[TODAY]A different view of a family feudThe drama of the Iraq war has obscured two other, though only diplomatic, wars within the West: one between France and Germany against the United States, the other between those two and 18 other European nations, including Spain, Poland, Britain and Bulgaria, who refused to distance themselves from America and to accept the leadership bid of Paris and Berlin.
It was a typical Western family quarrel, though a very serious one. After all, even in the most cohesive of families, fights sometime lead to divorce, and this latest trans-Atlantic round is by no means over. But as in any dispute, it is always very useful to look from the outside in. How do others who are not directly involved see the dispute; what wisdom do they have to offer?
The other day, 20 renowned analysts and foreign policy experts from around the world ― the “Global Strategy Group” ― gathered around a table in Washington for a brainstorming session. The key question was: “How does the world deal with American power?”
The United States, the “last remaining superpower,” is surely the greatest power in all of history. For the Americans and Europeans around the table, who rarely look beyond the Atlantic, it was an absolute eye-opener to hear what Russians, Chinese, Japanese and other Asians had to say.
“The U.S. is a price-maker, not a price-taker,” a colleague from Singapore noted, thus underlining America’s enormous new power now that the Soviet Union is dead. The expert from Russia, a member of the State Duma (legislature) added: “The Iraq war was a shock. No one can compete militarily with the United States.” From that followed a very sober analysis of the mistakes Russia had made when it sided with France and Germany in opposing the Iraq war.
“Berlin and Paris were strange bedfellows of Russian policy. Germany is pacifist; Russia is not. How strange that anybody could think that Russia would submit to the leadership of France.” Worse: “When we use the United Nations against the United States, the United States will respond by destroying the UN ― but the UN is the only global organization where Moscow has a major voice.” And so Russia has paid a heavy price for going up against the United States: “The UN is now weaker than ever, and we have lost the trust of Washington.”
It was just as interesting to hear to hear what the man from Beijing had to say. Before and during the Iraq war, China voiced only mild opposition to American strategy, and this foreign policy academic explained why. “China hopes that the United States will remain the economic hegemon because nobody ― not Europe, not Japan ― is as open to Chinese exports as is America.”
“China has only regional interests,” he conntinued. “Hence, global U.S. hegemony is acceptable, but not in East Asia, where China has interests in Taiwan and North Korea that differ from America’s.”
Even more interesting, that is, unexpected, were the views of a Kuwaiti professor of international relations. Europeans, who by vast majorities opposed the Iraq war and now, by somewhat smaller majorities begrudge the United States its quick victory, would have been quite surprised as this Kuwaiti listed the following benign effects of the war. “A hardened, pernicious status quo has been challenged in the region. Arabs now can speak more freely. A lot of nasty Arab leaders were discredited. The American victory implies the beginning of a new and positive cycle in this part of the world that is characterized by authoritarianism and economic and cultural failure.” In conclusion: “For reform in the Arab world to work, the Iraq model has to work, and therefore the United States must stay as long as it takes.”
Finally, a view from Singapore, from a diplomat who, in the past, has been very skeptical of American power. “‘Shock and awe’ has changed the calculations of every capital around the world. America has used its power to reward its friends like Singapore and the Philippines, and it has punished those, like Turkey, who used to be friends but acted like foes during the Iraq war. Turkey has been moved from column A to column B.”
For the Europeans and Americans around the table, this was fascinating stuff. We are so caught up in our family quarrel that we don’t listen to other players, big and small, around the world. Europeans have been just as shocked by this enormous display of raw American power in the Middle East. But as they focus their resentment and fear on their Big Brother, they fail to see some realities. Europe is too weak and divided to be able to oppose the United States. At this point, they are beginning to reconsider their options, and so there is at least a half-hearted attempt to mend their relationships with the United States..
Will the United States be wise enough to respond with magnanimity in victory? Will it realize that power requires not only brute strength but also legitimacy? That was the other Big Question around the table. The answer is not yet in.
* The writer is the editor of Die Zeit, the German weekly, and an associate at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.
by Josef Joffe