to possibly credulous journalists is our old friend "soft power", invented and elaborated, I am sorry to say, by American academics and writers like Andrew Moravchik and Jeremy Rifkin.
The original idea of the common foreign and security policy was not really anything very new: the defence of member states was to be integrated to give real power to the newly emerging state, the European Union.
That sort of thing needs investment and the member states were not prepared to put real money in.
It needs an agreement to integrate the forces and create a genuinely single policy and the member states had no intention of doing that.
Finally, it needs some commonality of interest but despite much talk of the need for “Europe” to speak with a single strong voice, nobody has ever been able to define what that single strong voice was to say, apart from that it should be the opposite of what America is saying.
The moment there was a real crisis, the Iraqi war, all pretence at a common policy disappeared. It is not so much a transatlantic rift that the war caused but a rift within the European Union and what Barroso may well be hoping from President Bush’s visit is that by making emollient noises towards France and Germany who had led the opposition to the war, Bush will actually help to heal the rift within the Union.
How these people imagine that they can be America’s equal rival when all their thoughts and hopes revolve round America remains a mystery.
Faced with all these problems of creating real alternative power (and let us recall that the European Union has helped to shackle the economies of the member states, thus making it impossible for them to compete with America or, for that matter, the Asian countries in a way that would make perfect sense) it was necessary to create an alternative scenario; one in which "Europe" is seen to be achieving much while achieving next to nothing.
Europeans will present a unified front on lifting the arms embargo on China,disarming a nuclear Iran diplomatically and implementing the Kyoto accord,issues that the entire EU supports but that Washington opposes.This does not seem all that difficult to understand, particularly as it has all been repeated many times. The problem is to pretend that it makes sense or has any logic behind it.
In his analysis, Cooper describes the EU countries as post-modern states that have pooled sovereignty and rely on mutual interference in one another's affairs.They no longer think of security in exclusively military terms, and this philosophy is carried over into the EU's external policy.
The aim of that policy for the EU, he argues, should be to foster a "circle of friends" around its borders. The tool it uses to attract these friends is the prospect of closer ties and a share in the EU's prosperity and political stability. "We have enormous power of attraction," Cloos said.
This lure of membership brought Mediterranean countries such as Spain into the Western European fold and converted most of the former Warsaw Pact countries into well-functioning democracies.
Now it is having the same effect on Turkey and Ukraine as they bolster democracy and get closer to EU membership.
For example, according to the doctrine of "soft power", the EU waves its non-military magic to bring countries to the wonderful concepts of freedom and democracy, as well as liberal capitalism.
The first thing one must say about that is that the EU is not a democracy but a managerial state, whose ruling elite is not accountable to anyone in its legislating and regulating activity.
Nor is it a liberal capitalist entity, having entirely forsaken the very concept of a free market in favour of a tightly controlled and regulated structure.
Then we come to the actual substance of what it is the Europeans are going to say to Bush in their "shared voice". The first of these points is the lifting of the arms embargo on China.
How exactly has the sale of arms to a highly belligerent country, whose militarism is threatening to upset the security balance of East Asia, who actively menaces the West’s democratic allies and whose human rights record is among the worst, become a matter of pride; a showpiece of "soft power" that involves countries in a network of democracies?
Does Mr Cooper seriously believe that China will somehow throw off its present political habits as it buys some arms from European manufacturers, see the light and become a democratic, liberal country? Surely not. He is after all one of our highly educated brilliant mandarins.
The other two contentious issues are slightly less ridiculous but not much. We have written much on Iran and I shall, therefore, merely recapitulate.
The United States does not oppose peaceful solution. On the contrary, Secretary of State Rice pronounced herself to be in favour of the Anglo-Franco-German initiative. It is just Iran should start pulling its weight, otherwise the matter should be taken to the United Nations Security Council.
Precisely why do Britain, France and Germany object to taking the issue to the UN Security Council? Normally, they jump up and down with excitement when the words are mentioned. Could it be that they are trying to use the issue of Iran and nuclear power to display that much vaunted but so far unnoticed in real life, “European” power?
Are they playing the same game they were playing at the beginning of the Yugoslav war, which was described as a European problem to be solved by Europeans? We know what happened there. Ten years of ferocious fighting, thousands of people killed, many more dispossessed, and NATO, led by the Americans had to move in to impose some kind of order.
It is, furthermore, time to stop arguing that it was the beneficent impact of the EU that brought democracy to Spain, Portugal and then the East European countries. All these countries became democracies of their own will.
Indeed, as the East Europeans were making colossal efforts to destroy the communist system and its remnants, the European Union sat around humming and haing and wondering whom to take in. They refused to help by opening trade and when some of the countries formed a potentially useful Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA), the EU moved in swiftly to destroy it.
As the East Europeans joined the EU after jumping through many hoops they found that many of their reforms have had to be reversed in economic and political terms. "Soft power", in this case, has been destructive to the new liberal order.
We have seen the EU's helplessness and uselessness in Ukraine, when Solana ran around trying to talk to everyone, please everyone and impose stability when the Ukrainians wanted freedom and transparency.
Ukraine is not being invited into the club, for fear of offending Russia. Turkey is being put off for fear of offending just about everybody, even Colonel Gaddafi. This kow-towing to the West’s enemies, inability to agree on any principles and being friendly with every dictator around may be soft but it is hardly powerful.
It is certainly anti-American. And, I am sad to say, the American administration and its advisers, are beginning to understand this all too well.