Post-WWII alliance on the skids
Is anyone else alarmed by the fact that France, Germany, Russia and China are cozying up to one another in an effort to check the American hyperpower? I’m not alarmed so much by the fact that there are countries disagreeing with the policies of the United States — hell, I disagree with most of the policies of the United States — but what’s worrisome is that the post-WWII alliance of the last 50 years seems to be on its way to fraying irrevocably.
France and Germany pulled more tightly together Thursday, after a joint session of the two countries’ cabinets and a pledge by French president Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to offer dual citizenship to French and German nationals. At the same time, the two Continental powers blocked NATO from making a decision on whether to aid in a war with Iraq.
These moves are just the first step in a true “new world order” in which the English speaking powers of the West — the United States, Britain and Australia — stand together while the rest of Europe, Russia, central Asia and China stand against this new troika. This radical realignment of the post-WWII alliances of NATO and other international bodies will be brought about because of the United States’ determination to go to war with Iraq with or without the U.N.’s blessing, and perhaps even in spite of it. The situation is not helped by President George W. Bush’s pique with the Continental allies and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s comments that France and Germany are “old Europe.”
“You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t,” Rumsfeld said. “I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east. And there are a lot of new members.”
Yes, the center is shifting to the east, with the additions of Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic states. But these states are still in their infancy as NATO and European Union members. The economies (and militaries) and France and Germany still dominate the European members of the alliance. (Turkey, despite its aspirations, is not a European member of NATO.) These disagreements seem to go beyond the usual American-French tensions that have marked the last 50 years, and — with the freezing out of Shröder after he campaigned on an anti-war/anti-American platform last year — indicate that France and Germany have firmly flunked the George W. Bush loyalty test. The result could — and I emphasize this — could be the end of NATO as a credible force in the world.
Some might say this is not a tragedy, that the United States no longer needs France and Germany — or really any of Europe for that matter (Sorry, Tony Blair!) The threat from Russia is negligible, with its rusting military, its Third World economy and President Vladimir Putin’s desire to cozy up to the West. Turkey today is much more of a front-line state (literally) than Germany was, now that NATO is right up on Russia’s frontier.
But the United States doesn’t just share an alliance with Europe; it shares a basic culture, based in the Enlightenment of the 18th century, and I believe America will suffer if it turns its eyes away from “old Europe” and feels the need to align itself with … who? Turkey? The new vassel state of Iraq? If the United States turns away from Europe, we’re talking an intra-civilizational split now, in the Huntington sense, which could lead to unforseen consquences.
Here’s a scenario: France and Germany have decided to form the core of a new opposition to American power, as Russia and China — alarmed by American forces on their southern flanks — join in. Iran might want to work more closely with France and Germany as well, as it’s likely the next target in the U.S. campaign to remake the politics of the Middle East. As for the United Nations, its credibility is being chipped away, not by Iraq’s failure to disarm, but by the United States going to war in defiance of the Security Council and the organization’s very charter. With its dominant member ignoring it, can the U.N. claim to have any relevance?
The world is changing, and the war against Iraq is just the beginning. How the post-Iraq war geopolitics of the world will play out, I don’t think anyone knows.