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REVIEWS

Mark Leonard, Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century
Fourth Estate: London 2005, £8.99, paperback
170 pp, 0 00 719531 1

Peter Gowan

PAX EUROPÆA
Mired ever deeper in the disaster of occupied Iraq, Downing Street’s one
remaining strategic hope has been to rally domestic forces around a Blairite
Europeanism. With the 2005 election out of the way, Blair could repackage himself through British chairmanship of the g8 and the eu to link up
with those on the British centre-left yearning for a Europeanist alternative to America under Bush. Mark Leonard’s tract, Why Europe Will Run
the 21st Century, would have been an ideal intellectual support for such a
turn. It manages to combine a clarion call to build Europe as a progressive alternative to Bush’s America with an artful defence of both Atlanticism
and neoliberalism.
In style, Leonard’s book is reminiscent of Will Hutton’s The World We’re
In. Hutton’s critique of the current American business model is a good
deal more trenchant than Leonard’s, but the latter makes a more ambitious
claim for the potential effectiveness of eu Europeanism as an alternative
kind of international politics to Washington’s recent militarism. Leonard’s
efforts to rebrand the current eu as a progressive force for social democrats are ingenious, and unlike most well-informed books on the eu, the
text is lively, bristling with bright, new slogans for those eager to promote
this version of Europe.
Leonard’s title about Europe ‘running’ the twenty-first century should
not be taken too seriously. Though he tweaks the noses of American neocons
with chapter headings such as ‘The Project for a New European Century’, his

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real claim is more modest. While the us, he argues, is not well configured
as a state for coping with the post-Cold War world, eu Europe has hit upon a
big idea for preserving the global dominance of the Atlantic alliance. The key
to this lies in the politics of cosmopolitan liberalism. At face value, the case
for it is a coherent one. Capitalism has triumphed throughout the world and
all capitalist classes share a common interest in preserving that victory. The
main challenge they face now comes from below rather than from ‘outside’,
in the form of a bloc of hostile states. Second, though, capitalism comes in
many varieties, and clashes of interest between capitalisms are endemic;
each seeks to shape both the internal political economies of the others and
the international rules of the game to their own advantage. Atlantic political dominance over the capitalist world and its regimes therefore remains
hugely important and free-market fantasies about the end of power politics on a level global playing-field are just that. At present, the rules and
regimes of the world economy are still those dictated by the Atlantic powers
to serve their interests.
The world-order problem can thus be formulated as that of providing
global institutional regimes which are perceived to be universalist but which
are, in detailed reality, accented towards ensuring outcomes favouring the
continued dominance of the Atlantic world. This, for Leonard, is the overwhelmingly important task of Europe and the us today. And to achieve this,
the us–eu must both refashion the international institutions and restructure their own modus operandi in global politics. Bodies such as the unsc
or nato are too obviously Atlantic-centred. Bushite efforts to dominate the
world by dividing states along friend–enemy lines should cease. Leonard is
sympathetic to Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay’s suggestion of an ‘Alliance
of Democratic States’, a un whose membership would be selected by the
us. But rather than a ‘grand design’, he looks forward to the incremental
emergence of a new ‘world of regions’. Not, to be sure, of ‘autarchic blocs’,
but of ‘overlapping clubs’, inclusive of the new rising capitalist centres like
China, India and Brazil, that will promote global development, regional
security and open markets. ‘A rule-governed world with American power
behind it’, as Leonard explains. Coercion should be focused on intervening within states, against forces from below which seek to challenge the
(Atlantic-written) rules of the international capitalist order. State sovereignty is the enemy here. The un Charter should be reworked along liberal
cosmopolitan lines, allowing sovereignty to be violated by the international
community where states are judged to be reneging on their commitment
to the liberal capitalist order. But the Atlantic states themselves must also
commit to playing by the rules.
Here, of course, we have Blair’s so-called doctrine of the international
community, outlined in his 1999 Chicago speech, which Leonard has

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repackaged as the essence of Europeanism. He has some justification for
this, given the support the project enjoys both in Brussels and in other
European capitals. And the world order it enjoins does indeed fit with the
current eu’s mode of operation. It formulates international legal rules that
bind its member states to commitments concerning their own domestic
behaviour and external trade policies. It then demands that others accept
these same rules if they want to enjoy close relations with the eu. Presented
as based upon—indeed, the embodiment of—liberal norms, in reality these
are a thicket of positive laws for particularist capitalist interests. But in form
at least, the eu model is one that asks others only to abide by rules which it
applies to itself.
There is some truth in Leonard’s argument that the us state is
not well configured for operating in this way. It is not simply that Bush
Republicanism is bitterly hostile to such cosmopolitan institution-building;
the entire American postwar elite has been formed around the idea that the
us is the preserver of the political basis on which the whole legal and institutional order of the capitalist world rests. It therefore cannot be bound by
the rules which its own power politics has built. The Washington elite has
also grown accustomed to telling its allies what to do, rather than engaging
in collegial management of international affairs. It has thus been impatient
with Europeanist efforts to use the end of the Soviet threat to assert a more
independent voice on the world stage. The political culture in Washington
remains largely one in which the task of allies is to follow; America sees
furthest and knows best, and the capitalist world needs one—American—
centre, not a committee of powers to manage its affairs.
But the Atlantic gap is not as wide as some believe. Leonard speaks
glowingly of Clinton’s foreign policy, and his book positively drips with
endorsements (wonderful, fascinating, refreshing, lucid, exhilarating, fluid
[sic]) from the likes of Robert Kagan, Philip Bobbitt and Joseph Nye. The
fact is that the Bush Administration’s attempt to use 9/11 as an opportunity
to rebuild us discipline over its allies and to impose a unipolar American
political order on the world has been stymied by the virulence of the resistance in Iraq. Washington is currently on the back foot. They need European
help and they are getting it. Leonard’s project, as he explains, ‘will enhance
American power’.
The rhetoric of a new European hegemony relies, of course, on downplaying the importance of military statecraft in contemporary international
relations. Having announced that the us–uk invasion of Iraq in violation
of international law was a counter-productive way of trying to assert global hegemony, Leonard simply drops the subject of the political uses of
military power as if they didn’t matter. He has to. Were he to admit the
obvious fact that they matter a great deal, his case for European leadership

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in the twenty-first century would collapse. Even in Europe’s own backyard,
the Eastern Mediterranean, American military power ensures that it is
Washington, not Brussels, that shapes the security environment. The same
is true in spades for the Pacific Rim. For the fantasy of European global
dominance to be sustained, such unpalatable facts must be ignored.
By the same token, Leonard shrinks from grappling with the realities
of Western Europe’s political subordination to the us during the Cold War,
its liberation from protectorate status when the Soviet Bloc collapsed and
Washington’s subsequent efforts to resubordinate it through a series of
political-military manoeuvrings focused around the conflicts in Yugoslavia.
Leonard shields his eyes from the embarrassing truth about Washington’s
operations in the Balkans during the early 1990s: its determination to
destabilize eu efforts to broker a deal over Bosnia—calling for an independent unitary state there, in the full knowledge that this would kindle a civil
war—and then to blood the new nato with a war against the Yugoslavia
of Miloševic´. nato’s significance for American military-political power in
Europe simply does not figure in Leonard’s analysis. Not that he is any
sort of pacifist, as his excitement about Blair’s calls for a land invasion of
Yugoslavia goes to prove. Leonard looks forward eagerly to a militarized
eu, able—international law having been rewritten—to enforce the rules of
the Atlantic order on recalcitrant nations. Already, the eu is given credit for
sweeping strategic victories. In one of his more fervid flights, even the occupation of Iraq is acclaimed as a triumph for Europe—thanks to whom the
transatlantic relationship has survived, the un has been brought on board
and (no mention of the Iraqi insurgents) a putative invasion of Iran and
Syria has been rendered impossible, at least ‘for several years’.
Nevertheless, it is worth asking how seriously we should take the argument that the eu is a major force in international politics today. By throwing
a customs union wall around the European market and introducing a dense
tangle of behind-the-border regulation within it, the eu states have indeed
provided themselves with a powerful diplomatic armoury for economic statecraft. They can use these instruments to open other markets or close their
own, for the advantage of their capitals; they can also use economic pressure
for collective political goals. Yet if this enables the eu to be roughly in the
same league as the us in trade terms, when it comes to shaping the rules of
global economic life only the us can exploit the huge extra privileges which
dollar dominance provides. It has been the us, far more than the eu, that
has used its market-access powers to generate significant degrees of trade
dependency in the other main regional economic centre, East and Southeast
Asia—supplementing the leverage which its military-political presence in
that region brings.

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Leonard claims, notwithstanding, that the eu has established ‘an enormous sphere of influence’ for itself in the international political economy.
This ‘Eurosphere’ consists of a hundred-odd countries for whom the eu is
the largest trading partner, source of bank credit, foreign direct investment
and development assistance. Rashly, he provides the actual list of Eurosphere
denizens. Leaving aside the devastated societies of post-Communist Russia
and half a dozen cis countries, we have a roll-call of Sub-Saharan African
countries, plus the Arab states and Israel. The notion that Europe is a giant
in the contemporary Arab world is not worth considering. There is no coherent eu politics, leave alone an independent stance on its problems in the
face of American and Israeli efforts to bait and humiliate the region; nor
the slightest indication that eu Europe has the capacity to deliver a viable
development strategy. Instead, Washington has succeeded in generating
acute tensions within Western Europe between its Islamic populations and
governments incapable of repudiating the us–Israeli alliance’s operations in
the Middle East.
Western Europe’s claims to influence in Africa are somewhat better
founded. From the Maghreb southwards across Africa, the eu, and more
particularly France and Britain, have been shaping powers for fifty years
(and more than fifty years before that). The record—ruined economies, civil
strife, catastrophic social provision—speaks for itself. In exchange for these
countries’ economic dependence on the eu, the latter is seeking to export
its ‘European’ values—Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance
(hrdgg, for short). But not even the remorselessly upbeat Leonard claims
that the result of this exchange is likely to be a triumphant rise of an eu-led
Euro-African bloc. Indeed, at the present time, China is the most dynamic
diplomatic and economic influence in Sub-Saharan Africa, causing some
anxiety in Western Europe since it engages in serious business without
‘values’ being tagged on as conditionalities.
Leonard makes much of the eu’s ability to re-engineer the postCommunist societies of East Central Europe since the early 1990s. Like
many other eu apologists, he would have us believe that the arrival of liberal democracy in these states was in large measure thanks to Brussels’s
pressure and surveillance. In fact, the populations and elites of these societies alike embraced the idea of liberal-democratic pluralist politics from the
start of the 1990s. What these populations did not embrace was the kind
of capitalism which the eu (and World Bank) offered them. The resulting
destruction of economic assets put enormous strains on some of the democratic political systems. Only the prospect of eventual membership of the eu
club prevented the destabilization of the region in the late 1990s. Leonard
seems to think the resulting capitalism was not only good for West European
business, but good for the populations of Eastern Europe as well—even

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Whenever Monnet attacked a new problem he would gather a bunch of people around him . . . He would begin a sort of non-stop Kaffeeklatch. It could go
on sometimes for a period of one or two weeks—hours and hours a day . . .
Monnet would remain silent, occasionally provoking reaction, but not saying
much . . . Then gradually, as the conversation developed—and it often took
several days or even a week before this happened—he began venturing a little
statement of his own.

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declaring that Poland has been modernizing its economy at an ‘astonishing
pace’. A trip to any provincial Polish city would show how much support
there is for this idea.
Behind such efforts to talk up the importance of the eu as a mighty
force in the international political economy lies a deeper unresolved tension in Leonard’s argument. On the one hand he claims that power-political
muscle—especially market-access power—is vital to the eu’s economic success. He then tries to argue that the eu’s reshaping activities inside other
political economies are good for the targets of this process as well—that the
victories of the eu make the losers winners too. Only the crassest free-market
ideology could square that circle. Rather than address this contradiction in
his economic thinking, Leonard changes the subject and claims that the eu
benefits the victims of its restructuring by informing them with its values.
The fact is that the eu operates as a strongly mercantilist caucus and
its directorates are renowned for their ruthless assertion of West European
business interests in their economic diplomacy. It is precisely this harsh
reality which makes neighbouring states, whether rich or poor, so eager to
join the club that writes the economic rules. Since the start of the 1990s the
eu has rather successfully masked this mercantilist reality with its hrdgg
diplomacy and its so-called aid programmes, at least as far as its own populations are concerned. It has managed to brand itself as the world’s most
consistent campaigning organization for the aforementioned hrdgg, and
as having the best headline figures for aid. But what it is not capable of doing
is furnishing a socio-economic development path for its ‘neighbourhood’,
whether in the Western Balkans, the former Soviet Republics or in Africa,
that could provide stable foundations for liberal-democratic capitalism—a
problem which Leonard cannot bring himself to confront.
The American historian of the eu, John Gillingham, has a good term for
the apologetics for the eu as a political and economic system: ‘bafflegab’.
Leonard produces some fine examples. The role of Jean Monnet is here more
mystified than ever. True, Monnet’s actual integration projects were scarcely
successes: the Coal and Steel Community quickly faded and Monnet’s pet
idea of Euratom rather than the eec was also a mistake. But his central role,
Leonard explains, was methodological. In the words of one of the Founding
Father’s devoted disciples:

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The causal mechanism behind the eu is none other than Monnet’s ‘genius’ (an obligatory term in bafflegab). This produced what Leonard calls
‘a “European invisible hand” that allows an orderly European society to
emerge from each country’s national interest.’ In short, the driving forces
of the eu remain a mystery. Nor may we ask where the eu is going or what
its logic is. As Leonard explains: ‘To this day, Europe is a journey with no
final destination, a political system that shies away from the grand plans
and concrete certainties that define American politics. Its lack of vision
is the key to its strength.’ Inevitably, however, the eu turns out to be yet
another network community, structured on the business model of a Visa
card, or the internet.
All this to prepare us for the trickiest point that Leonard has to get across
to his social-democratic readership: an explanation of why the eu does not
have a responsible, democratic government for managing the affairs within
its jurisdiction. Why, in other words, does the eu’s parliamentary election
not produce an executive authority with legislative initiative? Leonard’s solution is nothing if not ingenious: a democratic system of government would
involve copying the Americans. As he explains:
The Convention [drawing up a suggested European Constitution] recognized
that aping the American Constitution by creating a directly elected President
of the Commission or a European Parliament with the power to elect a
European executive or initiate legislation would destroy the things that make
Europe work.

Leonard offers no serious answer to the question why a democratic system
would destroy ‘the things that make Europe work’. Indeed, by claiming that
the eu’s social politics are profoundly social-democratic he deepens the mystery. To find an answer we must turn to the core of the new eu’s political
economy. That core is double-barrelled: it consists of the so-called Single
Market programme on the one hand, and the peculiar form of European
Monetary Union on the other. Leonard manages to complete his entire book
without engaging with either of these two mechanisms at all. Yet their logic
has been to destroy the social compromise between capital and labour that
was the distinctive feature of postwar Europe, and which the eu project since
the mid-1980s has been dedicated to undermining. The Single Market sets
up ‘regime competition’ in which states can engage in a race to the bottom in
deregulating labour markets. European Monetary Union enables the ecb to
engage in a deflationary monetary policy and to sabotage government efforts
to use fiscal policy for economic revival. And the patent—indeed, openly
acknowledged—goal behind this is to drive through ‘economic reform’;
in other words, to overthrow the postwar social-democratic compromise.
The two mechanisms together ensure that national governments within

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Euroland lose their capacity to steer their economies. Leonard’s claims for
a social-democratic political economy in the eu are simply false; since the
mid-1980s, the eu project has been carried forward under the sign of Hayek.
Such claims rely largely upon ignoring the real dynamics of policy change,
while using the phrase Social Democracy in a Blairite sense of equality of
opportunity and state spending on (increasingly privately run) health and
education systems. On that definition Europe is social democratic—but
then so is America. Leonard dubs his ‘social democratic’ eu policy paradigm a ‘Stockholm consensus’ (wisely ignoring the Swedish repudiation of
the eu’s form of monetary union). But Seattle Consensus would have been
just as apt.
Since the French turn in the mid-1980s, the business and political elites
of Western Europe have been filled with hope that ‘Europe’ can revive again,
after almost half a century of subordination. Their hopes have focused,
firstly, on rolling back the class compromise forced upon them by defeat
in the Second World War and by the challenge of Communist and Soviet
victories; and secondly, on reviving Western Europe’s international role as a
more independent actor under American leadership. The Soviet bloc’s collapse gave a great fillip to both prongs of this revival strategy. The Delorsian
rhetoric of social cohesion was cast aside in favour of a draconian form of
monetary union and races to the bottom in the so-called single market. And
there were high hopes that the eu could become a genuine partner of the us
in the Atlantic alliance, as nato’s official rhetoric claimed, rather than the
subaltern protectorate it had actually been.
On one side, Washington has worked unremittingly to bring the West
Europeans back into line and to ensure that the eu remains nothing but a
market regime; on the other side, continental European labour—above all in
France—has increasingly grasped what the new eu project is all about. The
result is now a mess. Washington has managed to render the eu incapable
of cohesive international action without us permission, using its transmission belts of influence through London, Rome and Warsaw. Meanwhile the
eu’s popular authority has been progressively undermined by the fact that it
is an undemocratic elite oligarchy, run by the mandarins of member states
and big business for neoliberal goals.
Leonard’s book appeared after Washington and London blundered into
their Iraq debacle. The timing should have been good: Washington’s barbaric
yet ineffective occupation of Iraq offered eu Europe what seemed like another
chance. But instead of seizing it, the Giscardians fell flat on their faces in the
French referendum thanks to their determination to ensure that a so-called
constitution did not include the one thing—representative democracy—that
could destroy ‘the things that make Europe work’. Poor Mark Leonard’s
claims for a great European revival are already hopelessly outdated. The fact

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of the matter is that elites on both sides of the Atlantic were presented with
the world on a plate by the nomenklaturas of Communist Eastern Europe
at the start of the 1990s. But they have not yet found a way of turning
that gift into a stable world order that anchors both their joint dominance
and their co-operation.