America Wake Up! Europe Wants to Be a Superpower

European Union leaders have reached agreement on a new treaty that many Europeans hope will transform the 27-nation bloc into a superpower capable of counter-balancing the United States in global affairs.

The 250-plus page Reform Treaty, which EU leaders will formally sign in Lisbon on December 13, calls for a permanent EU president, a European foreign minister and a European Union diplomatic service. The agreement also calls for EU nations to surrender sovereignty in many areas to centralized decision-making; and it reduces national veto rights to allow more decisions to be made by majority voting instead of by unanimous consent.

The Reform Treaty, in its essence, is all about the centralization of political power by an unelected ruling clique in Brussels that wants to pursue its superpower ambitions free from the constraints of democracy. The new treaty is nearly identical to the proposed European Constitution that voters rejected in 2005.

But this time around, ordinary Europeans will not be invited to vote on the document.

Only Ireland says it will submit the treaty to a popular vote. The other EU countries hope quietly to seek ratification in their parliaments, a far less risky way than direct democracy of getting the document approved. If the treaty is ratified by all 27 governments, it will take effect in January 2009.

But can Europe become a superpower? And should Americans care? No and yes.

The biggest barrier to European superpowerdom is that European elites refuse to bring their postmodern fantasies about the illegitimacy of military "hard power" into line with the way the rest of the world interprets reality. After years of overselling the efficacy of diplomatic and economic "soft power" as the elixir for the world's problems, Europeans are losing, not gaining, international influence.

Three years of European "soft power" diplomacy have not persuaded Iran to abandon what even the most cynical Europeans say is a clandestine nuclear-weapons program. If anything, Iran has been emboldened by European equivocation. At the same time, China and Russia, expert practitioners of the game of genuine hard power politics, continue to pursue aggressive trade and energy policies vis-à-vis Europe with obvious impunity. As most Europeans will even admit, their peacekeeping performance in Afghanistan and Lebanon has been downright pathetic, even embarrassing in the case of Spain.

So why do Europeans continue to assail American "hard power" as bad for the world, when their own "soft power" consistently fails to make the grade?

Because America's military might magnifies the preponderance of US power and influence on the world stage, thereby exposing the fiction behind Europe's superpower pretensions. Because the United States has set the standard for what it means to be a superpower, European elites seek to de-legitimize one of the main pillars of American might, namely its military hard power. Europeans know they will never achieve hard power parity with America, so they want to change the rules of the international game to make soft power the only acceptable superpower standard.

This is why Americans should care about further European integration: The EU is trying to make it prohibitively costly in the realm of international public opinion for the United States to use its military in the future. Ensconcing a system of international law based on its own image and on that of the United Nations is supposed to constrain American exercise of power. For Europeans, multilateralism is all about neutering American hard power, not about solving international problems. It is about Lilliputians tying down Gulliver.

By bending over backwards to appease European sensibilities on Iran, for example, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has dragged the United States headfirst into a multilateral trap that has been set by pacifist Europeans. Their main desire is to prevent America from acting against Iran, even if it means that Islamic radicals in Tehran end up with a nuclear bomb.

Many Europeans are hoping the next American president will adopt more of a postmodern relativist perception of reality. So Americans should examine if the leading presidential contenders are committed to the "hard power" that plays such a vital role in securing American interests and ideals around the world. Only that will suffice in the face of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and other states locked-in to the "old" view of power.

Europeans may understand even better than do many Americans just how much is at stake in the upcoming US presidential election.

European elites are pushing the EU in a direction that should be deeply disconcerting to Americans concerned about international security and stability. The Reform Treaty will make Europe more centralized and far less democratic than it already is. In practice, this means that many foreign policy decisions that directly affect the United States, ranging from economics and trade to transatlantic cooperation on Islamic counter-terrorism, increasingly will be made by unelected anti-American bureaucrats in Brussels rather than by national governments.

Europeans claim they are American allies, but increasingly their conduct says they are rivals. Americans should take another look and see if further European integration is really in the US interest. At the very least, Washington should send an unambiguous message to free-riding Europeans: future attempts at anti-American coalition building will be very costly. International security depends on it.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group
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