Dawn Breaks over Marblehead
It looks like the French are starting to realize that opposing the #1 military power and excluding #2 may not be as good an idea as it seems on its face. Here is today's le Monde editorial
Le Monde Editorial
Blair against Chirac
Crises have the advantage of clarifying things. The deep division across the European Union on the war in Iraq forces Europeans to answer a question long posed but always avoided: What do they want to do together?
In a space of two days, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac have given opposing answers.
This no longer a controversy between European integrationists and Eurosceptics, as it was when the British Conservatives were in power. Tony Blair is the most "European" prime minister that Great Britain has had in a long time. He has stated repeatedly that he favors building Europe. He regrets the chances his predecessors missed. He wants his country to adopt the Euro as soon as possible so that it might play a full role in the Union. He has – to take the expression de Gaulle applied to France – "a certain idea of Europe." The problem for French diplomacy is that his idea does not correspond to theirs.
Tony Blair has just repeated this in public. He does not want a multi-polar world in which Europe would constitute one pole, along with the United States and other regional groupings. This is the vision that the French president repeated at the mini-summit on European defense, which took place April 29 in Brussels: a world with the United States, Europe, China, India, and Latin America. (Jacques Chirac curiously omitted mentioning Russia, either because it might be integrated with the European group, or because by itself it might be too weak to constitute a pole.)
Tony Blair finds this idea not only unrealistic but dangerous. He sees in it a revival of the "balance of power" system which produced the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries. He advocates a unipolar world in which the United States and Europe would be on the same side, that of the liberal democracies, ranged against the dangers represented by fundamentalism and terrorism.
Between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac, which one has the means to make his views prevail? Having faced down hostile public opinion, Blair has doubtlessly been reinforced by the test of Iraq. Chirac has made progress with the idea of a "pioneer group," bringing Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg along with him. However, Blair's concept is held by the majority in the expanded Union, as shown by the indignant or ironic reactions to the Brussels mini-summit.
The debate is not yet resolved. The "gang of four" will have a hard time imposing its views for the simple reason that there cannot be a European defense without the British, and therefore without a partnership with the United States. To be partners, there must be a mediator. The destructive attitude of the Bush administration is not a favorable omen.