Three Monkeys Online

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Super-State. The new Europe and its challenge to America – Prof. Stephen Haseler


Professor Stephen Haseler?s book Super ?State. The New Europe and its Challenge to America is a fascinating and timely read, as President Bush prepares for his second term and the nations of Europe turn towards ratification of a new constitution.

Haseler skilfully outlines the political thinking behind the scenes, as Europe continues its march towards greater unification. A unification that, according to Haseler?s thesis, must ultimately lead to a greater divergence between Europe and the United States on matters such as trade, defence and spheres of interest.

It?s 15 years since the fall of the Berlin wall, but paradigms shift slowly, and while the cold war ended dramatically quickly, the dominant theme of the post cold war has been slow to emerge. Various international crises such as the 1991 Gulf War, and the violent break up of Yugoslavia may have obscured it, but throughout the 1990?s the groundwork was being put in place for a Europe with little or no need of the United States. Donald Rumsfeld?s petty remarks about France and Germany and their opposition to the proposed American invasion of Iraq, when he said ?You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe”, were, in the context of Haseler?s book, less a realistic observation than the rhetoric of an America under threat: ? The USA starts the new century ? in decline or not ? with a keen sense of its powerful world role, and Washington will not easily accept Europe as a rival, or even a complementary superpower. If it sticks to the objectives of its 2002 National Security Strategy ? to block rival power centres ? Washington can be relied upon to play political hardball with Europe: to play one EU nation against another and thus ?divide and rule??.[pg 6] Haseler?s book suggests that far from being ?old Europe?, France and Germany are in fact the pioneers leading Europe by hook or by crook to the status of a superpower.

Haseler, a professor of Government at London?s Guild Hall University, is well placed to offer observations on the growing divide between Europe and America, having spent much of the 80s in America working in influential Washington think tanks and Universities, where he was impressed by and befriended many of the ?Neo-Cons? that we here so much about. This however is a book that will provide uneasy reading for the Richard Perles of the world, arguing as it does that the ?American Century? is effectively over and that new power relationships are maturing around us as we speak.

Starting with a quick round up of post-WWII power relationships, where America and Western Europe?s interests lay firmly together, Haseler outlines how that has changed. Part history book, part economic analysis, and part visionary polemic, the book states clearly his belief that now Europe and America?s interests are different. It shouldn?t be such a revelation, but reading it written clearly with supporting evidence is striking. Whether it be divergent ideas about the welfare state, or crucially foreign policy, it is clear that now the old rules of automatic support for transatlantic co-operation no longer apply. There is now, Haseler argues, open competition between Europe and the US in economic terms as demonstrated by the Euro and the Dollar. And though America may have the lead in military terms, flexing its muscles in what many see as an arrogant, foolhardy manner, Haseler is firmly of the belief that if you scrape away the surface the world?s sole superpower is in trouble. This is not to say that he suggests a world with America and Europe as sole wielders of power. He?s realistic enough to see the emergence of China and India on to the world stage as equal partners.

The key weakness of the book, is that its focus is squarely on four main players: France, Germany, the United States, and the UK (Italy figures rarely, and Ireland with its miniscule population hardly figures). Haseler gives a convincing argument that France and Germany have effectively agreed to go ahead with closer European Integration, whether other countries like it or not, if necessary forming a ?Core Europe?. The author sees a number of events ranging from the ?unprecedented gathering in 2002 of the two parliaments [French and German] at Versailles?[pg101] to ?the increasing habit of Paris and Berlin to coordinate positions and ?act as one? within the EU on big policy questions?, as evidence that there exists what he calls ?Charlemagna? or a strong political union between France and Germany that will guide European integration.

One can question some of Haseler?s arguments, for example that Europe has a model of ?social democracy? where citizens are prepared to pay more taxes than their American neighbours in order to maintain a system of social services. Also, that Europe is essentially secular, as opposed to an America dominated by Christian fundamentalism. While on the face of it reasonable, with the scare-mongering of ?the war on terror?, and increased immigration and its attendant problems, it could be argued that many of Europe?s citizens are re-finding religion..

There are moments as well where Haseler?s enthusiasm for the European project jars, at least with this reader. On Pg 122, while talking about the challenges to the European project, Haseler says of the media ?The organization of Europe?s media is Europe?s Achilles heel. By comparison, the USA has a media fit for a superpower?The American media industry has a worldwide reach together with a single, simple, political message (about freedom and democracy)?. It seems with comments like these, unwittingly, Haseler is giving the best reason for questioning the ?inevitability? of the European SuperState.

There?s a lot to welcome with European integration, and a lot to fear. It is a topic that European citizens need to inform themselves about, and Professor Haseler?s book is not a bad place to start.

Super-State. The New Europe and its challenge to America is published by I.B. Tauris

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