The Idea of a European Superstate: Military power and soft power
I was also going to review Glyn Morgan’s The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and European Integration, but it’s fortunate I didn’t, as Henry Farrell at CT has done a better job of most of the points I was going to make. So let me make just one more point, about the implications of soft power.
Morgan is dismissive of soft power, but this is, like it or not, Europe’s comparative advantage. And, whereas the experience of the 1990s seemed to point up the need for US hard power, the debacle in Iraq, and the obvious impotence of the US in dealing with Iran, North Korea and even Syria have pointed up its limitations. Cases when large-scale projection of military power is actually feasible and useful seem to be quite rare (not that the cases mentioned are particularly amenable to soft power either, but it seems to be the only feasible option on offer). Situations calling for peacekeeping with more robust rules of engagement than we have seen in the past are more common, but as Henry says, there’s no obvious reason that Europe can’t manage this with its existing structure.
By contrast, with the important exception of the former Yugoslavia, European soft power, particularly as embodied in the lure of eventual membership has been exceptionally successful in promoting both a democratic transition in Eastern Europe and the peaceful resolution of many territorial disputes left unresolved through the Cold War.
Looking at Yugoslavia, it’s important to observe that soft power wasn’t really applied. In the period leading up to the war, the EU was preoccupied with deepening rather than widening. If EU membership had been more clearly in prospect, the futility of nationalist populism might have been more clearly evident.
Given Morgan’s central concern with the future state of Europe, the obvious question to ask is what kind of structure will most enhance Europe’s soft power, by increasing the appeal of membership or close association, and the willingness of states to make constructive changes to increase this goal. It seems to me that the answer is something more like a post-sovereign federal system than the unitary state favoured by Morgan. On the other hand, it seems clear that a mere customs union or free trade area, the kind of deal offered by the US to its allies, is unlikely to be enough to generate substantial political leverage over policies in areas such as foreign policy and human rights.