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Barnett: "Don't expect Europe to step in line behind any new American president."

Thomas P.M. Barnett has a column in the Knoxville News Sentinel in which he reports on the mood of government officials in the Netherlands. There are a lot of interesting angles in the article -- for instance on McCain's 'League of Democracies', which the Dutch do not appreciate, and on European worries about trade rhetoric by Obama, which would be overblown as Obama is pivoting to the centre faster than the eye can see.

These, however, are the article's key paragraphs:

But here's what I found during my week in The Hague: the Dutch aren't convinced that America plus Europe translates into a quorum that's sufficient to tackle all the challenges we collectively face.

In almost every issue you can name, Europe's coming to the conclusion that the West needs the East to figure out the South, as well as our shared future on this increasingly crowded and competitive planet.

It should be borne in mind that the Dutch are one of the most atlanticist nations of Europe in their outlook. Public thinkers from the States like Barnett quite frequently get an ear from the Dutch government. Yet, they have gone global. The Dutch - and the Europeans in general - do not see the 'west' as sufficient anymore, either in terms of its power or in terms of its legitimacy.

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joe on :

Europe has little power....so I can see why they draw this conclusion.

Elisabetta on :

The Dutch - and the Europeans in general - do not see the 'west' as sufficient anymore, either in terms of its power or in terms of its legitimacy. It is this type of sloppy reasoning that led the pre-eminent Dutch to their sorry, second tier state. What does legitimacy in this context even mean? The Western political experiment post 1648? The common ties of Graeco-Roman and greater European culture from Homer until Sebald? If you want to revert to or eulogize the rabid, racial nationalisms of China or the Koreas, I don't think that line of argumentation will meet many a sympathetic ear. The potential rise of China to a world power demands more cohesion amongst western states, not less. Who is going to keep the straits of Molucca clear? Consolidate economic pressure to prohibit Chinese expansion into Russia or Taiwan? While the remnants of Empire grant a few European countries a special insight into the far east, Americans have been considering the options, crafting policies and implementing strategies since Admiral mahan in the 1840s. This idea that Europe is going to unilaterally carve out a 'separate peace' with China and enter into a position of strength in the 'east' is wishful thinking. China is a cipher. No one knows much about its relative economic health. The IMF or the World Bank does not have any independent figures about per capita GDP or real wages, just want the Chinese government puts out. The omissions are so glaring that the Economist has stopped printing M2 and M3 a few years back for any country. Yet some Europeans are willing to cast off hundreds of years of political development for an opaque, crony-capitalist oligarchy?

Nanne on :

Having a country of 16 million people makes it rather obvious that you are going to be in second tier. At best! The Dutch should be happy that their influence is still so much larger than that of countries two thirds of their size like Belgium, or Sweden, or Austria. Either way: 'not sufficient' does not mean 'not necessary'. It means that there has been a shift in perspective, from viewing concerted action from having a sufficiently broad, multilateral basis to recognising that it is externally perceived as being unilateral, and is likely to be contested, and/or to be insufficient. So, you get the search for a [i]broader[/i] basis. From a Dutch perspective, at least, you will not get the search for an [i]alternative basis[/i] -- as Barnett also stresses, the Europeans are not particularly likely to abandon the alliance with America in search for another.

Elisabetta on :

Nanne, your response of course makes sense; however, the meaning of 'sufficient' was not at issue: the use of 'legitimacy' was. The Dutch - and the Europeans in general - do not see the 'west' as sufficient anymore, either in terms of its power or in terms of its legitimacy. The sentence supra says something very different, I think--now I reinterpret with your comments, are you saying that concensual diplomatic within the West engaging the East has no inherent legitimacy from the Eastern perspective? and that more Eastern countries need to be included in negotiations to bolster the legitimacy of the discussions? Ruffled feathers of a nationalist stripe are not easily calmed by references to structural theory that the procedural aspects of negotiations carry a instrinsic value in comparison to the substantive decisions created.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Elisabetta "It is this type of sloppy reasoning that led the pre-eminent Dutch to their sorry, second tier state." Oh, the irony. "Sloppy reasoning"? Do you expect a people of 16 million to form a first tier state? Who decides about the tier system anyway? What criteria do you use? In many social indicators the Dutch lead the statistics, or at least are much higher ranked than the US.

Elisabetta on :

Oh, the irony. "Sloppy reasoning"? Do you expect a people of 16 million to form a first tier state? Glad someone got it unlike the Cees Nooteboom reference. Well partially got it, thatis.

joe on :

Jorg Yes things are so wonderful for the Dutch, they are leaving, a lot of them. Oh and they are not going to germany btw.

Nanne on :

As Joerg said, the Dutch are already in Germany. Berlin, even! More to the point, a quarter of Dutch emigration is to border areas with Belgium and Germany, due to lower house prices. There are entire towns in the border areas that are being Dutchified. These people continue to work in the Netherlands and if you subtract them, the Netherlands still has more people coming in than going out.

influx on :

joe, you're wrong. Look at [url=http://tinyurl.com/44k9ym]this link[/url]. The US is fifth, behind Belgium, Germany, the UK and the Antilles. France and Spain are almost on the same level as the US.

Joe Noory on :

What about the "[url=http://www.radionetherlands.nl/thenetherlands/weeklyfeature/050504dh]bourgois exodus[/url]" which in this example is cited about the Netherlands, but is oft mentioned too for [url=http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1020496/Germans-leaving-country-record-numbers-population-forecast-plummet-further.html]Germany[/url], the [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6958220.stm]UK[/url], and even France? Aren't we talking about the old "sometimes we're 27, sometimes we're 1" broblem here? People are moving around the EU once they legally get into the fortress, while nthose who grew up in there are showing a tendency to migrate further? Even the [url=www.forbes.com/forbes/1998/1130/6212084a.html]chefs[/url] and [url=http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20061218/ai_n16897222]Elvis impersonators[/url]. One funny thing I noticed about apparently African immigrants in Washington DC: a good number of them are remigrants from France and Belgium. The fact is that people make a personal decision about this, and go where they think they have a chance to make things better for themselves with the skills they have. There are a large number of Europeans finding that in Canada, US, NZ, AU, etc. There are also a great number of Asians and Africans finding that in those same destinations as well as the EU, almost always with an emphasis on cities where there is already an immigrant community from their culture of origin. Since thereafter these folks then intigrate into the larger society of the cities they move to, it takes the [url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/1100-Political-Segregation-Increases-Culture-Wars-in-America.html]tacitly negative reinforcement[/url] of the "Big Sort" argument that's being peddled right now on its' ear.

Joe Noory on :

More to the point, who's doing the engaging? A big part of China's opening up is due to US engagement with them in the 1970s. Much is the same with the Indian abandonment of centrally planned economic ideas. The last 5 years have seen France and Germany entertaining the idea that a broader engagment between themselves and China could act to counterbalance the US through triangualtion. The US has already engaged China more deeply, but without the intent of working-over a third party.

Don S on :

" But here's what I found during my week in The Hague: the Dutch aren't convinced that America plus Europe translates into a quorum that's sufficient to tackle all the challenges we collectively face. In almost every issue you can name, Europe's coming to the conclusion that the West needs the East to figure out the South, as well as our shared future on this increasingly crowded and competitive planet." This is so obvious it's downright banal. Judging by their actions the Bush administration figured this out years ago. The '6-party talks' about North Korea and the diplomatic outreach by the US to Lula's Brazil and India are prime examples. So if 'Europe' has just figured it out they are late to the party. Apart from certain navel-gazers resident in Bruxelles, Strasborg, and Turtle Bay (who sometimes bahave as if they bellieve the global agenda can be imposed from Bruxelles by way of a Turtle Bay rubber stamp) I don't think most European leaders are quite that slow, particularly Sarko and the Brits, probably the Irish. Zapatero might but I think he's the only leader dumb enough.

SC on :

"This is so obvious it's downright banal. Judging by their actions the Bush administration figured this out years ago." Good Lord! As already noted here, Nixon and Kissinger were playing on that field nearly 40 years ago. If my memory serves me, one of the periodic concerns in Europe over time stretching back to through Clinton administration was that US foreign policy was going to be (too) centered on the Pacific basin - which IMHO it ought to be. That Asia, specifically China and India, will be following a well worn path in outsourcing to the global south, specifically Africa is a story already noted for some time on this side of the Atlantic - it's about more than just oil.

Don S on :

Nixon/Kissinger figured it out 40 years ago, and arguably DeGaulle was there before them, at least in terms of dealing with China. But that was in a Cold War context, the policy was to warm relations with China to apply leverage on the USSR. I would argue however that the Bush administration has taken this policy to a new level with the 6-party talks with North Korea and the diplomatic opening to India, both of which have nothing to do with influencing Russia. It's no longer about the bipolar superpower relationship - it's about the emergence of a new concert of powers. I think one big outstanding question if what part (if any) Europe will take in the emerging order. Problem is Europe is neither one or 'tother. No individual European nation is large or full-spectrum enough to take a place individually. Germany might have the potential but Germany 'don't wanna study war no more' - so that leaves them out. France isn't quite big enough to play that game, UK neither. The Eu as a whole is, of course. But the EU is decidedly schizoid in it's behavior as a 'power' to date.

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