JiscMail Logo
Email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities

Help for EAST-WEST-RESEARCH Archives


EAST-WEST-RESEARCH Archives

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH Archives


EAST-WEST-RESEARCH@JISCMAIL.AC.UK


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH Home

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH Home

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH  November 2003

EAST-WEST-RESEARCH November 2003

Options

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password

Subject:

Richard Rorty: Humiliation or Solidarity? The Hope for a Common European Foreign Policy

From:

Serguei Oushakine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Serguei Oushakine <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 11 Nov 2003 10:22:51 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (229 lines)

Humiliation or Solidarity?
The Hope for a Common European Foreign Policy


by Richard Rorty

This article was written in response to a statement, authored by Juergen
Habermas and co-signed by Jacques Derrida, published in Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung on May 31, 2003. It called upon the nations of
"Kerneuropa" (Donald Rumsfeld's "Old Europe"-France, Germany, Italy, Spain,
Benelux, and Portugal) to adopt a common foreign policy. The
Habermas-Derrida article was called "February 15th, or What Binds Europeans
Together"-a reference to the day in 2003 on which mass demonstrations
against the Iraq War were held in London, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin,
and Paris. It was also the day on which, in Habermas's words "the newspapers
reported to their astonished readers the Spanish prime minister's invitation
to the other European nations willing to support the Iraq war to swear an
oath of loyalty to George W. Bush, an invitation issued behind the back of
the other countries of the European Union." Other European philosophers
(Umberto Eco, Adolf Muschg, Fernando Savater, and Gianni Vattimo) published
statements along the same lines in the leading newspapers of their
respective countries, also on May 31. The text below, representing an
American reaction to the Habermas-Derrida initiative, was published in
German in Sueddeutsche Zeitung on May 31. The Habermas-Derrida article was
published in English in the September 2003 issue of Constellations.
- Richard Rorty


President Bush's national security adviser has said, according to newspaper
reports, that Russia will be forgiven, Germany ignored, and France punished.
Whether or not Condoleezza Rice actually used those words, they express the
attitude of the Bush administration toward nations that failed to join the
Iraq War coalition. Disagreement with Washington by foreign governments is
being treated by the Bush White House not as honest difference of opinion
but as the failure of knaves and fools to accept guidance from the wise,
farsighted, and benevolent.

Rice herself (the former provost of my university) is a very sophisticated
and knowledgeable scholar, and so it is unlikely that she thinks of European
leaders in any such simplistic way. But her insistence on the need for
America to retain total control of global affairs is consonant with the
remark that the American press is now attributing to her. Presumably she
thinks that people such as Joschka Fischer and Dominique de Villepin, though
neither fools nor knaves, must nevertheless be publicly humiliated, in order
to help ensure a stable world order. For such stability, on her view, will
be possible only if America's hegemony goes unchallenged.

More frightening than the bullying tone adopted by President Bush's advisers
is the fact that European heads of government and foreign ministers are now
reverting to their bad old habits. They are competing with one another for
Washington's favor. After so many decades of dependence, it is very hard for
Europe's leaders to stop judging their success in foreign affairs by the
extent to which they are on cordial terms with the great imperial power. But
just insofar as they continue to do this, it will be easy for Washington to
set them against one another-to make them behave like schoolchildren vying
for the teacher's favor.

Juergen Habermas and Jacques Derrida argue that "Europe must, within the
framework of the United Nations, throw its weight in the scale in order to
counterbalance the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States." If the
statesmen of "Kerneuropa" adopt the stance that Habermas and Derrida
recommend and act in concert to assert their independence of Washington, the
U.S. government will do everything possible to turn American public opinion
against them. Refusal to accept the American magisterium will be viewed by
most of the American media as a sign of moral weakness. Washington will also
do its best to set the members of the European Union against one another, in
order to ensure that Kerneuropa's audacity does not become an example for
the EU as a whole. For the last thing Washington wants is a Europe that is
sufficiently united and self-confident to question America's hegemony. If
the citizens and governments of Kerneuropa act as Habermas and Derrida hope
they will, Washington will use every trick in the book to get them back in
line-to make sure that their countries' votes in the United Nations are
determined by decisions made by Rice and her colleagues on the National
Security Council. For Bush's advisers suspect that if the EU had held
together-if its member governments had been unanimous and vociferous in
their repudiation of Bush's adventurism-they would never have been able to
persuade the American public to agree to the war in Iraq.
If the citizenry and the governments of Europe do not seize the hour, if
they do not carry through on the repudiation of American unilateralism
manifested on February 15, Europe is unlikely ever again to play a
significant role in determining the future of the world. The leaders of
France, Germany, Benelux, Italy, Portugal, and Spain cannot postpone the
choice they have to make: whether to accept the humiliating subservience
that Washington hopes to impose on them or to break free by formulating and
pursuing foreign policy initiatives to which Washington will react with
incredulous outrage.

For Americans who were horrified by the willingness of their fellow citizens
(and of the Democratic Party) to support Bush's Iraq War, the acquiescence
of European statesmen in American unilateralism would be a tragedy. For if
Washington does force Germany to beg not to be ignored and France to plead
for relief from punishment, then the next time an American president decides
to embark on an exciting military adventure there will be no significant
countervailing pressure from abroad. Remembering what happened the last time
that Washington's will was defied, European governments will be loath to
instruct their representatives at the UN to question the latest American
initiative.

The Bush administration's view that a permanent pax Americana, one whose
terms are dictated by Washington alone, is the world's only hope has as a
corollary that the United States must never permit its military power to be
challenged. That claim is made explicit in a policy statement titled "The
National Security Strategy of the United States," which asserts, "Our forces
will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a
military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the
United States."

It is possible that even Democratic presidents will, in the future,
reiterate this claim to permanent hegemony. The bullying tone adopted by the
Bush administration may be one that all future American presidential
candidates feel compelled to adopt in order to show themselves "strong" and
"resolute" in "making war against terrorism" (an expression that will be
invoked, as David Bromwich has pointed out in these pages, to excuse
anything the American government may choose to do). This may be the case
even though men like John Kerry, Howard Dean, and Richard Gephardt (the most
plausible candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination next year)
understand, as President Bush does not, that no empire lasts forever. They
are farsighted enough to know that American economic and military dominance
is bound to be transitory, and to suspect that insistence on perpetual
military supremacy will, sooner or later, produce a confrontation with
China, Russia, or both-a confrontation that may end in nuclear war. But this
knowledge may not suffice to make them change the direction of American
foreign policy.

This means that the European Union is the only likely sponsor of an
alternative to Washington's project of a permanent pax Americana. The
leaders of the still-fragile regimes that govern Russia and China are too
preoccupied with their own hold on power, and with domestic problems, to ask
themselves questions about the best course for the world as a whole. Their
resentment at Washington's arrogance will remain tacit. They can afford to
wait for their own day to come-the day on which they tell Washington that
they can and will challenge its military power. If America refuses to
recognize that that day will come sooner or later, and if Europe does
nothing to offer an alternative scheme for world order, then nothing is
likely to change. Sooner or later we shall recreate the situation that
prevailed during the cold war-nuclear powers daring each other to be the
first to launch their missiles.
The rulers of at least a dozen countries will soon have their fingers on
nuclear triggers. To believe that Washington can forever hold all these
rulers in awe would be folly, yet it is a folly that seems likely to
prevail. "The National Security Strategy of the United States" makes no
reference to eventual nuclear disarmament, only to nonproliferation, where
"nonproliferation" means that only regimes that acknowledge American
hegemony have the right to possess nuclear weapons. That document pretends
that the danger of nuclear confrontation ended when the cold war ended and
takes for granted that American and Russian submarines, each of them armed
with enough warheads to destroy ten great cities, will lurk beneath the
oceans for generations to come.

Prior to the Bush administration, American statesmen usually paid lip
service, at least, to the idea that the pax Americana was a transition to
something better. Most of them realized that American hegemony was a
makeshift that would have to do until something more enduring became
possible-something like a veto-free United Nations functioning as a global
parliament, equipped with a permanent peacekeeping military force and able
to carry out a program of global disarmament. (I once heard a former
Republican secretary of state say, in private, that he would be willing to
trade a considerable measure of American national sovereignty for nuclear
disarmament.) For Bush and his advisers talk of such a rebuilt UN is
pointlessly idealistic, a refusal to face up to reality, a romantic retreat
into a dream world.

If any projects for a new international order put forward by the EU are to
be of use, they will have to embody the idealism that America has seemingly
become unable to sustain. The EU will have to put forward a vision of the
world's future to which Washington will react with scornful mockery. It will
have to offer proposals for rewriting the Charter of the United Nations and
for putting the UN in charge of a program of global nuclear disarmament. It
will have to dream dreams that will strike Realpolitikers as absurd. But, as
Habermas and Derrida point out, some of Europe's recent dreams have come
true. They are right to say that Europe has, in the second half of the
twentieth century, found a solution to the problem of how to transcend the
nation state. The EU-just as it stands, even prior to the adoption of a
constitution-is already the realization of what the Realpolitikers thought
was an idle fantasy. If the sense of shared European citizenship becomes
entrenched in the first quarter of the twenty-first century in the way in
which the sense of shared American citizenship became entrenched in the last
quarter of the eighteenth century, the world will be well on the way to a
global confederation. Such a confederation has been recognized, ever since
Hiroshima, as the only long-term solution to the problem created by nuclear
weapons.

"Why," Habermas and Derrida ask, "should not Europe . . . devote itself to
the broader goal of defending a cosmopolitan world-order based on
international law against competing initiatives?" Why not indeed? If Europe
did that, it might just save the world, something that American policy
cannot do. At best, America's "national security strategy" can only postpone
disaster. It can only keep things going for another generation or two. If
there is ever a time when public opinion must force politicians to be more
idealistic than they feel comfortable being, this is it. For all the reasons
Habermas and Derrida give, the citizens of Kerneuropa are in the best
position to exert such pressure.

If February 15 comes to be seen, as Habermas and Derrida hope it may, as the
"birth of a European public sphere," the beginning of a new sense of shared
European identity, that would change everyone's sense of what is politically
possible. Such an upsurge of idealistic self-redefinition would be responded
to around the world, in the United States and China as well as in Brazil and
Russia. It would break the logjam that we are now trapped in. It is, as far
as I can see, about the only thing that might.
Bush's apologists in the American media are likely to dismiss such
initiatives as Habermas's and Derrida's as just further examples of the
envious and resentful anti-Americanism that is recurrent among European
intellectuals. Such a charge would be completely baseless. Both philosophers
have profited from their frequent and extended visits to the United States
to gain a deep and thorough understanding of America's political and
cultural achievements. They are well aware of America's world-historical
role as the first of the great constitutional democracies, and also of what
America has done for Europe in the years since World War II. They appreciate
that it was idealistic Wilsonian internationalism in the United States that
led to the creation of the United Nations. They know that the unilateralist
arrogance of the Bush administration is a contingent misfortune-neither
inevitable nor expressive of something deeply embedded, and irredeemable, in
American culture and society.

Both Europe and America contain many millions of people who see clearly
that, despite all that America has done for the cause of human freedom, its
assertion of a right to permanent hegemony is a terrible mistake. Americans
who realize this need all the help they can get to persuade their fellow
citizens that Bush has been taking their country down the wrong path. The
solidification of the European Union into a powerful independent force in
world affairs would be viewed by that segment of American opinion not as an
expression of resentful anti-Americanism but as an entirely appropriate and
altogether welcome reaction to the danger that the direction of American
foreign policy poses for the world.

Richard Rorty teaches philosophy in the comparative literature department at
Stanford University.

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

JiscMail Tools


RSS Feeds and Sharing


Advanced Options


Archives

September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998


JiscMail is a Jisc service.

View our service policies at https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/policyandsecurity/ and Jisc's privacy policy at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/website/privacy-notice

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager