April 27, 2007
A Cease-fire in the Transatlantic War?By James Lewis
The publishers of Germany's top-line magazine, Der Spiegel, have proposed a cease-fire in the "Atlantic media war" between Europe and America. As Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gerhard Spörl write,
Americans might note ironically that the "media war" has been pretty one-sided. It is the Euromedia that have foamed with rage during the Bush administration. Nevertheless, Der Spiegel's peace feelers open up a useful opportunity for reflection, and perhaps even for communication in this family feud.
Europe has been the source of all the great wars of the past two centuries. Yet today, an even older international conflict is re-emerging, with the nuclearization of Iran and perhaps other radical Muslim powers, all implacably hostile to European and Western values. This is a throwback to the Song of Roland, the first epic poem of Western European history, in which Charlemagne's knight Roland sacrificed his life to halt the Saracen invaders --- the jihadis of the 8th -12th century.
Today's Saracens are on the threshold of acquiring nukes and missiles. Both Iranian and Wahhabi Islamists are true reactionaries, who seriously intend to turn the clock back to the 7th century --- in women's rights, democracy, free speech, tolerance, sexual freedoms, you name it. They don't like Europe any more than their forebears did in the 12th century. But they believe that Europe has grown lazy, corrupt and timid --- and therefore presents an easy target.
So far, Europe has not managed to mount a credible response, even psychologically. It is constantly intimidated by low-level aggression spread by Saudi-funded imams. Instead of dealing with a clear and present danger, it is looking for others to blame. It pretends that Iranian martyrdom fanatics don't exist, and that the 9/11 assault, the London Underground bombing, and the Madrid train attack were all one-time aberrations: merely criminal behavior. Instead, highly speculative human-caused global warming is claimed to be more dangerous than terror regimes equipped with mega-bombs. That is plainly irrational.
The real agenda of Green eco-scares seems to be to empower European-style socialism on the world stage. It is just the most recent manifestation of Europe's never-ending sense of superiority, beginning from the Roman Empire to Marxism. We are always being taught by our European betters how to live our lives. That is not a respectful attitude to the great majority of people in the world.
The Cold War is a bad memory for Europeans, since they seemed to be caught between the US and the USSR, with little power of their own. Yes, most Europeans chose the American side, but they would have preferred the Swiss solution of safe neutrality. Unfortunately, Europe has neither the Alps as a natural barrier nor the armed readiness of the Swiss. The idea of neutrality under direct cultural and physical threat is another wishful dream. Switzerland might be ignored by aggressors; Europe will not.
Nobody wants to repeat the Cold War strategy of MAD --- Mutually Assured Destruction --- the deterrence of High Noon, with both sides threatening to shoot each other if one pulls the trigger. It is understandably crazy-making to feel caught between two nuclear powers with little control of one's own. But the great blind spot of European thinking is failing to understand the rise of effective defenses against nuclear-armed missiles. Once we have workable defenses, there is no need for the frightening prospect of MAD any more.
Advanced industrial nations can develop workable multi-layered defenses against strategic weapons within the next decade, using lasers, anti-missile systems and satellites. They will not be perfect, but they will be good enough against the kind of missile threat Iran and North Korea will present. India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Israel are therefore moving ahead as quickly as possible. Only Europe is mired in ambivalence.
European rage therefore has a lot more to do with its own sense of inadequacy than it does with American policy.
In contrast, Asia's industrial democracies are much more practical.
There is no hysterical anti-Americanism in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan or India. Instead, there has been a sober appraisal of current dangers, and a quiet, determined effort to work together to defeat them. Japan is in no doubt about the need for anti-missile defenses against the unstable Stalinist dynasty of Kim Jong-Il, even while the European Left is performing its usual song-and-dance to resist US efforts to place purely defensive systems in Poland --- which the Poles need for protection against Russia as well as Iran. If the Euro-Left wins this one, Poland and its neighbors will be left at great risk. That will hardly make the Poles love Europe.
The Iranian extremists now have ICBMs that can easily reach Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome and London. In a few years Iran will have nuclear weapons to go with them. Even today it is easy enough for them to explode "dirty" radioactive bombs in European cities. The London Times just reported that two such dirty bomb plots were nipped in the bud recently, presumably linked with Al Qaeda.
That danger is therefore here and now. It is high time for sensible people to get their heads out of the sand.
The simplest American response would be to leave Europe to its own devices and work with a Coalition of the Willing --- Australia, India, Japan, perhaps Britain. That is essentially Mark Steyn's view in his book, America Alone. The trouble is that Europe is so at war with itself, and therefore so weakened in its will to survive, that it may simply crumble to Islamist or Russian pressures. There is a real possibility that Europe will become a Muslim colony over the coming decades, a festering base of new aggression against the rest of the world.
When the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunited two decades ago, Americans quietly rejoiced and Europeans quietly worried. We were all heartily sick of five decades of Cold War, which, from an American point of view, was thrust upon us by a militantly expansionist Soviet Union. Western Europe exploited the Atlantic alliance to build a social welfare state that never even paid for its own defense --- the first duty of any society. The US therefore shielded Europe from attack, and in return Europe developed a hostile-dependent complex about Uncle Sam. Today's irrational anti-Americanism reflects the desperation of a continent hooked on the welfare state, and unwilling to become autonomous and responsible for its own survival. Military expenditures are constantly being cut back to fund the welfare state.
Margaret Thatcher was worried by German reunification, believing that it would re-ignite continental nationalism. Europe's answer to that fear is the European Union, an attempt to turn the EEC into something like a unified superpower. The imagined European superpower would bring global peace through transnational government. It would never have to confront difficult dilemmas. It would never actually have to engage in defensive warfare, or any other sacrifice against truly dangerous regimes that are here today.
But it's all fluff. The EU has no electoral legitimacy, and does not even seem to want it. It has no unity of purpose, being rather a series of back-scratching deals between France, Germany and smaller countries, with Britain thrown in as an afterthought. It is unable to make difficult policy decisions, and therefore constantly resorts to demagogic cliches. Today it is largely is a form of bureaucratic imperialism driven by hype --- an extension of the socialist imagination. The one thing it does is create permanent jobs for a burgeoning political class. Most distressingly, the new Europe is rife with corruption and moral compromises with truly degraded regimes --- like the Sudan, Iran, Zimbabwe, and of course, Baathist Iraq under Saddam's Food-for-Oil scam, which bribed officials in France, Russia, and at the UN. No self-respecting democratic nation would choose such a corruptocracy for its own government.
Instead of a reasoned response to real dangers, Europe's elite media have directed a hysterical campaign of over-the-top accusations against America. But it's not going to work. Average Europeans might not know that both Democrat and Republican Senators voted near-unanimously against the Kyoto treaty during the Clinton Administration. Even if a European-style socialist like Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008, the chances of America becoming a docile servant of Europe's ideology are small.
Future generations will no doubt wonder why we were so fatuous and blind while clear and present danger loomed. Iran is now thought to be able to produce its first nuclear weapons in four years, with large-scale production perhaps a few years later. At any time, the government of Pakistan may be overthrown by Al Qaeda-style extremists, who have tried three times to assassinate General Musharraf. If they succeed, they would control their own nuclear arsenal. That would present us with both a Shiite and a Sunni Bomb within fifteen minutes flight of any Western capital. Other radicalized nations would find it easier to follow suit.
It is therefore high time for adults to take charge. The obvious need is for Germany, France and Britain to recognize existential dangers and prepare to defend themselves. Only thus can Europe rediscover its own self-esteem and autonomy. But that means letting go of dreamy fantasies and blame-America-first fits of anger. It means making difficult choices, including preemptive actions against grossly irresponsible regimes. It means doubled spending on effective defenses. It means letting go of cynical Gaullist exploitation of international conflicts. It means stopping Austria from selling advanced sniper rifles to Iran, in the full knowledge that they would be used to kill American soldiers. It means giving up some profitable trade with rogue nations, in order to exercise effective economic sanctions when needed. It means ending the constant stream of we-know-better advice emanating from European news media. It means growing up.
A unified West can exercise overwhelming power - either soft or hard. There is no such unity now. Ahmadinejad could be knocked out of his position of power tomorrow if a unified West began a targeted economic boycott. But today, like Saddam, Ahmadinejad is undoubtedly working behind the scenes to divide and conquer the West. Like Saddam, he is probably succeeding.
So it is best for a Coalition of Willing Nations to go it alone. Once Germany and France let go of Napoleonic and Marxist fantasies, they are likely to choose to rejoin the Western alliance of their own free will. The alternative is to become a colony of the Islamic resorgimento.
With the election of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, thoughtful European opinion may be starting to move in that direction. That will not lead to a world of wishful dreams; but it could create one in which decent and responsible nations can exercise their powers for good.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/