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Does US Punditry about Europe Have a Future?

I think it's great that Political Science professors testify in Congress from time to time. This happens far to rarely in Germany! The quality of Stephen Walt's testimony on the future of the EU, however, is underwhelming.

He describes at length five well-known EU problems/facts and then presents three scenarios. His most likely scenario for the EU is to muddle through as in the past. How brilliant or surprising is that? He also warns of the scenario that the EU might gradually unravel. He describes an optimistic scenario for a reinvigorated EU, that he considers unlikely.

Foreign Policy magazine apparently feels the need to maximize profit with clickbait, so they use the headline "Does Europe Have a Future?" for Walt's article based on his testimony. Professor Walt seems to distance himself from this sensationalism by tweeting a clarification: "To be clear: Europe does have a future. But as I told Congress, just not a very bright one."

Five quick comments and questions:

1. Realists like Walt said much of the same stuff in 1990, in 2000, and in 2010 about the EU and NATO and both are still kicking and more important than ever.

2. Awesome, how he treats the members of Congress like I imagine he talks to his know-nothing Harvard freshmen. Just one example: "The geographic size, population, and economic resources of the member states are vastly different."

3. More importantly, what does it tell us about Congress, when they invite Stephen Walt, who is not an EU expert, to speak about the EU?

4. Did he ever get the chance to testify about US policy towards Israel, as he wrote a much discussed book about US-Israel relations ("The Israel Lobby") a few years ago, but not about the EU? (And ideally to testify as an expert. Not a testimonial for members of Congress to score political points by criticizing the book.)

5. I appreciate this criticism and consider it an important point to make to Congress aware of as they want Germany and the EU to take on more leadership in the world: "Every hour that Europe's leaders have spent trying to dig themselves out of this mess is an hour they could not devote to responding to China's rise, the upheavals in the Middle East, the Ukraine debacle, or any number of pressing domestic issues"

Yes, it's super frustrating and short sighted. Germany, especially Angela Merkel, is to blame for mistakes in austerity policy at the beginning of the Greek crisis and for muddling-through ever since. (It's "durchwursteln" in German. More about 'sausage' than 'mud'. Go figure!) She should have used her enourmous political capital to rally her party, her voters and her EU colleagues around a positive vision for the eurozone and some long-term strategy to reform the Greek economy and help them fix their political institutions.

But: Isn't the political drama about the Greece mess very roughly comparable to the political drama of Congress and the White House dealing with the debt ceiling and the government shutdown in 2013?

After months of debate, the fundamental problem has not been solved but politicians kicked the can down the road, just like the EU does. So many working hours and energy lost. Time and attention that could have been spent by American politicians, pundits, journalists to analyze, brainstorm and discuss policy on on Syria, China, Ukraine, and domestic issues like prison reform, gun control, mental health etc. Those three domestic issues also harm America's international reputation and soft power appeal. The EU seems to have a better track record than the US on those three domestic issues.

Many US pundits don't fully understand and accept the complexities of the Eurocrisis, just like I don't fully understand and accept why introducing affordable health care is such a huge thing.

Large parts of the US press don't sufficiently care about the EU to invest the time to understand the political problems for the Greece mess and its implications for other eurozone countries. They go for the easy way and blame Germany. Hardly any mention that many other eurozone countries wanted even tougher policies on Greece.

Just two examples: Also in Foreign Policy: "The Berlin Bulldozer and the Sack of Athens" and the Washington Post article from it Berlin bureau chief Anthony Faiola "Greece bailout revives image of the 'cruel German'"


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