The feverish europhile speculation about John Kerry is beginning to die down a little. Even the Financial Times today pointed out that, though Kerry may talk differently and, allegedly, speak French (so what?), the substance of his foreign policy is not likely to be that different from Bush’s with, presumably, a bit of protectionism thrown in.
Nevertheless, it is useful to push the line of Kerry resolving the differences between Europe and America because this asserts that there is a “Europe” and a “European” policy or attitude. Whereas, anyone who bothers to look at such things knows, that more European countries supported the United States even in Iraq, never mind Afghanistan, than opposed it. Thus a falling out with France, who was temporarily supported by Germany and, more permanently, by Belgium and Luxembourg, is elevated into a major rift between Europe and America with Europe viewed as a single entity.
One must admit that some American politicians either out of misunderstanding or pursuing their own agenda, support this somewhat incoherent position. Take Senator Edward Kennedy – well, all right, I’ll take him, though keeping at arm’s length. For some reason he is still seen as the great liberal Democrat and is given standing ovations as well as starring parts in Democratic Conventions.
In the Boston Convention that has just come to its end, Kennedy, too, pursued the line of needing Kerry to resolve the differences between the United States and its erstwhile allies, repeating the canard that under Bush America acted unilaterally.
Among other things he said that America must now rebuild the coalition that so successfully won the two world wars and the cold war. Now, Senator Kennedy, as the whole world knows, had some problems at Harvard and, quite possibly, never managed to learn any history at all. Furthermore, he was not making an objective analysis but producing a war cry for the presidential election (though whether this is a war cry most of America responds to, remains to be seen).
There is, however, no need for the British media, such as the Financial Times to repeat this without any comment. The only reason they do it is to prove that there is or was an unchanging coalition of America and Europe plus a few others and this has been torn asunder.
Let us look at those coalitions and alliances. In the First World War, Germany was most definitely on the losing side, as was Austria-Hungary which included a number of states that are now independent. The winning coalition was Britain with her colonies and dominions, France, which was effectively out of the war after 1917, Italy and the United States. Russia, who had fought with the allies, was, after 1917, a casualty as well. Turkey was on the losing side.
When we come to the Second World War, we have Germany still on the other, eventually, losing side. Italy is now on that side, too, while Turkey remains neutral. Britain with her colonies and dominions and the United States are still part of the same winning coalition, joined by Russia that had become the Soviet Union. France is hors de combat from 1940 on. Of the states that had sprung up after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Austria is annexed in 1938, Poland is on the side of the allies, Hungary on the German side, Czechoslovakia, the first victim and Yugoslavia mostly on the allies’s side with frequent forays into in-fighting.
On to the third conflict mentioned by Senator Kennedy, the cold war. Things have changed somewhat. The Soviet Union is now the enemy and is, eventually, on the losing side. The East European countries are, technically, on the Soviet side but, in fact, consider themselves to be among the winners. Germany is on both sides, though not by choice. Turkey and Italy are now allies of Britain and many of its former dominions like Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the United States. France? Well, who knows? Depends on the day of the week.
Where have we got to as a result of the supposed destruction of that victorious coalition, which seems to have been a moving feast? Britain and the United States are still allies, supported by Australia, New Zealand (though not so much by Canada), Italy, Turkey and all the various East European countries, most notably Poland. Russia remains in a rather enigmatic position and France and Germany have decided to change sides. It happens in history.
I am not going to point to some of the obvious constants in the various victorious coalitions and the continuing thread. I suspect a number of our readers will have something to say about that. But it is worth remembering that Europe is not an entity and has not shown any sign of having the same interests or policies in history.
There can be no rift between America and Europe because there is no Europe in that sense of the word. John Kerry’s campaign may play on it – all’s fair in love, war and the American presidential elections – and he may even win, though that is likely to be for other reasons. But it is not a sensible or accurate way of analyzing the international situation.