Restoring U.S. Legitimacy in Europe and Beyond

Tuesday 24 June, 2008

I saw Josef Joffe, publisher and editor of the German weekly Die Zeit speak on Restoring U.S. Legitimacy in Europe and Beyond which proved to be 1 of the most entertaining programs the CCGA has presented this year. Maybe they should fly in jet-lagged speakers all the time to loosen up the proceedings a bit. Here’s what he had to say.

The US is still the single superpower & indispensable linchpin in the world, proven by bad English being the fastest growing language in the world. Legitimacy does not equal legality, which requires impartial judges & enforcers & the world has none. Legitimacy is more vague, but stronger, based on united interests. For example, Iraq war I was legitimate, Iraq war II was not. The US doesn’t need permission, but does need support. There are differences betwee force & influence, & coercion & leadership.

Europe doesn’t have the means to be a superpower. The US spends 4% of its GDP on defense while Germany spends only 1.2%. Russia wants back what it lost. China puts itself above the world. Japan is isolationist. India is a strictly regulated power. The Anglo Saxons took the wider view & formed institutions after WWII, such as the UN, NATO, etc.

What’s in it for the US to maintain this postion? Security, but only as long as it brings on others with legitimate influence & power.

Q&A brought out these issues

Europe can’t become a strategic leader because it’s an empire by invitation only.

Despite Bush, the US remains the default power in the world.

Iraq may become more legitimate because al Queda blew it by killing Shia & Sunnis, so we are starting to win.

Economic power is now much more important today, which means deficits & currencies matter, but military might still trumps all.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, locals joke with contempt about European soldiers, governments, & hypocrisy because Europeans are not strategic actors there.

This was a great event: educational, informative, practical, thought provoking, & entertaining.
Herr Joffe is well-informed & presents his insights deftly. Who would have thought a comedic Kraut could integrate international affairs & local movies so well?


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