Pride as an Impediment to Progress

James Register

September, 2007



There is a distinct characteristic shared by both the United States and Europe which has the capacity to be either a great strength or a crippling weakness: pride. This belief in one’s superiority, has carried both blocs through great challenges. However, there comes a time when pride becomes arrogance. I believe this is what has occurred with both of the aforementioned blocs. In order to continue the status quo of ongoing globalization and market expansion, both the United States and Europe must put their pride and differences aside and converge to start what would eventually become a “Grand Alliance?

At this point, there is no arguing whether or not China is becoming bigger or more economically powerful than either the US or Europe alone…it is. The prolonged plummet of the dollar, coupled with the growing American trade deficit and the large-scale Chinese purchase of American debt should be signs enough that the economic world is changing. The American economy finds itself taking on water, while the Chinese GDP continues growth between 7% and 10% annually. The Chinese are fueling this growth not only with foreign investment (incidentally, much of which is American), but with a housing market based more on land-value than demand that exhibits bubble-like characteristics. Buildings and homes are built in order to increase the value of the land on paper, but they are rapidly approaching the point of saturation, at which there will be far more upscale homes and office space than potential buyers. This bubble will probably burst, but even if it does the US and Europe would be forced to assist China in its recovery in order to avoid a global recession (or in the direst of scenarios, depression). Such a recession is an obvious effect of an economic disaster occurring in one of the world’s biggest markets. However, in any event the United States and Europe must start preparing themselves for the inevitable fact that in the next ten to twenty years, China is going to be able to outmuscle them both as long as they are alone. China is simply too populous and with the introduction of the capitalism and China’s induction into the World Trade Organization in the 2002, there is nothing that can be done to stop it. The US and Europe must ally themselves economically, politically, militarily, and even permanently in order to rebuff the Chinese attempt at taking the lead in future geopolitics. This alliance would have far greater reach and scope than the current military alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Chinese geopolitical preeminence would result in loss of confidence in growth worldwide. This confidence is the foundation of consumerism, the very heart of the globalization phenomenon. This loss of confidence would stem from the world suddenly being led by an authoritarian regime with little regard for the well-being of other nations (unless it affects them). America has served as the global economic custodian for sixty years, aiding those nations in crisis in order to allow the continued expansion of the global market. Such expansion allows people to believe that there will be more money tomorrow than there is today. This is the bedrock of consumer confidence, without which the global economy will again be nationalized and thus, far-less prosperous. America, however, can no longer continue to allow unlimited imports while other nations engage in protectionism, thus limiting American exports. The trade deficit is simply weighing the US down to such a point that it cannot continue its custodial role with the same level of effectiveness.


In order to combat both China and any other de-globalizing economic factors, it has become necessary for the US and Europe to join forces. This will be a tough sell on both sides, however, I believe it will be harder and more important to convince the Americans. The reason for this is a term often used by American political scientists, American exceptionalism. There is a belief in our country that our way is just better and that the rest of the world needs us more than we need them. We believe it is our right to be a global hegemon and the rest of the world should be thankful we are in such a position of power because we do it so well. The American system is the best, the American way of life is the best, it even goes so far as American sports are best. Such sentiment has been somewhat unavoidable when considering both America’s successes and luck in the past. However, this belief has led us down a path we cannot continue to follow. We are no longer big enough to do things our way and ignore the rest of the world’s wishes. While it is true that our military remains superior to any other fighting force in the world, this problem cannot be solved with a bullet, missile, or even a bomb. It is about basic economics. We spread our way of capitalism all over the world. Gradually other nations began accepting and instigating it. This process was accelerated by the fall of the USSR and the unleashing of information and technology that accompanied it. Thus, we no longer hold an absolute economic advantage over most other nations. The gap has been closed. This was the American dream, a truly global free-market economy, it just has not worked out exactly the way we thought. We are still an extremely powerful economy and the world’s most important market. We simply no longer have the economic wherewithal to continue to be the world’s export headquarters without their returning the favor in some way. The time has come to seek help. The most logical place to seek this is in Europe. Our economic principles align nicely with theirs as both sides understand the “rules?of the free-market economy. An economic alliance with Europe would allow the US to begin exporting to a market that has previously been virtually closed. This is a prospect with obvious intrigue for American businessmen. A stronger political alliance would increase leverage for both sides when dealing with other nations allowing for easier and less worrisome discussions. A stronger military alliance would take a bit of the pressure off the United States (and its taxpayers) to be the world’s police force and help in fighting the war on terror. For all this to happen however, the alliance must be credible and legitimate. Other nations (such as China) must believe these two powerful blocks have truly joined in order to be deterred. American Exceptionalism has been a great help to the US in the past, however, this is one challenge in which we must put this sentiment aside and think pragmatically.


Currently, America finds itself in a state of denial. If the US continues to ignore the changing economic tides, it could at the very least find itself treading water and at worst drown. The point of the “Grand Alliance?must be made clear to the most intensely nationalistic American, steadfast against any alliance or reliance upon another nation. This type of American makes up an alarmingly high percentage of the population. They must be made to understand and believe that there is a difference between submissive multilateralism and multilateral leadership. What the “Grand Alliance?is suggesting is that the United States take a proactive approach to the situation and establish a leadership position by instigating the alliance with Europe. The alternative is an acquiescent multilateralism twenty years down the road in which the US has one seat of about six at the geopolitical table, but finds China at its head. I believe even the most fervently isolationist American would find the former situation preferable. Should we decide that swallowing our pride and joining with the Europeans is simply too degrading a task, we shall end up just like one of our favorite targets of nationalistic derision…the French. We poke fun at their intense national pride being coupled with an inability to do much of anything to affect world politics, however, should we continue our prideful ways we risk assuming the same fate.


Obviously, the US is only half of the alliance of which I speak. Europe must agree to such a union as well. This brings me to the challenge of European moralism and anti-Americanism. Much of the European Union has begun to see itself as the West’s moral arbiters recently as a result of their perception that America has lost its ethical compass. This negative perception stems from many in Europe’s decision to make peace the ultimate (and at times, only) objective of international relations. The US clearly does not share this same goal at the moment as it fights a war in Iraq and another one in Afghanistan. The result of American divergence from this objective has been the outbreak of fervent anti-American sentiment throughout the European population. America has become the evil empire. However, Europe’s politicians must exhibit some foresight and moral courage in this case. To continue to pander to this anti-American attitude so as not to lose votes is beginning to become counterproductive. These politicians must assume the leadership roles they were voted into and explain the situation to their constituents. If morality is truly the cause Europe is willing to fight for then consider the morality of a world led by authoritarian China. Juxtapose that hypothetical situation with one in which the US and Europe share the lead and then ask which world would be more ethically sound. Would China pay attention to global issues such as human rights, peace, economic stability, healthcare, and global climate change? They do not pay attention to such issues in their own country, therefore who could expect them to pay attention to them in other countries? A current predictor of such actions can be seen in China’s being the largest purchaser of energy from Sudan where the Darfur genocide has reached epic proportions. Having considered these factors, European citizens must see that the war in Iraq (right or wrong) is of small consequence when compared to the possibility of Chinese hegemony, partial or full. While it is true that the alliance will bring with it a flood of cheaper US goods into previously protected markets, as Dr. Carlo Pelanda states, “the deflationary effect of lower prices would produce more advantages and consensus than objections.?Such competition will simply make Europe more competitive, especially in their underperforming service industries. The attitude that has caused so many in Europe to dislike America is the same one that, if pragmatically considered, should lead them to join us.


Once the US and Europe have joined, the rest of the major blocs (excluding China) will recognize a viable alternative to geopolitical fragmentation, if not a preferable one. China’s ascendance will no longer seem so inevitable as the US and Europe regain past formidability and unprecedented cohesion. I believe Russia would begrudgingly join this Western alliance out of self-preservation rather than aligned ideologies. Russia sits on a large portion of the world’s energy supplies in Siberia. They will face the certain pressure from the soon-to-be energy desperate Chinese for access to these supplies. A Euro-American alliance gives them the best chance to protect this national cash-cow from a stronger foe in China. Japan will follow suit as they see the duality of their predicament become clear.? Either be absorbed by China, or join the West. It seems the decision has already been made even now to forsake their Asian neighbors and align with the Western powers. The final integral bloc is India, who will see the “Grand Alliance?as a convenient option as long as the member nations supplement its infrastructural needs and continue to help ward off Islamic fundamentalism in its region. India is still young and will want to be a less involved member of the alliance, which is fine because what is important is that India not ally itself with China. This scenario seems rather far-fetched at the moment, but I truly believe that should the US and Europe find enough common ground to unite with one another, the other nations would follow suit simply out of self-interest. Because in the end, self-interest is the deciding factor in international relations.