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<nettime> France, Germany Irrelevant; Switzerland Useless
Bruce Sterling on Thu, 30 Jan 2003 14:43:53 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> France, Germany Irrelevant; Switzerland Useless

*Handy Davos report here from a guy who somehow managed to slip through
the pro-global barbed wire. A useful corrective for people who imagine
that the well-meaning cabal at Davos actually accomplishes anything.

*You know, these Stratfor guys are based here in Austin, but the way they
moan on about the prevalence of armed geopolitics, you would think they
had personally crushed the Red Army inside the Fulda Gap.

*Three thousand scrawny Al Qaeda guys are worth bankrupting the US
airlines over, yet it never occurs to these Stratfor guys that 300 million
righteously ticked-off Europeans might kick the living daylights out of
Monsanto, McDonalds and Microsoft (for a start).  Not to mention the
current regime's beloved American oil companies.

*Check this out: "What Turkey or Saudi Arabia or India do has a direct,
potential effect on the United States. What Germany or France do really
doesn't matter that much in a practical sense."  Oh yeah. Sure.  You bet,
pal.  Now that's strategic forecasting, that is. I'm dumping my euro
holdings and loadin' up on rupees right now.

*Since nobody took me up on my five-dollar prize to stop bitching about
Rhizome, I am offering a new, TWENTY-dollar prize for the most alarming
nettime flame that I can print out and slip under Stratfor's office door
at 2 AM.  No, I'll do even better than that.  I will mail that faltering
American cash to you inside a brand-new, free, Bruce Sterling book.


Subject: 	Stratfor Weekly: Davos, Multilateralism and the Crisis of the 
Date: 	Wed, 29 Jan 03 13:39:07 CST
Here is your complimentary Stratfor Weekly, written by our
Chairman and Founder, Dr. George Friedman.

Please feel free to email this analysis to a friend.

Davos, Multilateralism and the Crisis of the Alliance


"Multilateralism" was the main theme at the annual meeting of the World
Economic Forum, recently concluded in Davos. For European states, the
first half of the 20th century was a time of unprecedented savagery. In
European minds, the culprit was nationalism -- or, more precisely, the
unilateral pursuit of national interest. Multilateralism -- the creation
of multinational institutions and a multinational mode of thought -- is
the Europeans' response to their history. It has become a moral category.
The United States, however, has a very different history and a very
different set of fears. The United States has no historical reason for
fearing its own nationalism, but it does have reason to fear inaction. The
U.S. need to deal with Islamic radicalism collides with the European fear
that the shattering of multilateralism once again will release the demons
of nationalism.


Stratfor was present at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland, during the week of Jan. 23. The meeting was
fascinating, but not necessarily for the reasons the organizers intended.
At Davos, you could hear history creaking in the woodwork -- the strains
of the old international systems beginning to splinter under the weight of
new realities. It was a meeting in which many participants expressed
substantial anger at the United States and fear of the future,
particularly over the coming war with Iraq. Underlying all of this,
however, was the belief that ultimately there was nothing broken that
could not be repaired.

Those present at Davos were far from representative of the world or even
of the world's elite. The World Economic Forum is an organization
comprising business leaders who head the major global organizations. But
many others attend the annual conference: Senior government leaders --
including several heads of state from each continent; armies of ministers,
assistant ministers and minor non-ministers; officials from multinational
organizations like the World Bank and United Nations; leaders of various
non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International; and
representatives from think-tanks. Finally, there are hordes of prestigious

This does not necessarily mean a vast divergence of opinions. The World
Economic Forum has an embedded ideology, developed in the 1980s and forged
in the1990s. The organization believes that the business community, united
and combined with these other constituencies, can dramatically improve the
human condition through good will and good policies. Rising to its heights
during the 1990s, it held that economics had superceded geopolitics as the
driver of human events. At root, most of its members either still believe
this or wish this were true. At the recent conference, it was not just the
United States that was resented - - the real resentment was at the
betrayal by history, and an underlying commitment to reversing that

What was present was that segment of the international elite that is
committed to preserving the international system as it was prior to Sept.
11, 2001. The world view at Davos was of those who remain committed to the
world and the alliances founded by American power after World War II --
and adopted by much of the rest of the world since then. Resistance to the
idea that this world now could be defunct was intense, as much among the
American representatives as among the rest of the world. It was a meeting
in which two concepts, never expressed clearly but always present,
dominated: Preserve what is; restore what has been lost.

The NGOs and the think-tanks, combined with the multinational
organizations, form the intellectual center of gravity at Davos. Combined
with representatives of the European Union, they constitute a powerful
phalanx of thought. They are strongly supported by most of the academics
present, including those from the United States. Other blocs are present.
The Asians spent their time thinking about economics, trying to drive away
thoughts of international conflict. The Asians also wistfully recalled
their former days of glory -- assuring everyone that the glory lives on in
China, and hoping that no one posed any serious security or geopolitical
questions to them. Muslim leaders, seeking to block U.S. adventures in
Iraq, aligned with the Europeans, although their mindset was far from that
of Brussels on most issues.

The main thrust of the conference can be summed up in one term:
multilateralism. Multilateralism, in the context of Davos, is an attack on
the legitimacy of the United States in exercising sovereign national
rights outside the framework of international institutions. The U.N.,
International Monetary Fund, EU and various multinational NGOs are
multilateral organizations. This means two things: First, they are the
creations of more than one nation; second, their mission is to bridge the
gap between nations, thereby reducing conflict. There is an ethical
imperative here. The view is that nationalism is the problem that drove
the world to catastrophe in two world wars -- and that multinational
organizations are more than simply useful contrivances that serve the
interests of various nations; they are moral enterprises whose very
existence helps save the world from conflict.

This is very much the European view, and it is understandable. European
nationalism led the Continent and the world into unprecedented exercises
of barbarism throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The
Europeans, deeply traumatized by the horror that clearly ran just beneath
the surface of their civilization and which they no longer could deny,
grabbed hold of the U.S.-inspired system of multinational relations and
expanded on it for two reasons. One was the explicit mission (such as
economic development), and the second was the moral mission, which was to
limit the autonomy of European nations in order to prevent another
outbreak of European nationalism. NATO and the EU were useful as ends in
themselves, but their deepest purpose was to prevent the outbreak of
another Franco-German war by tying the two nations together in a single
network of relations.

For European leaders, multilateralism is a moral category, designed to
restrain the brutal consequences of nationalism. In the distrust of
national ambition and their a priori commitment to entities like the IMF,
World Bank and multiple U.N. agencies - - as well as purely European
contrivances -- the Europeans are joined by the functionaries of
international humanitarian and human rights NGOs, as well as diplomats and
public officials of many countries -- especially European -- for whom the
rhetoric of multinationalism and multilateralism has become the common
currency of public discourse.

The United States has a very different experience of nationalism and
therefore a very different view of multilateralism. From the U.S. point of
view, World Wars I and II were exercises in European savagery; it fell to
the United States to save Europe from itself. However, the United States
never saw itself as responsible for Europe's disease, nor did it see
itself as susceptible to it. Washington was not afraid of its own
nationalist tendencies. Americans believed that the Europeans would not
behave as civilized human beings unless they were forced into institutions
that limited their sovereignty and behavior. In the American view, the
lesson of the 20th century was precisely the opposite: The United States
could be trusted to behave responsibly without institutional constraints.
During the Cold War, an American might argue, nuclear holocaust was
prevented precisely because the United States unilaterally managed its
nuclear strategy. Had the European statesmen of 1914 or 1939 had nuclear
weapons, or had the weapons been held multilaterally, another holocaust
might have followed.

 >From the U.S. viewpoint, it is altogether reasonable that the Europeans
demand multilateralism for themselves. It is not reasonable to demand it
of the United States. The current alliance structure has two purposes: One
is to facilitate the effective defense of the West, the other is to create
a framework for controlling European excesses. The alliance now is
hindering rather than facilitating defense and, one would hope, the
Europeans are now sufficiently chastened and mature to restrain themselves
within their own multilateral systems. NATO's consensus system should not
be permitted to impede U.S. war- making strategy, particularly when it
permits countries that commit and risk little or nothing to control the
United States, which is committing and risking much. From Washington's
perspective, NATO might have outlived its usefulness.

At Davos, Secretary of State Colin Powell made the argument for the United
States, although he left much unsaid. In general, the U.S. academic and
NGO attendees sided with the Europeans, while the business leaders
maintained a muted tone, focusing on the effects a war might have on the
economy. There is a self- selection process at Davos that results in a
certain stratum of U.S. views being represented while others are not. But
it was more interesting than that. There was continual talk about European
opposition to U.S. "unilateralism," but the Europeans were deeply split as
well. The Spanish government has come in on Washington's position, and the
Italian government is close. Most of Eastern Europe is siding with the
United States. And of course the British government stands with the United
States. Germany and France do not speak for Europe; they speak for
themselves in a deeply divided Europe. The divisions within Europe did not
come through clearly.

In a sense, that's reasonable. Many Americans oppose President George W.
Bush's policies, and many Europeans oppose the Franco- German position.
But this is more than a question of public opinion at any given period.
The fact is that, at the deepest intellectual and moral level, a divide is
opening between Europe and the United States. And with that gap, the
entire edifice of the post-War alliance structure is cracking apart.

 >From a practical point of view, we can already see the shifting
alliances. What Turkey or Saudi Arabia or India do has a direct, potential
effect on the United States. What Germany or France do really doesn't
matter that much in a practical sense. Geography defines interests, and
the geography of Europe has little to do with contemporary U.S. interests
and fears in 2003. The Fulda Gap is infinitely less important than the
Shatt al-Arab to the United States. History has turned, and the
incomprehension and anger of the Europeans at Davos is directed less at
the United States than at a lack of ability to control events.

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