Historian Tony Judt: "There is this sense now that America is no longer a model society... From World War II until 1989, the US was unique because it was the most powerful country in the world. But also it had passed its power through all these international institutions beginning with the UN, the IMF, what was going to become the WTO, the World Bank... America and international governance were somehow mixed up together in people's minds. The United States has incredibly stupidly insisted on separating those in the public image so that it is now against all these international agencies... with the result, I think, that America's much weaker and its legitimacy is much reduced... America is the true third world country, in a way, with a fantastically wealthy, skilled, educated, powerful elite and a desperately, increasingly poor, medically undercovered, badly educated, increasingly ignorant and unskilled mass working population."
Mark Leonard says that, far from being in "crisis", as journalists like to say, the EU is effecting a sneaky -- and extraordinary -- sort of triumph:
"When we stop looking at the world through American eyes we can see that many of the elements of European weakness are in fact facets of this extraordinary... transformative power... The rise of the European Union is the first time in history that a great power has arisen without provoking other countries to unite against it. What's extraordinary about the EU (unlike the British Empire, the French and Spanish Empires, the Germans and Japanese in the 20th century -- or even America today) is that the more powerful the European Union becomes the longer the list of countries that want to join it. It's a magnetic force that people want to unite with rather than balance against."
The EU is passive aggressive, Leonard continues; it doesn't invade anyone. The worst thing it can do is refuse to let other nations join it, cut them off. Regime change is being effected on a scale never seen before in human history, but without a shot being fired. There are 450 million citizens in the EU, but another 1.5 billion in 80 countries "umbilically linked" to the EUzone by trade. Columbia can never join the US, but Serbia can join Europe. The difference is legal frameworks, Europe's secret weapon:
"Each country that joins the EU has to absorb 80,000 pages of laws in 31 volumes that govern everything from gay rights to food safety." Turkey, enticed by the prospect of joining, has already abolished the death penalty and given minority kurds their own TV stations. And this European model is influencing other regions, like East Asia, Latin America, Africa. Even the Arab League is looking at ways to make an Arabic version of the EU. For this reason, Leonard thinks we'll see "a new European century".
Navid Kermani is also looking at the EU's vitality at its periphery. "Whoever wants to discover how valuable this overly bureaucratic, apathetic, fat, indecisive body known as the European Union actually is need only travel to where it stops," he says. And so he speaks to Moroccans who have tried to enter the Eurozone by boat. Have they considered that they might die in the attempt? "Sure... but it's not any worse than life here... The Europeans think all Arabs are suicide bombers. Yes, they're right, all of us here are suicide bombers," joke the Moroccans. "The paradise we're giving our lives up for is called Schengen."