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The Coming Clash Between Europe and America

While the United States is focused on its war on terror and conflict with Iraq, new threats continue to emerge of which Americans are largely oblivious.

by Melvin Rhodes

An article in the November 2002 issue of the Boston-based Atlantic Monthly, titled "The Death of the West," warns: "The next clash of civilizations will be not between the West and the rest but between the United States and Europe--and Americans remain largely oblivious."

This stark warning was written by Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also author of a new book, The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century.

Conventional wisdom off the mark

Kupchan's article begins by describing the popular perception of the United States: "The American era appears to be alive and well. The U.S. economy is more than twice the size of the next biggest--Japan's--and the United States spends more on defense than the world's other major powers combined. China is regularly identified as America's next challenger, but it is decades away from entering the top ranks.

"The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington certainly punctured the sense of security that arose from the end of the Cold War and the triumph of the West, but they have done little to compromise U.S. hegemony. Indeed, they have reawakened America's appetite for global engagement. At least for the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to enjoy primacy, taking on Islamic terrorism even as it keeps a watchful eye on China.

"That encapsulates the conventional wisdom--and it is woefully off the mark. Not only is American primacy far less durable than it appears, but it is already beginning to diminish. And the rising challenger is not China or the Islamic world but the European Union, an emerging polity that is in the process of marshaling the impressive resources and historical ambitions of Europe's separate nation-states."

The rising European superpower

Updating Americans on developments in Europe, Dr. Kupchan continues: "The EU's annual economic output has reached about $8 trillion, compared with America's $10 trillion, and the euro will soon threaten the dollar's global dominance. Europe is strengthening its collective consciousness and character and forging a clearer sense of interests and values that are quite distinct from those of the United States. The EU's member states are debating the adoption of a Europe-wide constitution (a move favored by two thirds of the union's population), building armed forces capable of operating independently of the U.S. military, and striving to project a single voice in the diplomatic arena.

"As the EU fortifies its governmental institutions and takes in new members (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and at least four other countries are expected to join in 2004), it will become a formidable counterweight to the United States on the world stage. The transatlantic rivalry that has already begun will inevitably intensify. Centers of power by their nature compete for position, influence, and prestige.

"The coming clash between the United States and the European Union will doubtless bear little resemblance to the all-consuming standoff of the Cold War. Although military confrontation remains a remote prospect, however, U.S.-EU competition will extend far beyond the realm of trade.

"The U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are destined to vie for control of the international monetary system. Washington and Brussels will just as likely lock horns over the Middle East. Europe will resist rather than backstop U.S. leadership, perhaps paralyzing the World Bank, the United Nations, and other institutions that since World War II have relied on transatlantic cooperation to function effectively.

"An ascendant EU will surely test its muscle against America, especially if the unilateralist bent in U.S. foreign policy continues. A once united West appears well on its way to separating into competing halves.

"For the moment America remains largely oblivious to the challenges posed by a rising Europe" (pp. 42-44).

Since Dr. Kupchan wrote his article, only one fact has changed: 10 more nations, not seven, will be joining the EU in 2004, which begins only 14 months from now, bringing the total number of members to 25. The European Union, already the world's biggest trading system, is well on the way to rivaling American economic dominance.

Growing anti-Americanism, lust for power

A driving force behind the push for European unity is anti-Americanism. Disillusionment with, even fear of, U.S. foreign policy, seen as increasingly unilateralist, with the American president often depicted by cartoonists as a cowboy, has fed a determination that Europe should be a superpower to rival the United States.

"Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer...cautioned Washington that 'alliance partners are not satellites.' The Berliner Zeitung [newspaper] lamented that far from renouncing its go-it-alone ways [after 9/11], the United States had 'used the opportunity to strengthen its selfish superpower position.'

"'Never has a president of the United States been so foreign to us,' the newspaper proclaimed in an editorial, 'and never have German citizens been so skeptical about the policies of their most powerful of allies'" (p. 44).

The German justice minister in September compared George Bush to Adolf Hitler. While the comments soon led to her resignation, they nonetheless show the hardening of many Europeans' attitudes toward the United States and its leadership.

Dr. Kupchan notes that European leaders also are increasingly calling for greater integration and more power to offset America's long-held military and economic strength. "The French used to be alone in looking to the EU as a counterpoise to America, but the other members have now joined in," he writes. "Tony Blair has asserted, 'Whatever its origin, Europe today is no longer just about peace. It is about projecting collective power.'

"Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called 'for a more integrated and enlarged Europe' to offset U.S. hegemony. According to Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, the EU's executive body, one of the chief goals of the union is to create 'a superpower on the European continent that stands equal to the United States.' Goran Persson, the Prime Minister of Sweden, a country that long ago renounced power politics, recently remarked that the EU is 'one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world domination'" (p. 44).

Biblical predictions of a European superpower

Serious Bible students have known for a long time that the Bible prophesies the emergence of a new superpower that will dominate the world for a brief time just before the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

This European-centered "beast" power, as the Bible terms it, is the final resurrection of the Roman Empire, one of the four great gentile empires of Daniel's vision (Daniel 7) that have largely dominated civilization through the centuries--and will again just before Christ's return. All of these empires were to have a great impact on the 12 tribes of Israel. The resurrected Roman Empire will have a negative impact on their descendants today, among whom are the British and American peoples.

Revelation 17 gives us more details about this coming superpower: "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour [prophetically meaning a short time] as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings . . ." (verses 12-14).

While describing an end-time union of 10 leaders who will ally themselves with an even greater leader, also called "the beast," this passage suggests that not all current members of the EU will be in the final political, economic and military union that will constitute this new superpower. Some apparently will simply not be allowed in for whatever reason; others may choose to opt out just as three of the present 15 members have opted out of the euro zone, at least for now.

The European Union has been a long time developing. After World War II the battered countries of Europe were determined that, after two European-centered world wars in less than 30 years, the nations of Europe would never again fight each other. Germany and France in particular were resolved to build a new Europe that would be different from the old.

Previous attempts at European union have always been by conquest. Hitler and Napoleon are examples of despots in the last two centuries who attempted to restore the continent's unity, lost when Rome fell in A.D. 476. Conquering other nations against their will inevitably led to conflict. Having learned from the past, the various nations of Europe are now committed to voluntary union, a potentially far more powerful union than those that have preceded it.

Treaty of Rome: Foundation for a new Roman Empire

The Treaty of Rome was signed by the six original members of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957 in what was once the capital city of the Roman Empire and is still the spiritual home of one of the world's biggest religions. The six original members--Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg--were joined by Britain, Ireland and Denmark in January 1973.

The EEC, now the EU, continued to add more members. Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Sweden and Finland have since joined and now 10 new members--eight of them former communist countries in eastern Europe, plus Malta and Cyprus--are due to join in 2004. Others are trying to get in but have not yet qualified.

At first the British did not want to join. Five years later they were knocking at the door but were refused entry by France's President Charles de Gaulle, who was no doubt remembering the words of his war-time ally Winston Churchill who told him that whenever Great Britain had to choose between Europe and the sea, it would "always choose the sea."

De Gaulle questioned Britain's commitment to the organization and felt that Britain's entry would allow American influence to come in through the back door. His successor, Georges Pompidou, took a different line--he wanted Britain in as a further counterweight to Germany, which had become the dominant member of the club.

The British have long been ambivalent toward the EU, with many Britons still opposing membership. The British, together with Denmark and Sweden, remain outside of the new European common currency, the euro. The present British government remains committed to the euro in principle but lacks the support necessary to win a promised referendum on the issue. There is even less British enthusiasm for a political union of member countries.

Ironically, as Dr. Kupchan points out: "Britain's decision to enhance its leadership role in Europe is moving the EU more quickly toward self-reliance. London for years kept its distance from the Continent, but Prime Minister Tony Blair has altered course, orchestrating the EU's push on the defense front and working to take his country into the euro zone. 'We must be wholehearted, not halfhearted, partners in Europe,' Blair told Britons late last year, warning them that 'Britain has no economic future outside Europe'" (pp. 43-44).

Britain even called in October for the peoples of Europe to directly elect a president for Europe.

Germany at the heart of Europe

Another motivating force behind European unity is fear of Germany, intensified since German reunification following the collapse of communism in the east. After suffering in three wars with Germany in 75 years, France in particular wants a European Union in which other member states will keep Germany in check. The British commitment, meanwhile, is that Europe will stay on course with America. However, neither France nor Britain is likely to lead the new Europe, as the Atlantic Monthly article shows.

Dr. Kupchan states that "Germany's growing comfort with leadership is strengthening the union's political will. As part of its postwar policy of reassurance and reconciliation, Bonn for decades treaded lightly on diplomacy and defense. Since 1999, however, when the seat of government moved back to Berlin, symbolizing a renewed self-confidence, Germany has been actively guiding the EU's evolution, marking out a pathway for building a federal Europe" (p. 44).

We should note that Germany has the biggest population in the EU and is by far the leading single economy. Within the EU, Germany is the biggest trading partner of each of the other member nations, giving the country a great deal of clout.

Growing differences with America

Differences between Europe and America are real and growing. Although Britain supports the United States over Iraq, many EU members are highly critical of America's foreign policy in the Middle East. "Trade disputes are heating up, especially over steel and agriculture," writes Dr. Kupchan. "Despite America's defection from the Kyoto Protocol, the EU moved forward with more than a hundred countries participating, leaving Washington a lonely and, from all appearances, an environmentally irresponsible bystander. Last year EU member states took the lead in voting the United States off two UN commissions--payback for America's unilateral ways" (p. 44).

The reality for the future, he says, is that "as the EU continues to rise, its economic and political interests are likely to collide frequently with those of the United States, intensifying the ill will."

With America preoccupied with the war on terror and problems in the Middle East, its citizens and leaders are giving little attention to developments in Europe--developments that, in the course of time, may be of greater consequence to the United States than terrorism or Iraq. wnp

©2002 United Church of God, an International Association
Used with permission.

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