by Jerome a Paris
Fri Sep 28th, 2007 at 08:24:52 AM EST
We've been asking variously for definitions of the "West", of Atlanticism and for a explanation of the role of NATO. This column by Philip Stephens in today's FT provides a number of answers.
the potential prize now offered by Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency: a Nato properly attuned to, and configured for, the new threats of global terrorism, failed states and unconventional weapons proliferation; and a Europe able to shoulder more of the burden of its security.
Any sensible strategy to guard the security of the west must presume an enduring transatlantic alliance. To retain its relevance, Nato requires a global perspective. Europe will need to contribute more to the security of its own neighbourhood and of its near abroad.
One striking feature of this is that the west (uncapitalised) is defined in pretty narrow security and military terms. It sounds like a purely defensive construct against outside threats. Nothing about values, nothing about democracy, nothing about being an exemple for the rest of the world, or a leader in setting up new standards of behavior - this is batten-the-hatches be-ready-for-battle-against the evil-oppressors rhetoric - the west is under siege.
The relationship that matters most for the transatlantic alliance is not the fabled partnership between the US and Britain. Much more important is that between Washington and Paris. Always suspicious, mostly fractious and often suffused with mutual contempt, the condition of Franco-American ties determines the cohesion or otherwise of the west.
If Paris is at daggers drawn with Washington, the odds are that Britain will side with the US. The Anglo-French entente necessarily becomes less than cordiale. And, if the continent's two significant military powers cannot agree, Europe can say goodbye to any hope of a coherent foreign and security policy.
The message [from France coming back to NATO integrated military command], as one European diplomat puts it, would be that France has at last come to terms with the permanence of the alliance.
This is both a compliment and an insult. The west can be strong only when France is part of it, but being part of it can only mean abdicating to US power. The description of the role of the UK is, indirectly, fascinating: its relationship with the US (its poodlehood) is taken for granted and thus irrelevant, but it has a vital job in creating discord within Europe, to stifle the French, when they are not aligned with the US. This is really the UK as the US aircraft carrier - or as the Trojan Horse.
The obstacles Stephens sees to this realignment of France under the US banner are quite revealing, on their own:
It is one thing to eschew the gratuitous anti-Americanism of his predecessor; quite another to abandon the cherished pretence that France remains a wholly independent military power. Hard though it is to believe it now, Mr Chirac began his presidency promising a rapprochement with the US and Nato.
The use of 'pretence' is by no means gratuitous, but hey, this is a Brit writing, and probably an attempt to bring down the French to their puny size. But it is notable that he shares some of my doubts that Sarkozy is doing little more thna a 'Bush', i.e. telling people what thye want to hear while doing the opposite. Again, it flags that France's blessing, in effect, is still needed for the west to be seen as a cohesive unit, but, also, that it can not influence what that unit does. So either there is a west on US terms, or not at all.
it will take more than warm words to persuade Washington that an identifiably European security strategy would not challenge US authority within Nato. Administration officials have long berated Europe for not contributing enough to its own defence: and warned in the next breath that any capability separate from Nato would be divisive.
Europe must be able to carry some of the burden (note that throughout, Europe's role is solely to be a subcontractor of the US, visibly for the most cumbersone or annoying tasks), but have no autonomy. Again, US rules or nothing.
The third obstacle is Brown's lack of interest for Europe. There must at least be a pretence that Europe matters and has a role to play, and a lot of forms and noise to be made in Brussels, but Brown cannot even be bothered (or maybe he worries that these things take a life of their own).
But again, it's clear. The EU is never mentioned; Europe exists only via NATO and matters if it is unified in NATO under US authority, and abandons all pretence of independence.
I think this is a pretty good description of the Atlanticists' vision of the West - a narrow, militaristic, US-dominated, fearful block.