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Catfish and Cod
Thursday, May 20, 2004
The European worldview.
(Link path: [email from Andreas], Catfish and Cod, USS Clueless, [email from Andreas])

Andreas responded to my post. That's a C&C first. Thanks, Andreas! I hope my reply enlightens you.


I'm Andreas from Sweden, the guy who merely asked a Steven Den Beste a
simple theoretical question but got accused for all sorts of things. :)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not angry with you, you're just wrong.

Just wanted to tell you that I read your posting and that I found it
interesting, but I'm not sure I agree. In some ways what you write is
true ofcourse, but I think that you tend to see the european union as
the united states.

There are many ways in which the European Union is similar to the United States, and there are many ways in which the two are different. There are some elements of the US that I think the EU would be better off adopting, and there are some elements of the EU that I think the US would be better off adopting. The major difference between myself and Andreas is that I think the EU needs more work than the US, and he thinks the opposite.

We don't look upon ourselves as europeans but swedes, englishmen,
frenchs, and citizens of the world.

Well, I've read quite a number of articles, many of them written by Europeans supportive of integration, that say different. But let's take your statement at face value for a moment.

Before the Civil War, US citizens also saw themselves as primarily affiliated to their home state. They were Virginians, or New Yorkers, or Georgians, or what have you. They were Americans second, and America was primarily a trade and defense union, as the European Union is today. In that respect, the EU could be looked upon as a proto-United States. Certainly many of the architects of the EU hoped for such an outcome; Winston Churchill, in a speech sometimes considered the inaugural event of European integration, explicitly called his desired end-state the "United States of Europe".

But there are also ways in which the EU is not a proto-US. One of them is bound up in that simple phrase, "citizens of the world".

The phrase "citizens of the world" implies that the EU worldview is not meant to be confined to EU boundaries. Europeans believe that their international system really does apply to everyone. Why shouldn't it, they think. It's been so successful for us. And, indeed, the European international system is designed to expand, to encompass new states and bring them into the international / EU system. Hence the growth of the EU from six original states to twenty-five today, with countries as far away as Morocco and Azerbijian desirous of membership.

The phrase "citizens of the world" implies that the international system is intended to be universal. Thus, Europeans get upset when the system fails somewhere. The system is also designed to compel consensus (remember, it's designed as a corrective mechanism when states fail to appreciate the link between their own self-interest and everyone else's). Hence, a failure of the system is interpreted by the system as a failure to achieve consensus, and the system acts to compel consensus as it understands it.

Here are three examples:

September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center is attacked by terrorists.
The immediate consensus is that action must be taken.
The international organizations, including the UN and NATO, approve action.
Action is taken (initially by the US and UK, but eventually by many nations).
Consensus is not disturbed.

January, 2003: Saddam Hussein defies United Nations demands.
There is no consensus: US, UK, Spain, Poland argue for action against Hussein; France, Germany, Russia argue against action.
The international organizations, including the UN and NATO, fail to approve action.
Action is taken (initially by the US and UK, but eventually by many nations, some of whom later reconsider).
Consensus is disturbed: consensus was not reached before action was taken.
By the internationalist paradigm, it is therefore assumed that action was not in the best interest of the community.
The system has failed.
The assumption by dissenting elements is that member(s) of the community (US, UK) broke consensus and must be brought back into consensus; diplomatic measures to that extent are taken.

March, 1999: Slobodan Milosevic initiates ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanian Muslims.
There is no consensus: US, European powers argue for action against Milosevic; Russia, China argue against action.
The international organizations, including NATO (but not the UN), approve action.
Action is taken (initially by the US and NATO, but eventually by many nations).
By the internationalist paradigm, it is therefore assumed that action was not in the best interest of the community. (Many Europeans, especially those most devoted to the European integration program, came to this conclusion.)
The system has failed.
The assumption by dissenting elements is that member(s) of the community broke consensus and must be brought back into consensus; diplomatic measures to that extent are taken. (In this case, Belgium, Russia, and other wavering nations were convinced by US diplomacy; but their main argument against NATO action was that NATO had broken consensus in the UN.)

In the European internationalist system, the measure of correct action is the degree of consensus acheived among the other nations in the system. What I suggest is that this measurement does not accurately reflect the best interests of the community. The majority is not always right.

The union was in reality formed to
ease the trading as it's pretty hard to buy things from your neighbor
if you have a different currency, different taxes and so forth. For
example norwegians still today travel on secret roads to Sweden to buy
rice in large amounts. Sounds silly eh?

Indeed, and such silliness was rampant in the years between our independence and the adoption of the Constitution. States were imposing duties and tolls at their border; each state (and sometimes cities) were printing their own incompatible currencies. It was a mess, and one of the key aspects of the Constitution was the imposition of a free trade zone and a common currency throughout the United States. But the United States was much more than a trade union; and the European Union has become much more than a trade union, as well.

Back to the discussion, I think that we believe that we believe that
americans are citizens of the world, just as we think ourselves to be.

As I said: you believe your paradigm applies to us equally as well as it applies to you. I humbly suggest that such is not the case. I do think America, and Americans, are citizens of the world, but I think that implies different obligations from what you think it implies.

Where americans perhaps believe that there's the US and then there's
Europe and the rest of the world, we believe that we all live in this

Thus denying that there is any real difference between Europe and the United States, or between Europe and the rest of the world, exactly as I said.

that we have equal rights to it,

Rights in principle are wonderful things. The trick is to have institutions that defend them. Or, if you'll pardon the quote, "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

that we have to get along and respect each other

Despite the disagreements we've had, America and Europe still seem to be getting along: not as well, but they're getting along. The difficulties have occurred when either side attempts to compel consensus. Europe doesn't want to be forced to accept American decisions and America doesn't want to be forced to accept European decisions.

The major disagreements, I point out, occur when some third party completely rejects the internationalist ideas and says that someone has more rights than others, and doesn't have to get along or respect others. The traditional way to compel consensus in international affairs has been force; but European internationalism rejects force as a way to compel consensus, and hasn't found any effective tool that can compel consensus yet. Hence Europe doesn't have many options in trying to bring Milosevic's Serbia, or Hussein's Iraq, or Arafat's Palestine, or bin Laden's al-Qaeda, into alignment with the international consensus.

and know that the decisions made affect alot of
people all around the globe.

I'm intrigued by the idea that America, the number one proponent of globalization, is accused of being ignorant of the global import of its actions.

If there's a world problem one has to take
action to, like Iraq, we try to solve it together while at the same
time respecting the culture and history of the country.

Horrific disgraces like Abu Gharib aside, I don't think the American intervention in Iraq has entirely failed to respect the culture or history of Iraq. For instance, great care has been taken to deal with all major aspects of the Iraqi culture (Shi'ite, Sunni, Kurdish); the lessons learned by (or should I say inflicted upon?) the British in their 1920 invasion of Iraq have been taken to heart; and the Americans have not attempted to violate major aspects of Iraqi culture, such as try to modify the basic Islamic character of the country. This is in contrast to similar interventions undertaken by Europeans, and some by Americans in days past. I'm not saying we accomplished these tasks perfectly -- indeed, I am of the strong opinion that we made many egregious errors in the planning of the Iraqi intervention. But we haven't failed at it. Please note also that the best way to be able to respect the culture and history of the country is to interact with a government in that country that accurately reflects its culture and history. I think we can agree that that entails some form of democracy.

I should note that the phrase "respecting the culture and history of the country" is sometimes used as a diplomatic code for other actions, such as "respecting the sovereignty of the present ruler" or "allowing a certain faction to assume power". I'm not entirely certain what you, Andreas, mean by it.

I also note that, again, you assume that consensus is more important than the actual action taken. This has collorary implications, for instance, that consensus is more important than the results of the actions taken. This was the argument made by France during the discussions in March, 2003; that it was better to leave Saddam in power than to break consensus.

Another thing about this whole war which makes us uncomfortable is the
US history with Iraq, al Qaida and Afghanistan. US has been in the area
for a long period now, taking away leaders, putting new leaders at high
positions (Saddam f.e), breaking down, building up, fighting the
citizens and giving them new weapons and support at the same time.

These are, of course, also actions that the European peoples took during their imperial phase of history. Most of the actions you refer to occurred during the Cold War; few coups have occurred since. While some coups during the Cold War took place at direct U.S. instigation, others took place at Soviet instigation, while yet still more occurred without either U.S. or Soviet instigation. Even when the coup occurred without intervention by one or the other superpower, one or the other or both powers were often taking action to try to bring the new leader into one or the other orbit, usually by offering weapons and support.

Popular uprisings also occurred quite frequently during this time period, as they usually do when coups occur. Some of these were genuine resistances to oppression; others were instigated by one or the other superpower, in an attempt to remove a client regime of the other superpower. Weapons and support were also distributed at this time.

All these activities were, of course, brought to a halt by the end of the Cold War. As support and weapons were withdrawn, a new round of fighting began worldwide, as power balances became determined by local conditions rather than the positions of pieces on chessboards in Washington and Moscow. Intervention for pure purposes of dominion was heavily frowned upon by US policy during the 1990's, as stability was seen as paramount.

Of course, many of the nations and regimes being dealt with during and after the Cold War (America was not very involved in the Middle East before the Cold War) were themselves set up by Europeans, using exactly the methods you describe; and it is the bad experiences Europeans had with the results of those actions that has lead to their current feelings towards them.

Perhaps the situation wouldn't been if US hadn't given them the weapons
and training in the first place.

I am not exactly certain what you mean by the situation.
* The presence of Saddam? Saddam came to power entirely on his own; this is well documented and requires no explanation.

* His posession of weapons? Surely the US sold weapons to Saddam; but the Soviet Union sold him more, and the Europeans sold him weapons as well. Saddam's arsenal is hardly the US' fault alone; the international consensus during the Cold War held that weapons had to be sent in order to prevent dominance of one side by the other.

* His potential possession of WMD? Again, more materiel was sold to Saddam by Europeans, particularly the French and the Russians, than by the United States. He failed to procure nuclear weapons only because of the bombing of a French-built nuclear reactor (sold without approval of the consensus) by an Israeli airstrike (conducted without approval of the consensus).

* The existence of al-Qaeda? Certainly the Afghan Arabs were aided by CIA funds and training during the 1980's. But it was the intervention of the United Nations (conducted according to the consensus!) in Iraq, coupled with Saudi domestic policy (adhering to the consensus!) that convinced al-Qaeda to go rogue.

* The presence of large amounts of weapons in the world? Surely you cannot blame this on America alone. There are many other countries in the world that know how to manufacture weapons, and do so with great abandon; and they will not stop because we do, or because we demand that they do too. Many of the countries that build weapons for export, it should be noted, are European.

It's only speculations ofcourse,

Thanks. For the record, I could be wrong too.

there comes a point where enough is enough and you have to stop the

This makes the naive assumption that the violence continues only because of our instigation of it. It ignores the possibility that, even if we retire from the field, the violence will continue. Our own analysis, as well as the evidence of the bombing of Madrid and the subsequent attempted bombings in France, appear to indicate that such is the case.

and the interference. Perhaps the US will reach that point

You have demonstrated another of my points. You believe, as previously stated, that the US is undergoing the same experience that Europe had, and therefore must make the same choices. My point is that such is not the case, and that the US response is different because its experience is different.

Europe made its interventions in the Middle East from choice: the desire to profit, to convert, to dominate, to improve, to enslave, to save, and to prevent takeover by a rival power. America felt that its interventions in the Middle East were of necessity: the necessity to prevent military defeat and nuclear holocaust, and to prevent the economic collapse that would induce defeat. The scale of intervention thus dwindled once it was perceived as no longer necessary; subsequent interventions up to 11 September 2001 were considered "cleaning up after oneself" and "finishing old business".

Interventions since 2001 have been conducted from a different position. These interventions are intended to eliminate the need for future interventions, by establishing a self-perpetuating, self-regulating system (of democratic Arab governance) that can operate free of further military intervention.

Europeans, in their assumption that the US is following their well-trodden path, assume that the American plan for intervention follows their own: an Imperial system, one which required installation of puppet rulers and frequent military intervention. Mindful of the pitfalls of the European approach, America is attempting a different solution, in which self-perpetuating democracies establish law, order, and prosperity; patrol for terrorists and other breachers of the peace; and reduce the desire to make war among the Muslim peoples. This solution requires neither puppet rulers nor frequent military intervention, but it does require a heavy up-front set-up cost, including (in the case of Iraq) isolated use of military intervention.

By the way, I don't think military intervention is the sole solution, nor is it always productive. For instance, Iran will probably soon become a democracy and a participant in the international consensus without the need for military intervention. While the secondary effects of military options must not be forgotten, these secondary effects do not necessitate the removal of military options from the table.


Throughout his message, Andreas makes several assertions I continue to disagree with:

* Andreas believes that the European internationalist paradigm is universally applicable at this moment in history. (I wish it were! But it's not, sadly, and I can't maintain my empiricism without recognizing and dealing with that fact.)

* Andreas believes that consensus in international affairs is the yardstick by which success in international affairs should be measured. (Consensus can be wrong.)

* Andreas believes that consensus in international affairs accurately reflects the positive or negative effects on the international community of action by a state. In other words, because current consensus disapproves of, say, intervention in Iraq, Andreas believes that it necessarily follows that intervention in Iraq will not improve the international community. (This is not necessarily the case.)

* Andreas believes that America is pursuing policies essentially identical to those practiced by 19th and 20th century Europeans; i.e., imperialism. (Despite current fears, America cannot bring itself to be imperial in the sense that most Europeans understand the term.)

* Andreas believes that America will make the same mistakes as said Europeans; i.e., heavy-handedness and unwelcome imposition of culture and government. (All reports show that even the bumbling Bush administration is handling this challenge better than the average European government did. A competent administration will do even better.)

* Andreas believes that America will eventually come to the same conclusions as current Europeans regarding its present policies; i.e., that wars and interventions are unproductive or counterproductive. (This assumes that American policies will fail, an assumption unsubstantiated and yet to be demonstrated.)

* Andreas believes that America is likely, in the course of time, to adopt European internationalism as a philosophy. (Unlikely, for reasons already stated in previous posts.)

None of this is to suggest that I support all the policies that discomfort Andreas; nor do I believe that all of America's current policies are correct or productive. I simply disagree with the assertion that America is doomed to walk the path already tread by Europeans. We can learn from European mistakes, and from American mistakes too.