The new world order isn't very new at this point. The Soviet Union split apart more than a decade ago, and the United States of America has been poised as the sole superpower ever since. But now, according to a veteran journalist, it may be time to welcome a new, new world order. VOA's Barbara Klein has details.
After a series of bloody conflicts in the first half of the 20th century, European leaders created a confederation to finally end war between them. So far, it has worked: members of the European Union have co-existed peacefully for nearly sixty years. In his bestselling book "The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy," T. R. Reid argues the E-U is now taking another step of historic proportions.
REID: "I think we are seeing the development of a second power center - you could say a second superpower. Among the European academics, the term for this is the counterweight thesis - a counterweight to American power in the world. And I think that is going to change things.
BK: There are those who suggest, however, that a lot of people in Europe are not interested in creating a rival or perhaps even a counterweight to the U-S, and that there are those who may have that goal, but it's far from being realized. How would you respond to that?
REID: I'd say you're right on both points. There are definitely people in Europe who really like the United States, are really happy with the current world set-up and don't see a need for Europe to emerge as a superpower. I think that's now a minority view. If you look at opinion polls, an opinion poll taken earlier this year, 2004, about 78 percent of Europeans said yes, they want the E-U to be a superpower, 70 percent said they are there already and they approve of this. If you talk to the prime ministers of European countries, including Tony Blair, who is our best ally in Europe, Tony Blair says in my book the world needs a second superpower for stability and we're it, Europe is it.
BK: What evidence is there that the E-U is working as a superpower and is exerting power and/or influence perhaps equal to the United States ... of America, I should say?
REID: The U-S of America ... that's right. The E-U is the biggest market in the world and makes most of the rules now that govern global commerce. The European Union forced Microsoft to re-write Windows. The U-S Justice Department couldn't do that. The European Union has shot down the mergers of several American companies, mergers that were approved in the United States. The General Electric - Honeywell merger, the biggest industrial merger in history, the Europeans shot it down. General Electric spent about 80 million dollars on lawyers for this and came away with nothing. That's power in the world.
If you look at the last big tax bill that passed our Congress before the election this fall, the reason they had to pass that tax bill was to end a tax subsidy for American exporters. Congress didn't want to do it. The E-U forced them. The Speaker of our House, Dennis Hastert, said wait a minute, we fought a revolution so that the Europeans couldn't tell us what laws to write, but as a matter of fact we have to pass this. Because Europe is such a big market, they had a gun to our head and we did pass the law that the European Trade Commissioner told us to. Now to me, that's power in the world.
If you look at, for example, President Bush's effort to get a second resolution through the United Nations on Iraq, we have blamed France, which was politically helpful for America, it was very helpful for Tony Blair to blame the French. As a matter of fact, most of Europe and most of the countries receiving foreign aid from Europe were against the war. We got six votes out of fifteen. We couldn't get the other nine votes on the Security Council. To me, that was Europe flexing its power in the world.
BK: The one thing that the United States is still undoubtedly stronger in, and that is the military.
BK: At this point in world history, isn't that still a very important quality that the European Union does not have?
REID: I'd say so, yes. I absolutely think that the whole point of the E-U was to avoid war and therefore they look on military matters as kind of an anachronism - costly, painful, who needs it? They're into international alliance and diplomacy. Can that work? It's a very interesting gamble they've made, that they can be a 21st century superpower without military force.
The reason it works for them now is they have a sugar daddy who's defending them. That's the United States. We pay 70 to 75 percent of the cost of NATO. We'll see, I think, during the 21st century this will play out and we'll see whether such a superpower is possible.
T. R. Reid has served as bureau chief for the Washington Post in London and Tokyo. He is currently the Post's Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief. His new bestselling book is called "The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy." I'm Barbara Klein.