I have been critical of some of the post-modern tendencies in the foreign policy of many of Europe’s leading states, and rightfully so. As much as many of us would wish, many of the world’s most intractable problems cannot be solved by aid, diplomacy, or institutionalism alone. A willingness to use a balance of tools is needed in most cases. That being said, the progress of that the states and people of Europe have made in the past 60 odd years is a remarkable achievement in global security and peace. An achievement that none of us should take for granted. A peaceful, democratic Europe seems especially fortunate when one looks at world facing increasing challenges (China’s rise, North Korean bombast, Iranian nukes, flotillas from hell, Brazil and Turkey alliances becoming muddled, international terrorism, financial crises, etc.) to worldwide stability. So let’s be thankful that Europe is at peace (if not financially, at least security-wise).
Here’s well-regarded IR scholar and soft power advocate Professor Joseph S. Nye on why Europe and the EU are an influential and positive force in the world:
Europe does face severe demographic problems, but size of population is not highly correlated with power, and predictions of Europe’s downfall have a long history of failing to materialize. In the 1980s, analysts spoke of Euro-sclerosis and a crippling malaise, but in the ensuing decades Europe showed impressive growth and institutional development….
The American political scientist Andrew Moravcsik makes the similar argument that European nations, singly and collectively, are the only states other than the US that are able to “exert global influence across the full spectrum from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ power. Insofar as the term retains any meaning, the world is bipolar, and is likely to remain so over the foreseeable future.”
Moravcsik argues that the pessimistic prognosis is based on a 19th-century realist view in which “power is linked to the relative share of aggregate global resources and countries are engaged in constant zero-sum rivalry.” Moreover, as he points out, Europe is the world’s second military power, with 21 percent of the world’s military spending, compared to 5 percent for China, 3 percent for Russia, 2 percent for India, and 1.5 percent for Brazil.
Tens of thousands of troops from the EU’s member states have been deployed outside of their home countries in Sierra Leone, Congo, Ivory Coast, Chad, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. In terms of economic power, Europe has the world’s largest market, and represents 17 percent of world trade, compared to 12 percent for the US. Europe also dispenses half of the world’s foreign assistance, compared to 20 percent for the US.
But all this potential strength may be to no avail if Europeans do not solve the immediate problems stemming from the financial markets’ loss of confidence in the euro. All who admire the European experiment must hope that they succeed.