On 25 February 1889, Ilia Chavchavadze published a short article – The Militarism of Europe and America’s Future. It was at a time when the peaceful period established in Europe after the Napoleonic wars was gradually wearing out, the industrial revolution was reaching its peak, and rearmament and the build-up of naval power had become an imperial obsession.
“The whole of Europe is always busy preparing for war. To this end, European states spare no money and resources to have large troops… Today, European states have plenty of arms and are ready to drown each other in blood,” he complained. The increase in spending on weaponry and troops in Europe was seen by Chavchavadze as the main cause of impoverishment on the continent and beyond.
“Such a state of affairs in Europe leads to the impoverishment of the nation,” Ilia Chavchacadze asserted. “Europe now has up to 16 million troops. It intends to increase them to 20 million in a short time.” Chavchavadze quotes statistical data on the military expenditures of France, Great Britain and Germany, and compares it with US data. “The USA has only 27,000 troops. It costs 4.5 francs per year for a [US] inhabitant to maintain this small army.”
This indicator was insignificant when compared to the military expenditures of France (24 francs), Great Britain (21 francs) and Germany (12.5 francs). Ilia Chavchavadze, an ardent advocate of free trade and liberalism in the economy, lavishly praised the official course of the United States.
“As you may see, the American armed forces lag far behind those of Europe,” Ilia said. “However, the United States far exceeds Europe in its national wealth and welfare, is much more successful in every aspect of trade and industry, and is gradually gaining the upper hand over Europe”.
Predicting the economic dominance of the United States and the bankruptcy of Europe in this article, Chavchavadze also pointed out the “malice and abhorrence among the nations” that posed a threat to Europe. Against the background of such animosity, the United States’ attempt to set up a “fraternal alliance” of states in the western hemisphere must have been appealing to the Georgian humanist, who had always advocated for “an amiable and peaceful settlement of any turbulence, disagreement and accusation by the states”.
In 1889, when Ilia Chavchavadze wrote this article, the phenomenal statesman and leader of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck, a master of realpolitik and the balance of power, and simultaneously an efficient organizer of social reforms, was serving his last year in office as a Chancellor. Whereas an incredible Austrian diplomat, Klemens von Metternich, whom many called the “first reactionary of Europe” – even though he was one of chief peace-builders in Europe after the Napoleonic wars and the chief architect of the Congress of Vienna – had already been dead for 30 years.
This, however, meant that the era of great politicians in Europe was coming to an end and with it a fragile peace sustained only by the flexibility and shrewdness of key strategists. The system, which had been developed over several decades, was doomed to failure because it could only be run by brilliant statesmen. The absence of balanced and stable democratic institutions and/or a workable collective security system - or to be even more precise, the lack of liberal democratic states - paved the way for geniuses with starkly different revolutionary passions. The next generation of thinkers viewed the demolition of the Westphalian system of national states as a key prerequisite for the establishment of perpetual peace in the world. That very year, when Chavchavadze published his article, saw the establishment of the Second International bringing further stimulus to the Communist movement.
No wonder that in the conditions of intensive industrialization, struggles for markets, unprecedented competition and organized revolutionary movements, the states spared no efforts to strengthen their military capabilities. Simultaneously, the absence of democracy, international distrust and a rapidly growing population created a fertile ground for new wars to erupt.
Given such a volatile international climate, the United States, separated by a vast ocean and detached from the political turbulence in Europe, was busy building up a system based on the free will of individuals. Personal and religious freedom, the stability of the states, trade, a balance between branches of power, and small government all underpinned the foundation of the American republic. To maintain peace and a civil harmony, the American state system needed liberty-loving and diligent people instead of geniuses. In such a system, the defense of the individual and the state was neither an obligation nor a duty, but a requirement prompted by the desire to achieve personal welfare.
The combination of American freedom, Christianity and civil volunteerism, as well as many other factors - “oddities” from a European’s standpoint - became the subject of one of the great works of political philosophy - Democracy in America by the famous French thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville. In his masterpiece, de Tocqueville, who, like Metternich, also died in 1859, wrote with great admiration: “The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.” According to de Tocqueville, the combination of Christianity and liberty was key among the factors that distinguished America from Europe, and particularly, from Russia. Therefore, it was not only the love of entrepreneurship and trade, a fact pointed to by Chavchavadze, but also the love of liberty and Christianity that made Americans different from others.
Annoyed with two bloody wars waged by Europe, America became the “Empire by Invitation”, to quote the phrase coined by Swedish thinker, Geir Lundestad. Or, as the British Lord Ismay once famously stated, NATO was established by the Americans “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”.
Perhaps, both quotes have become somewhat dated, but the reality that has emerged in Europe after World War II, has gradually developed into an inversion of Chavchavadze’s epoch. According to many researchers, Europe today is a giant in an economic sense, a dwarf in a political sense and a maggot in a military sense.
Spending money on arms is unpopular, whilst the use of force – no matter how fair it might be – is unacceptable for many Europeans. Some see the dominance of a pacifist political mindset in Europe and the “humble subjection” of political elites to public opinion as the reason behind this change in attitude. Others believe it comes from equating patriotism and nationalism with blasphemy; a third group attributes it to the “liberation” of Europe from religion whilst the fourth – to the development of Europe into a “self-sustained consumer society” where individualism is held in thrall to collectivism and equality is considered a higher value than liberty. Some share the opinion that the “free security” granted by America as a gift, has turned Europeans into a complacent people who “lost” their fighting spirit and instinct for self-defense.
There are other opinions as well, of course. Some say that the responsibility for global issues creates the difference in attitudes between Americans and Europeans towards the use of force, and that power and the responsibility are functionally interdependent. Moreover, outsiders also entertain different expectations toward Americans and Europeans; it is taken for granted - even in the most remote parts of the world - that America should raise its voice or take action regarding this or that issue. However, such expectations toward Europe are uncommon. The same holds true for the Americans themselves: an American thinks that if someone’s rights are violated anywhere in the world, then it is his/her problem as well. Europeans are more self-contained and do not take others’ problems to heart.
Some researchers believe that the cause of the differences between American and European attitudes to global responsibility lies in the perception of empire as a phenomenon and a historical event. The global takeover by Europeans coincided with the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’ “epoch of imperial plunder”. A period is considered disgraceful by both contemporary Europe and developing countries, whereas the American peace of the modern era – Pax Americana – is primarily perceived positively.
A global power, say, an empire, is necessarily associated with something negative. An American, however, differentiates between a good empire and an evil one; a dualism inherent in Reagan’s famous description of the Soviet Union as “The Evil Empire”. The same holds true for nationalism and patriotism. Both terms have positive connotations in the USA but are perceived negatively in Europe.
The behavior of Americans and Europeans when posed with an existential Soviet threat during the Cold War, and during such significant conflicts as the Israeli-Arab conflict, as well as Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Russia-Georgian crises, is a topic of serious analysis for historians and political scientists. Americans and Europeans often react in a starkly different manner to such serious challenges, the challenges which equally jeopardize the entire Western world.
According to an American historian and political commentator, Robert Kagan, the gap between the Americans and Europeans is so wide today that one may assert that “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus”. Kagan speaks of this difference in his small book - Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order - a critically received best-seller. Unlike other thinkers, Kagan believes that the reason behind such an impressive philosophical and political “divorce” between America and Europe is that Americans have power whereas Europeans are powerless.
Although America and Europe, generally belong in one civilization, the difference between them has always been obvious. Much has been written on this difference both before, at the time of de Tocqueville and Ilia Chavchavadze, and now - either in an expressive Kagan-like manner or in a softer tone. The attitudes of Americans and Europeans towards religion and liberty has determined their behavior both before, when Europeans were engaged in bloodshed whilst Americans were busy “accumulating wealth” through hard work, and now, when Americans are engaged in wars in hot spots but Europeans are busy creating “the Twenty-First Century model of Social Europe” and shun guns.
But there must be one cardinal issue that has always made the modes of living and foreign policies of Americans and Europeans different. There is a most noteworthy principle of the American Constitution, known as the republican arrangement of the state. America is, first and foremost, a republic built upon personal freedom rather than democracy (as this notion is understood in the rest of the world) and this, could well be a reason - among others - that throughout the last 200 years, the form of governance in the US has not changed, as well as the reason that Americans have never had a right-wing dictator and have never succumbed to the revolutionary leftist masses.
The foreign policy mission and global responsibility of the United States is a natural consequence of the internal constitution. Unfair power and powerless justice are the notions that run counter to this constitution. The American constitution believes in fair power alone.