The (European) Empire Strikes Back

Despite all the talk of the United States as the latest stand-in for “empire,” a fascinating article by Parag Khanna in this weekend’s Guardian suggests that in fact it is Europe which has been slyly, quietly building an empire that is not only economic but territorial. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” a snippet from his forthcoming book, The Second World: Empires and Influences in the New Global Order (due out March 4 in the States), Khanna suggests that “The EU is easily the most popular and successful empire in history, for it does not dominate, it disciplines.” As he puts it,

For over half a century, European nations have been pooling their power, eventually giving small and shattered post-second world war countries a new lease on life. Though EU members remain distinct nations, their greater meaning now comes from being part of the world’s only superstate. War between any two countries within the EU’s dense institutional nexus has become impossible, and the promise of greater security and wealth has largely succeeded in aligning the foreign policies of its members. “Our biggest logistical exercise since the second world war was not military,” an official in one of the EU’s shiny, postmodern edifices boasted, “but the circulation of the euro currency in 2002.”

Europe has its own vision of what world order should look like, which it increasingly pursues whether America likes it or not. The EU is now the most confident economic power in the world, regularly punishing the United States in trade disputes, while its superior commercial and environmental standards have assumed global leadership. Many Europeans view America’s way of life as deeply corrupt, built on borrowed money, risky and heartless in its lack of social protections, and ecologically catastrophic. The EU is a far larger humanitarian aid donor than the US, while South America, east Asia and other regions prefer to emulate the “European Dream” than the American variant.

[Read the whole article.] Perhaps this explains why Tony Blair is angling to be the President of Europe.