If the United States is to play its role of energizing Europe and helping that continent pull out of its power dive of sloth, debt, and political inertia, the U.S. must first regain the headship of the West and demonstrate again an aptitude to lead an alliance. President Obama’s determined stance in Afghanistan and the impressive Iraqi election are an excellent start.
First, the U.S. must be strong in the world, and must no longer be seen as a hobbled, debt-ridden, hungover consumer state unable to find or choose a path between continuing diluvian money-supply increases and tax increases that will strangle economic growth and be a recessionary influence on the whole world.
This will require a package of domestic measures and multilateral proposals. Oversold and compromised though it is, the health-care-reform measure could be perceived in Europe as narrowing the ideological and social-policy gap with the United States. One of the few bits of good news in the recession is the reduction of the U.S. current-account deficit from the scandalous recent level of $800 billion annually to about $300 billion. This trend should be reinforced by the president’s acting quickly and radically, as he has promised, to reduce oil imports by authorizing ecologically safe offshore drilling and massively accelerating the development of safe nuclear-power capacity.
All vestiges of cap-and-trade and obscene Copenhagen payoffs to Mugabe and Chávez and other Third World dustbins must vanish. Self-flagellation inspired by the Goreite fiction of global warming (which is not, in fact, occurring) due to the carbon emissions of the advanced and developing countries (which do not seem to influence world temperature) is a concept that should be bound in garlic and sunk in cement cases with spent nuclear material in the Marianas Trench. A majestic retreat to reasonable advocacy of environmental prudence and vigilance would be a providential development.
Deficit reduction should begin with taxes on non-essential financial and financial-related transactions and energy sales. These are much better methods of restraining the compulsive gluttony of the financial and corporate-legal industries and reducing energy imports than endless government meddling with compensation levels and subsidizing of the construction of windmills. (If windmills were deployed on anything like the scale the president has advocated, their unearthly whirring noises and the hecatomb they would wreak among the bird population would soon have their current eco-champions screaming like Kennedys envisioning their approach on the horizon at Cape Cod like the trees at Birnam Wood. With this windmill fantasy, Mr. Obama has authored The Greening of Don Quixote.)
Impending progress on the deficit would replenish U.S. credibility sufficiently to enable it to resume its place as the leader of what should revive the habit of describing itself as the Free World.
The U.S. should then impose a 30 percent tariff on imports from China and invite Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and other friendly trading powers to join it, until China finally revalues its currency upward and ends the intolerable dumping of cheap (and often defective) Chinese goods. This method of enforcing non-exploitative comparative currency values follows the successful precedent of President Nixon opposite major Western currencies in 1971, and would complete the elimination of the U.S. current-account deficit. It would also be a salutary lesson for Beijing in basic arithmetic and political science.
The United States should also propose that the U.S., Canadian, and Australian dollars, along with the euro, pound, Swiss franc, and other hard currencies, join in the adoption of a value standard of a basket of commodities and consumer items. Resurrection of the gold standard would put the world’s currencies in tandem with the success ratios of its prospectors and mining engineers. This proposal would, by contrast, tie currency values to a range of agricultural, energy, base- and precious-metal, and consumer-good prices, and restore discipline to the principle of hard currencies. They are now valued only against one another and are like a connected group of mountain climbers not attached to anything solid. If continued, that arrangement will disguise and accelerate the descent of the real value of all the currencies. We need to reinforce currency values with a real inflationary yardstick.
The U.S. should also propose a three-tiered political and economic union and military alliance, which would subsume the North American Free Trade Area, the European Union, NATO, all Latin American countries except Cuba and Venezuela (even, tentatively, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador), Turkey, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the friendly Persian Gulf states, and compatible South Asian, Far Eastern, and African countries, including Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and Japan.
The first tier would be democratic countries that sought political as well as economic integration, including, if their populations — and not just a coven of bureaucratic sorcerers in Brussels — wished it, a number of European countries. The second tier would be democratic countries aspiring to economic cooperation while retaining sovereignty, including the United States. The third tier would consist of cooperating sovereign countries committed to acceptable but realistic levels of political maturity and human rights. These would be “democratizing” countries, the political equivalent of developing countries, with reasonable flexibility of membership criteria stopping well short of hypocrisy. NATO would be expanded to accommodate all of these countries. (The original NATO included Salazar, Franco, and sometimes the Turkish generals and Greek colonels.) This would be an entirely defensive alliance dedicated to the integrity of the external borders of its member states, but to their liberalization vis-à-vis one another.
This League of Democratic States would emphasize that it is not against anyone, and is open to all countries that meet its membership qualifications, including Russia and China, when they are ready and if they are willing. If that time arrived, the League could merge with the United Nations, which would then metamorphose into the League, which would conform much more exactly than the present corrupt and ramshackle Third World anthill of a U.N. does to President Roosevelt’s founding vision for it in 1945.
Special arrangements would have to be made for Israel and Palestine. The West will have to rise above the footling minutiae of individual settlements and seek a two-state solution based on a swap between a wider Israel along the Mediterranean and a deeper Gaza, approaching the southern tip of the West Bank, and on the right of return to Palestine, not the inundation of Israel by millions of supposedly “returning” Arabs. The terrorist breeding grounds the Arab powers have maintained in the Palestinian refugee camps for over 60 years must be emptied out and the occupants appropriately reintegrated into Arab society in Palestine or elsewhere. Some sort of international management of non-Jewish holy places in Israel and non-Islamic Middle Eastern holy places outside Israel would have to be agreed. The whole Middle Eastern peace process has long been a game the Arab powers have used to distract their own masses from misgovernment and other Arab shortcomings with the flail of Israel, while endlessly debating trivial issues of a few apartment blocks and acres. It is time to move for a durable resolution, and impose it, if necessary, as Richard Nixon wished to do in concert with Brezhnev in 1973, while the USSR still had some influence in the area.
The cornerstone of this new association of states must be a declaration in the originating documents of the right and duty of all nationalities and cultures to survive and flourish. This must make it clear that all civilizations, including Jewish and Palestinian states, and credible native cultures, are to be preserved. Particular emphasis must be given to the preservation and enhancement of the magnificent civilizations of Europe. The demographic decline of the Germans, French, Italians, and other great and ancient cultures must be stopped, by the most liberal combination of incentives to higher birthrates, adoption from outside, and acculturation, along with the promotion of assimilable immigration. The specters of the end of the Jewish state, the Islamicization of Europe, and the Hispanicization of North America, far-fetched though they are, must be benignly extinguished without any animus toward the perceived forces of encroachment, and while entirely encouraging ethnic and cultural diversity. The European demographic crisis, Arab-Israeli problems, and aboriginal issues must all be subsumed into the deemed universal merit and right to dignity and security of all cultures. This is a roundabout way of getting Europe off the psychotherapist’s couch and back on its feet, but it must be done.
The concept of nuclear non-proliferation must be modernized and expanded so that it is agreed that no country or entity will be permitted to attain a mass-destruction capability unless it is certifiably trustworthy, forswears first use, and has a long record of abstention from unprovoked destructive threats against other countries or ethnic or geographic entities. This would be the basis of preventing non-qualifying regimes such as Iran, and terrorist organizations, from obtaining such destructive capacity by, if need be, preemptive action and the exercise of international trusteeships over fairly defined failed states.
Cooperative arrangements should be pursued with countries and regions not immediately eligible for adherence to the League, most conspicuously Russia and China, whether they wish to join the League or not. The division of Ukraine between the Russian-speaking East and the Europe-oriented West should be considered, with the Eastern Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly some of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia entering a Russian sphere, and the Western Ukraine, Baltic states, and Caucasus republics (minus the Georgian provinces detached by Russia in the summer of 2008) joining the League, if that is their wish and they meet the requirements. The League will not, as a cardinal principle, absorb or continue the involuntary adherence of any national or ethnic entity. Secession is permitted if seriously sought by concerned populations. The models are Norway and Sweden, the Czechs and Slovaks, and Singapore and Malaysia, not the civil wars of the U.S. or Nigeria.
Demarcation of the western borders of Russia has an undistinguished history, from Catherine the Great to Molotov and Ribbentrop. Even the agreement reached at the 1943 Tehran Conference, though much misrepresented, was far from optimal. It is time to do better. Meanwhile, challenging though it would be, some effort should be made to recognize permanent Tibetan rights within China, as well as the rights of Uighurs, Mongolians, and — if federal arrangements can ever be agreed, and they must not be forced — Taiwanese.
This is a vast and universal program that would take decades to implement, even in a best-case scenario. There is no chance of any such thing unless the United States — still the world’s only superpower and likely to remain so for a considerable time, despite the peppy delusions of some of the Chinese leadership (the Europeans must be over theirs by now) — puts its own house in order and reoccupies its place at the head of the democracies. Only then can it stir Europe from its dyspeptic confusion, and move toward the final and altogether peaceful chapter of the triumph of democracy, not altogether wittingly opened by Woodrow Wilson, and successfully conducted through the World and Cold Wars over the last century.
A little leadership and imagination will put a stop to all this defeatist bunk about Western decline. No one with any knowledge of history will confuse America catching its breath with the bread-and-circuses decay of civilization.