The United States we have and the United States we need.

Article published on May 5, 2003
community published
Article published on May 5, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The crisis in Iraq has taught us this: the world needs a new and stronger alliance between the United States of America and the United States of Europe.

Both within and beyond the Convention on the future of the Europe there are those who maintain that European foreign policy can be anti-American. In reality, not only does the Iraqi crisis clearly discredit such notions, but also gives us the opportunity to reaffirm still more strongly that no common foreign policy is possible which is based on counterpoising (or "balancing", to use Romano Prodi's expression) the views of the EU and the United States of America.

Others have written that the war in Iraq has divided Europe and united the Europeans. But a mass public opinion can only be seen as such when it is nourished by knowledge and debate: public opinion is well-formed only when it is well-informed. Yet the peace demonstrations were perhaps merely the reaction (in default mode) of those who instinctively (and quite understandably) fear war; a pre-political reaction typical of a European public space which calls for information, debate and truth. Europeans cried out PACE, PAIX, PEACE, PAZ but were simply asking to know more, to digest, to understand and finally to be able to express themselves in one common language.

Politics on the Iraqi question, that is European politics, has been dominated by two divergent tendencies and an unsustainable middle-way. The Franco-German (and Belgian) line is the one which, it has been said, objectively embodied the hopes and mood of the so-called 'peace-loving people', and did not hesitate in seeking the counterposing view to that of the Bush administration. By contrast, the UK, Spain and the former Eastern bloc countries preferred, for various reasons, to participate or give their support to the coalition which was readying itself to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Finally, somewhat isolated, the Italian government line: a politics of conflict-avoidance that wavers between faithfulness to the Americans, faith in Rome and a weakness in the face of the markets, a stance which has been the source of the worst disasters in Italian foreign policy from the 1st world war to the present day.

This has lead the Common Foreign and Security Policy into deadlock as Member States find it not only impossible to reach a common position as an alternative to their original positions, but also to find even the simplest compromises other than those based on rhetorical phrases lacking in political substance. Perhaps it is politically incorrect to say so, but whilst Brussels debated and divided over the issue, history trundled on inexorably, bringing liberation and death to Baghdad along with the hopes and fears of the Arab world, the invincible power and the inevitable mistakes of American warfare, the analyses and ambitions of American neo-conservative think tanks and all with the increasingly stark hiatus between Europe's economic might and the flimsiness of its political will.

The biggest question posed by the Americans in Iraq is not that of disarmament, already buried in talk of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the "heroic" UN weapons inspectors. Likewise, the main problem is not that of American military imperialism which Europe will be unable to counter other than by transforming its own social expenditure into military expenditure - itself presenting quite a curious paradox for those who proclaim themselves pacifists in the name of anti-imperialism. Nor is the basic issue that of "international law", a weapon which has been brandished by both parties to the dispute as and when it suits them: moreover, the UN does not need to be reformed because of the presence of the United States, but because 60% of its members are not democratic - and violate the founding spirit of the organisation with every passing day.

The United States have put before Europe and the rest of the world the prospect of opening-up a new wave of global democratisation. A new kind of democratisation, beyond the post-colonial, post-bellico and post-cold war. Yet whilst the US talks of democratising the Middle East, in Europe the Common Agricultural Policy is still being defended and new southern boundaries erected, euphemistically entitled "Euro-Mediterranean Partnerships".

The anti-American option fails to note the advantages for Europe of an accelerated and effective democratisation process in countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, driving instead towards creating a hard core for the Common Foreign Policy dominated by the current axis and destined to be a mere sounding-board for national interests. This, as the Iraq crisis teaches us, threatens to push Europe out of the picture.

We do not need a different Amercia, it is Europe which must change. The US which we have intends to export democracy and defend its own global interests not discounting the use of force. The United States of Europe, leading the democratisation process and capable of developing non-violent strategies and policies, well-placed to transform itself from a military retrograde in the Western world to the non-violent avant-garde, and promoting the liberation of billions of oppressed women and children from regimes which our beloved "international community" continues to finance. All this will only be possible if Europe unites and once again engages in dialogue with America, only if the end of the cold war leads someone to a new start and to the still closer integration of Europe and the Atlantic alliance.