Thursday, November 07, 2002
A book report -- sort of: I finished reading Stephen Coonts' latest paperback novel America yesterday. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Coonts' work, the 1991 movie "Flight of the Intruder" was based on his novel. Where Tom Clancy has Jack Ryan, Coonts has Jake Grafton.
The reason I enjoy many of today's techno-thrillers, as the genre is commonly called, is that many times the plot offers a plausible geopolitical future. In Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon, depicted a future with an emerging China and a decaying Russia clashing over valuable natural resources in Siberia. In Coonts' America, the plot plays out against a background of a growing European Union and a struggling Russia, both resentful of America's economic and military power.
The EU was founded in order to create a counterweight to America's economic superiority. The euro was an attempt to create a currency to compete with the economic gold standard, the dollar. Airbus was created (and heavily subsidized) to compete with Boeing, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas (before they all merged.)
The EU has been competing adequately against the United States over the past decade -- despite the fact that the vast majority of EU governments are highly-regulated, socialist states. European growth was not as robust as America's was during the '90s, but it did grow. France is an excellent example. It's a country where, in order to keep unemployment down, they make it illegal for anyone to work overtime. Even if you own your own business, watch out if you spend too much time at it, the government will get you.
Looking at the EU's financial situation from the outside, it's amazing that those nations have not collapsed like the Soviet Union did. But Europe's socialist governments limp along under the weight of regulation and mandated entitlements, but do not collapse.
The answer is easy -- the American people are subsidizing it.
Not directly, mind you, but by enabling these governments to spend an exceptionally small amount on national defense. Anti-war, anti-military liberals like to decry the American military by pointing out how the United States spends as much on the military as the "next X nations combined." That makes it sound like we're spending an inordinate amount on national security, but what it really should telling people is how little our "allies" spend on their military.
The Bush administration is presenting it's final draft of the Iraq resolution to the U.N. Security Council today. Throughout the process, the toughest sell on the resolution has been France, one of our "allies" in the multilateralists' parlance.
The sad thing is, that, while the United States is continually lectured on the need to work with its allies (we can't go it alone), our allies have made themselves largely useless. Their militaries are weak to the point of being nearly useless. The main thing we ask of our allies nowadays is permission to use military bases on their soil that we built and maintain, and permission to use their airspace.
In the early stages of the war in Afghanistan, the Canadians wanted to send some troops over to help American special forces -- but they needed the U.S. to provide airlift capabilities to get their equipment over. They eventually got it over there, but it took awhile.
When our allies are able to get to the battlefield on their own, we often "let" them help us out, like a teenager lets his kid brother play with the big kids. Not that the youngster is a lot of help, but it makes him feel better. This isn't a situation that we forced on Europe -- they brought it upon themselves.
The EU and the U.N. are little more than semi-necessary evils of international diplomacy. They pretend to hold the moral high ground, but they whine and criticize when we liberate Afghanistan from a brutal, misogynistic regime. When we propose freeing the Iraqis from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and the threat of his possession of weapons of mass destruction and support of terrorists -- we get more grief, more talk, more resolutions that go unenforced.
Sometimes the United States is forced by practicality to work with regimes and leaders that, in a perfect world, we'd rather not. China, Saudi Arabia and Yasser Arafat come to mind. On the whole, our foreign policy is aimed at making the world a better place; on expanding democracy and human rights; on promoting peace -- and sometimes that means using the military to force change.
In Coonts' novel, the EU has become a competitor, not an ally, because it has sold out democratic and human-rights principles in pursuit of financial power. Unfortunately, it's not far from the truth. Objections to regime change in Iraq from France and Russia are based not on financial considerations. Russia wants $8 billion it says it is owed by the Iraqi government. France has plans for big oil contracts once the U.N. embargo is lifted. Germany (not a member of the U.N. Security Council) also has hopes of landing lucrative oil contracts. These countries all decry Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's brutal repression of his people, notably the ethnic Kurds and Shiite Muslims, but money comes first.
(Of course, you never hear anti-war protesters haranguing France, Germany and Russia with "No blood for oil" chants. That is reserved for the United States -- ignoring the fact that the United States would have quite an easy time lifting the sanctions against Saddam and letting the oil flow, if oil really was our primary foreign policy goal.)
Europe is not really our enemy, but I'm not sure they can all be classified as our allies either. When Bush came into office, he changed China's status from Clinton's "strategic partner" to the new "strategic competitor," because a Democracy can't really be a partner with a brutal communist dictatorship. France and Germany certainly aren't in the same league as China, but their growing anti-Americanism may be a sign that the friendly relationship forged in the Cold War may be changing.
The United States is far from perfect when it comes to foreign policy, but to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill: The United States is the worst country there is ... except for all the others.