Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 9 News List

Europe should not hope for a miracle from November's election

By Joschka Fischer

Deeply frustrated by the Bush administration's policies, many people and governments in Europe hope for a fundamental change in US foreign policy after the upcoming presidential election. But it would take a medium-sized political miracle for these hopes not to be disappointed, and such a miracle will not happen -- whoever is elected.

The Bush administration made numerous foreign-policy blunders with far-reaching consequences. But President George W. Bush neither invented US unilateralism nor triggered the transatlantic rift between the US and Europe. To be sure, Bush reinforced both trends, but their real causes lie in objective historical factors, namely the US being the sole world power since 1989 and Europe's self-inflicted weakness. As long as the US remains the sole world power, the next US president will be neither able nor willing to change the basic framework of US foreign policy.

It will, of course, be important who wins the presidency: a candidate expected to continue Bush's foreign policy or someone ready for a new beginning. In the former case, the transatlantic rift will deepen dramatically. Four, or even eight, more years of US policy a la Bush would inflict such damage on the substance of the transatlantic alliance as to threaten its existence.

But if the next president is committed to a new direction, US foreign policy might again become more multilateral, more focused on international institutions and alliances, and willing to bring the relationship between military force and diplomacy back to within its historical proportions. That is the good news.

The bad news is that, even under such auspicious conditions, the US, as a world power, will not relinquish its "free-hand" policy or forget its strength and its claim to preeminence among nations.

Another piece of bad (or good?) news is that a more multilateral US policy will increase the pressure on Europeans to take on more responsibility for international crisis management and conflict resolution -- in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Middle East, Transcaucasia and Russia, and with respect to Turkey's future. To this common agenda, the Europeans should add Africa, climate change, and reform of the UN and the world trading system.

For a long time, Europe has underestimated its weight and importance. Europe's geopolitical, economic, and social weight is quite obvious. But Europe's integration of sovereign states' interests by means of common institutions could also be an example for much of the world.

In particular, the way Europe, in the process of its enlargement, has projected its power to achieve lasting peace across the whole continent, and fostered development by integrating entire economies, states, and societies within its institutional framework, could become a model for shaping a cooperative world order in the 21st century.

This modern, progressive, and peaceful model is unique and superior to all other currently available approaches to the fundamental questions of political order.

But could doesn't mean will. Europe's global influence is feeble because of its internal quarrels and lack of unity, which render the EU weak and limit its ability to act. Objectively strong, subjectively infirm -- that is how the EU's present condition can be described.

The current moment of US weakness coincides with a substantially changed international political environment, defined largely by the limits of US power, Europe's ineffectiveness and the emergence of new global giants such as China and India.

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