EU Whining Belies US Decline Talk

Catherine Ashton HaitiFuturist Joel Kotkin is swimming against the recent American decline tide in forecasting a world where China will still trail the United States as an economic power in 2050.  Then again, as Matthew Yglesias points out, Kotkin thinks previous predictions of European preeminence proved “staggeringly off the mark,” even though the combined EU economy is now significantly bigger than ours.

As I point out in my New Atlanticist essay, “America’s Decline, Europe’s Anxiety,” we’ve had a lot of decline talk going back a least since Paul Kennedy’s 1987 masterwork Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.  And China and Europe are undoubtedly growing relatively more powerful — especially with the dollar at an ebb.

But there are other, important signs that Europe, in particularly, doesn’t quite believe the hype.  For example, Leo Cendrowicz points out how unhappy they are to be playing second fiddle in, well, just about everything.

In Brussels and other capitals, officials bemoan the media images suggesting the U.S. is running the show and Europe is playing a marginal role. They’ve also complained loudly about U.S. heavy-handedness in sending troops to take over Port-au-Prince’s shattered airport. “This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Alain Joyandet, France’s International Cooperation Minister, said after U.S authorities diverted a French medical flight to Santo Domingo. And on Sunday, Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy’s disaster relief agency, called the U.S.-led efforts a “pathetic” failure that is turning a tragedy into a “vanity show for the television cameras.”

[…]

Europe also felt left out last month at the Copenhagen climate change summit when China and the U.S. hammered out the final deal on their own. Many saw this as a stinging rebuke since Europe had played a major role in putting climate change on the global agenda in the first place. Nor can the continent can’t point to any recent successes on the diplomatic front. E.U. efforts at resolving the split between the Greek and Turkish halves of Cyprus have yet to bear fruit. And the “E.U.-3” countries – Britain, France and Germany – have been unable to resolve the Iran nuclear problem with or without the help of the U.S. and China, despite five years of talks with Tehran.

When the United States starts complaining that it’s not getting enough attention in world affairs, I’ll start to take the decline talk a bit more seriously.

FILED UNDER: General, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brett says:

    The bitching about the US troop presence is particularly ill-placed, considering that the troops there have gone to great pains to not come across as occupying.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Futurist Joel Kotkin is swimming against the recent American decline tide in forecasting a world where China will still trail the United States as an economic power in 2050.

    Proof positive that he’s looked at China’s demographics.

  3. sam says:

    The bitching about the US troop presence is particularly ill-placed, considering that the troops there have gone to great pains to not come across as occupying.

    Right. I’m just gonna put that down to “it’s the French.” From my reading, post-earthquake, there wasn’t an airport left in any functional sense. Most, if not all, the nonrunway infrastructure was so damaged as to be unusable. As for the Italians, when their aircraft carrier Bonhomme Luigi drops anchor of Port au Prince, I’m sure the Haitians will experience a great uplift in their spirits.

  4. JKB says:

    The EU economy may be bigger than the US but still I’ve not seen any EU country pushing to have their combat air traffic controller take over the Port-au-Prince airport operations. It was a US coumpany (Crowley) under contract to the USTRANSCOM who last friday successfully tested an experimental method to lighter containers off ships in the harbor and move them across the beach. Or who have been bringing containers overland from the Dominican Republic. Or who are converting barges to put in place as temporary container wharfs.

    Really to overtake the US, a country or region really needs to be able to deploy something more than snotty diplomats to provide support to relief operations.

  5. Bengt Larsson says:

    Who cares what the Euro-bashers think? Some people have a pathological need to bash Europe.

  6. Bengt Larsson says:

    And also a pathological need to bash Social Democracy.