Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The EU failure and the End of Dreams

Reading Kagan after Zakaria is refreshing. It feels as though I’m returning to the real world. This is partly because Kagan is an Historical Realist. It is also because Zakaria is an idealist. He may deny that classification, but he has faith in his statistics, trends and economic forecasts. He looks toward the future confident in what his numbers tell him. He has tasted European idealism and declared it good. The EU followed by a host if idealistic followers has been dreaming. Not only that, they have been operating as though their dreams were a reality. Marx dreamt similar dreams long ago. First he dreamt them and then someone made a reality of them. But things can go wrong when the rest of the world isn’t dreaming with you.

Kagan, unlike Zakaria, looks at the present in terms of the past. He sees the return of 19th century power politics – something Fukuyama scoffed at. For Kagan, the EU experiment isn’t working very well.

On page 20 Kagan writes, “So what happens when a twenty-first-century entity like the EU faces the challenge of a traditional power like Russia? The answer will play itself out in coming years, but the contours of the conflict are already emerging – in diplomatic standoffs over Kosovo, Ukraine, Georgia, and Estonia; in conflicts over gas and oil pipelines; in nasty diplomatic exchanges between Russian and Great Britain; and in a return of Russian military exercises of a kind not seen since the Cold war

“Europeans are apprehensive and have reason to be. The nations of the European Union placed a mammoth bet in the 1990s. They bet on the new world order, on the primacy of geo-economics over geopolitics, in which a huge and productive European economy would compete as an equal with the United States and China. . . They cut back on their defense budgets and slowed the modernization of their militaries, calculating that soft power was in and hard power was out. They believed Europe would be a model for the world, and in a world modeled after the European Union, Europe would be strong.

“For a while this seemed a good bet. . . [but] with Russia back on its feet and seeking to restore its great power status, including predominance in its traditional spheres of influence, Europe finds itself in a most unexpected and unwanted position of geopolitical competition. This great twenty-first-century entity has, through enlargement, embroiled itself in a very nineteenth-century confrontation.

“Europe may be ill-equipped to respond to a problem that it never anticipated having to face. . . Many western Europeans already regret having brought the eastern European countries into the Union and are unlikely to seek even more confrontations with Russia by admitting such states as Georgia and Ukraine.”

Kagan wrote his book before Russia invaded Georgia, but he saw that coming. He writes on page 24, “What would Europe and the United States do if Russia played hardball in either Ukraine or Georgia? They might well do nothing. Post-modern Europe can scarcely bring itself to contemplate a return of conflict involving a great power and will go to great lengths to avoid it. Nor is the United States eager to take on Russia when it is so absorbed in the Middle East. Nevertheless, a Russian confrontation with Ukraine or Georgia would usher in a brand-new world – or rather a very old world. As one Swedish analyst has noted, ‘We’re in a new era of geopolitics. You can’t pretend otherwise.’”

Will Kane threw his badge in the dirt and rode out of town, and the town didn’t care. Frank Miller was dead. Who needs Will Kane? But then a few years later Frank Miller, wearing a ski mask, rises from his grave. He isn’t dead after all. Quick, send for Will Kane. Does anyone know where Will Kane is?

Lawrence Helm

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