An article published by Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at Washington’s libertarian Cato Institute and former advisor to Ronald Reagon, indicates to me that the real rift concerning foreign policy could be neither the Atlantic nor the middle aisles in the chambers of the US Congress. It indicates to me that there seems to be a deep divide between socially conservative Republicans and Libertarian Reoublicans in the US.
The conservative, traditional, hierarchical model of social coordination favoured by the former is usually abhorred by the latter’s assertion that laisser-faire is the only just way to organise a society/economy. Of course, a two party system does not offer too many alternatives if you want to „make votes count“ (Gary W. Cox‘ book is really brilliant!), so both faction have teamed-up due to their even stronger disgust of the plans for social and! economic reengineering proposed by those who sit on the other side of the aisles. But from time to time, the internal divisions surface. Current US foreign policy is an example thereof.
In this article, which appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last Friday (link in English), Bandow pratically asks France and Germany to stand firm in their opposition to a US led war on Iraq –
„If Berlin and Paris back down after publicly avowing their opposition to war in such strong terms, they will reinforce the justifiable contempt in which they are held in Washington. And U.S. administrations will continue to ignore them in foreign crises. The credibility of European and other critics of Washington is at stake. Giving in will feed Washington’s conviction that it can impose its will without constraint.“
Bandow’s opinion does not look too isolated if you have a look at this page, which is listing the body of work Cato scholars have done since 911 regarding a potential U.S. war with Iraq.
However, if you compare Bandow’s view (or even the piece by Eric Alterman I already linked some days ago) to this interpretation of the US-European problems by the Carnegy Endowment’s (neoconservative) Robert Kagan, you’ll clearly sense a difference not only in style, but in content, too.
Kagan is a vocal proponent of what he calls „American benevolent hegemony„. And it seems, those who share his opinion are willing to pick up the tab for continued American hegemony – inducing all the parallels I already referred to on January 20th. Bandow, on the other hand does not see a point in paying for hegemony – and this is not just a different financial assessment. It’s a different world-view.
„Still, it is understandable why Europe has so little influence over American policy. Europe as a whole is a security black hole for America. … Providing a handful of special forces and lending a couple of AWACS planes would not have been necessary were the U.S. not devoting a substantial share of its military to defending Europe.
The Europeans would do far more for America by simply garrisoning their own continent, instead of expecting the U.S. to maintain 100,000 troops to protect populous, prosperous industrialized states, as well as another 13,000 to enforce order in the Balkans, a region of no strategic interest to America.“
He realises that Europe’s attitude may be one of rational free riding. But that, of course, feeds US demands of eternal subservience, which Europe is seemingly less willing to swallow these days.
In the end, the Iraq crisis is teaching all parties involved that it’s impossible to have the cake, and eat it, too – in Bandow’s words (from last September) –
„… neither side has conducted itself with much maturity in the ongoing international spat. The Bush administration believes that allies such as Germany should do what it says, no questions asked. The Schroeder administration believes that Germany deserves a significant say in international relations, while shrinking its military and relying on Washington to resolve tough global problems. … The administration wants doormats, not allies. Germany and Europe don’t have to remain irrelevant, however. The Schroeder- Bush fight offers Berlin and other European states a unique opportunity to strike a more independent course. It’s time for Washington to encourage such a change.“
As for the last sentence of the quote, the current administration does not seem to listen to Mr Bandow. At least, not yet. As always, time will tell.