The Emerging European Influence

December 27, 2004

Howard Dean
By Gov. Howard Dean M.D.

Amid the wreckage of President Bush's foreign policy, the United States is at its lowest popularity in decades in every corner of the globe. America's dominance on the foreign stage was prominent four years ago, but now Europe is beginning to emerge as the champion of Western values, as it becomes less politically dependent on America.

Since President Bush alienated most of our traditional European allies over the Iraq War, there are signs that the European community is finally getting serious about its future and its responsibility.

The European Union has rewritten its Constitution to make decision making easier, never an easy task with twenty-five member states. France, Britain and Germany recently negotiated a deal with Iran to halt their nuclear program. We are right to be skeptical about whether such an agreement will be honored by the Iranians, but the attempt at least postpones the siren songs of the Neoconservatives who want to do in Iran what President Bush did in Iraq.

The Euro is at an all time high against the dollar, since the members of the European Union are actually trying to keep their budgets in balance. They are not always successful, but making the effort promotes investment. Claiming that deficits are irrelevant, as the American Republicans do, is not only delusional, but it harms the value of the dollar, and ultimately our strength as a nation.

Europeans are also taking a bold lead in an effort to forgive massive amounts of third world debt. Should they be successful, they will significantly reduce the drag on economic development in places like Latin America and Africa—therefore opening the door for trade and investment from European countries.

Perhaps the most courageous development that the emerging European Union has undertaken is the new willingness to consider Turkey as a member. This is unpopular in most European countries among voters, yet the European Union leadership gets high marks for realizing that the long term future of Western values may well depend on true economic integration with Muslim nations that are still attracted to Western democratic ideals.

I know these steps are small and somewhat shaky, but they are incredibly important. Europe is beginning to assert its leadership and independence, filling the vacuum left by America's unrealistic and occasionally petulant foreign policy. In the long run, a strong, independent Europe can pick up the leadership role abandoned by President Bush. And, a strong, independent Europe can continue to promote values such as democracy, tolerance and a more benign form of capitalism in developing countries.

Many people in developing nations are beginning to give up on both democracy and capitalism. And, it's not a wonder why—multinational corporations, undeterred by labor protections that exist in the developed world have made life harder for many of the world's citizens—not easier. The developing world needs a more respected salesperson than George Bush to show them that a democratic society and capitalism works. In the absence of American leadership, it seems that Europe is emerging as that salesperson.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.
Email Howard Dean at

Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved.
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