Dreaming Europe in a Wide-Awake World

Dreaming Europe in a Wide-Awake World

Mini Teaser: When it comes to Europe's gilded future, success is always just around the corner. Europeanists need to wake up--or risk being left behind by an unlikely coalition.

by Author(s): James C. Bennett

Yet it is this global environment that we must consider as we contemplate Thomas P. M. Barnett's The Pentagon's New Map. Barnett describes a world in which the historically industrialized nations are the Old Core, the new industrial powers are the New Core, and the bulk of the old Third World that has not achieved takeoff is the Gap. He sees the task of the 21st century as stabilizing the Gap enough for it to adhere to the Core through "connectivity"--flows of capital, people and trade goods. In order to sustain these flows in a stable world, he would combat anti-globalization jihadis (not all of them radical Muslims) with a combination of hard military power, "soft" economic-political power, and a new synthesis of the two: a "nation-building" capability which he calls the "System Administrator." This last would have been called a colonial constabulary and colonial civil service in the 19th century. Its mandate today, however, would not be an imperial one, but would emanate from the web of transnational institutions that have sprung up, and the bulk of its power would be provided by the United States.

Many of Barnett's basic assumptions--the generally beneficial effects of globalization, the utility of connectedness in fighting the anti-globalization jihadis, and the stake that the Core nations, old and new, have in seeing globalization defeat the jihadis--will meet with general agreement. He is also to be commended for realizing that the entry of India and China as first-rank players is a major development of our era, and for constructing a worldview that integrates this fact fully rather than treating it as an afterthought. But his worldview and analytical framework still deserve closer scrutiny.

It makes sense to focus on connectivity as a factor in Gap-state failure, for instance. But Barnett goes further, maintaining that lack of connectivity is the most useful predictor of Gap-state failure and violence inviting outside military intervention. He originally defined the Gap by observing the clusters of U.S. military interventions during the 1990s and then trying to define what these areas had in common. One of these four clusters was the Balkans, specifically the former Yugoslavia and Albania. Yet although Yugoslavia was less "connected" by Barnett's criteria than, say, Austria or Italy it was certainly far better connected by almost any definition than Bulgaria or Romania, both now candidate countries for EU accession. It seems his "connectivity" metrics might actually be markers for something else. Perhaps the "strength of civil society" is a more reliable underlying predictor of a state's ability to lift itself out of the Gap than connectivity per se.

A much more significant weakness is that Barnett's focus on the Core-Gap dichotomy leads him to minimize the importance of the existing links that connect particular Gap countries with particular Core nations. Given cheap air transport and telecommunications rapidly moving to a worldwide flat rate, the old paths of empire and emigration have given rise to a series of fluid, overlapping worldwide network civilizations. In the place of the British Empire there is now a demotic Anglosphere of Birmingham curry houses and Indo-American software engineers, a son of Jamaican emigres becoming Secretary of State, and Filipino immigrants commanding British, Australian and American troops together. The cocked hats and pith helmets these days are only seen over the faces of hometown boys made good and appointed Governor-General in Kingston or Behnopan. In much the same way, the former realm of the conquistadors is now a demotic Hispanosphere, the old French empire is now a Francophone network, and so on.

The key point here is that these new constructs all cut across Core-Gap lines, yet they are almost always the most effective lines along which the money, people, goods and services will flow to bring connectivity from the Core to the Gap. Rather than striving for universality of approaches, we would do better to work with the grain and maximize the use of these existing channels.

This applies also in matters of grand strategy. Bismarck famously remarked that the most important reality of the 20th century would be the fact that the United States spoke English. The most important fact of the 21st century may be the fact that the educated and ambitious of India have made of English not merely a useful foreign tongue, as have the Chinese, but a language they have taken into their homes and their literature, and into their heads and hearts by creating their own version of it. The new rising generation of well-educated, tech-savvy Indians increasingly regards this intertwining of India and the Anglosphere not as a colonial relic, but as a valuable card that history has dealt to their country, and one that should be played. Evidence that it is being played can be seen in both the quietly accelerating Indo-American military cooperation and the rapidly accelerating economic interpenetration between India and America.

THE ALL-CORE alliance against the anti-connectivity actors in the Gap that Barnett and Ash in effect advocate has the nature of a grand coalition--that is, one that enlists all significant actors. Typically, however, grand coalitions do not last. Sooner or later, one or more players decide that they can do better outside the system, and a new oppositional alignment emerges. Some Core nations are already in the business of pimping their Core status to Gap states to achieve narrow national goals--the role of France in providing militarily useful technologies to Gap states being a particular example. So even if the grand coalition can be assembled, we must consider who might be tempted to bolt.

Continental Europe in general, but especially "Old Europe", has tended to see this emerging world as a game in which they are dealt a progressively worsening hand with every shuffle of the cards. Thus they have concentrated on cashing in chips for short-term gain, while trying to trip up stronger players when the opportunity strikes. At present, the costs of being in the coalition would probably include making major and painful structural adjustments to their economies. Domestic European electorates might therefore be tempted by the alternative of a Euro-Islamic alliance, in which Middle Eastern oil states would prop up unreformed European economies in return for international support, high-tech weaponry and open access to Europe for Islamic economic migrants. The growing "Eurabian" bloc of Islamic voters would thus combine with anti-reform pensioners to veto any other political alignment, driving politics in the direction of the Euro-Islamic solution.

This alignment might then attempt to pick off one other major player from the grand coalition. Russia would probably find this unattractive, given their problem with radical Islamic separatists, and Japan would gain little from it. China might be tempted by access to energy, European weapons technology and the European market, so long as their access to the American market was not entirely precluded. China might not be so much a partner as a semi-detached fellow-traveler, careful never to fully alienate either side. Russia might well try to play a similar semi-detached role to the Anglosphere-India-Japan group.

Under this scenario, we might see the world gradually align into several loose competing politico-economic alliances whose elbow-jostling would not rise to the level of war, or even cold war. The above scenario may in fact be emerging now, with an Anglosphere-plus-India-plus-Japan-plus-Russia team contending with a Euro-Islamic-Chinese bloc. Within such a framework there would still be a need for high-level international agreements and organizations to bind the major players together within a limited framework--to facilitate world trade and prevent any major conflagration among the major powers. But a new world order it would not be, and the transnational elements in it would probably wield about the same amount of influence as during the Cold War.

All in all, the European model is unlikely to be replicated on the world stage--and it may be scaled back and even dismantled in Europe itself when the evidence that India and China are overtaking it becomes too embarrassingly clear. As for the really big picture, instead of problematic schemes for transnational governance on the European model, we are likely to see the gradual rise of associated commonwealths, achieving more modest goals more effectively on a basis of cultural, legal and linguistic affinity. Rifkin's "European Dream" is likely to remain exactly that.

James C. Bennett is president of the The Anglosphere Institute and author of The Anglosphere Challenge (2004).

Essay Types: Book Review