Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Gerhard goes to London

Andrew Sullivan notices that Britain is becoming the pivot in the post 911 diplomatic world. As proof, he points to Gerhard Schroeder’s visit to London after narrowly winning re-election in Germany.

There’s a lot to what Sullivan says. Normally, the German Chancellor makes his way to Paris after winning an election. But this time Schroeder went straight to London. We could chalk this up to the fact that both Blair and Schroeder are from the political left, while Chirac is, ostensibly, from the right. And with Blair having just presented his Iraq dossier to Parliament, Schroeder is understandably anxious to talk with the most insistent voice for war in Europe. But I think Sullivan actually hit the nail on the head – Schroeder is going to talk to Blair, because Blair has access to George Bush and can help Germany get back on America’s good side. Britain rules in European diplomatic circles.

This is not, however, how things were supposed to go. It wasn’t so long ago that the Eurocrowd was chiding Britain for its refusal to join the Eurocurrency and its subservient relationship with the US. This was back in the days when the EU thought it could stand as a counter to American superiority in the world. This was back in the days when leftist European governments still lived under the illusion that their moralistic rhetoric about US unilateralism was credible.

Unfortunately, reality came calling. Unlike the demagogic continental left, and despite his own sympathies for the EU, Blair recognized that the European Union is no substitute for real American resolve and power. So, while the self-righteous mandarins at the EU spent their energy slinging mud at Bush and chattering about a common EU foreign policy, Britain moved closer to Washington, reinforcing the historical, cultural and political bonds between the two English-speaking democracies.

Today, Blair is reaping the rewards while bolstering the UK’s international credibility and prestige. As I’ve noted before, France also saw the writing on the wall and assumed its traditional position relative to the US: diplomatic gadfly, but ultimate ally. Gerhard Schroeder, however, thought he could threaten Germany’s post-World War II alliance with America in order to secure his own re-election. Though he succeeded in holding the Chancellery, he did so with the slimmest margin in the republic’s history while severely harming Germany’s international position.

And the result? Paris moves past Berlin at the White House receiving line, while Britain has unique access to the American inner sanctum such that Germany must now pass through London before supplicating itself in Washington. Blair has endured considerable criticism over his support for Bush, coming from the continent, the EU and his own Labor Party. But his perseverance paid off and now he's positioned himself as the most powerful leader in Europe.

As for the European Union, well, it’s importance is shrinking daily. Just this week, Donald Rumsfeld met with his NATO counterparts (including the Turks, Poles, Czechs and Hungarians who have yet to gain membership in the hallowed EU) to tout a NATO rapid reactionary force. On the whole, Europe’s national defence ministers were receptive. This is somewhat surprising since a NATO force effectively pre-empts the much talked about EU rapid reactionary force. The EU has expressed some concern about this fact, but no one is listening.

Europe is gaining some respectability again, but not through the utopian EU and its humanitarian anti-American agenda. Rather, Europe’s resurgent nation-states are taking the lead, and they’re doing it by reaffirming their ties with the oft-maligned American democracy. The lesson is relatively simple: European democracy needs America internationally and the nation-state domestically. Gerhard Schroeder thought he could stray from this fact by playing on anti-Americanism. He won, barely, and Germany lost.

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