Walter McDougall on Europe at 50 Years
My old Berkeley history professor Walter A. McDougall has written a two-part article, "Will 'Europe' Survive the 21st Century?," that can be read on the Foreign Policy Research Institute's website.
After summarizing the European Union's 50-year-history, starting in 1957 and leading up to the present (2007), McDougall begins to question the EU's power to survive:
I suggest that the EU is at best incomplete and at worst a false paradise for which even its own citizens are unwilling to die.In short, Europe has it good right now due to its economic union, large, educated population, and technological ability, but it faces a doubtful future because it has little ability to project military power in the world or even to adequately defend itself, and it is doing nothing to prepare for potential hard-power threats.
The EU's potential for superpower status is beyond dispute. Its 484 million people outnumber Americans by more than 50 percent. The EU today is the world's largest internal market in terms of purchasing power and boasts the largest volume of world trade. The combined GDP of EU member states surpassed that of the United States ($15.5 trillion to $13 trillion) for the first time in 2003. The euro has been a magnificent success. Instead of struggling to maintain parity with the dollar, it has soared to $1.30 or $1.40. Yet Europe remains what the Germans call a Handelsstaat: a trading state bereft of significant military power or diplomatic influence. That is because NATO Europe simply refuses to spend more than a comparative pittance on its military. Of all the old Great Powers only Britain can pretend to have some capability for power projection. Thus did an American neoconservative tease our transatlantic friends with the quip that if men are from Mars and women from Venus, so are Americans from Mars and Europeans from Venus [(3) Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (2003)]. Indeed, make love, not war could be Europe's motto.
Polls confirm Europeans' New Age attitude toward defense. Only 24 percent think their nation-states should be responsible for security; 20 percent think NATO should be responsible for their security (take that, Uncle Sam!), and a pacifist 14 percent do not believe in having any military at all. That leaves a plurality of 42 percent who want the EU itself to take charge of defense (which is precisely what President Eisenhower hoped Europeans would do back in the 1950s). But European governments allocate less than 2 percent of their combined GDP to defense. Britain and France still deploy small nuclear deterrents plus a few aircraft carriers and bomber squadrons, but the EU itself has no strategic forces, just a handful of aircraft and armored vehicles, and virtually no capacity for long-range logistics or space-based reconnaissance, communications, command and control. The vaunted 60,000 man EU rapid reaction force may be sufficient to help patrol Bosnia or pacify a troubled ex-colony in Africa, but it is hard to imagine any other mission for which it is adequate.
To be sure, Europeans boast of what Harvard's Prof. Joseph Nye termed soft power[(4) Joseph Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (2005)] in the belief that diplomatic, cultural, and moral suasion is more humane and effective than brute force. But even Europe's soft power may be overrated in an era when few leaders on other continents look anymore to London, Paris, Rome, or Berlin for their standards of philosophy, law, fashion, high or popular culture. In any event, Europeans can trumpet their soft power only because of (a) the absence of any hard power threat in their neighborhood and (b) the willingness of the U.S. to combat terrorists, aggressors, and rogue regimes. Nor has the EU yet considered taking out some insurance against the chance that those conditions may change.
McDougall also questions how democratic the European Union is, noting that:
EU regulations [set by the EU executive council] today are so numerous no one can say how many there are except that they exceed 200,000 and some 2,500 new ones are added each year. Moreover, since legislatures of member or applicant states are obliged to incorporate them into their national codes, they become little more than rubber stamps for the Eurocrats. The powers of the European Parliament in Strasbourg are also carefully circumscribed, so it mostly signs off on whatever the EU executive council proposes. In any case, who would bother to run for a seat at Strasbourg unless they believed in the EU, or bother to vote for those who do run? In truth, voter turnout for EU elections is embarrassingly small by comparison to that for national elections.The 'democracy deficit' -- as McDougall calls it -- means that the EU is a bureaucratic state rather than a democratic one. Under such circumstances, can the EU inspire Europeans with a loyalty equivalent to patriotism or a civic consciousness necessary for civil society?
In part 2 of his article, McDougall focuses upon the challenges looming in Europe's future.
First, Europe lacks a foreign policy, as British diplomat Chris Patten noted in 2003: "Some Europeans think that grumbling about America is the same thing as having a foreign policy"[(6) William I. Hitchcock, The Struggle for Europe (2003), p. 473].
Second, Europe faces an Asian challenge: "China, India, and still formidable Japan are already fierce competitors for economic and soft power, and could easily surpass the EU in hard power."
Third, Europe faces an even more fundamental Islamic challenge, and McDougall spends more words on this issue:
While determining the number of Muslims in each country is difficult and one finds varying figures, as of 2001 official estimates of Muslims as a percent of the population were as follows: France 7.5; Netherlands 4.4; Germany 3.9; Britain 3.3; Spain 1.8; Denmark 1.4; Italy 1.2. Not high percents, you may think, but Europeans think otherwise.McDougall, by the way, speaks quite moderately upon the Muslim issue, even writing favorably on Turkey's application for EU membership. This does not mean that he fails to see an Islamic challenge, for he implies that the challenge is an existential one for European identity, but his wording suggests that the problem lies less with the Muslims and more with Europeans' unwillingness to procreate:
The other trend that has made immigration an existential concern and source of panic is the concomitant plunge of fertility among native Europeans to the lowest in the world. The birthrates for Germans, Swedes, Spaniards, Greeks, French, Italians, and Russians have fallen as low as 1.4 or even 1.1 per woman, whereas the mere replacement rate is 2.1. In Germany 31.2 percent of women bear no children at all.
All that is relevant to the “Islamic Challenge” because it means people of native European stock are shrinking in absolute terms while the Arabs, Turks, and other extra-European immigrants among them are procreating at very high rates. Moreover, Europeans are going to need immigrant workers all the more as their own population rapidly ages.
So far, efforts to deal with Muslim immigration have been singularly unsuccessful because efforts to assimilate, or tolerate, or repress Muslim cultural habits have fomented protests and race riots among immigrants and nativists alike in France, England, and Germany, while neo-fascist splinter parties have arisen in France, Italy, and Austria that promise to halt or reverse immigration.
Such "demographic suicide" (as George Weigel termed it) is virtually unknown in biological history. To be sure, massive die-offs have occurred periodically, but they were due to famine, epidemic diseases, or warfare. Europeans today, at least west of Russia, are as well fed, healthy, and peaceful as any civilization in history. They are simply choosing not to have babies. Why? Studies done by national and EU institutions point to the decline of marriage and family values, lenient divorce and abortion laws, ubiquitous contraception, the choice by women to pursue careers, and the preference of couples for two incomes rather than children [(9) See Nicholas Eberstadt, "Population and Public Health: Four Unexpected Surprises," Orbis, Fall 2004]. Moral critics blame the birth dearth on the selfishness of a "me first, do your own thing" generation. But morals aside, it is clear many Europeans no longer consider children a part of their pursuit of happiness and may even find them a hindrance.McDougall is surely right to see that the main problem lies in the Europeans' failure to reproduce themselves, but he neglects the high birthrate among the largely Muslim immigrant population, a point that surely deserved more attention. I therefore consider this the weakest part of his article.
Finally, McDougall asks what the founder of Europe, Charlemagne, would think of Europe today:
[T]hree features of Europe today would doubtless grieve and trouble him greatly: military impotence; spiritual emptiness; and demographic decay. How long, the Emperor would surely ask, can a civilization expect to survive without arms, without faith, without children?These three features don't precisely match up with the three challenges, but they're certainly part of McDougall's argument throughout. I wouldn't say that this article is a "must-read," but it's an inside look at what an old paleoconservative thinks of Europe's future -- and those readers with anti-American inclinations will find satisfying the rather generous amount of implicit criticism directed at the United States, albeit from a rather strongly patriotic position (as I can personally avow in McDougall's case).