(On Screen): In a comment on Chirac's recent outburst scolding the nations of Eastern Europe for having the audacity to publicly express their support for the US, Paul Aligica discusses the fact that this betrays deep issues about the EU itself, and its concept and philosophy. Just what, exactly, is the European Union really supposed to be?
Even more important, Chirac's declaration marks a turning point in the way the European integration process is perceived. There is little doubt that France has done considerable damage to the image that the European Union had managed to create over recent years in Eastern Europe -- and around the world -- as a community of free countries amiably negotiating their way to an ever closer union. Instead, a new image of the European Union is emerging from the ruins of the old picture, one of a Franco-German dominated block of countries intent on dominating the continent.
Until now, this view was considered a fixation of the extreme Euro-skeptics. Nowadays the question is out in the open: What is the true nature of the European Union? What is the real project behind all these institutional and political arrangements? What is the place of France and Germany in the emerging system? What are the legitimate goals of an EU member country? What are the legitimate uses of power in the Union? How should the Eastern European countries be seen and treated in the context of these European processes? These are questions that will be asked with ever-growing intensity in the future, long after the Iraqi crisis is over.
The answer is that the purpose of the European Union is to roll back the post-war experiment in western Europe with capitalist representative democracy, and to restore Europe to its rightful place at the center of the world's stage by displacing the US as the predominant power in the world.
The driving motivation behind it is a religious belief, along with a nostalgia for past greatness, profound distrust of the masses, and resentment of American power and influence, as well as outright fear of what America might decide to do with its unprecedented position in the world.
For three centuries, most of the world was ruled from Europe. Much of it was directly controlled as colonies, and most of the rest was indirectly influenced financially. Europe was the hub of the world, and when the King of France or the Kaiser sneezed, the world put on a sweater.
The British colonies in North American had, of course, won their independence and largely stayed out of this. But the rest of the world prostrated itself before Europe, and obeyed.
Of course, the Europeans themselves were constantly at each other's throats, and over those centuries you had a series of wars. They got larger, and more deadly, and for its first hundred years, American policy towards them was "Include me out!"
But with the stalemate and slaughter of The Great War, America was finally dragged into the fighting, and helped to tip the balance. It is not fair to say that "America won the war" or "America saved France"; that would be going much too far. But there is no question that American participation was important, and that without it the war would probably not have ended when it did, and perhaps not the way it did.
And once the war was over "over there" the US disengaged, and within twenty years the Europeans were at each other's throats again. And again America was dragged into the war unwillingly. Roosevelt saw the danger and knew the US needed to fight, but the American people were reluctant to go "over there" again. It took Pearl Harbor to change their minds.
An ersatz alliance of the USSR with a true alliance between the US and UK ultimately defeated its opposition in the European theater in 1945, leaving Europe between the Ural Mountains and the Emerald Isle in ruins. Its physical and political infrastructure had been shattered. Most of the nations of Europe had had their governments replaced through military force. And after the war, Europe was broadly divided into two regions: those which had been liberated by the Anglo-American alliance, and those which had been "liberated" by the Soviet Union. The nations of each sphere created new governments along lines dictated to them by their liberators.
In the East, this meant Stalinism: socialism, authoritarian rule, central planning, operation of a police state. In the west the Americans insisted on capitalist representative democracy. The details of implementation were unimportant, and in fact most of the nations of Europe created systems much more closely modeled on Britain's government than on that of the US.
There can be no question that the western European nations got the better part of that deal. The US learned its lesson from 1919, and military occupied western Europe. It learned the lesson of the Treaty of Versailles, and rather than allowing anyone to try to extract reparations from anyone else (especially from devastated losing nations), America was extremely generous with aid to help all Western European nations rebuild, whether they had previously been friend or foe.
America guaranteed the peace and security of western Europe in two ways.
First, through most of the Cold War it was American policy that it would be willing to "first-use" nuclear weapons in Europe to stop any invasion from the east. It was presume