- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

President George W. Bush is off to Europe again, visiting Germany, France, Russia and Italy in connection with a NATO summit in Iceland.

The chances of this trip improving U.S.-European relations are about as bleak as they were at the start of May when Mr. Bush held a summit with leaders of the European Union (EU). The trans-Atlantic trade war continues to escalate.

French President Jacques Chirac on May 17 criticized the United States over its "protectionist" policies to support steel, wood and agricultural production. Yet, the EU has imposed the same safeguard tariffs on surging steel imports as the U.S., and has a very protectionist agricultural policy supported by massive subsidies and a scare campaign against American biotechnology. So there was more than a whiff of hypocrisy in the EU's recent notification to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it may impose sanctions on U.S. products including steel, textiles and fruit.

The EU has also threatened tariffs against $4 billion of American exports unless the United States complies with a WTO demand that it change how it taxes exporters. And the European Commission wants a WTO challenge against the increased agricultural subsidies contained in the 2002 farm bill Congress passed, and which President Bush signed May 14.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, made up mostly of European industrial nations, also rebuked the Bush administration on its trade policies. Speaker after speaker lined up last week to condemn the U.S. for its actions and to warn that it could undermine the upcoming Doha Round of WTO talks. Further ill will was generated by the unprecedented decision by WTO, International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials to publicly criticize the United States.

It is easy to dismiss these debates as simply the result of competing interests and high stakes, the very nature of the international economy. When EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy complains that Washington is "acting only to protect is own interests" most Americans would say "of course, that's the duty of U.S. leaders." But the stakes are not just commercial.

The NATO summit has raised other questions about U.S. -Europe ties. Recent conflicts from the Persian Gulf to the Balkans have suggested the allies might soon be unable to fight together on the same battlefield. European military technology and deployed forces have fallen so far behind American capabilities that even Third World powers now appear intimidating. Indeed, European participation in joint operations seems aimed mainly at gaining political influence to restrain American actions rather than in contributing to a common war effort.

Writing in the June issue of Policy Review, Robert Kagan argues: "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant's 'Perpetual Peace.'"

Immanuel Kant wrote his essay "Perpetual Peace" in 1795, heavily influenced by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It contained the three basic principles at the core of all liberal models of world order: national disarmament, global free trade and a world federation.

The goal is to make it impossible for any nation or people to act on their own.

The creation of the EU was a Kantian labor. Charles de Gaulle first envisioned a united Europe that would harness a pacified German economy to French political leadership. Such a superstate would stand as a third power between the Anglo-Saxons (the U.S. -British special relationship) and the Russians.

But de Gaulle was a man of the old right, thinking about power politics. His vision was taken over by more "enlightened" thinkers on the French left, especially by Jacques Delors, who was president of the European Commission during the critical period 1985-1995. Delors' top assistant and protege was Pascal Lamy. In his sympathetic book, "Jacques Delors and European Integration," George Ross counts Mr. Lamy as one of the "militants [who] use everything they have to win."

With the Soviet Union gone, many Europeans now see the United States as "the last superpower" blocking a Kantian future. If American freedom of action can be curtailed through economic pressure and international organizations especially the WTO acting as a Kantian world federation, then Europe will be free to pursue its idea of a "European social model" and work to impose it on the rest of world.

Thus President Bush's visit will be greeted in Europe by hostile commentaries about his crude "axis of evil" speech and his desire to build missile defenses. He will be criticized for his rejections of the Kyoto climate treaty and the International Criminal Court. Mr. Bush's attitude toward Cuba, Iraq and Iran will be denounced as "reckless" by Europeans who simply want to do business with these regimes in an imagined Kantian world.

As Mr. Lamy has said, the best way to get applause in the European Parliament is to stand up and denounce America. And clapping along are those liberal pundits on this side of the ocean who are always eager to cite European criticism as "proof" of America's sins.

At the dawn of 21st century, the greatest danger to American independence, security and prosperity may not come from avowed enemies armed with weapons of mass destruction, but from supposed friends bent on controlling the U.S. economy in order to hobble the American giant.


William R. Hawkins is senior fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.


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