04 October 2006

The EU is not our friend

The resolution of a major conflict sometimes results, within a few years, in a re-alignment of ties between countries which would have seemed unthinkable while the conflict was still going on. Within a few years of the end of World War II, for example, Germany and Japan had become allies of the US, while our wartime ally the USSR had become our chief opponent.

Most Americans who follow foreign affairs are aware that since the end of the Cold War, the policies of most western European countries have grown increasingly obstructionist toward the US, with the September 11 attack occasioning only a brief interruption in the trend. France in particular, with Germany usually following its lead, has opposed nearly every US policy or initiative in the struggle against jihadism.

Yet the problem runs far deeper than this.

There is one place in the world where we face a significant risk of being forced into a conflict even more dangerous than the battle against the jihadists: Taiwan. A small, prosperous, democratic country, an integral part of the free world, is under constant threat from a huge, belligerent, essentially ethno-fascist (despite its ragged Communist veneer) neighbor which aspires to great-power status. Because Taiwan is ethnically Chinese, even though it has rarely been under effective Chinese sovereignty through its history, China claims the island as a province. While one should never push historical analogies too far, the parallels with Germany and Austria in 1937 are striking. The most important of these parallels is the high likelihood that, if China succeeded in taking over Taiwan without serious opposition from the rest of the world, the Chinese regime would correctly deduce that the world had no will to resist its ambitions, and would feel encouraged to pursue further expansion and aggression.

In fact, the US would not allow a Chinese attack on Taiwan to go unanswered. So whether or not such an attack ever occurs, and how much damage the resulting war would do, depends entirely on the Chinese regime's assessment of the situation -- how seriously it takes US resolve to defend Taiwan, and whether it believes it could prevail against the US at acceptable cost in such a conflict. This is where the EU enters the picture.

American military supremacy depends upon technological superiority, and our will to maintain our strength as a nation. China has the latter, but not the former. Western Europe and Japan have technology nearly equal to ours, but for various reasons have not made miltary power a priority in recent decades. For China to dramatically increase its military power, it needs access to advanced technology with military applications. For obvious reasons the US will not sell such capabilities to its rival. Nor will Japan, a very reliable ally which is geographically close to China and considers it a potential threat to itself. Western Europe is another matter.

After the Tiananmen Square massacre, the EU imposed an embargo of militarily-useful technology on China. More recently, under the leadership of the notoriously anti-American French government, the EU has openly contemplated lifting this embargo, though US pressure seems to have laid the issue to rest for now. The EU is still working with China in ways which could enhance its military potential against the US, however.

The EU's motives include an open sense of anxiety about the extent of the US's unipolar domination of the world and a desire to build up China as a "counterweight". Whatever one may think of the US as the world's sole superpower, this is not how an ally behaves.

Underlying this geostrategic rationale is a simpler reality: western Europeans in general just don't like us. This survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project tells the story. In France, Germany, and Spain, fewer than 40% of people have a favorable view of the US. Only in Britain (among western European countries included in the survey) was the favorable view over 50%. Note also that pro-American views trend strongly downward over time in western Europe, even in Britain.

Whatever its motives, the EU's efforts to enhance China's military capabilities increase both the risk of a China-US war over Taiwan (because the stronger China is, the more likely the Chinese regime is to miscalculate and think the US would not dare oppose it if it attacked Taiwan, or to think that it could defeat the US if it did so) and the likely level of US casualties in the event that such a war did happen (because the US military would be facing a stronger adversary). Of course, it would not be surprising if an anti-American EU regarded such an outcome as positive; the US would be weakened in a war fought far from EU territory, undermining its global dominance to which the EU objects. But again, a true ally would not engage in behavior which would increase the likelihood of such an outcome.

Both in its foreign policy and in the attitudes of its people, the EU is not our friend. It is a vehicle for expressing the visceral anti-Americanism of France and most other countries of continental western Europe. US policy should oppose continued integration of the EU under French leadership and encourage Britain and the new eastern European member states, which are generally pro-American, to recover as much of their sovereignty as possible.

Another interesting point revealed by the Pew survey is that even in Russia, pro-American feeling is stronger than in continental western Europe -- and has been trending upward over time, not downward, despite slipping in just the last year. The Russian people, at least, have a visceral fear of China and are likely to favor our position over the EU's on that issue. Russia's present government is clearly hostile to us -- its support for Iran's nuclear program is proof of that -- but in the long run we may yet see that as a former ally (western Europe) drifts away, once again a former adversary draws closer to us.

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