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Pax Americana

William Shawcross says Europeans are hypocritical, isolationist and deluded in their attempts to hobble the greatest power on earth

12 April 2003

12:00 AM

12 April 2003

12:00 AM

Tony Blair has played a blinder on Iraq, standing for the Iraqi people, with the United States, and up to the French and Germans. He has quite rightly said that after the war is over, ‘there is going to have to be a discussion; indeed, a reckoning about the relations between Europe and America.’

It will not be easy. There is cold fury in America about the perfidious manner in which the axis of France and Germany behaved in recent months, siding in effect with Saddam Hussein. The House of Representatives has just approved an amendment to a £51 billion Bill for financing the war and the start of reconstruction to make sure that no French, German, Russian or Syrian companies profit from it. Although the White House lobbied against it, the Bill was passed by 414-12. That gives you a sense of the anger.

These wounds will take a long time to heal. But Iraq is only part of the crisis between Europe and America. As Robert Kagan and others have pointed out, ‘Europe’s’ problem with America is to do with power. The United States has power and is, not surprisingly, inclined to use it. European states now have very little power. Their inability to act seems to have led many of them to an abhorrence of action.


During the Cold War, America and Europe had a common project – the containment of the USSR. It was a long and exhausting war, but it succeeded and the Soviet Union collapsed. Then the United States instantly emerged as infinitely the strongest power in the world, no longer constrained by the USSR, and benefiting from huge technological advances.

European countries have spent the past two decades deliberately shedding sovereignty. This is an idea that is completely alien to America, particularly since 9/11. Many European politicians now prefer a system of internationally agreed rules which treat all nations as more or less equal. That is understandable enough. Europeans have no alternative. We are weak and we do not wish to make the sacrifices to be stronger. And in truth whatever sacrifices we made, we could never, even united, match the power of the United States. By contrast, President Bush’s foreign policy after 9/11 is now proactive.

It is fashionable not just on the Left but generally among the European intelligentsia to decry George Bush as an idiot. This is not wise. Bush is a formidable politician who constantly defies the predictions of those who think they are smarter than he is; formidable and radical.

The Bush administration is strongly influenced by a small group of neo-conservatives – neo-cons for short – whose intellectual origins were in the Democratic party, on the Left. One of the most subtle of them is Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, who has argued quite rightly for more than a decade for the removal of Saddam.

They tend to believe that we live in a special moment of history, one which is characterised above all by America’s unparalleled military power and the opportunity to expand the boundaries of democracy around the world. This is the time for a grand strategy to assert Pax Americana. This is the decisive decade in human liberty.

They are wary of permanent alliances and are attracted to bold geopolitical moves for the expansion of American values. They are not wedded to stability; they are not afraid of challenging the status quo. Shockingly, in my view, Chirac and Schr


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