By William Pfaff
The crisis caused in Europe by American intelligence interceptions of its allies’ electronic communications derives from a problem Europeans have known and put up with since the Second World War. The time has come to call a halt.
It can only be solved with drastic actions that assert European sovereignty and a salutary shock of defiance to longstanding American presumptions of international impunity and repeated acts in disregard of international law, as well as of commercial and diplomatic convention and tradition.
This problem is America’s asserted domination—active or implicit/potential—over West European affairs.
It developed automatically, a consequence of the exigencies of the Second World War. The Anglo-American armies brought liberation and ignited the ambition of Europe’s democratic citizenry not only to rebuild their countries but to create a democratic European Union, which has been done. Done, it must be added, with generous American political and material support, and shielded by the Western Allies from the postwar revolutionary ambitions of the French, Italian and Greek Communist parties. This political order in Western Europe evolved into the united Europe we know today. But this Europe is not independent.
During the postwar years, the United States was itself “becoming a European power,” as Richard Holbrooke once said (to the fury of French and other Gaullists). Not merely a European power but the leading West European power, and after communism’s collapse the leader as well of what had been Warsaw Pact Europe.
Under Churchill, and after him, Britain made the fateful choice to let the Europeans go their own way and to tie itself permanently to the United States—to “the history of the English-speaking peoples,” as he titled the book he was working on at the time. Even now, however, the British continue to debate Churchill’s decision; but language and history made it inevitable. Even today the alliance of British, American, Canadian and Anzac intelligence and communications interception services remains an integrated and deliberately exclusive organization. No Europeans wanted.
When Europeans complain because their highest government circles are penetrated by the grotesquely overbuilt and overwrought NSA and its allies, they must dismiss Washington’s puerile alibis, heard this week in Congress—“Everyone does it,” “We are defending the allies against terrorism,” and so forth.
Since the end of the cold war—and doubly so since the 9/11 attacks—mainstream opinion in Washington has taken for granted an American national mission to establish global military domination, and to impose so far as possible a global realm of American-style government and capitalism, taken for granted to be, as Francis Fukuyama felicitously if disastrously identified it, the destined end of history.
So large a duty and weighty an obligation carries rights that Washington expects its allies and fellow democracies to acknowledge and respect. History has made them American auxiliaries in a great political and moral enterprise: to change and remake the world to suit America’s interests, which necessarily embraces the need to dominate all those global political and industrial centers which may be, or may become, obstacles to the American destiny. Thus the current American preoccupation with China, the new Russia, and the irruption in the Arab Islamic world of powerful new currents of sectarian religious passions and war, spurred by America’s invasions, Israeli occupation of Palestine, and Islamist politico-religious ideological ambitions with apocalyptic characteristics. It seems not too much to say that the ingredients of permanent war are now being installed not only there, but rapidly put in place throughout Muslim Africa.
The NSA crisis has come at a crucial moment in the development of this post-cold war American megalomania, fueled by constitutional crisis at home and radicalization of U.S. domestic politics.
Europe—Western Europe, certainly—has been complicit, even participant, in this American crisis. Has Europe the right, the moral right, to complacently continue?
Even for the sake of us Americans ourselves it is necessary for the West to shock this America—before the American nation goes too far. Charles de Gaulle did it in 1966, anticipating with profound political intuition the present-day crisis in Europe’s right to total sovereignty. He ordered NATO to leave France. Paris would remain faithful to the western alliance against the Soviet threat. But it would act according to its own interests, and its own political and moral standards. This was France’s stance from the era of de Gaulle to that of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Today the principal European NATO states—Britain inevitably excluded, one supposes—must demand American withdrawal from Europe. Its troops have no legitimate mission inside the European states. Why should the U.S. be constructing a huge and entirely new base in Italy for American airborne forces meant to operate in Africa? Does Italy expect to be at war with Africa?
Why should the enormous American military and political operational centers built in Germany during the past 50 years still exist? There no longer is a cold war with Russia, or anyone else, that lends logic to these facilities. Today we find they are used to eavesdrop on the German chancellor and her government, and on the German (and other European) peoples—and undoubtedly to collect economic and industrial intelligence as well.
America’s national and commercial telecommunications installations and facilities in Europe should be ordered closed, or placed under European political supervision, and American social media companies placed under equally severe legal constraint and supervision in their operations. Clandestine American telecommunication interception stations, including those disguised as U.S. diplomatic premises, should be expelled and countermeasures taken to secure European interests.
Europe must declare its independence. The need is great. The act could also be a profound service to the United States itself, a nation in crisis.
Visit William Pfaff’s website for more on his latest book, “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy” (Walker & Co., $25), at www.williampfaff.com.
© 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.