Debate in Hoxton

I attended an excellent debate in London on Saturday chaired by none other than Sir Michael Portillo MP. Also present was one of my favourite authors, Philip Bobbitt, who duly signed my copy of the Shield of Achilles, a book I have mentioned several times on this blog. I dont have the list to hand of the others who attended, but it also included Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 news, Robert Cooper one of the head foreign policy guys in the EU, Michael Gove, a columnist for the Times.

The question of the debate was whether or not the United States is an empire. It was an excellent discussion lasting some 2 hours.

Now as regular readers of my weblog will know, I have a keen interest in the current and future state of transatlantic relations. There has been a number of references here to the idea in the future of a US-EU war within the next 30 – 100 years. There has been some chatter in the Blogosphere too, but not a significant amount. Glenn Reynolds put the chance of such a conflict, albeit cold, at about 40%.

So being the keen and inquisitive person you all know and love, I asked some of the panel members the same question.

Philip Bobbitt listened with interest to the question, and his reply was simply “the chances are not negligable”. I think he was staying safe there, but he had considered carefully no doubt, he is exceptionally articulate.

Michael Portillo had simply never heard of the idea, but failed to give an opinion, simply saying it was a very interesting question.

Lindsey Hilsum had obviously thought of it before, she had alread noted the ‘deep schism’ growing between Europe and American. She thought it “a distinct possibility within that timeframe”.

And I didnt get a reply from any of the others due to time constraints. But when I did ask the question of the panel, the audience of some 150 people were aghast, with several ruffles of laughter, and some ghasps of astonishment at the question. That in itself was interesting.

The most common argument I came across in the discussion afterward was the such a split or conflict could not occur simply because of the shared culture and history of Europe and America. Another common rebuttal that politcal entities such as Chine would have a far greater impact on future EU and US policy that such a split would be impossible.

I digress, I believe such a schism to a point of a cold war or even an actual conflict to be a distinct possibility. It is something we should discuss now.






3 responses to “Debate in Hoxton”

  1. Frank McGahon avatar

    It’s european navel-gazing to think that the petulant anti-americanism, wide but shallow, in Europe would ever progress to war. For one, the US and the EU still have a remarkable coincidence of interests. The only way such a war would develop is if a radical islamification of Europe happened, I think that is unlikely. The reason I use the term navel-gazing is because there is a much greater long term prospect of war between the US and China, this is more interesting and relevant than hypothetical extrapolations of EU vs. US difference. Remember also that the distinctions are heightened byt the fact that there is a Republican US president and most of countries of the EU are ruled by parties within the big statist consensus. The thing is the statist consensus is heading for a big fall as birth rates consistently fall below replacement, there simply won’t be enough workers willing to pay huge tax to support huge numbers of retirees in comfort. A more likely prognosis is that the future could see newer parties, particularly in “new Europe”, of a more American style pro-lower taxes, deregulation, privatisation etc. you could also see a Democrat president more attuned, like Clinton was, to the mood music required by EU.

  2. Frank McGahon avatar

    Thanks for the link,

    Interesting article but ultimately unconvincing. There are several flawed premises but probably the main one which underpins the whole thrust of the argument is of the inevitability of a european superstate and the assumption that it will be a success. The big blatant fact, elided by Kapchan, is that there is no “european identity” which commands respect over and above national identity. A Frenchman is French first and foremost, being “European” comes a distant third after being “anti-American”. Likewise for a German, Spaniard, Portuguese, Greek, Italian etc. (although with less prominent anti-Americanism). Without a “demos” there can be no lasting European super-state. All moves towards deeper integration will founder in the absence of widespread allegiance to the “United States of Europe” project.

    One of the reasons I am in favour of “widening” the EU by admitting more countries is that it makes “deeper” integration more difficult and less likely. One additional consequence is that the newer countries, whether Jacques Chirac likes it or not, are more “pro-American” than, say France or Germany, this factor will tend to reduce the present “divergence” rather than deepen it.