March 11, 2003
by Craig Kennedy
CRAIG KENNEDY: Thanks so much, Herb. It’s so great to be here in Indianapolis. If you’re a farm boy from South Dakota, coming to a big city like Indianapolis is a real treat and frankly, if you’re someone who spends a lot of your time in Berlin and Paris, it’s awfully nice to speak in front of a friendly crowd for a change.
So I really enjoy it. It’s a special pleasure to be here tonight because one of the people whom I really admire most in terms of thinking on Europe is with us tonight, Gary Geipel. The good news is that I’ll be very careful about what I say about Germany and Europe because, frankly, Gary knows an awful lot and there won’t be any fudging that I’d be able to get away with.
This is a really interesting time to talk about this topic. I think if they had sent out a notice four years ago that we’re going to spend an evening talking about U.S./European relations, only people that suffered from profound insomnia would show up.
Believe me, as someone who went out and did those kinds of speeches, it was something—
—where we’d have this table and it would only be half filled because people would have canceled out at the end. It was just considered the absolute most boring topic. There were a few bright spots. Some of the things going on in Central and Eastern Europe and John Clark, who is also with Hudson and really one of the people that was extremely important for a lot of the most positive intellectual developments that we see in Central and Eastern Europe, has been a real beacon for many of the think tanks and other organizations there. He was probably the one person that worked in an area that had some level of interest in the United States. But for the most part, if you came and said, “I want to talk about the United States and E.U.,” people would doze off. And now it’s completely changed. I mean the other day I was at a meeting, and last night actually when they were introducing me and the person who introduced me was trying to be very profound, but he slipped a little bit. He was talking about the great long-time partnership between the United States and Europe and he kept referring to it as “this hysterical relationship.”
Well, in many ways it is hysterical. So I assume now I’ve gotten enough laughs out of the crowd that I don’t have to tell my five French jokes.
You can wait and see those tonight on Jay Leno. Here’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about why things are so bad between the United States and Europe and then talk about if they’re getting better and I’ll give you advance warning, I don’t think that they are, or I think it’s unlikely. But let me start out with a simple statement. The problems between the United States and Europe have nothing to do with Iraq. How many people agree with that? Okay. Believe me, they have nothing to do with Iraq. So I’ll take it as my job tonight to convince you that that’s true. The key issue that’s at play here between the United States and Europe is the control in use of American military power. Europeans of all stripes, from Tony Blair to Jacques Chirac, want some say in how the U.S. deploys its vast military assets. Understandably, all American policy makers, with maybe a few exceptions on the far Left and far Right, don’t want to just automatically cede control, or any level of control, to the Europeans for that purpose. That’s the key difference. Yes, there are differences in tactics within Europe and the United States, but very large majorities on each side would take this position. Tony Blair is engaging in just another version of what Jacques Chirac is doing in its approach, and I’ll tell you why. Frankly, I’d rather have Tony Blair, but it still has the same emphasis.
Here’s what I’m going to try to do tonight. I’m going to try to look at the implications of this argument and those of you who read in the foreign policy area will recognize that a good deal of the inspiration for this comes from an article, and now a book, that was done by a good friend of mine, Robert Kagan. The original article was called “Power and Weakness.” You can get it off the Policy Review website. Actually, you can go to the GMF website and get the original article. And now it’s out in book form. I think it’s now called Paradise and Power, and I promised him that I’d plug the book because I do borrow endlessly from his ideas. But what I really want to do tonight is not talk about his argument, which is really that the United States and Europe have grown apart because they have different military capacities and a different world view, which I happen to agree with, but rather to look at the implications of that and where it’s going to go in the future, and also how we got to that point, how we’ve ended up in this very difficult position. And to talk about that, I’m going to use a lot of survey research. Some of it is material that the German Marshall Fund and Chicago Council on Foreign Relations obtained through a survey we did last summer. When you leave, there are copies of the report out there. I’m also going to draw on some work that the Pew Center on People and Politics did, it’s called the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which is very interesting. If you want to get very frightened about the way the world views the United States, you should read their survey research. And then finally, I’ll draw from my own experiences. I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe and do spend a lot of time talking to people about these issues.
Let’s get to the background. Now, I’m going to ask you to kind of visualize some things. Normally, I think the right procedure would be to do Power Point, but I kind of figured after three glasses of wine, to dim the lights, to have the Power Point here, that after about halfway through there would be an awful lot of snoring, so we’re not going to do that tonight.
The first thing I want you to visualize is the difference between American and European military capacities. Last year, the United States spent about $350 billion on their military. If you go to Europe, Russia spent a little bit under $50 billion, if you believe their numbers, which you can or cannot. I don’t. You go down to the next step and you get to the U.K. and France and Germany, but it’s all very modest amounts of money. We tremendously outspend all of our European partners. But it’s more than that. We spend the money smarter. We invest it in technology in ways that Europeans are not doing yet. When you see smart bombs, when you see high-level communications, these are the products of investments that we’ve made that are still quite novel and quite rare in Europe. And we’ve made maybe not the most significant reforms in the way our military is organized, but we’ve made reforms in a way that the Europeans are still thinking about. Germany, for example, still has an army based on conscription where I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of men go through an eight-month or nine-month commitment now. I think it’s been reduced from about a year. Very little expertise is ever left behind and it is really not a system designed for the kinds of conflicts. This is a big difference. We have power that no one else in the world has, and it’s a situation that’s not going to change anytime soon, for a couple of reasons.
One is in the United States, we really perceive the world as extremely risky and dangerous. Again, you can look at our polling results, you can look at a lot of other survey research, it frankly was accentuated by 9/11, but even before that if you compared American and European responses, we have the sense that we live in a very risky world and we see the risks very broadly. Americans will see India/Pakistan as risky in a way that Europeans won’t. We’ll see China—Japanese are the good guys—we’ll see China as a serious risk, and on and on and on. Europeans often will see some of the same risks, but we feel them so much more intensively, so much more intensely, so much more strongly. And when Americans see risks, one of the solutions is to invest in defense. And until we have a sense that we don’t live in a dangerous, risky world, we’re not going to reduce the amount of money we put into the military.
The flip side is true in Europe. They don’t see themselves as being at risk, and I’ll talk in a few minutes about some of the odd twists to this. They have developed a belief over the last years that there are other means than military power to solve most problems, the so-called soft power of using development and diplomacy and trade and lots of other things, and they’ve also developed a tremendous resistance to the idea of military spending. Let me just jump ahead a little bit, but it’s such a great thing and I always like to show it, and again if we had the power point, the first slide I’d show up there is, we asked Europeans, “Would you like the European Union to be a superpower like the United States?” Well, in France you’d see 92 percent say yes, and it sort of trails down to the six countries until you get to Germany which was about 50 percent. This is pretty significant. Now, the good news is, by the way, that they want Europe to be a superpower, but one to cooperate with the United States, not to compete. But then we asked a simple follow-up question: “If becoming a superpower required spending more money on the military, would you still want it?” Support goes down by 50 percent in every country. That’s how sensitive Europeans are to the notion of spending money on the military. And it isn’t the idea of just spending money. You can say, “If it involves spending more money on development aid,” you actually get an increase, we think, in support of a superpower status. Almost every other area, if you ask them if they want to spend money, they’re willing to do it, except for military power. So what we have is a situation where the United States is going to play in a world where we have this vast military power and our long-standing, and now hysterical partner, is always going to be the junior partner when it comes to military force, and there is a real dilemma.
What I want to do is delve a little bit into two questions. Why won’t these people still follow us like they used to? I mean this situation is not new. We’ve had this difference, this asymmetrical relationship for a long time, what’s changed now? And why do they feel that they have a right to have some say in how we use our power to take on these threats?
Let me first tell you what the non-answers are for both of those. First, neither of those questions have anything to do with pacifism. Europeans are not pacifists. In our survey, we actually asked questions about the use of force in different scenarios and, in fact, Europeans will use force more often than the United States. I guess I should qualify that, as long as they don’t have to pay for it. But they will use force more often than Americans will. They’re much more willing to pull the trigger. Now, the one key is, the caveat is it has to be under U.N. auspices because for Europeans, the U.N. approval is a moral legitimacy, it says it’s okay to use force. And frankly, I sort of like the idea that Europeans don’t want to use force unless they have some kind of higher moral legitimacy, after what we went through in the first half of the 20th Century. But it is not pacifism. You can see little bits and pieces of it in the Netherlands or Germany, but for the most part it’s not there. It’s not anti-Americanism. I know that’s surprising given all the news, but anti-Americanism, at least in the sort of sense that scholars talk about it, means opposition to a system, whether it’s a cultural system or an economic system or a political system, but it has to be a larger system, it doesn’t have to do anything with a particular politician or a policy. And again, you can go to the toughest country in Europe, which is France, and you might be able to say that there’s 25 percent of the population is what you might call anti-American. But even in France, there’s about 15 percent that are just as much knee-jerk pro-America that no matter what you say about the United States, they think it’s good. And when you get into Germany, it’s more or less kind of 20 percent on either side. The real debate that’s going on in Europe is for that vast middle ground. People that more or less like the United States, I mean they like our movies, they like our culture—it’s extraordinary when you look at the numbers on the popularity of American culture—they want to come here for vacation, they want to do all sorts of things with the United States, but they have a couple of beefs. They don’t like our foreign policy, they tend not to like our economic system, at least if it’s applied to them, the notion of getting rid of the welfare state, and they really don’t like Republican presidents. We’ll get into that in a little bit.
And the final point, it’s not a fear of our superpower status, oddly enough. Most Europeans in the Pew study were asked, “Is the world a safer place or more dangerous because the United States is the sole superpower?” and a majority said it’s a safer place. They recognize the role that we play in providing stability in the world.
So let’s get into that first question. If that isn’t the answer to any of these things, why won’t they follow? I think there are three reasons. One is that over the last thirty years, the acceptance of American U.S. leadership has been seriously eroded. Even in the middle of the Cold War, when there was a strong threat that bound us together, when there were Soviet tanks on the borders of Europe, you could still have European leaders like Charles DeGaulle who were quite willing to challenge American authority. They’d only go so far, they’d make some grandstanding moves, they’d find accommodation, but even then, in the most dire circumstances, they were willing to challenge American authority. Now when the Soviet tanks are being recycled into God knows what, when they don’t feel any immediate threat, when things have been pulled back from their borders in such a significant way, they really feel that they can express what would have been by all accounts long-standing complaints about having to take orders from the United States. They don’t feel that they have to toe the line all the time. And I think if you look at the results in the German election, not only do the people feel that, which has been true for quite a while, but now the politicians don’t feel that they have to do it because they don’t see that they’re going to lose anything necessarily by doing it.
Now, there’s a flip side to this. In the Pew poll, they asked a simple question: “Does the United States take into account the interests of your country when it sets its policies?” and to tell you the truth, this was a result that I found really sort of sad. The one country where lots of people, I think about 50 percent, said that they did think the United States listened to them, was France. Now, you can only imagine it’s because they see their leaders out there punching us in the nose all the time and they think that’s effective. Our best allies, though—Great Britain, Italy, Spain—it’s 20, 25 percent say, “Yeah, maybe,” and many, many more that say, “No, they don’t think of our interests.” Now, to me that’s a public relations problem. That is, we have not been effective in communicating our message. It also has to do with some very significant changes that happened in the 1990’s during the Clinton Administration when a lot of consultative processes that were used between governments to bring the ideas of Europeans into play started to sort of erode. You know, meetings would be held less often, some fell away, there was just less energy put into the relationship, and this is part of the payoff that we’ve gotten out of it.
The second issue of why they won’t follow us now is that they now have another home that they can latch onto and it’s called the European Union, and it really does present an alternative model. At the beginning of the Cold War when we were encouraging the creation of the cold steel community that became the European Union, no one thought of it as becoming much more than a trade group. Well, it has become something very serious now. This is a huge experiment where countries pool their sovereignty on very serious things like immigration, like border controls, like all sorts of standards for competition. This is serious stuff. Americans couldn’t imagine ceding the kind of sovereignty that every member of the European Union does to be part of it. There is this sense that the European Union, an institution that is the ultimate multilateral institution in some ways, where the power is based on your ability to negotiate and compromise and manipulate a system, is sort of the standard in the way people should live. My friend Kagan refers to it as a sort of Kantian paradise that has been created where everyone is safe and secure, but everything gets worked out through these endless debates and discussions. I was telling a group this afternoon that if you ever get really disturbed about the Indiana Assembly, the Indiana legislature here and think that they’re do-nothing, we’ll pack you all up to Brussels and we’ll let you watch how the European Union makes policy and you’ll come back and probably give awards to your local politicians. It’s a very different game that they play. But it has become a model and there’s a whole generation of politicians that have grown up now who their first allegiance is to this idea of Europe and a European Union, and Gerhard Schröder is a very good example of that. You know, his predecessor, Helmut Kohl, was a guy who would tell endless stories about care packages, growing up in the bombed-out ruins of a home, having American soldiers show pity on his family and help them. That isn’t where the new politicians of Europe are coming from. These are men and women who have been trained in Brussels, who have been filled with the ideas of how the European Union operates, and they don’t feel that they have to spend much time—they don’t feel that they should ignore the United States, but they feel that the European Union is really the center of their lives. And as I said, if you ask the public in Europe about superpower status for the European Union, the majority say yes. The flip side in the United States is we made a big mistake. We spent a long time saying that the European Union wasn’t serious, that it was never going to be important, that it certainly would never get into foreign policy, that it was never really going to be a challenger, and we concentrated on bilateral relations. And as a result, we have very few people in the United States who know anything about this institution and how it operates.
The third item of why they won’t follow is that they really do have a different sense of the threats and risks out there. Europeans don’t feel as vulnerable as we do. Not only that, but they think that if they are vulnerable, it may well be because of a connection to u
Craig Kennedy is the President of the German Marshall Fund. Please visit the German Marshall Website at http://www.gmfus.org
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