2002: „The Transatlantic Yin Yang“

Translation of an Op-Ed in „Die Presse“; Vienna, published 30 September, 2002

Today many people see the partnership between the United States and Europe at its end. While in the United States the opinion prevails that the European Union is contributing nothing but empty words to the fight against terrorism, the Europeans on the other hand feel that the United States are acting purely unilaterally and do not appreciate Europe’s manifold achievements and contributions.

By chance my dictionary opens at “Yin Yang”, the ancient concept in Chinese philosophy of dark and light. Yang signifies male attributes as well as heavenly characteristics and the quality of strength, while Yin on the other hand lays claim to female attributes, earthly characteristics and the quality of flexibility.

“Both principles complement each other and function as interdependent principles”, the dictionary says. If we add to Yang the enterprising spirit and polarization, but differentiation to Yin, we should be able to understand this political enigma!

Thus the “Yan-kees” are the people of strength and efficient action, so clearly manifest in their military superiority. But also their tendency to think in polarized categories of black and white is evident. For the Yin of today’s Europe, however, it is obvious that it prefers diversity and consensus to action; and though militarily weak, it is leading as the “global payer” in matters like peace-keeping, reconstruction, development aid and protection of the environment.

Without the United States’ strong interest for Europe, Milosevic & Co would certainly still be in office, and there would have been much less consensus among the members of the European Union. But, on the other hand, also the United States need cooperation with the Europeans, if the central challenge of transnational terrorism is to be mastered. If we realize that all terrorists and martyrs want to play to an audience, it will in the long run be decisive to win over the silent majorities in the Islamic world, as they are still faltering between tolerance and terror. If these majorities were to sympathize with terrorism even in the slightest and most surreptitious way only, our extremely vulnerable world would soon find itself in an endless and bloody war of attrition. Should we succeed, however, to immunize these silent majorities against religiously veiled calls for brutal violence, the terrorists will soon become like fish in the desert sand. We are fighting a spiritual war, therefore, which cannot be won by military force alone, since military force could only offer the prospect of death and destruction. Now, if disconcerted Moslems were to ask most complex questions, comprising also economic and cultural issues, who then will be offering the better answers, Yang or Yin?

No doubt, the over-all balance is tilting today heavily to the side of Yang. This is evident not only in all terms of shining power, but also by the heavy costs the United States are incurring by persistent deficits in the areas of balance of goods and services, the enormous waste of energy and clean environment, as well as her dependence on foreign talents in the field of research and science. At times of passing crises’ such an imbalance may be o.k. – but not for long.

So the immense costs alone will make the pendulum swing back towards the Yin. But when and how? We can count on it: the longer it takes that both sides learn more from each other, the greater the pendulum’s energy of motion will become, and the more collateral damage will inevitably happen. In other words: should Europe wish to convince the United States of the advantages of a truly balanced partnership, it is up to Europe to argue its case now. The essence of the message should be that the United States would gain more by 90% of consensus with a strong European Union than by 100 % with a weak partner. And that the missing 10 % of consensus would be well spent, if the European Union were to invest it into a truly comprehensive peace-policy, including also all forms of soft security. The primary address of this message should be the American people and their representatives on Capitol Hill, where so many open questions of the future for mankind are still left without a lobby. This is the area where the European Union should demonstrate what it is already able to accomplish politically today.