The European Superpower by J. McCormick
|Reviewed By:||Karen Smith|
|Reviewed in:||Journal of Common Market Studies|
|Date accepted online:||02/11/2007|
|Published in print:||Volume 45, Issue 2, Pages 515-533|
McCormick argues that we're living in a post-modern bipolar world order with the United States as one (declining) pole and the European Union as the (rising) other. As he concludes (p. 174), 'At no time since it became a superpower has the United States been faced with so compelling a set of alternatives as it does today from Europe.' Europe not only offers the world a different way of managing international threats, but it can limit US influence in the international community. This is a bold argument - but McCormick makes a convincing case not just that the US is squandering its power in the fiasco of Iraq, but that its values, economic model and approach to diplomacy and war are simply inappropriate in today's 'post-modern' (globalized, interdependent) world. He goes on to argue that the EU 'has become influential by promoting values, policies and goals that appeal to other states in a way that aggression and coercion cannot' (p. 6). McCormick tries to show that not only is the EU a superpower, but it is one ideally suited to exercise influence in the post-modern international system.
This argument raises four questions. First, what if the international system isn't as post-modern as McCormick argues? Can the EU exercise influence in the face of often violent anti-globalization and anti-western forces? Second, and related, do the US and EU face similar challenges from other powers? McCormick downplays the global influence of other potential powers such as Russia or China, but they may still have the capacity to block western preferences and policies. Is the EU any better able to counter such moves than the US? Third, is the EU actually united enough to be a superpower? McCormick acknowledges that there have been quite deep divisions among the Member States over key issues, but he maintains that despite these, 'the most convincing recognition of Europe's role as a global power is simply that it has come to matter' (p. 113). But what if the EU does not have the unity to act internationally - and particularly to hold to strong positions? Finally, is it too soon to apply the label 'superpower' to the EU? For McCormick, a superpower is 'an actor that has the ability to project power globally, and that enjoys a high level of autonomy and self-sufficiency in international relations' (p. 18). The EU certainly does project power regionally - as McCormick illustrates elegantly in chapter 5 - but its reach still seems less than global. While