Wednesday, March 26, 2008

France's Continuing Existentialist Crisis Leads to the Return of European Power Politics

Europe's Return to Power Politics

The European Union has grown to the point where it constitutes a market powerhouse but cannot function as a coherent geopolitical entity. So after 60 years of integration, Europe has returned to the style of power politics that reigned before World War II.

By George Friedman

Stratfor Strategic Forecasting

December 7, 2007

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the week of March 16 that France is cutting its nuclear arsenal to less than 300 warheads, which he said was less than half the number France had during the Cold War. Meanwhile, plans are under way in Paris to return to full membership in NATO; Sarkozy will travel to London the week of March 23 to discuss reintegration.

Sarkozy spoke while attending the launch of France’s newest nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine in Cherbourg. During his speech, he added that, at present, none of France’s nuclear weapons is aimed at anyone. During the same appearance he said, “All those who threaten to attack our vital interests expose themselves to a severe riposte by France.” This was said in the context of discussions of Iran, which he said was among those countries in the process of developing nuclear weapons. France is simultaneously calling attention to its nuclear capability and adopting an increasingly hostile posture toward Iran. While the media focus is on Sarkozy, it seems to us that this issue goes deeper than personalities. Processes are under way that are shifting French foreign policy.

The shift is not a dramatic one yet; there is more continuity than discontinuity in French foreign policy. Like all French leaders for the last half-century, Sarkozy is focusing on his country’s strategic independence, particularly on its nuclear capability. At the same time, France is aligning itself more closely with the U.S. view of Iran, and, to some extent, with the U.S. view of the Middle East. In doing so, France is creating stresses within the European Union and reshaping its relationship with Germany. These small changes have broad implications that need to be understood.

Foreign Policy Since 1871

Since 1871, France has had two foreign policies. The year 1871 saw German unification. Prior to 1871, the fragmentation of Germany into numerous ministates secured France’s eastern frontier; France concerned itself with the rest of Atlantic Europe, particularly Spain and England. German unification redefined French geopolitics by creating a major power to its east. This major power was insecure because it was caught between France, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. German insecurity made it a threat to France. A united Germany had to deal with the causes of that insecurity, and France was one of those causes. German unification effectively coincided with the defeat of France by Prussia, and drove home the significance of a unified Germany.

From German unification and the Franco-Prussian war until 1945, the essence of French foreign policy consisted of managing Germany. That meant France had to change its relationship with its historic rival, the United Kingdom, and keep Russia aligned with the Anglo-French alliance. For more than 80 years, French foreign policy could be boiled down to containing Germany. The strategy proved successful, assuming one accepts the losses incurred in World War I and five years of occupation during World War II. In the end, France survived.

This set in place France’s second post-1871 strategy, which evolved over the 1950s until its institutionalization by Charles de Gaulle. This postwar strategy consisted of two parts. The first part involved embedding France into multinational institutions, particularly the European Economic Community (EEC) — which evolved into the European Union — and NATO. The second part involved using these institutions to preserve French sovereignty and independence. Put differently, France’s strategy was to participate in multinational structures while using them for its own ends, or at least defining a limited relationship with the structures.

France’s overriding concern was to avoid getting caught in a third world war after having been devastated by the first two world wars. Preventing this outcome meant exploiting German disunification, effectively ending France’s primordial fear of Germany. It did this in two ways. The first involved drawing close to West Germany economically, creating a system of relationships that would make Franco-German conflict impossible.

The second involved blocking the Soviet threat by participating in NATO.
France’s problem was that the deeper that it went into European institutions and NATO, the more tenuous its sovereignty became.
It needed the economic and military relationship with Germany, but it had to retain its room for maneuver. More precisely, it wanted to draw closer to Germany and take advantage of a collective security scheme, but not become a client state of the United States. It therefore belonged to NATO, but pulled out of the alliance’s integrated military command structure in 1966. NATO’s military structure made certain responses to a Soviet invasion automatic. France refused to allow its response to be automatic, but remained committed to collective defense.

France was concerned with maximizing its autonomy, but it had a deeper fear as well.

The defense of Western Europe was predicated on U.S. intervention. The doctrine of massive response held that, in the event of a Soviet invasion that could not be contained conventionally, the United States would use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union. The U.S. position was thus to initiate a nuclear war that would potentially see America’s cities decimated, all in order to protect Europe.

The French problem, however, was that Paris would not know whether Washington would honor this commitment until after the initiation of hostilities. From the French point of view, it would be irrational for the United States to invite its own devastation to protect Europe. Therefore, the American commitment was at best untestable. At worst, it was an implausible and transparent attempt to jeopardize Europe so as to deter a Soviet attack without the United States risking anything fundamental.

An Independent Deterrent

The need to protect French sovereignty intersected with what Paris saw as a genuine requirement to maintain a military capability outside the framework of NATO, all the while remaining part of NATO and the EEC. France wanted NATO to function. It wanted to be close to Germany. And it wanted a set of options outside the context of NATO that would guarantee that France would not be reoccupied, this time by the Soviets.

The decision to construct an independent French nuclear deterrent was based on this reasoning. As de Gaulle put it, France wanted to retain the ability to tear off an arm if the Soviets attacked France through Germany. It was unsure whether the United States would act to deter the Soviet Union, but even a small nuclear force in the hands of a power likely to suffer occupation — and thus a force very likely to be used — would deter the Soviets. Therefore, the French developed (and retain) the nuclear force that Sarkozy decided to cut but not eliminate.

This issue remained at the heart of U.S.-French tensions both during and after the Cold War. The American view was that the United States and all of Western Europe (plus some Mediterranean countries) had a vested interest in resisting the Soviets, and they could do so most effectively by joining in multilateral economic and military organizations allowing them to operate in concert. The Americans viewed the French reluctance to follow suit as France seeking a free ride. From the American point of view, the U.S. bore the brunt of the cost of defending Europe, as well as underwriting Europe’s economic recovery in the early years. France benefited from both, and would benefit as long as the United States defended Germany. Paris wanted the benefits of the American presence without committing itself to burden-sharing. Put another way, how could the
Americans be certain that, in the event of war, France would protect Germany, Italy or Turkey? Perhaps Paris would remain aloof unless France were attacked.

The French mistrust of the credibility of U.S. commitment to Europe collided with American mistrust of French reasons for being part of NATO without committing itself to collaborate automatically in NATO’s response to the Soviets. France was comfortable with this ambiguity. It needed it. It needed to integrate economically with the Germans, to be part of NATO, but to retain its own options for national defense. If this meant increasing American distrust, and even a sense of betrayal, this was something France must tolerate to achieve its strategic goals.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, France entered a new strategic phase. The French responded to the Soviet collapse and to German reunification by maintaining and extending its core policy. It remained ambiguously part of NATO, participating as it saw fit. It really concentrated on transforming the European Union into a multinational federation, with its own integrated foreign policy and defense policy.

This position appears paradoxical. On the one hand, France wanted to maintain its national sovereignty and freedom of action. On the other, it wanted to be a counterbalance to the United States and to draw ever closer to Germany — permanently eliminating the historic danger from its eastern neighbor, however distant the German threat might appear under current circumstances. France could not resist the United States alone. It could do so only in the context of a European federation, which would of course include the critical French relationship with Germany.

Independence vs. Europe

France therefore had to choose between a wholly independent foreign policy and federation with Europe. It tried to have its cake and eat it too. It supported the principle of federation, and within this federation it sought a particularly close relationship with Germany. But its view of this new federation was that while, in a formal sense, France would abandon a degree of sovereignty, in practical terms — so long as France could be the senior partner to Germany — the French would dominate a European federation. In effect, federation would open the door to a Europe directed, if not dominated, by Paris.

This is why Central Europe revolted against French President Jacques Chirac on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Central Europeans were not particularly enthusiastic about the war, but they were far less enthusiastic about Chirac’s actions. From their point of view, he was using the Iraq issue to create a European bloc, led by France in opposition to the United States. For a country such as Poland that had relied on French (and British) guarantees prior to World War II, the idea that France should lead a Europe in opposition to the United States was unacceptable. Chirac gave a famous press conference in which he condemned the Central European rejection of French opposition to the invasion as representing nations that were “not well brought up.” This was the moment in which French frustration welled over.

France was not going to get the federation it hoped for. Too many countries of Europe wanted to retain their freedom of action, this time from France. They were not opposed to economic union, but the creation of a federation with a joint foreign and defense policy was not enthusiastically greeted by smaller European countries (and some not-so-small countries such as Britain, Spain and Italy). As anti-federationism grew, it swept forward to include France as well, which rejected the European constitution in a plebiscite.

This moment was the existential crisis [??] created the Sarkozy presidency. Sarkozy has raised two questions that have been fundamental to France. The first is France’s relationship to Germany. France has been obsessed with Germany since 1871, at first hostile, later nearly married, but always obsessed. The second question relates to France’s relationship to the United States. Chirac represented postwar Gaullism’s view in its most extreme form: Convert European institutions into a French-dominated multinational force to balance U.S. power. This attempt collapsed, so Sarkozy had to define the relationship France might have with the United States if France could not counterbalance the United States.

The Mediterranean Union

The questions of Germany and of the United States were addressed in the French idea of a Mediterranean Union. Since German unification in 1871, France has obsessed about the north German plain. But France is also a Mediterranean power, with long-term interests in North Africa and the Middle East in such countries as Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and Syria. Where Germany is entirely a northern European power, France is not. Therefore, Chirac proposed that, in addition to being a member of the European Union, France should create a separate and distinct Mediterranean Europe. The latter grouping would include the rest of the Mediterranean basin, extending as far as Turkey and Israel. It would exclude non-Mediterranean powers such as Germany and Britain, however.

France had no intention of withdrawing from the European Union, but saw the Mediterranean Union as a supplemental relationship, and argued that it would allow EU expansion without actually admitting new EU members. The Germans saw this as a French attempt to become Europe’s strategic pivot, leading both unions and serving as the only member that was both a northern European and a Mediterranean power. The Germans did not like this scenario one bit. The French then backed off, but did not abandon the idea.

If the French are going to be a Mediterranean power, they must also be a Middle Eastern power. If they are playing in the Middle East, they must redefine their relationship with the United States. Sarkozy has done that by drawing systematically closer to American views on Iran, Syria and Lebanon. In other words, to pursue this new course, the French have drawn away from the Germans and closer to the Americans.

This is all very early in the game, and the moves so far are very small. But the French have slightly backed off from their German obsession and their fear of the United States.

The collapse of European federationism has set off a reconsideration of France’s global role, a reconsideration that will — if continued — radically redefine France’s core relationships.

What the French are doing is what they have done for years: They are looking for maximum freedom of action for France without undue risk. Though France has long pursued its interests with consistency, its current moves are different. It appears to be pulling away from Germany and seeking power in the Mediterranean.

And that means working with the Americans.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Has the Magic of America Truly Ended?

Has the Magic of America Truly Ended?

By Robert Stein, Ph.D

March 13, 2008

The psychopathology of communalism is well exemplified in today’s International Herald Tribune article (set forth below). French Foreign Minister Kouchner, speaks of the “magic” as being over for the United States. Obviously no one can question Mr. Kouchner’s commitment to humanitarianism, being as he was, the founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres. However, consistent with his socialist leanings he favors a collective approach to solving all world problems. So he found no inconsistency in advocating the overthrow and removal from power of Saddam Hussein, while simultaneously opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

His statement, coming as it does after Mr. Sarkozy’s recent tryst with the American Congress, either represents the emergence of a schizophrenic-like condition in French foreign policy…or it suggests, that just as Mr. Sarkozy expressed his undying faithfulness to his recent ex-wife, while he engaged in extracurricular activities with other women, Mr. Kouchner and the French foreign ministry are playing both sides against the middle.

The fact that Mr. Kouchner not only can’t see the contradiction in his positions but also expresses a deep disillusionment with America is reflective of this sickness.
A bloodthirsty dictator was removed from power, but America didn’t “follow the rules” [of engagement] which the socialists believe they have already established. These rules guarantee nations will jawbone problems and avoid decisive action…since by definition the “collective” approach to security via the United Nations usually guarantees paralysis. How rapidly can anything occur when everyone has to agree before action can be taken. In reality, if Saddam hadn’t been physically removed by the U.S., he would have shortly succeeded in removing sanctions and reconsolidating his power.

But what is deeply troubling to so many socialists is the lack of hard power which Europe possesses. American power scares them, because they only have limited control over it. The abandonment of an independent EU military force and the French decision to rejoin the military wing of NATO further highlights this deficit. Consistent with the manner in which ego defense mechanisms function, we hear Mr. Kouchner projecting his disillusionment with EU and by extension French military muscle, onto America, which has no such deficit. He acknowledges this in the article.

It isn’t possible to turn the clock back 200 years to the glory of the early French republic. Military hard power is a “pay to play” proposition. Unless the French want to increase military spending as a percentage of GDP, they will always be disillusioned by America following American national interest. However socialists such as Kouchner are blind to the actual lack of nationalism in American assertiveness, since, using the formal definition of nation, America is a conglomeration of many nations in a single state. Unlike the European imperialism which submerged the continent in blood, American assertiveness consistently expands opportunity, expands prosperity and expands individual freedom in those nations which are touched by it.

Although socialists around the world claim they are disillusioned with Bush’s foreign policy, they are in fact disillusioned by their weakness in harnessing American military muscle and exploiting it to enforce their persistent blathering and the goals they feel are important. Since they are unwilling to invest in their own militaries to accomplish such purposes, they persistently attempt to write documents which give them a say in American decision-making. The Bush administration, their faults notwithstanding, never yielded to the socialist’s siren song.

With a presidential election upon us, we will shortly hear the refrain again that the world, meaning the collective, should have a voice in the choice of a U.S. president. Yet, those who make such statements ignore a fundamental fact. It was under the sheltering of American preeminence and because of the expenditure of American blood and money, that the current world economic system has survived and flowered. Although America has often acted in its own unique interest, it is still acting decisively to protect and nurture the economic and democratic systems it has helped establish.

'Magic is over' for U.S., says French foreign minister

By Alison Smale

International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

PARIS: Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France and a longtime humanitarian, diplomatic and political activist on the international scene, says that whoever succeeds President George W. Bush may restore something of the United States' battered image and standing overseas, but that "the magic is over."

In a wide-ranging conversation with Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune at the launch of a Forum for New Diplomacy in Paris, Kouchner on Tuesday also held out the hope of talking with Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the Gaza Strip but has been ostracized by the West and by its Palestinian rival, Fatah, because it opposes peace talks with Israel and denies that Israel has a right to exist.

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, "It will never be as it was before."

"I think the magic is over," he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States.

U.S. military supremacy endures, Kouchner noted, and the new president "will decide what to do - there are many means to re-establish the image." But even that, he predicted, "will take time."

Kouchner began the 90-minute event with a speech that emphasized that "there is not just a new diplomacy; there is a new world."

To those intimidated by or fearful of what seem to be the rising challenges of globalization, climate change, spreading disease or new technology, Kouchner had a simple message: "The great difficulty is to accept this new world."

"There are not more problems - please, have a little memory - than 35 years ago," he said, recalling how, in 1971, he co-founded Médecins Sans Frontières in response to the horrors of the conflict in Nigeria over Biafra.

The challenges may be daunting, he said, noting for instance that the world had decided to act to curb the AIDS epidemic, but asking, "Can we take charge of all the other diseases? I'm not sure."

Some of the most persistent diplomatic challenges emanate from the Middle East, and Kouchner was asked about approaches to Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for the destruction of Israel, or to Hamas, which has the same stated goal.

Kouchner and other European diplomats have tried to talk Iran out of its controversial nuclear program, but officially rejected all contacts with Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. Asked whether there is a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact, saying: "I'm looking for a diplomatic way to say yes."

He then carefully couched this statement by noting that, in general, "we have to talk with our enemies," and that Fatah, which controls the West Bank, "always said they were in favor" of unity talks with Hamas. But after Hamas routed Fatah forces from Gaza in June, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, has refused to deal with Hamas, which he accused of committing a coup. Kouchner, of the Socialist left in France, stirred controversy when he accepted the offer from President Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the Gaullist center-right, to join his government last May.

At the end of the conversation, held in a glittering hall at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale, the IHT's partner in the new diplomatic forum, Kouchner denied that his activism had been curbed by the need to run the resplendent Foreign Ministry on the Quai d'Orsay and France's large diplomatic machinery around the world.

But he conceded that practicing the new diplomacy - which he defined as being action that is more practical, multifaceted and realistic than mere protocol calls and visits - "is very difficult, and very time-consuming."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fabled Swedish Communal Welfare System, The Heart & Soul Of The European Dream, Found Corrupted And Exploited

Cheats rife in Swedish welfare system

By David Ibison in Stockholm

Financial Times

November 10 2007

Swedes say they despise people who cheat the country’s generous welfare system at the same time as many do so themselves, government research has concluded.

A two-year study by the Delegation Against Benefit Fraud and Errors said 95 per cent of Swedes condemn cheating but up to a third have no problem either bending the rules, keeping unearned payments or defrauding the system.

The conclusion exposes the underbelly of one of Europe’s most successful welfare states by revealing that Swedes eagerly support their famed Nordic model while simultaneously tapping it for extra cash because “everyone else is doing it”.


People look at the welfare system as a bank where they do the deposits and withdrawals themselves,” said Björn Blomqvist, the chairman of the delegation.

The report said that, as well as fraud, Swedes indulged in softer forms of cheating, such as working while claiming sick benefits and exploiting loopholes.

The delegation said such activities cost the government about SKr20bn (€2.2bn, $3.2bn) last year, around 4 per cent of total social welfare payments from the country’s 60 social security systems of SKr520bn – far higher than has been estimated previously.

Cristina Husmark Pehrsson, minister for social security, said: “We are now aware of the problem with benefits that are wrongly disbursed, even if the extent of the issue is now estimated to be much larger than inspections have indicated earlier.”

The centre-right government of Fredrik Reinfeldt, prime minister, has made reforming the welfare system one of its core policies to try to wean people off income support and back to work.


In spite of his commitment to this issue, the report contained troubling news for Mr Reinfeldt. The delegation found that one of the three main reasons Swedes cheat the system was the assumption that politicians did the same.

This conclusion carries particular resonance as the government admitted this week that 10 out of 15 state secretaries in Mr Reinfeldt’s ruling Moderate party paid cash-in-hand for domestic services to avoid tax.


The ministry for social affairs, which oversees most benefits payments, admitted these revelations had undermined the government’s authority on welfare reform.


“It is regrettable that even political representatives have failed to follow a number of rules,” said Jonas Nilsson, a political adviser at the social affairs ministry.

“This is not only because it is wrong ... It is also because they take the focus away from our important task of reducing social exclusion.

“They take the focus away from the government’s policies and reforms for more jobs.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Clinton and Obama Calls for 'Solutions' & Change' Will Impair Economic Freedom: Are Consistent With Europe's Global Collectivist and Socialist Agenda

February 27, 2008

The Future with Europe

The Swiss Newspaper Junge Freiheit Interviews Victor David Hanson

Although the focus of the interview was on immigration policy, the following extract demonstrates a rather accurate description of the European global collectivist and socialist agenda, whose principles and programs Senators Clinton and Obama apparently embrace in their calls for ‘Solutions’ and ‘Change’.

...JF: Do you see any appreciable differences between the way the U.S. is dealing with immigration issues, and Europe's response to similar problems?

VDH: We will stop the influx soon and through our powers of assimilation and popular culture absorb those here; you may well not and thus are already seeing a tiny elite on top mouthing utopian leftwing bromides while a radical rightwing movement on bottom will grow, demanding xenophobic solutions.

I am not confident in an easy solution for Europe, given its 20th-century past - whether confronting the specter of a Muslim Eurabia, or the counter-rightwing backlash that could get very ugly. You in Europe have little facility - socially, culturally, and politically - to absorb immigrants into full-fledged Europeans. We do (as Europe's historic critiques of America as a mongrel nation attest) - if the numbers of new arrivals are reasonable, of diverse backgrounds, and of legal status.

Officially Europe sounds more utopian, while in reality Europeans are clannish and reluctant to integrate and embrace; America sounds strident and angry, while Americans in their personal lives integrate, assimilate, and marry Mexican nationals who come here illegally - the tragedy being that if we just cut the numbers of new arrivals of illegals, the existing cohort would soon disappear through assimilation.

JF: What is it that makes the U.S. and Europe so different from each other? From the outside, the two are often perceived as a monolithic unit: the West. Does this unity really exist, or are we talking about two separate worlds? Do you think the alliance between the U.S. and Europe is made to last, or is it no more than an illusion?

VDH: We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy - whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth - and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.

Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time you've become wealthy - given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism - but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.

JF: Would you say many Europeans' critical attitude towards the U.S. is rooted in legitimate concerns, or does it rather stem from a typically European bias against the U.S.? How would you describe the nature of this bias?

VDH: In part, the animus originates from innate envy, and jealousy over the loss of European imperial preeminence; in part, there is the old befuddlement that a mongrel population of European rejects in America has now created the largest and most powerful nation in history - as a sort of deviant Western answer to European notions of class exclusion and aristocratic pretension. But once you predicate status, as is done in America, in a Western liberal society on the acquisition of money rather than birth, then you see something enormously dynamic, but also crass, and that crassness apparently drives the Euros crazy. Finally, we are enablers: there are no consequences to vocal and cheap anti-Americanism. If we withdrew our troops, and cut the E.U. loose, then it would see that in a world without America at its side, creepy people like Putin, Ahmadinejad, and Dr. Zawahiri are not just bogeymen of a U.S. President.

JF: Is there a corresponding bias against Europeans in American society? How come nobody has ever thought to diagnose such a sentiment? Is it truly non-existent, or is it just that Americans are too wise, and Europeans too cowardly to mention it?

VDH: There has always been skepticism of Europe as a class-bound, hopelessly aristocratic static society, warped by Old World factionalism, and prone to dangerously wide springs between totalitarian fascism and totalitarian Marxism. Few note such suspicions of ours, since we are self-obsessed within our borders, and don't translate these musings into some driving ideology. Nor do we feel that Europe per se affects our lives to any great degree, despite our ubiquitous Western heritage that we owe to Europe and the billions of U.S. dollars that are held by European governments.

The irony is that while Europeans periodically chest-pound and loudly vie with each other in hating the United States for various alleged sins (fill in the blanks from global warming to Iraq), slowly, insidiously we in the U.S. are drifting away from Europe, whether defined by commitments to its security (I doubt we would intervene again in the Balkans) to sort of a popular weariness. One article in Le Monde or a quip by a Chirac or Schroeder might pass over the heads of those in Iowa or Nebraska, but not a few hundred of these per day. So the Europeans have done the almost impossible: alienated a Western powerful ally, that kept it safe and free for the majority of the 20th century.

JF: Europeans like to take the U.S. to task for their geopolitical immorality. Are Europeans really morally superior? Or would you rather say, Americans are not immoral but Europeans are unrealistic? Where does this lack of realism originate? And where will it lead Europe in years to come?

VDH: Well, Europeans are no more or no less moral than the U.S. - though the collective West itself is quite a bit more moral than a Russia, China, or India, whether we look at China's environmental travesties, Japan's whale hunting, or Russia assassinations abroad. Europe allowed a quarter of a million to be butchered in the Balkans for a near decade. Its agricultural subsidies are the most illiberal in the world, and it has no compunction about trading or even extending trade credits to the most oppressive regimes in the world, whether that be Cuba, Iran, or Syria.

No, I don't think Europeans are "unrealistic." They are instead canny in fabricating a utopian veneer and a sophisticated humanistic rhetoric to mask everything from cut-throat trade policies to a complete abrogation of international military responsibilities.

Americans, in contrast, are the naive ones. They spend billions trying to jump start democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, while being blamed as "imperialists." They keep the peace on the high seas, whether in the Persian Gulf, the Aegean, or the Korea Sea, and run up enormous deficit in the international free commerce that ensues. And they open their markets to almost anyone, and run on enormous massive debts that encourage a China or India to enter the international system of commerce and trade.

JF: Europeans like to cast the European Union less as a kind of United States of Europe but rather as a precursor to a "one world" utopia. What is your view on this? Do Americans feel any sympathy for this idea? Will it get Europe anywhere?

VDH: Europe is to be commended for creating a structure that avoided a third world war. But its present notion of utopia - minimal defense, socialism, atheism and agnosticism, continental governance - is a prescription for disaster. When the individual believes in nothing transcendent, has no allegiance to a notion of nationhood, and believes nothing is worth sacrificing for, stasis sets in, lethargy follows, and an effete citizenry becomes as vocal in condemnation as it is impotent in matching deed with word.

JF: What would serve American interests better - a "one world" European Union, which would always be fundamentally "other than" the U.S. in structure as well as in nature but would never challenge the U.S.'s position as a super power? Or a United States of Europe, which would function according to similar principles as the U.S. but might well prove a threat to U.S. hegemony?

VDH: We would welcome the challenge and tension of the latter, since with it there lies hope; the former, however, means the fountainhead of Western culture will slowly decline and whimper as it melts into a pool of irrelevance. Who wants to see that? Americans love Sarkozy for his muscular rhetoric and the glimpse of a proud France of years past.

JF: What would Europe need to do differently in order to become a serious international contender?

VDH: Open its economy to free trade; reduce the size of government; curb entitlements; rearm; forge a closer alliance with the U.S/, the U.K., Australia, Japan, and other Westernized countries; and redefine the E.U. as a sort of commonwealth rather than an omnipotent Big Brother.

JF: European powers have ruled the world for century without ever being challenged by any powers outside of Europe. Has this situation changed and if so, how come Europeans are not aware of the change? What risks do Europeans run by ignoring it?

VDH: Being powerful and rich, but weak militarily means all your eggs are in the U.N. basket, and such multilateral associations are as corrupt as they are weak - rusty chains that reflect the vulnerability of their autocratic weak links. So you offer low-hanging, enticing overripe fruit to anyone who chooses to pick it - whether radical Islam, Iran, Putin's Russia, or China.

And you demonize the United States for our skepticism of such questionable multilateral institutions; but we suspect that your critiques are not based on principle, but the necessity of collective defense and decision-making in lieu of a credible military. How sad that you hate the liberal nation that defends you, and appease the illiberal forces who would intimidate or destroy you.