Germany in Europe: Half a Hegemon
Paul Kennedy - Professor of History at Yale University, Paul Kennedy is author of The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. He will soon publish a new book, entitled Preparing for the 21st Century. He spoke with NPQ editor Nathan Gardels.
NPQ: Is a unifying Europe coming apart? Could it be that dream of Jean Monnet is an idea whose time has passed?
PAUL KENNEDY: It has become obvious that the ideas imbedded in the Maastricht Treaty are too ambitious for the times, but I wouldn't say that Europe is falling apart.
If we look back on the 35-year history of the European Community, we can see that it progressed in fits and starts, moving one step forward then two steps back. Periods of optimism have yielded to doubts about what has been wrought, especially during economic downturns or when previously protected economic sectors began to feel the breath of competition.
The 1980s started with Eurosclerosis and ended with Europhoria, only to yield in 1992 to all the contemporary angers and anxieties about unity.
The recent manifestations of unity - for example, the French farmers burning effigies in front of McDonalds - are the predictable result of the displacement that accompanies integration and globalization.
No matter how much the French peasant is thought to symbolize the heart of the culture, the fact is that farmers in all advanced societies are being reduced, decade after decade, to a very small percentage of the population. Only 2 percent of the population in the US works in agriculture.
This is because farming has become the most efficient, high-productivity sector of 20th century economies. That reality of modernization happens to coincide at this moment with the liberalization aims of GATT and the process of European integration. As integration through world trade proceeds, those working in agriculture, from Bulgaria to Japan, will bear the brunt. Because farmers in any society occupy such an emotional space politically, there will no doubt be crude attempts at protectionism. But there can be no solution for them until an alternative role can be provided within their respective nations.
However, to accept the forward and backward rhythm of change in an integrating Europe is not to deny that there is indeed something very worrying about Turkish immigrants who have lived in Germany for over a decade being firebombed.
So, the project of a unified Europe is stalling, not falling apart. I don't think we're going back to the Europe of 1955 when the march toward integration began, or even earlier.
NPQ: Isn't the Maastricht effort in trouble because it is attempting to build a superstate against the trend of history? Global forces, from immigration to environmental threats to commerce, are eroding the sovereignty of lesser entities from above while sub-national groups seized by the fever of devolution are ending sovereignty from below?
KENNEDY: I think that if the Europeans are successful in uniting, they have a better chance of producing common policies to face the global trends to which you alluded - atmospheric warming, immigration, North-South relations and security. By pooling their resources for technological projects like the Airbus, they can better compete with North America and the rising economies of East Asia.
From Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman to today's proponents of a more tightly knit EC, the motive is plain: If Europe is to recover the relative importance in the world it possessed around 1900, it must avoid wars among its member-states, harmonize economic practices and evolved common policies, including foreign and defense policies. Only by coming together as a bloc of European peoples can they be more prosperous and, perhaps, more powerful, than any other state in the world.
Europe's difficulties today stem from this attempt to build a unified political entity in the face of the trends you mention. Unlike the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European experiment is not just about building a trade bloc. It is a much further-reaching project that aims to constitute a new polity across many nations.
The equivalent of such an effort in North America would mean that a Mexican or Canadian could be on the ballot, and elected, as president of a political zone that includes the United States. The US Senate would be asked to hand over constitutional powers to the equivalent of the EC authorities in Brussels or the EC Parliament in Strasbourg.
In Europe people are being asked to give up their sovereignty even to the point of relinquishing control over their own currency. Like everyone else, Europeans are still attached to what is common and traditional. As the implications of unity have begun to sink in, it thus comes as no surprise that people are starting to stall.
No doubt the sentiments of those who in this context want devolution of power- those in Catalonia, or Peidmont or South Wales who favor a Europe of regions - are gaining a larger voice amid the present atmosphere of doubt and second thoughts in Europe.
Yet one of the arguments made by small states such as Belgium and the Netherlands for joining the EC was precisely the need to join a larger unit of power because as small, separate states they had so little control over events that influenced them. Even Germany recognizes that it cannot deal with immigration except on a Europe-wide scale.
Having identified a Europe-sized solution to the larger problems, it became apparent that not all problems can be handled at the European level, but require authority closer to the ground.
The construction of the house of Europe is thus very complex. On the top floor one has to deal with global society and transnational influences. The middle floor is where the European activities take place. On the bottom floor, entry level, the individual nations and regions, are located.
The relationship between these levels is one of subsidiarity, that awkward word that means problems should be dealt with at the appropriate level of where it makes sense to allocate responsibility downward and where it doesn't. For example, immigration and freedom of movement policies must be Europe-wide or unity is meaningless.
But, is there a need for Brussels to standardize all the national holidays so they can be shared from the Rhineland to Sicily?
NPQ: So, neither "pre-Danish-referendum" unity nor disunion are feasible for Europe. Only unity with subsidiarity, as Giscard, Genscher, Delors and the other great EC champions argue?
KENNEDY: When he was Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger used to argue for "discriminate deterrence" as a way of narrowing U.S. responsibilities in the world. What Europe needs is a doctrine of "discriminate subsidiarity" - the discriminate identification of what works best at what level.
NPQ: One of the latest casualties of the end of the Cold War is the French-German duopoly that formed the very core of the EC dating back to Schuman's Coal and Steel Community.
The grand French nationalism of DeGualle has faded into impotence. The famed force de frappe, the foundation of France's independence and the basis of its equality as a partner with West Germany, has proved useless in defending its farmers from EC economic policy and GATT.
In place of the old duopoly, a united Germany has become the center of gravity for Europe disciplined by the Bundesbank.
Is that stark picture far from reality?
KENNEDY: The end of the Cold War poses a massive challenge to what had been an extraordinarily successful French policy since late in the 1940s and the early '50s. French leaders and diplomats thought that all they had to do was get the Germans in the marriage bed and they would become the dominating spouse of the larger, but politically compliant, Teutonic husband.
This seemed possible because in the postwar period, France was, for the first time, not on the front lines, but buffered from the Russians by West Germany, in front of which stood the United States. It was only in this context that Gaullist France could assert its independence, pulling out of NATO and casting a veto against British entry into the European Community during the very early years of its formation.
With the end of the Cold War, France has lost its political advantage. It no longer has buffer or a protector. It faces its own fate once again.
At the same time, the unification of Germany has meant the shift of that country's interests from a West-looking Bonn to Berlin. Under such circumstances, and despite the efforts of Mitterand, the French have been unable to resuscitate the clever policy to control Germany that had worked from 1951 to 1989.
In short, a seismic shift in the balance of influence has taken place in Europe, and it has been to the larger detriment of the French. During the farm-subsidy crisis in November the French kept trying to tell the world they were not alone against freer trade. They waited for silent Helmut Kohl to tell the world this was so. He never did.
NPQ: In a letter to Hannah Arendt in 1933, the German philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote that Germany's only future was with a united Europe. And that required a deal with the devil, meaning the "bourgeois anxiety of the French." Now that the only power which could balance Germany - France - has lost that capacity, can't we expect to see a "German Europe" instead of a "Europeanized Germany?"
KENNEDY: The currency crisis of last fall in Europe clearly showed the central role of the Bundesbank in European affairs. If Europe is going to have a unified monetary system, the Bundesbank occupies the most important role. But Germany doesn't have an equivalent role in the world of industry, in culture, the military of other important realms.
Germany in this sense is "half a hegemon." It does not dominate, but, at the same time, it has a larger influence than any other power in Europe.
Of course, in a cage full of 50 pound gorillas, we all know where the 200 pound gorilla can sit: anywhere he wants.
NPQ: In, Head to Head, Lester Thurow argues that Germany is likely to come out on top in the competitive challenge it faces with the US and Japan, particularly because of the productivity of its capital-intensive industry, its skilled work force, labor-management relations, schools and banking system.
You don't see the same thing?
KENNEDY: Vital as they are, I'm not sure that attributes such as savings rates, research and development or investment and training levels can accurately forecast who will come out "on top." Much depends on how any given nation of region copes with overwhelming outside forces, such as immigration or political instability.
Moreover, I think the question of what "nation" comes out on top is the wrong way to approach the realities of the 21st century.
I am actually more impressed with Robert Reich's deconstruction of the world economy. He suggests that it is not nations that come out on top, but socio-economic groups and regions, or particular career activities.
Even if we assume Germany is successful in the attributes you mentions, what does it mean if we deconstruct that assumption? Does it mean that everyone in Germany comes out on top? Does it mean the postman in Bavaria? Or does it mean the managers of Siemens?
In any event, the more likely scenario is more complicated, Japan, North America and Europe - the three powerful, technological, industrial-service related blocs - will each win in some fields and lose in others. So the question is not so much who will be Number One, but who will be Number One in what area?
In terms of the attributes of a great power, the US will still be the most decisive world actor by far - despite its abysmal record of late in terms of savings rates or in its educational edge - because we have invested a lot more in a modern military with force-projection capabilities. How are the Japanese or Germans going to get 20,000 troops to Somalia?
Even in this post-Cold War world, I am not prepared to say that the attribute of military force so important to Edwardian Britain has simply become anachronistic. To say that economic power has replaced military power is just too sweeping a concept.
As I have said, varied dimensions of influence and power will exist alongside each other with no nation necessarily having a concentration of all the old attributes - military, political and economic - that constituted great powers in the past.
Again, the Japanese might well invest $60 billion a year in the developing world, but when the Ukraine starts to shoot its missiles at Turkey, what will it matter? Then, as in Somalia, everyone will realize we need Uncle Same for that, despite his low savings rate.
And even with its military might, the US can't stop China or India from pouring chlorofluorocarbons into the air.
During the debates over whether to intervene in Yugoslavia's civil war, a European diplomat chastised Europe, calling it "an economic giant, a political dwarf and a military midget."
One could look at it another way. Perhaps Europe in this uneven new landscape has just the right mix of attributes that will make it reasonably well-placed overall. It doesn't have the force projection of the United States, but neither does it have the cost burden of such a force. Yet, its capacity to project military force is far greater than Japan.
It has large capital assets, less than Japan but more than the United States. It doesn't possess the cultural weight of the US, but is far more influential in this respect throughout the world than Japan.
Europe, with Germany at its core, may just have a better equilibrium of the attributes of a great power than America or Japan. Thus, like Germany in Europe, Europe may be "half a hegemon" in world affairs.
NPQ: Finally, can you imagine that the unified Europe envisioned by the Maastricht Treaty might unravel from its grand constitutional experiment into nothing more than what we are going to have in North America - a free trade zone?
KENNEDY: That is certainly what the British would like to have happen. They would like to stand half way up the ladder, enjoy the scenery of a free market, and go no further. And certainly, there seems no European leader on the scene who can still convincingly sell the vision of much more.
But I remain convinced that this period of standing still will yield to the understanding of the need for further integration to meet transnational challenges on the horizon.
Without greater integration, how will Europe deal with demographic explosion in North Africa? With the Islamic fundamentalism there? How will it deal with the collapsing Ukraine? How will it deal with global warming?
These challenges will inexorably push Europe forward another two steps, even if it later must take one step back.
We must remember that the impulse of European integration comes less from the "bury-the-hatchet" idealism of Jean Monnet than from the understanding that if the nations of Europe don't work together they are in danger of being swamped by outside forces. And those forces are likely to grow, not diminish, in the coming century.