Efraim Karsh in today's The New Republic Online has another take on the "non" vote in Paris (and today the Netherlands) as not being a bad thing:
The version of the EU constitution voted down on Sunday was an imperial document, not a democratic one. Europe and the European Union are both better off without it.
He comes to this conclusion after thoughtfully following a logic that outlines an argument that the original thought behind the EU has gone from one of unifying and rebuilding post-war Europe to empire building with France and Germany behind the change. His money quote:
But in truth, France's vote against the constitution is an important victory for European unity, because the document posed a serious threat to the great European experiment in peace and prosperity. What began 53 years ago as an idealistic attempt to use economic cooperation to heal a war-torn continent has deteriorated with the passage of time into a gigantic imperial machinery that has largely eroded the democratic values and objectives for which it was originally established.
This is also a lesson and warning of which the US needs to take heed in its fronts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon (and Canada). Of course, the US has been in the empire business for a long time but has done it under the guise of expanding democracy. Others have used this argument to move their own agendas:
Notwithstanding its universal pretense, each and every great empire throughout history has been dominated by a specific religious, ethnic, or national group, which has viewed its preeminence as a vehicle for the promotion of self-serving interests and the assimilation of attributes and value systems in the subject populations. This is how the great monotheistic religions of Christianity and Islam expanded well beyond their original habitats to become world religions, and how so many languages--Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French, to mention but a few--transcended their origins to be assimilated by numerous countries and communities.
The US cause is seen as "noble" because it is empire building based on the belief that democracy is the best way of government. Democracy in the US came about because of very specific conditions that led to the American Revolution and very unique circumstances of mistrust that the founding fathers and the original colonies and states wanted to ensure were not repeated. Therefore, we are a republican form of democracy with a set of checks and balances between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in unison with states' rights - two of which are right now under attack by the religious and neo-conserative right.
Am I saying that democracy is bad? Absolutely not! The best form of government in my personal experience, political belief, and philosophical understanding is democracy. Democracy according to one definition in the Oxford Dictionary is the practice or principles of social equality. All mankind is equal because we are all perfect, complete and whole exactly as we are. We combine our differences to create meaning for ouselves and others, but we are all the same in our differences and have the right to our differences without interference from others as long as no one is harmed in any way.
However, is the US form of democracy the best for every country, region or national entity? Since the US's came about because of historical reasons, can it be expected to happen in places that have a different political genealogy?
As an example, Russian history is filled with intense class conflict going back hundreds of years with virtual slavery at its roots. The upper class and royalty used the peasantry as their own personal property. The revolutions taking place at the beginning of the 20th century were extremely violent because of the Russian personal experience. They went to the opposite extreme from democracy, pushing communism, trotskyism, stalinism, socialism to ensure it would not happen again.
Now when they moved away from all of the "isms" at the end of the 20th century, chaos ensued when Boris Yeltsin tried to go full-steam ahead with free markets, a full democracy, and power coming from the people. How did the people react? Like teenagers given total freedom of the house when their parents are on vacation!
The other thing to remember is that the Russian/USSR empire was totally dismantled when the former Eastern bloc countries demanded their own identity restored. This is a very simplistic view of what happened, but as an example it points back to the empire building of the EU. One of the first things the former Eastern bloc countries wanted to happen was to become part of the EU. This took on an entirely different view for the "real" European countries. Not only were they being invaded by the Muslims but the cheap Eastern bloc labor began to flood the markets. The result was greater unemployment for "real" Europeans. [France's unemployment has been at 10%.]
It's interesting to make all of these comparisons, especially, if you look at the EU as empire building. Its goal has become competing with the US for prestige, economic dominance, and world leadership and to get a step up over Russia, Japan, & China before they move up on the scale.
plus ca change, et rien...