Far worse than China ascendant, or nuclear terrorism, the rise of an autonomous Europe is the gravest threat United States dominance of the global order.
And that event, despite all efforts to the contrary, may be about to occur.
I've been on a death watch for NATO ever since Bush showed up on the doorstep. Nothing in the subsequent years has encouraged me to change my view that these are the final years of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
And yet, the damn thing just won't die. It just putters along, the epitome of codependency, largely because no politician wants to be the one who stops the music.
Public opinion, however, says otherwise
The Guardian's Jonathan Steele offers this editorial
NATO gives the US a significant instrument for moral and political pressure. Europe is automatically expected to tag along in going to war, or in the post-conflict phase, as in Afghanistan or Iraq. Who knows whether Iran and Syria will come next? Bush has four more years in power and there is little likelihood that his successors in the White House will be any less interventionist.
NATO, in short, has become a threat to Europe. Its existence also acts as a continual drag on Europe's efforts to build its own security institutions. Certain member countries, particularly Britain, constantly look over their shoulders for fear of upsetting big brother. This has an inhibiting effect on every initiative.
The ascendancy of Con Rice to Secretary of State rankles in Europe, who recall her infamous: "Punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia." comment:
As she was unofficially appointed to succeed Colin Powell as the new secretary of State on November 16, European press quoted the remark in chorus. It is an expression of the worry that the cross-Atlantic relationship between the U.S. and Europe could become more uncomfortable with the emergence of Rice.
The apprehension of Europe could also be read in the atmosphere of feeling somewhat excessively inconvenient to Powell's resignation. Germany's daily Die Welt commented, "Powell was John Kerry in the Bush administration." Berliner Zeitung missed him, saying, "Powell was the only person Europe could rely on."
Some European press nakedly expressed their disappointment on Rice's arrangement as the next secretary. Le Monde, a daily in France, pointed out, "It is bad news to the European leaders that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is continuing and advisor Rice is emerging."
Italian daily La Stampa reported, "The hope that the U.S. will become moderate during the second George W. Bush administration should be folded."
Some counter-projections see Rice as a realist, that she will introduce pragmatism to the equation:
Meanwhile, some experts are making hopeful forecasts regarding the full emergence of Rice on the diplomacy stage. They point out, "President Bush turned a deaf ear to Powell, but he listens carefully to Rice. Rice is a realist and understands better than anyone about the U.S. position that is indispensable of an alliance."
In other words, the forecast sees that Rice will reflect a "pro-European policy" in the U.S. foreign policy more substantially than Powell and immediately if she decides that an amelioration of relations with Europe is necessary.
I wouldn't bet on it.
Now some point out the new agreement for NATO training of Iraqi security forces as a good omen. This from an Australian, rather Murdochesque narrative:
NATO has approved an operational plan to train some 1000 Iraqi officers a year in a proposed military academy outside Baghdad, a senior NATO official said today.
The mission is expected to involve around 300 trainers. The plan, dogged by foot-dragging from France and other opponents of the US-led war, was approved by NATO ambassadors after the alliance's Military Committee agreed it last week.
It was not immediately clear when the training mission would start, or how many NATO personnel in total were envisaged under the plan.
The NATO academy will operate alongside a much larger US-led training mission, which aims to train some 150,000 Iraqi security personnel before elections scheduled for January.
A token participation in Iraq, about 1/150th of the size of the American project, and all is well with the NATO alliance?
Perhaps, save there's just one problem: 10 members of the alliance, Germany and France among them, American officials accuse refuse to send troops to Iraq under any circumstances.
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe General James Jones has said that 10 member states have refused to send troops to Iraq as part of the alliance's new training mission there, ft.com reported on 15 November. Jones said the move by the 10 states, which he refused to name publicly, could undermine the alliance itself and threaten the long-term viability of the operation.
Jonathan Steele ends his article with the following:
Ending NATO would not mean that Europe rejects good relations with the US. Nor does it rule out police and intelligence collaboration on issues of concern, such as the way to protect our countries against terrorism. Europe could still join the US in war, if there was an international consensus and the electorates of individual countries supported it.
But Europeans must reach their decisions from a position of genuine independence. The US has always based its approach to Europe on a calculation of interest rather than from sentimental motives.
Europe should do no less. We can and, for the most part, should be America's friends. Allies, no longer.
The might of a united and de-NATO'd Europe
The largest economy in the world
As of 2003, the current membership of the EU has a combined GDP of $10,493 billion; with applicant states Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Turkey and (pending) Macedonia, that figure increases to $11,226 billion.
American GDP in the same period is $10,400 billion.
The EU members states have an estimated 2003 combined defense budget of $260 billion, $273 billion with candidate countries. This is 2.43% of EU GDP.
The United States spent approximately $389 billion on defense in 2003; 3.74% of GDP.
Having a larger economy, the EU could match this amount through two methods (a) increase of defense and (b) increase in membership, while the United States has (a) limited prospect or inclination to expand statehood but (b) does enjoy a significant advantage in natural population increase and immigration.
Keeping NATO, ditching the Bushies
The worst-case scenario for American primacy, far more threatening than the rise of China, is a European-Russian successor to NATO: The underfunded but still-formidable Russian military
infrastructure, refurbished and enhanced with European capital and technology.
Bringing in Russia would almost certainly entail the recruitment of Belarus and Ukraine, raising the collective EU GDP to $12,879 billion, a commanding supremacy vis a vis the United States, and making euro-for-dollar matching of American defense spending even more efficient a gambit.
That is the advantage of open-ended internationalism; the EU could eventually expand to include the known world except for us.