Could a "Pax Europa" emerge to rival the "Pax Americana"?

From “German Greens and Pax Europa,” by Paul Hockenos, an article published in The Nation, July 19/26, 2004, discussing Joschka Fischer, who is Germany’s foreign minister (since 1998) and also leader of its Green Party (which, since 1998, has governed Germany in coalition with the Social Democrats):

Based on this, I propose two questions for debate:

  1. Is it possible that a united Europe will emerge as a second world military superpower, one that will not always follow the lead of the U.S. and will not necessarily come down on the same side as the U.S. in every conflict?

  2. If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Possible, but extremely unlikely. For one, even if the EU ever had the political will to act militarily as one, their military would more than likely not be anywhere near ours in size or power.

Virtually every country in Europe has quite a defense industry going for itself; Which designs gets picked as the ‘EU MBT’ or ‘EU AFV’ or ‘EU Fighter’ or ‘EU standard issue rifle’, and so on? I can’t see the French dumping their servicable Leclerc design to adopt the Leopard 2. The Eurofighter and the Rafale are in competition. France, Italy, UK, and Germany all have bustling shipyards churning out fine destroyers and frigates. To me, that is the largest dealbreaker. The EU can never (realistically) settle on common gear for all member states; Even current NATO specifications, adopted to ensure broad compatibility, leave much to be desired.

Not to mention, Europe would have to seriously increase defense spending to catch up to America. We already have the multiple large carrier fleets; Europe needs to not only build them (expensive, as American costs have been spread out over decades), but it takes time (and money) to develop the proficiency to properly utilize the big-deck carriers. Outside of Britain, EU states have no practical experience in deploying sizeable forces overseas. Sure, they can throw a couple of hundred ‘peacekeepers’ here or there, but to deploy multiple heavy combat divisions around the world, and keep them supplied, is a massive task which would require a massive shipbuilding and transport aircraft building effort. Expensive. Their airforce infrastructure is not up to snuff, with no true ‘strategic’ reach. Take lots of money to get that aspect fixes. And so forth.

Won’t happen. EU doesn’t have the pocketbooks or the willpower (today) to play ‘hyperpower’ with us.


I was looking at this primarily as a ‘EU vs. US’ sort of thing, in which case the US would have the massive advantage of starting out with a lead.

But assuming the EU wasn’t ruled from Paris and Berlin, it could be a good thing. Problem in Sudan? Hey, let the EU take that one. Taiwan threatened? No problem, America. EU has their back; Relax!

Extraordinarily unlikely, but hey, it’s possible that it would be a ‘good’ thing. (For America.)

There would have to be much greater economic unification, to the point where one nation’s intervention in a crisis wouldn’t directly challenge the interests of another. For this reason, proposed military action in areas where the economic stakes are high (i.e. an oil rich middle-eastern nation) are likely to face vetoes from somewhere in Europe, while places where the economic value is low but the humanitarian stakes are high (i.e. Sudan or Rwanda) are likely to be ignored because the political gain isn’t incentive enough.

As long as the European states remain more fragmented than, say, the U.S. states, they’re unlikely to be able to unify quickly or solidly enough to deal with a military threat, and without that unity, there isn’t the necessary strength to create a Pax Europa.

Maybe if the Germans and French stopped acting if it was their Europe to run in their vision maybe we’d be more close in our quest for a United Europe.

Theoretically, yes. Practically, no.

As Brutus points out, the EU would have to massively ramp up defense spending for a period of many years to even get in the ballpark. That’s very unlikely to happen for political reasons; both the power of essentially pacifist groups, as well as the difficulties in keeping agreement among the member states on a higher level of spending.

Even if that could be overcome, Europe’s economic fundamentals would have to be changed; in the long term you can’t compete militarily if you don’t have the economic base. An EU with twice the unemployment and half the growth rates of the US isn’t going to build a competitive military. And then you have the negative population growth.

If it were possible, I’d say a good thing for everyone, including the US.

Yeah, well, if that is a problem, it won’t last. The more states join the EU, the less the population advantage of France and Germany will matter.

When the United State started out, all the other states feared being dominated by the biggest one, Virginia. And for the first couple of decades after independence the presidency was indeed dominated by a “Virginia junto.” But it didn’t last. Virginia isn’t even the biggest state (in population) any more, it lost that distinction – I’m not sure, but probably before the Civil War.

Is that how it is now? Could I get a cite for that?

I agree 100%. Right or wrong, the EU just doesn’t have the balls. Look at the most recent ethnic horror that was happening the EU’s backyard (Kosovo) and it was the US the lead the war to a military solution. The EU might be able to work some significant internal trade issues, but when it comes to military action, it’s a debating society at best.

I agree that it is extremely unlikely that the EU will rival the United States as a military super power. However, the issue of who is an economic super power is altogether different. In “The Pentagon’s New Map” Thomas P.M. Barnett argues that the age of global war is over. Whether this is true or not, his point is that much of the impetus for developing huge militaries is gone with the fact that global war is simply not contemplated by very many nations any more.

What I’m saying in regards to the OP is that the issue may not be Europe’s political unity or “balls” that prevents them from building a super power level military. It may simply be that they don’t need one in the forseeable future. therefore, they will simply spend their money elsewhere.

So, as an economy, is the EU bigger or smaller than the US? Does anybody know?

Approximately, yes.

This is a pretty smug editorial but the facts are accurate. This is a little more balances. US growth is usually about 2-5%, in Europe 1-3%. Here’s unemployment.

The Eastern European nations and the UK, Ireland and IIRC Spain are healthy; but France and Germany, which are the biggest economies, are also the most sclerotic. This has been and I expect will be a big source of internal tension.

Well, as an economy, this site suggests that the GDP of the US is 9.6 trillion, China is 5, Japan is 3, and Germany, France, UK, and Italy add up to about 6.1 Trillion. Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Belgium add another 1.8 trillion. I only looked at the top 25 countries, so Europes GDP is obviously larger than the 7.9 trillion I’ve indicated here. But that number alone puts it almost as large as the US economy.

I will say, however, that Europe’s economy is not growing at the rate that China or India is. Mr Barnett also proposed that in some future scenario there could be an Asian economic block which would rival the US economically. Specifically, he was proposing that the Euro or some imagined Asian equivilant combination of the Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese currencies could some day rival the Dollar as the de facto economic standard. That they would, in fact, do this when enough of the rest of the world is just as comfortable owning these currencies as they are now owning dollars.

If he’s talking about the year 2100 after China has fully transitioned to a market economy, reached some sort of stable semi-democratic government and abandoned any hope of regional domination, I guess so; but that’s pretty much speculation. In the forseeable future, there are major structural differences in their societies, to say nothing of deep-seated historical animosity between those nations to make France and England look like a garden party.

South Korea at some point is going to end up absorbing North Korea. Look at what happened to West Germany and double it.

IMO India is the rising power in the world. I have never understood why the US has never made more of an effort to court them as a long-term strategic ally along the lines of Japan. Not that I’m sure they want it; but the US ought to try.

I agree entirely that India is more important in terms of emerging economies. And yea, Barnett was talking in the longer term about a unified asian currency. Fogive me for reffering to him so much. I am reading his book now and am quite fascinated. If I may quote:

India, as UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor argues, is probably 'the most important country for the future of the world." If globalization succeeds in the United States or the European Union, no one will be too surprised. After all, globalization demands less change of these countries than it does of the world around them. And if globalization fails in China or Russia, few will be surprised, for it requires much change from both societies – perhaps too much too quickly. But whether globalization succeeds in India should interes just about everyone, for if it succeeds in a democratic society where half the population is impoverished and one-quarter is Muslim, then it can succeed just about anywhere. Conversely, if it cannot succeed in a free-market economy featuring the world’s largest pool of information technology workers, then there is little hope for the gap.

Unless I am woefully ill informed, the US does court India as a long term ally in much the same way we court Japan. We do not have the same sort of formal agreements regarding providing military support for India that we have for Japan. But this is simply a consequence of our history with each country. We don’t have the same sorts of military agreements with many countries which are our long term allies that we do with Japan. I’m not even sure that our agreements with Germany are of the same sort of “We’ll protect you” assurances that we have with Japan. Perhaps I misunderstand what you mean.

Indian and American culture are too different for such a relationship to have existed in the past. What Japanese culture became after ww2 was something very similar to what Americans had, or at least was understandable and admirable to Americans.

I might have to ask you to be more specific. What characteristics of Indian culture are so incompatible with what aspects of American culture that broad based and long term relationships are impossible. Additionally, what characteristics of Japanese culture are you refering to? As I understand it (and admitadly, I am no expert by any means) the changes in the Japanese culture amounted to translating the “warrior codes” into economic rather than military terms (yea, I know this is an over simplification). What aspects of Indian culture are so incompatible with capitalism (or whatever other American cultural aspect you mean) that a similar translation cannot be performed.

If anything, I’d argue that such a translation has already been perfomred and has been operating quite well for some time. India has lots of problems. Many if not most of them unique to her particular history and culture. But none of them (as far as I know) are intractible in terms of encouraging people to productive work and innovation.

Hell, I’d say China have far more culteral differences with American than India, and I could list several things about Chinese culture which are “admirable to Americans”.

Well, I suppose it’s hard to quantify. A formal mutual-defense pact is probably not a good idea as it would cause problems with the Pakis and the Muslim world, to say nothing of the Chinese. And as I said, I don’t even know if India wants to be our bestest buddy; they didn’t during the cold war. I suppose a big part of the reason for the closeness of the US and Japan is the fact that the Japanese wanted it (and that for a long time Japan had no military).

I guess I’m just thinking more in terms of symbolic type-stuff. Which world leaders do you call first when something happens, etc. Maybe we could campaign to get India admitted into the G-8 based on sheer size. Promote Cricket in public schools. HellifIknow.

I just get the feeling India is like the nerdy girl in High School that all the guys ignore, and later ends up being a supermodel.
I think EE is pointing out that the close relationship between Japan and the US only happened after WWII. We did do a lot of cultural terraforming. Requiring the Emperor to publicly say that he was not divine went to the very core of Japanese cultural identity.

Europe is going to be hit with some serious demographic problems in the next century, and the issues various European pension plans will make handling the American Social Security problems look easy. America’s population is likely to grow over the next 50-100 years, closing most of the population grab between the US & Europe, while Europe’s population will start to decline. The difference in growth rates is due to the slightly higher birth rates in the US (2.1 children per women) compared to 1.85 for France, 1.38 for Germany, and 1.27 in Italy, as well as the US will probablly take in far more immigrants.

Now, Europe could encourage more immigration, but the nearest source of immigrants are from nearby Muslim countries, which is much more problomatic than the US’s main source of immigrants, Latin Americans. The US has already shown it can assimilate large number of Roman Catholics into mainstream society - see Irish, Italians, some German immigrants. We will have to see if Europe can manage to assimilate large numbers of Muslims without ending up with a jihad in their own backyards.

I’d think it could, though that’s just a gut feeling. It wouldn’t necessarily have to equal the US and China in economy and military to have the clout to push a lot of other countries about. What it would have to do is have an economy sufficiently independant to not be beholden to them.

But I don’t really see us having the political will to pull together. I hope it does happen eventually, but for the forseeable future, I don’t see Europeans thinking in terms of “Europe policy” not “$country policy”, and I don’t see a leadership unified enough that a significant proportion of any country is enough to start damping any response.