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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

European Disunity
EU confusion...

[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 6/7/05

French and Dutch voters dealt a crushing and probably fatal blow to European bureaucrats’ dreams of a united European superpower, able to take center stage in world affairs and stand up to the United States as an equal in power and influence. After leading the campaign toward ultimate European unity, the French government of Jacques Chirac was spurned and humiliated by its own citizens. What irony! In the end, concern over the erosion of sovereignty and the dilution of culture trumped unrealistic visions of a French and German dominated rival to the United States.

To listen to the reactions of some of our pundits and politicians, mostly pro-Europe liberals who believe that the Europe is still the center of the world and the source of all diplomatic wisdom, one would gather that this somehow constitutes bad news for the United States. Well, hardly. Even without a strong central government in Brussels, the European Union will continue to be a vibrant economic entity and now we won’t have to deal with a strengthened, heavily French and German influenced political bureaucracy that believes its principal purpose is to act as a counterweight to the United States.

With a United States of Europe would eventually come a unified European military establishment that would weaken or destroy NATO. Given the great reluctance of European countries to contribute much to their own defense, there is little reason to suppose that they would contribute much to a common defense, either. Thus they would still be reliant upon a U.S. defense umbrella. Except for the British, it is difficult enough to integrate their military organizations into U.S.-led operations the way things are now.

Also with a United States of Europe would likely emerge a greatly strengthened and emboldened European Commission and European Court of Justice, largely unaccountable to anyone, seeking to impose their liberal social, business and legal standards upon anyone wishing to do business in or with Europe. It is difficult to imagine how that would benefit the interest of the United States.

Europe was split regarding its support of the U.S. role in the war on terrorism. The opposition of France and Germany complicated and delayed U.S. efforts to enforce U.N. sanctions and overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein and created a rift in our relations that has not healed yet. Still, many European nations joined with Britain, our staunchest ally, in supporting our campaign in Iraq. Had a French and German dominated government been calling the shots in Brussels, European participation in the alliance of the willing would have been unlikely.

A European superpower never was in the cards. The rich cultures of the various nations of that continent, many of which ranked as dominant powers for a time in history, are too unique and proud to be subordinated into a new culture of greater Europe. Why would their citizens want to surrender any sovereignty to a faceless, largely un-elected bureaucracy in Brussels?

Frequently made comparisons between our history and their efforts toward union are really not relevant. Our original thirteen, sparsely populated and largely homogeneous colonies banded together to form a stronger union against colonizers. The constitution we forged was a model of simplicity with clearly delineated checks and balances. The proposed European constitution of nearly 500 pages, on the other hand, is anything but simple, blurring responsibilities and intruding into areas that would trouble most Europeans if they bothered to read it, assuming they could understand its cumbersome annexes and protocols.

So what will become of Europe now? Have French and Dutch citizens voted, in effect, against any prominent future for Europe? Of course not. Germany, the U.K., France and Italy are still among the world’s largest economies and the nations of Western Europe remain among the world’s richest in terms of per capita income. Their cultural and economic contributions will continue to be valued. But their glory days of empire and influence, either individually or collectively, are clearly past.

The lesson for us, perhaps, is that we should cease our preoccupation with what European leaders think and wish for the United States to do or refrain from doing and pay much greater attention to what is going on in Asia and the Pacific Rim. There, the rising giants, China and India, compete with us and with each other for influence and resources along with Japan, still the world’s second largest economy, and the smaller but robust and growing economies of the Far East. There are challenges there that deserve the earnest concentration of Washington. tOR

copyright 2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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