American Diplomacy
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April 2000

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Warburg 2000 Conference
What other Conference 2000 Speakers had to say:

Sir Kieran Prendergast , on U.S. and UN roles in collective security:
"In an era of increasing globalization and proliferating transnational problems, the relevance and utility of the United Nations can only grow. This is not a boast, but an acknowledgment that often there is no alternative."

Prof Erik Jensen, on the objectives of the Warburg 2000 Conference:
"As the sole remaining superpower, the U.S. is faced with difficult decisions when crises arise: whether to act alone; or to tackle them in collaboration with like-minded allies, for example, through NATO; or to work for collective security principally in the United Nations Security Council. Hence the conference title: Collective Security, Posse or Global Cop."

Amb. Denis McLean, on sharing responsibility in wars of nationalism and separatism:
"The U.S. has a fundamental role to play in helping to put together the capabilities to meet these types of emergency. But so too have other countries."

Amb. Frank Crigler, on U.S. interest in conflicts far from our shores:
"We cannot disengage from Africa because America’s own roots run too deep there and because we as a people are too deeply touched by the fate of Africans."


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I HAVE TO TELL YOU ABOUT a conversation I had on the plane flying up from Washington. The man sitting next to me was a pilot, an air safety analyst, and a tai chi fan, and he was coming up to look at Emerson College for his daughter. He asked why I was coming to Boston, and I said I was going to give a talk at Simmons College.

“What are you going to say?” he asked me — so I told him: Europeans, after centuries of fighting each other, have now enjoyed their longest period of peace in history. There has been a chain reaction of reconciliation, following that original French-German reconciliation after World War II, with German-Polish, Polish-Ukrainian, Romanian-Hungarian, and Bulgarian-Macedonian reconciliation. And the Europeans have decided that in an age of globalization, cooperation makes a lot more sense than the old balance of power.

“Hey,” he said, impressed; “what a great time to be alive!” My thesis is quite simple — and, it seems, oddly, quite radical. It’s this: Something extraordinary is happening in Europe. But we have missed seeing the forest for the trees. We have asked the wrong questions — and gotten sometimes wrong, sometimes irrelevant answers.

The cold war was not a freezer, but an incubator of European cooperation. . . . Europe is not and never will be a homogenized federation, but it is already far more than a confederation.
Basically, on a war-prone continent, a qualitatively new method of organizing intercourse among nations has developed. Francis Fukuyama got it right, for Europe, when he talked about the end of history. The old clash of ideologies is over. All the new democracies and even non-democracies in Central Europe and Southeastern Europe now agree that they want to be part of the blessed Western European zone of peace and prosperity. To change the metaphor, the cold war was not a freezer, but an incubator of European cooperation. The era of the Westphalian nation-state is over in heartland Europe. A very peculiar form of governance is taking its place. It is not and never will be a homogenized federation, but it is already far more than a confederation.

As evidence of this, some eighty per cent of governmental economic decisions are now made in Brussels rather than in the capitals of EU member states. Meetings average once a week in Brussels or elsewhere for foreign-ministry political directors. Stacks of detailed “coreux” (“European correspondence”) arrive in civil servants’ in-boxes each day that have to be answered within twenty-four hours, stating Germany’s or France’s or Luxembourg’s position on this, that or the other thing. European courts without any enforcement body of their own have greatly expanded their own competence — and have had the competence accepted by sovereign nations — in a process reminiscent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s invocation of the Interstate Commerce clause.

I’m talking, of course, about core Europe. I’m not talking about the Caucasus. I’m not talking about the Balkans — although I do entertain the hope that with the end of the worst bloodletting in ex-Yugoslavia, the vicious circle of murder, rape, and hatreds can be broken. There is a possibility, at least, of slowly integrating Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, and maybe eventually even Serbia into the European family.

What do I mean by core Europe? It’s fuzzy, but expanding. It starts with European Union-Europe (plus Norway and Switzerland). In the decade since the end of the cold war, core Europe is already adding Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Estonia to the list. Since the Helsinki summit of last December, it is committed as well to admit the other Central and Southeastern European countries, and eventually even Turkey.

Clearly, this core Europe has enormous problems. Some turn into crisis, and a lot of them turned into crises together in the wretched three years after the Maastricht Treaty was signed. But crisis itself has become a tool in EU development. And one can’t view the crises in isolation but has to see them in the context of the multiple miracles of European development in the decade since the end of the cold war.

To name the most conspicuous among them:
  1. French-German reconciliation after more than a century of hostility. Add to this the conversion of the very undemocratic Germans to become very democratic Germans.
  2. With this, Europe has now enjoyed the longest period of peace in its history, according to historian Paul Johnson. It has broken out of the cycle of European “civil wars” in alternating generations. On the heartland of this war-prone continent, war has been banned.
  3. Revitalization of the European Community in the mid-’80s occurred in time to absorb German unification. After fifteen or twenty years of Eurosclerosis, Europe had bestirred itself to create a real single European market before the earthquake of German unification. I can’t imagine that it could have done so once the throes of German unification began.
  4. The first successful revolution in German history, and the first peaceful absorption of an ascent of Germany. Germans have not exhibited much moral courage in their history, but on October 9, 1989, a month before the Berlin Wall fell, 70,000 Leipzigers did so. They went out to demonstrate for more democracy and more freedom to travel, even though many of them thought they would be shot in a repetition of the Tien An Men massacre. And they showed that under the circumstances of the late 1980s, if enough of them took to the streets, the security forces would not shoot. Moreover, the ascent of Germany that this led to, unlike in 1870, 1914 or 1939, was peaceful.
  5. The collapse of the Soviet Russian empire without bloodshed, except in Romania and the Caucasus. This was surely the most momentous change in history that has ever occurred without violence. The astounding thing here is the dog that didn’t bark. The astounding thing is not that nationalist hostility returned on the fringes of heartland Europe, in the Balkans and the Caucasus, but that it did not return in Central Europe, where there was an equally bloody history to invoke. Poles and Ukrainians, who had been butchering each other as recently as the 1940s, conducted a policy of reconciliation with each other. Bulgaria and Macedonia were reconciled after more than eighty years of cold war. And this pattern was true throughout the region.
  6. Central Europe is going through four impossible simultaneous revolutions — political, economic, social, and psychological — remarkably well. There has already been a change of mentality in Poland, for example, that Poles didn’t believe possible. The assistant to Leszek Balcerowicz when he suddenly became finance minister in 1989 in the region’s first non-Communist government told me how many Poles told Balcerowicz that the liberal reforms he was trying to institute simply wouldn’t work with Poles. The Polish black-market operators who were plying their trade in Berlin and elsewhere simply couldn’t take on the mind set of entrepreneurs. The very term “Polish economy” was slang for any mess. And the old joke about Polish hell showed why the cooperation necessary for democracy and for a functioning market simply wouldn’t be there. In that joke there are lots of pots of boiling oil in hell, all filled with a different nationality. All of them are guarded by devils to make sure no one escapes — except for the one pot that is filled with Poles. There no devils are needed, since the other Poles in the pot immediately claw back any of their fellows who try to escape. And yet, despite these old habits of thinking, the Poles have been hugely successful in their simultaneous revolutions. They already have as many entrepreneurs per capita as in Western Europe. Their growth rate has been a steady four or five or six percent over the past five years. They got over the extreme splintering of the two dozen parties in their first freely elected parliament to elect just a handful of coherent parties with a clear majority.
Now there are lots of riddles hidden in these miracles.

    How did the Germans, no-risk conservatives incarnate, come to be the agitators for the biggest change in Europe in half a century (or in three centuries, if you take the Peace of Westphalia as the measure)?

    How has a style of consensus come to mean, not the lowest common denominator, but rather “benchmarks” that pull the sluggards up?

    How was such anticipatory convergence achieved?

    How did the EU, despite Henry Kissinger’s gloomy predictions, help Spain and Portugal to transform themselves from autocratic to democratic rule?

    How did Ireland’s alternative orientation to London, gained through the European Community, help the country mature economically and politically and develop the self-confidence (whatever the problems today) to enter into the Good Friday peace agreement?

    How did chaotic Italy discipline itself over five years to halve its inflation rate and budget deficit and qualify to be a founding member of European Monetary Union?

    What made Hungary, with the largest per capita number of ethnic compatriots outside its borders, nonetheless reject irredentism?

    Why has anticipatory convergence proved to be so powerful that the new democracies of Central Europe are striving to meet the strict conditions for membership in the West’s two premier clubs of the EU and NATO?

    What made the Germans so convinced that widening and deepening of the EU—that is, both enlargement to take in new members and a strengthening of the cooperative elements within the EU—were not only compatible but complementary?

    And how did Chancellor Kohl dare to open Germany’s borders to Poland in 1990, immediately after German unification, and pull this off without controversy, despite traditional anti-Polish prejudice in Germany, as if it were the most natural thing in the world?

The riddles continue: How did the EU pull itself together after Eurosclerosis? How did the inertia of inertness—when nothing could move—turn into the inertia of momentum, with some parts moving even as other parts got stuck and eventually rolling the stuck parts over too? How does this camel of an EU—with a relatively small bureaucracy no larger than the administration of the city of Cologne, and with a budget under 1.27 percent of European GDP and without much discretionary authority to allocate that—function? How do political directors in foreign ministries ever have time to see their families or to enjoy the frequent flyer miles they rack up?

And a derivative question for the United States: Why is there such American myopia about Europe? Why does the nation that invented soft power not recognize the strength of it in the way Europe operates? And why don’t we, in the words of my seat mate, think, “Hey, what a great time to be alive!”?  

    Writer and lecturer on international affairs, Elizabeth Pond was a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor from 1967-1988. She is the author of (Washington: Brookings, 1999) and some nine other books in the field of foreign policy and international affairs.

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