Monday, August 06, 2007

Walter McDougall on Europe at 50 Years

Views on Europa, Europa!
(Image from Wikipedia)

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.

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.
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.

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.

...

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.
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:
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).

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10 Comments:

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous kapok said...

Once the disintegration of the USSR took place, Europe for the most part (at least "Post-WWII NATO Europe" chose to reap what many termed the Peace Dividend. The US too for a short time tested the waters but realizations of the magnitude of their "perceived" Pacific obligations/threats led to a scaled back version. Also too much of the US economy is defense industry based. A worldview that these industries had an interest in maintaining.

Had the US made more of the impression that it intended to pull much of its NATO component troops from European soil (which it may under present circumstances have to) then the observed disinterest in maintaining a more robust force might have given Europe a different set of "goals."

Had the US worldview of the 90's been just a bit less paranoid the globe might not be in such turmoil and the state of global conflict been lesser. All "might have beens" of course.

The decline in birthrates is not specifically addressed here. But simply, economic pressures force too many non-professionals into an either/or situation, professionals already having made their decision to forego.

One bright spot that shouldn't be overlooked, but not over-emphasized is hopefully Turkey's admission. This might spur some degree of refocusing by its fellow Muslim states.

But any hoped for solutions and accommodations must be implemented by far-sighted statesmanship. This is the fundamental dilemma. The US seems incapable of this sort of conceptualization: the Old Guard EU members are too tied up with immigration issues and oncoming suffrage demographics.

JK

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I don't recall the 90s being a paranoid decade for Americans ... but I was gone the entire decade, so perhaps I missed something domestic. Still ... I thought that we were all glad that the Cold War was over and that we were all well on the way to the end of history (though with a bit of turmoil along the fault lines where civilizations clashed).

On Turkey entering the EU? Well ... I'm unsure about that one. I used to be strongly in favor, but I'm worried about the rise in Islamism even in Turkey. Also, while I was living in Europe, I had a Kurdish friend who said that Turkey should not be allowed in until the Turkish government changed its policies toward the Kurds, instituted human rights, and developed a better democracy.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:55 AM, Anonymous kapok said...

We were all glad for the end of the Cold War. Then Sec. of Defense Dick Cheney on Feb 1st 1992 testifying before the Senate Armed Services Cmte. said, "Overall since I've been Sec. we have taken the defense program down by well over $300 billion, but you've forced me to buy weapons systems we don't have a vital need for...more M-1 (A1 Abrams), F-14's, and F-16's great systems but we don't need them."

It should be noted that the Congress was Democrat held, but still then Bush (41) was promising a savings of 30% by '97. So yes at least one Bush was looking at a "Peace Dividend."

Seems things got turned a bit since '92. And I think I might be seeing a bit more lightheartedness in your initial comments, so I'll stop that line.

As to Turkey though? Turkey is still at odds with the Kurds, yes. Seems they have something about national sovereignty and territorial integrity which finer points the Kurds don't appreciate.

They do have some human rights issues I'll grant, but they've remained (for now) a secular government. And yes, there is the danger of Radical Islamism. But the army seems not too much enamored with the concept. They are NATO too.

Instituting a better democracy? I don't know that I fully appreciate all the ramifications of your Kurdish friends' arguments so I can't get into that.But, it may well be that the US might be creating a semi-autonomous Kurdistan as we speak so that might solve everyones problems insofar as Turkey is concerned.

JK

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I try to keep myself lighthearted, but I have a serious mind and do appreciate your expertise on this.

Certainly, the Gulf War and the Balkan crises of the early 90s made everyone think twice about the end of history being near. The end might come suddenly and be very painful...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In MODERN ARMS AND FREE MEN Vannevar Bush posited that an educated and productive populace, coupled with a wide distribution of technology, is the strongest military resource a nation could have.

(Great book, huge impact on national policy and science in the 50s-60s)

This is something is definitely being neglected in the US today. I don't know much of Europe but everything I've heard has indicated that some European states have made the most progress towards information-driven economies with well-educated work forces.

REALLY not my field, but I thought it was worth a mention. Frankly I'm just a Vannevar Bush fan and I never get opportunities to mention him ordinarily.

 
At 3:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.

South Korea also seems to have a well-educated population (though it could do a lot better in teaching more critical thinking) and has a population comfortable with technology (among the younger Koreans, anyway).

When I lived in Europe, I found much of the technology clunky, but I figured that it was getting better. The education system seemed quite good.

But both East Asia and Europe will eventually -- perhaps even soon -- face a problem that we have in the States, i.e., demographically significant groups, alienated from the larger society, who opt out of education.

But on your main point, I agree that Vannevar Bush was indeed truly amazing (if that was your main point).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:14 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

The EU has been a success, even a triumph. We've heard the silly "huge bureaucracy" and "200.000 laws" stuff for decades. For decades, too, it has - correctly - been pointed out that the bueraucracy, and the numbers of laws aren't large all: If there was no EU, the number of laws (and bueraucrats) - aggregate for the equivalent territory - would be 10 times higher.

Certainly, the decision-making process is flawed. this essay by Roman Herzog, ex-president and former top dog of Germany's highest court is the best I've ever read on the issue. The EU is work in progress, don't expect perfection.

Just compare how the younger generation (below 35, say), has made the whole of Europe their home, and travels lives and works with each other without prejudice and animosity. It's beautiful. It's nothing short of a seismic shift, compared to 30 years ago, even from a West-European perspective. Let's not even get started about how immensely Eastern Europe has gained: They're home. Travel to Poland or Hungary etc., and the huge sense of relief and joy is very real, physical almost. It's nothing short of miraculous.

What is this weird obsession with the military and "projecting power" about? Why is it a bad sign that young people "are unwilling to die for the EU"? None of the problems Europe will conceivably face in the next dozen years or so, immigation included, require more than political will to adjust the laws, and (border-)police-work. This will , unfortunately, is only slowly emerging, but I can't see how this is exclusively the EU's fault. After all, non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway do no better in this regard.

The same argument holds for demography: If anybody has spotted a correllation of EU membership with low birth-rates, I'd be curious to see it. As far as I know it doesn't exist. This is purely a function of wealth. Look at Japan, Canada and the US: The birthrates are no higher. (The US-rate only appears to be higher, because the counting is done differently.)

 
At 4:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Erdal, I agree that the EU is a success, and I'm pro-EU, but I'd like to see it develop further in a couple of dimensions.

One of these is perhaps related to the flawed "decision-making process" that you refer to (but I haven't yet read the article by Herzog). Here, it seems to me that bureaucracy is a problem, with laws being made at the top without understanding of local conditions. I think that this is connected to the "democratic deficit" that McDougall meant. Your argument comparing the number of laws the EU has to the number of laws that the same geographical area would have without the EU is fine for explaining why the EU is good and even necessary, but it doesn't squarely meet the argument that there may nevertheless be too much bureaucracy.

The other dimension is my concern about the EU having a "military and 'projecting power,'" I agree with the realists. The EU needs a unified foreign policy if its hard power is to be taken seriously in the world. Along with that, it needs a military. Russia, China, and the US all aim for both economic and military power in the world. If the EU wishes to be more independent of the US, and be able to talk with Russia and China as an equal, it will need a strong military of its own.

As for the demographic implosion, the problem exists even if it is due to wealth, and it does pose a challenge to the European style of social capitalism, so the EU will either need to successfully encourage more babies or to allow in more immigrants, and the latter does pose the question of integration, which has not yet been handled very adequately (it seems to me).

As for McDougall, I don't think that he's anti-EU. My impression is that he wants to see a better EU.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:36 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

The "demographic implosion" you mention is mostly mythical. You've heard the usual numbers: Europeans have 1.3 or 1.5 children per woman, while replacement would be 2, or slightly larger. I would be catastrophic, that's easy to visualize. But it's wrong. Just a numbers game. Consider:

1) If, as a woman, you have one or more children before marriage, these children to not count any longer longer post-marriage. (If you never marry, or have just not yet married, they do count, however.)

2) If you are married with children, get a divorce, and marry again, these "early" children don't count. Only your "new" children (if any exist) count.

3) If you have children and die younger than age 39, your children don't count any longer.

4) If you have children, are younger than 39, but your children live with their father or elsewhere (already on their own, with their father, at a school, in the army, etc.), they don't count.

5) If you have any children later in life than 39, they don't count.

This is obviously a bizarre way to arrive at numbers, but precisely how it's done in Germany and - with deviations - accross most of Europe. (The US does a microcensus - vastly more reliable. So does France, which is why it's regularly hailed in the press for the comparative fertility of its women).

Efforts to introduce more reasonable and robust methods have failed due to data privacy concerns, ideology (Count bastards? Never!), infighting among different branches of registrars, lack of interest (until the "demographic implosion" scaremongering of the last years, and plain inertia. Incidently, this method was abolished this very Monday in favour of a microcensus (which is why I happen to know the above details).

The number of children to enter school in a given year, a more straightforward number than these hypothetical children per woman, is almost flat since the 1920s. This corresponds to the slight decline in live births per year in tandem with reduced infant/young children mortality.

 
At 7:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Erdal, thanks for that information. It's very interesting, and I wonder why I've never seen this before. From what you've explained, I infer that nobody knows the actual birthrate but that the rate is higher than officially recognized.

So, 'bastards' don't count? Hmmmm ... subtract 80 million Germans for being real bastards, I guess. Oh, not that sort of bastard?

Just kidding, anyway. Their bluntness aside, I like the Germans.

Besides, every American knows that the French are the truly real bastards ... except for Marquis de Lafayette and de Alexis de Toqueville. They're okay.

Jeffery Hodges

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