Whither Europe’s influence?
Martin Woollacott says in today’s Guardian that European Union’s influence is waning in the rest of the world: The European Union will eventually get its internal affairs in order to some degree. But it will be doing so at a time when long-term trends are taking away some of the influence it once enjoyed, and ...
Martin Woollacott says in today's Guardian that European Union's influence is waning in the rest of the world:
Martin Woollacott says in today’s Guardian that European Union’s influence is waning in the rest of the world:
The European Union will eventually get its internal affairs in order to some degree. But it will be doing so at a time when long-term trends are taking away some of the influence it once enjoyed, and some of the opportunities it might have expected as a consequence of European successes in the future. These trends are not, in the first instance anyway, those to do with population, pensions, migration, and out-sourcing that have led to suggestions that Europe will be increasingly outpaced by America, India and China. More important is the simple fact of lost leverage in the three regions of most importance to Europe – the US, Russia and the Middle East.
When he gets to the Middle East, here’s his rationale:
But it is in the Middle East that Europe’s star is faintest. The reason is that, although Europeans have enjoyed no real independence of action in the region for decades, there have always been Arab hopes that there would come a moment when Europe would act as a real counterbalance to the United States and Israel. However, in spite of European opposition to the war in Iraq and in spite of European efforts, notably those of Tony Blair, to persuade the United States to deal with the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians more evenhandedly, Arabs are shifting in their view of Europe. Many see us not only as ineffectual but as essentially American collaborators, with the presence of European troops in Iraq, and more perhaps to come, counted as proof.
Wollacott has half a point, in that those realpolitik-minded Arabs desperately want more multipolarity in the system. However, in the future, Europe’s standoffishness on Iraq might cause their influence to wane among future leaders. Tom Friedman’s column from yesterday makes this point. One highlight:
One major criticism of the Iraq war is that by invading Iraq, the U.S. actually created more enemies in the Arab-Muslim world. I don’t happen to believe that, but maybe it’s true. What the critics miss, though, is that the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein has also triggered the first real “conversation” about political reform in the Arab world in a long, long time. It’s still mostly in private, but more is now erupting in public. For this conversation to be translated into broad political change requires a decent political outcome in Iraq. But even without that, something is stirring…. Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, the former dean of Qatar University’s law school, just published an essay, in London’s widely read Arabic-language daily Al Sharq Al Awsat, which asks whether the world is better off because of the U.S. ouster of Saddam. Those who say it is worse off, he argues, see only half the picture. “Let us imagine the world if America had listened to the French and German logic saying: Give the murderers of the Serbs and the Arabs a chance for a diplomatic solution. Would Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq be liberated? Let us describe the situation of the Arabs, and especially of Iraq, had America listened to the European counsel that said: democracy is not suited to the Arabs, their culture is contrary to it. . . . See now how many countries are turning toward democracy. Even Afghanistan has a constitution. In Iraq [they are drafting] a new constitution and handing over the regime, and Libya has changed.” (Translation by Memri.)
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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