This article was written in response to a statement, authored by Juergen Habermas and co-signed by Jacques Derrida, published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on May 31, 2003. It called upon the nations of “Kerneuropa” (Donald Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe”-France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux, and Portugal) to adopt a common foreign policy. The Habermas-Derrida article was called “February 15th, or What Binds Europeans Together”-a reference to the day in 2003 on which mass demonstrations against the Iraq War were held in London, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, and Paris. It was also the day on which, in Habermas’s words “the newspapers reported to their astonished readers the Spanish prime minister’s invitation to the other European nations willing to support the Iraq war to swear an oath of loyalty to George W. Bush, an invitation issued behind the back of the other countries of the European Union.” Other European philosophers (Umberto Eco, Adolf Muschg, Fernando Savater, and Gianni Vattimo) published statements along the same lines in the leading newspapers of their respective countries, also on May 31. The text below, representing an American reaction to the Habermas-Derrida initiative, was published in German in Sueddeutsche Zeitung on May 31. The Habermas-Derrida article was published in English in the September 2003 issue of Constellations.
President Bush’s national security adviser has said, according to newspaper reports, that Russia will be forgiven, Germany ignored, and France punished. Whether or not Condoleezza Rice actually used those words, they express the attitude of the Bush administration toward nations that failed to join the Iraq War coalition. Disagreement with Washington by foreign governments is being treated by the Bush White House not as honest difference of opinion but as the failure of knaves and fools to accept guidance from the wise, farsighted, and benevolent.
Rice herself (the former provost of my university) is a very sophisticated and knowledgeable scholar, and so it is unlikely that she thinks of European leaders in any such simplistic way. But her insistence on the need for America to retain total control of global affairs is consonant with the remark that the American press is now attributing to her. Presumably she thinks that people such as Joschka Fischer and Dominique de Villepin, though neither fools nor knaves, must nevertheless be publicly humiliated, in order to help ensure a stable world order. For such stability, on her view, will be possible only if America’s hegemony goes unchallenged.
More frightening than the bullying tone adopted by President Bush’s advisers is the fact that European heads of government and foreign ministers are now reverting to their bad old habits. They are competing with one another for Washington’s favor. After so many decades of dependence, i...
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