There are many commonly held beliefs in international relations. But that doesn’t make them true. Here is OpenCanada’s list of the top seven myths of foreign policy.

A United Europe

The dream of a unified Europe is not a new one. Way back in 1871, Victor Hugo was already talking about a “United States of Europe.” Almost a century later (albeit, an extremely bloody century), the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union.

And how does the European project fare today? Not so well, according to just about every headline on the subject. But the eurozone crisis goes much deeper than economic turmoil, saysBrussels-based journalist Gareth Harding. It exposes the myth at the heart of the European dream – that Europeans could ever be Europeans first and Germans, French, Belgians, etc., second.

“The European Union has constructed common institutions, laws, and even a currency. It has created all the symbols of a nation-state … What it lacks is a people who share a common culture, language, or narrative – or at the very least are able to identify with the political construct that has been created in their name,” says Harding.

The European motto is “United in Diversity.” But if the Germans don’t trust the Greeks, and the Brits don’t trust the Spanish, and the Dutch don’t trust the Romanians, and nobody trusts Brussels, can you have real unity?

The U.S. is Exceptional

In the opening scene of his new television show, The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s great white protagonist is asked why he thinks the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. He responds by listing all of the ways that the U.S. is not great – “We’re 7th in literacy, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy …” – before lamenting that the U.S. used to be great, back when it stood up for what was right. So it goes in the U.S., where even sharp critics of American greatness can’t entirely cut the cord to the idea of American exceptionalism.

When U.S. President Barack Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism,” he sparked a political controversy. In a more recent speech, Obama was decidedly less relativist, saying, “The United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs.” Read more…

As published in www.opencanada.org on July 12, 2012.


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