Of the endless criticisms heaped upon President Bush, one of the main one is that he has “ruined our global alliances”. The primary evidence is the rage in Europe over America’s policies in the War on Terrorism. This is somewhat risible since Europe has always been a hotbed of anti-Americanism, and France’s opposition to our policies is hardly new. The only things new are that absent the threat of the Soviet Union the media and governments of many European countries are encouraging this anti-Americanism rather than fighting it and that Germany has sided with France against us. Nevertheless, does the world only consist of Europe as liberals think, and is Europe the only source of our alliances in the future?
The answer to both is obviously no. To the first half of the question, the Europeans are simply an ever less important part of the world. This is a major change for everyone to accept since Europe has been the center of the world for the last 500 years. All of the global struggles were between European powers with the ultimate goal of dominating Europe. In this regard, the Iraq War can be seen as the last all-European internal struggle when America and the five biggest European powers, Russia, Germany, Britain, France and Italy divided over the invasion of Iraq. The result was something that had never happened before and heralds a titanic shift in geopolitics, one half of Europe was simply steam rolled. Had Russia, Germany, and France ever allied in the last 500 years there is no way anyone could have gone against their wishes as the United States did. It is a very difficult world to adjust to; no one alive has ever even known someone who has lived in world in which Europe counted for little. The reason is simple, Europe’s population and economic output has been in a death spiral for the last 30 years with no signs of abating. The following table shows Europe's share of various world statistics. All in%
(Info up to 1990 is from Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, 2005 and 2050 estimate are from various government websites such as the CIA World Factbook)
It is even worse when you consider only actual Europeans since around 8% of the continent’s population is non-European today. This decline is felt all around the world and not just relating to the War on Terror. France and Germany, two of the greatest European powers, are struggling to provide fewer than 2,000 soldiers to support the U.N. mission in the Congo. As Strategypage.com noted several years ago, for the first time in 400 years, no East Asian country has to take into account a European navy when making decisions. European “soft power” has come up short virtually everywhere is has been attempted. European capital is now just one of many sources of investment instead of the dominant share it had until recently.
Despite Europe’s rapid decline in world power and influence, it does not mean we should ignore them. It simply means we should no longer do everything possible to maintain our alliances with Europe if it involves risking our newer and more important alliances with countries like Japan, India, Australia, and Israel. For example, helping Japan get a permanent Security Council seat may annoy France and Russia, and helping India’s nuclear power industry may anger the greens throughout Europe, but they are things we must do. Unlike many conservatives who are angry over the perceived lack of support in Iraq from Europe (not true), I do not believe we should punish them. Our alliance has matured and without the Soviet Union they no longer feel any particularly strong bond to it. So be it, they are independent nations with every right to their own policies, and so are we. We should understand that and work with them in a much more business-like manner over issues of common concern. We should listen to their complaints and possibly act of them so long as it doesn’t affect our new alliances, and we should inform them when we object to their policies while realizing they don’t have to bow to our every whim. We are still friends who can often work together, just not the close friends who could always work together that we used to be.