Europe’s Choice

Europe’s Choice

T. R. Reid’s The United States of Europe, Jeremy Rifkin’s The European Dream, and Mark Leonard’s Why Europe will Run the 21st Century

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the
End of American Supremacy
by T.R. Reid
Penguin Press, 2004 320 pp $25.95

The European Dream:
How Europe’s Vision of the Future
Is Quietly Eclipsing
the American Dream
by Jeremy Rifkin
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004 448 pp $25.95

Why Europe will Run
the 21st Century
by Mark Leonard
Public Affairs, 2005 170 pp $20

Over the last several years a rift has opened beneath the Atlantic, pushing the United States and Europe farther apart. One cause has been increasingly different approaches to foreign policy. Another has been a sense that Europeans and Americans have distinct approaches to domestic affairs as well. Alongside the shelf of books chronicling transatlantic disputes over Iraq, terrorism, the United Nations, and similar topics, another shelf is filling up with analyses of how the “European model” is not just different from the American one but superior to it. This literature does a good job of pointing out the chinks in America’s armor and highlighting the ways Europessimists have overdone their gloomy portrait of the continent and its future. The books tend to have significant flaws of their own, however—including, oddly enough, a shared blind spot regarding Europe’s true hope for long-term greatness and the obstacles it must surmount to achieve it.

T.R. Reid’s The United States of Europe is up front about its goals and motivation. A former European bureau chief for the Washington Post, Reid sees European integration as designed to create a new actor able to “stand up as a counterweight to the American brute” and penned his book to help this project along.

Reid focuses much of his attention on the business sphere and the ways integration has steadily leveled the playing field between American and European firms. Much of one chapter, for example, is devoted to the story of General Electric’s failed attempt to purchase the aerospace company Honeywell. The deal was approved by the boards of both companies and the relevant U.S. authorities, yet it ultimately fell apart. Why? Because Jack Welch “came up against a force more powerful than the most powerful corporate chieftain. He ran headlong into the path of [a] great historic movement . . . the unification of Europe.” This is Reid’s overwrought way of saying that integration has given Brussels great leverage due to its regulatory power and ability to control access to a large and lucrative European market. Welch failed to recognize this because he was accustomed to thinking about satisfying only American authorities and actors, and compounded his mistake by appealing to Washington to help get the deal done. The result was predictable: with Europe now unwilling to be treated as a “weak little sister who can be pushed around by swaggering Ame...