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Author Topic: Could you live with the US not being the strongest?
RickyB
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If not, what do you think should be done about it?

I ask because the way I see it, once China becomes fully democratic, I don't see what can stop her from becoming at least as powerful as the US. So what to do?

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Molonel
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This is a slight tangent, but I have a hard time seeing China being a superpower in the same way as the former Soviet Union any time soon. Power isn't just economic power, or military power on your home turf. True international power involves the ability to project power across the globe. China has no appreciable navy.
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Haggis
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No, I can't. When the US is not the strongest, I intend to take my life in the most disgusting and painful manner possible.
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Wayward Son
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I grew up during the Cold War, when the U.S. still may have been the strongest, but not by that much. So we made alliances with other nations (NATO, SEATO, etc.) and did geopolitical dances. It would not be that much different from the way things are today.
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RickyB
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It can build one
History has proved that once the desire is there, building a navy is not an obstacle. In the 14th century, China was by far the worlds strongest naval power. It's ships reached Africa pretty regularly. Then some really dumb emperor decided for some reason to ban ship building and exploring, and things went downhill from there.

Rome was also navally inferior to Carthage.

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RickyB
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LOL, Haggis.
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RickyB
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Wayward, I'll address what you said after a few more people respond.
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Molonel
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I think America was stronger than the Soviet Union, except in a nuclear exchange. The prospect of mutually assured destruction assured that both the US and the USSR preferred to play out their conflicts using proxy regimes rather than direct military conflict.
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The Drake
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Ally with India economically. Military power kind of taps out between nuclear states anyway. Political power is derived from the above two sources (ever hear of a weak, poor state with great diplomatic power?)

Besides, a democratic China would be an ally, not an opponent. The only deep source of antagonism right now is the status of Taiwan. If China went democratic, they might even reconcile.

THE PLA'S LEAP INTO THE 21ST CENTURY: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE US

quote:
The policies pursued by Beijing and Washington will determine whether China's rising military power will result in confrontation or cooperation. Neither seeks war with the other, so confrontation and conflict are not inevitable. Nevertheless, the underlying mutual apprehension with which China and the United States view each other makes the danger of such an outcome distinctly possible. Managing Sino-American relations over the next decade or two will be critical. Will the United States view China as a peer competitor challenging U.S. maritime preeminence on the rim of Asia? Will China use its increasing military power and growing regional economic and political influence to compete with the United States for preponderance in shaping Asia's future security architecture? If it does, how will the U.S. respond? One possible outcome is Sino-American cooperation in shaping this architecture. This, however, would require the United States to accept China as an equal player in the region. Can the United States be realistically expected to grant this equality, especially if the Taiwan dilemma is not resolved and China's political system is unreformed?

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Godot
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Might be better. We'd probably be less arrogant and aggressive in the foreign policy arena.
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Daruma28
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Surely we could then become humble and peacable like the French....

Surely we can follow their sterling example they've set for consulting with allies, seeking agreement and coalition forming at the UN and not invade a country that doesn't pose a direct threat to them...

[Roll Eyes]

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RickyB
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"Besides, a democratic China would be an ally, not an opponent. "

Yeah, like so many people feel about France.

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RickyB
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They were attacked there, you know. And they didn't topple the government.
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Naldiin
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A 'democratic' china? The only way we will ever see a Democratic China is blood on the streets. The revolution and carnage required to produce a democratic china would so destroy the resources needed to become a great power.
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Haggis
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Well, it's not the only way. It is the most likely. There can be revolutions without catastrophic carnage like the fall of the Soviet Union, India's independence, people power in the Philippines, etc.
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RickyB
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It's actually been the more commonj way in the last 20 years or so.

And people, please answer the question. What (if anything_ should be done to prevent some democratic entity (China, India, The EU, a more democratic Russia) from becoming equal to or stronger than us in economic and conventional military power?

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ATW
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When China becomes fully democratic and stronger than the US, then China can afford to pay for the party to celebrate.

The only reason to be the strongest is if there's a need to be the strongest.

If China at some point in future history becomes dedicated to freedom, human rights, and democracy to the point that it naturally becomes the world policeman, I wouldn't have a problem with letting libertarians take over the US and withdraw us from world affairs.

I don't think I've read a science fiction book coming up with such a scenario for china much less an indication that something like that was in the cards for real life.

China is currently little better than a military dictatorship and uses slave labor to earn hard currency.

Even if there was another Tiananmen Square event leading to a popular revolution, it could be decades before democratic ideals became fully embraced by the Chinese people.

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potemkyn
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Great question Ricky,

Here's another question in response. Why did they become stronger than the US? If it is out of US weakness and inability to act, then the US should look to be stronger and more active. if it is because the US democracy didn't represent their democracy, then the US should look to reform itself and take a hard look at why it is no longer considered a democracy. Of course, there is no way for the US to no before the other power state makes its move, so its a mute point.

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canadian
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Are decades really all that long?

China does see itself as the natural heir to the planet. I think we will see a modified form of Socialistic Democracy evolve in China. I think this will be driven by an ever increasing economic strength. I have many friends who live and work in China and while they report some very disturbing parities, they also say that things are changing very rapidly.

What interests me is the question of an economic alliance between India and the US. My personal opinion is that India will play both sides of the fence for it's own advantage and come out pretty nicely at the end of it.

Military power becomes fairly obsolete in the face of overwhelming economies, and this may be the problem the US faces as globalization continues it's steady path of knitting the planet's economy together. Any action taken abroad could have severe negative impact at home. I think we are seeing the last hurrah for military as we know it.

I have very little hope for the continued aristocracy of North America. Things will even out and we will all pay the price. But we have been living in an absolute fantasy of wealth for quite a long time. The bubble has to burst sometime.

[ November 19, 2004, 08:15 PM: Message edited by: canadian ]

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RickyB
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Why? Maybe because, under equal benefit from demoicracy and a free markey approach, they had more inherent momentum - like being the largest markey on earth.
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DonaldD
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Just like the US, right Naldiin?

At any rate, democracy is not a prerequisite to be competitive with the US - China has already created several manufacturing "super-cities" which are successfully draining jobs from the West, while providing relatively good living conditions for the residents at a fraction of the cost.

These cities will drive an industrial revolution in China, which may in turn lead to democracy in the long run, but it's not a guarantee.

As for Ricky's question - why should anything be done to stop a (peacable) country from economically dominating the US - isn't it the US's contention that "all men are created equal"?

In the course of history, if another country, through dint of hard work, luck, birthrate and/or natural resources develops an economy that outstrips the US - good. That another country's citizens have a better standard of living than Americans doesn't take anything away from you, personally... right?

At least, that's the case in a world with unlimited natural resources, where modern states don't war on each other, and where lambs lie down with lions.

In the real world, will Islam or Christianity accept domination by atheists? Will the US accept the loss of access to oil that a burgeoning Chinese "middle-class" will precipitate? Will there be a world war over oil or water or both?

If China does manage to modernize itself sufficiently, the US will be forced to either wither and die, or fight. Unless, of course, something is done now to prevent another country from becoming equal to or stronger than the US...

This all presupposes that oil is a finite resource, and that no effective alternative energy sources are discovered in time.

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RickyB
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Question is, who discovers it and can it be kept a secret?
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David Wisdom
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Ricky, define "strongest".

If you mean militarily, then no; to quote Heinlein, the world's second-best military is the world's most expensive luxury. We can't afford to reach the point where a foreign power can defeat the American military - we're best served in this regard by continuing to optimize our military platforms and methods of training troops (in my opinion, the latter could use some improvement).

In any other respect (economically, diplomatically, culturally, etc.), I could honestly care less whether we're on top of the heap or not. If in twenty years some other nation has a higher GNP than America, I can't see how that will affect the exercise of inalienable rights. The benefits of American supremacy, as far as I can tell, seem limited to a stratum that the overwhelming majority of citizens don't belong to - domestically, freedom of speech was as secure in the Nineteenth Century, when we were a side player in the game of world power, as it is now that we're the dealer.

Furthermore, that last sentence had over fifty words and a mangled metaphor. Being concise is overrated.

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Pete at Home
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Democracy is a word that can cover a multitude of sins, Ricky. If China respects speech and religion, has more than one major party, and stops its Lebensraun rumblings, grants some sort of regional autonomy or federalism, then I have no problem with it being more powerful than the USA. But without those elements, any large superpower is a threat to the world, because if it cannot respect the free will and diversity of its own people, it is likely to run roughshod over the freedoms of other peoples. So until China becomes truly free (and considerably more so than say, France or Germany), we'd best keep that edge.

[ November 19, 2004, 10:47 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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towellman
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I'm surprised that no-one has pointed out the obvious roadblocks to a Chinese ascendancy.

First, physical roadblocks: Simply, there are way too many people packed into way too small a space.1 Billion people in an area the size of the east coast just doesn't work too well if they all want to have a US standard of living. There is far less arable land in China than the US (not to mention that it's been drained by 5,000 years of cultivation). There is not enough water, Beijing aquifers have been dropping precipitously lately. And they don't really have any decent land to expand into. Their natural resources are drained already and will be drained at an ever increasing rate in the future.

Second Economics: Let's look at the reason for China progress in the last decade...cheap labor. That's it. So what happens when the labor isn't as cheap? OR when machines can do it better? What happens when they float their currency and everything made there gets 40% more expensive? Basically, China is taking advantage of a temporary (though it may take decades to resolve), but huge influx of it's hundreds of millions of workers into the world labor market. Once that influx equals out their competitive advantage will be gone. (Unless they make huge widespread social, political, environmental, and intellectual progress over the next two decades).

Third Political: Biggest Problem=CORRUPTION. Ask a recent immigrant what they have to do to get to see a doctor--Bribe. What they have to do to get government permits--Bribe. To get a business loan--Bribe. To pass an inspection--Bribe. Corruption is endemic and that must be overcome for them to ever hope to pass the US. Democracy in some form may come or it may not.

Fourth World Stage: It takes a lot of money to be the top dog in the world. First there is the military expense, because you can have a huge economy, but mean little in areas other than trade (like Japan). While it would be nice to borrow a million Chinese footsoldiers and cover Iraq with them, they're useless outside of China. Their army is nothing compared to the US because they lag technologically, in training, and most importantly in logistics and mobility. Think of what it would take to supply and feed those million soldiers in a foreign/hostile country. They have no ability to project power more than a few hundred miles beyond their borders.

Those are just some of the roadblocks that I see. Feel free to critique. It's very possible that China will surpass the US in GDP, but militarily, per capita GDP, standard of living, and on the World Stage I just don't see them passing us.

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Lewkowski
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America is just.... better.

Who knows why? We could go on forever thinking about it. But for whatever reason America's rise to power was amazing. And I think we'll stay on top for a long time.

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canadian
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Dreams are nice
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RickyB
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"and considerably more so than say, France or Germany"

What the fock is wrong with you people? I simply can't understand this insistence that France and Germany aren't free. Our great system has warts too. Any country that reaches the level of democracy and freedom, of Germany and France is ok in my book. I have friend living in Paris. They have all the rights you need. How exactly are Germany and France not free?

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RickyB
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David Wisdom - what if, despite all our optimization, the other side simply has a larger and better equipped military? Again, the whole balance of terror thing will keep us from being actually conquered, but what if we can't throw our weight around as much as the other guy?
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Anglachel
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I don't think China becoming democratic will be enough to make them more powerful than us. Power is derived from wealth; and a country's wealth is primarily determined by the extent of liberty an economy has to grow itself .

Democracy is often inimical to liberty (though less so than totalitarianism), hence China’s economy won’t grow as fast and they won’t be as powerful as they could be. Though they will probably achieve a great deal of liberty (and therefore power) when they advance towards a democratic state, US cultural tradition will still far outstrip them in restraining democracy from impinging on liberty. So I really don't think they will achieve our kind of power any time soon.

If they did manage to achieve democracy and manage to restrain that from impinging on the liberty of their people, frankly I wouldn't find them a threatening culture anymore.

That's my 2. Obviously there’s a lot of premises above about what makes for a stronger economy that might be debatable, I don't mean to state them as facts right now (though they may be), just my opinion.

[ November 20, 2004, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: Anglachel ]

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David Wisdom
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Ricky--

As far as size goes, the PLA already has us beat - if need be, China's oligarchs will keep throwing conscripts at a problem until it goes away. As far as equipment, I think we have too much of a head start right now - another nation would have to devote almost all its national resources to updating its military to match ours. Continuing to use China as our example - while the PLA has some indigineous platforms, most of its equipment consists of Soviet-era clearing sale models. We'd have to almost completely abandon military spending and research to lose our current advantage (or, let Congress keep forcing the DoD to buy crap it doesn't want).

As for the ability to "throw our weight around", I think we can afford to lose that. I've never been comfortable using the military as the world's police force - back when I was in the Navy, the oath I swore was to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States", not remake other nations in our image. Frankly, as long as the US Armed Forces is enough of a deterrent that invading the US isn't worth it, then mission accomplished.

And Lewkowski, the reason America is the most powerful nation has absolutely nothing to do with some illusory supremacy derived from national identity. It's due to two factors: the until-relatively-recently untapped resources of a good-sized chunk of continent, and the fact that the two most recent major wars occured on someone else's soil. Until the First World War, the US was a third-rate power at best. It wasn't until Europe's infrastructure was thoroughly ravaged that America became a superpower.

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RickyB
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Thanks, David.

[ November 20, 2004, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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Pete at Home
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Germany and France, like China, are intolerant of minority religions. And this intolerance shows up in French dealings with other cultures, e.g. in Tahiti. Israel is another example of a country that is comparatively free and stable. Fine as a small country, but it's horrific to contemplate what would result if its policies were ever projected onto a humungous empire with the size, power, and ambition of China.

You are correct that the US is not perfect, but our warts are exaggerated because of our sheer size and unchecked power. I believe that Canada or Australia could handle such power without turning into a runaway nightmare empire,but I am unsure whether the USA will be able to pull it off in the long run, because while we are not as culturally vain as the French or Germans, we are nonetheless culturally vain, and that streak of vanity does combine with our unchecked power to damage our dealings with other nations. I am quite certain that France, Germany, and Israel could not handle such power, because at the end of the day, they don't (or in the case of Israel, can't) respect cultural and religious diversity.

Assuming that Chirac's little coup on the EU fails, and that the EU does not just become an extension of French diplomatic power, then I would not mind seeing the EU become the superpower, because it is federalist, and therefore has respect for diversity written into its structure.

[ November 20, 2004, 02:59 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Pete at Home
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Look, Ricky, lest you blue in the face rationalizing the choices of the atheist French state, or embarrass yourself defending the German government's endorsement of using certain foreigners and criminals into sex-slaves, let's look at an example that you'll probably feel more comfortable with: late 19th century USA.

After the civil war, we'd eliminated the major overt form of slavery, and like certain other countries today, pretended that there was freedom of religion. Officially we were a democracy, and governments actually did rise and fall on their public popularity. But with the victory of the North in the civil war came a complete crushing of every principle of federalism, and the heavy hand of central authority did not only fall on the south -- just ask my mormon ancestors. As we turned our greedy eyes outwards, the late 19th century USA became a monster on the world stage, literally running around the globe crushing freedom and foreign sovereignty when we could get away with it and make a nickel from it. Ask Hawaii, where we invaded at request of the Dole Pinapple empire because of fears that the Queen of Hawaii was going to give the vote to the common people. Ask Japan, whose self-imposed isolation was shattered when US gunboats appeared in the emperor's harbor, demanding trade "or else."

If late 19th century American "Democracy" had the resources then that we have today; e.g. an unchecked military ... I shudder to think what we'd have done with such power. If China became a "democratic" state with the nature and disposition of the USA in the late 19th century, I would shudder to live in its shadow.

Wouldn't you?

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JeSuisse
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Pete, you say Germany and France are less democratic than others because they are intolerant of minority religions?

Even assuming that they *are* intolerant (which I'd like to have explained in detail): The rights of minorities are well protected both in France and in Germany.

Both countries are stable democracies: Jotting off your list:
- They respect freedom of speech
- They respect freedom of religion
- They have more political parties than the US
- They are not expansionists (any more)
- They have a federal structure, though admitedly
France is a bit Paris-centric.

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Everard
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I haven't really been reading this thread...


"Furthermore, that last sentence had over fifty words and a mangled metaphor. Being concise is overrated."


But what a fantastic observation *Grin*

People who have read some of my longer posts probably have noted my ability to do the same thing David does to the English language, as expressed in the above quote. Who needs periods, I always say!

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Pete at Home
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quote:
you say Germany and France are less democratic than others because they are intolerant of minority religions?
Mais non. I said that they are less free. La Democracie, ce n'est pas la meme chose que la liberte.

-They respect freedom of speech -- more than China, I admit, but not like the US, or even like Great Britain.
- They respect freedom of religion-- slightly more than China, I admit, but not like the US, or even like Great Britain. Both countries label minority religions as suspect classes, and, in a move amazingly reminiscient of the Muslim taxing of Dhimmis, Germany levies a special tax on all religious people which it uses to sustain the Lutheran church.
- They have more political parties than the US, and, unlike the US, give the fringe parties enormous power. It appears that some people have learned nothing from the lesson of the Nazi rise to power on less than 30% of the vote.

In America, a man like Le Pen or Hitler could speak his mind and publish his ideas, but he would be ridiculed, and would never win any national election. In France and Germany, men like Le Pen cannot speak their mind, nor publish all of their ideas, but they can rise to high office. Therefore while I agree that France and Germany are Democracies, I disagree that they are stable democracies.

quote:
They are not expansionists (any more)
Germany is not expansionist, any more. Neither is Israel. France, on the other hand, is clearly expansionist, through its influence in the EU. While Louis 14 said "L'etat, C'est Moi," Chirac says "L'Europe, c'est moi," aspiring to be the second Charlemagne of the fourth Reich. However, I think that French "diplomatic imperialism" will ultimately fail, and that the EU will grow along federal lines like the USA, so France is only a minor threat to world peace. Not because it lacks the warts, but because it's simply not powerful enough for its blemishes to harm the world.

If the USA were as small and weak as France, no one would be preoccupied with our blemishes, either -- our failings are only evident because of our size and power. This is simply a case of Lilliputians and Brobing ... brobingbags? What was that word. The big dudes.

[ November 20, 2004, 09:29 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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RickyB
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Pete, the mixture of clear-headedness (re: America in 19th century) and hyperbole (France in the EU) in your posts is amazing...

And what was that about the German government and sex slaves? Whadja talkin bout, Willis?

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JeSuisse
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Pete,

In defense of the church tax. We have that too in Switzerland. The state collects it from all people who officially declared their faith and passes it on to their churches. But this is simply a matter of efficiency, so the churches don't need to do it themselves. You can easily avoid paying the church tax by just declaring yourself free of a particular faith.

It's true that this way of collecting church taxes gives an advantage to the large, established religions, but if you belong to a faith which is not officially accepted, you can still avoid paying the tax and funnel the money into your religious organization yourself.

The freedom of religion is guaranteed by every democracy in Europe. I assume that with minority religions you refer specifically to Muslims and Jews. I am not aware of any disrespect for the jewish religion. I agree that there have been problems with islamic minorities (see the Netherlands right now), but this is less a problem of religion and more one of integration. Many people believe that Muslims don't integrate well into our societies. This may or may not be true. And I may remind you that many Americans believe the same thing. Your President even found it necessary to tell your citizens NOT to hurt fellow citizens who were Muslims (or was it Arabs?) after 9/11. May I also remind you that US immigration has become much more difficult for Arabs lately and that many students are now going to GB instead of the US because it is simpler? Did you know that anti-islamic sentiment is on the rise in GB? All the while, in german speaking countries it has become "cool" to imitate the way turkish and ex-jugoslavian immigrant youths speak German. Not all turks in Germany pose a problem for integration.

Maybe you could draw a parallel between the "arab challenge" in Europe, which centers on integration, and the "hispanic challenge" in the USA, which is about the same thing. Foreign Policy had an article in March with that title, by the guru of those who believe that cultures are incompatible, Samuel P. Huntington. He basically argued that the Mexicans are the first group to immigrate in the US and NOT integrate. Do you see how this is not really about religious freedom? Freedom of religion is threatened neither in France nor in Germany.

Since you mention LePen, please remember the millions who took to the streets in Paris when it looked like he could become politically dangerous.

Fringe parties get exactly as much power as there are people willing to vote for them. As long as they stay fringe parties, that's fine.

I think it's true that right wing parties currently are on the advance in Europe. Much of it probably has to do with poverty and fear. Its sad that the Front Nationale in France finds so many supporters. One can wonder that in parts of Germany, members of right wing parties are elected for office on the Bundesland level, even as small minorities. And in my own country, the right SVP has lost decency in voting campaigns; they're working with people's fear and it seems to pay off.

Yet how does this make France and Germany less *stable*? It's easy to seem "stable" if you only have two parties; both will get about 50% of voters. If you have 10 parties, you have to deal with shifts in their weight now and then. This doesn't mean that the democracy is unstable, it simply means that it is working. It's reacting to people changing their minds on who to vote for.

The freedom of speech. Well, in Germany, Hitler *did* speak his mind and publish Mein Kampf, and see where it led. Do you not think that maybe Germany and France learned from the Nazi's rise to power that total freedom of speech might not be such a good idea? I know J.S. Mill's take on free speech, don't bother with it. So some things cannot be said in public. In Germany, you cannot publish Mein Kampf. In most European countries, you are not allowed to utter racist propaganda in public, exactly *because* this can be a danger to democracy. Maybe not in the good times, but certainly in hard times. That's a lesson Germany learned the hard way. Does this really make Germany and France less free than the US?

I have absolutely no idea as to F's expansionist plans in the EU and I won't comment on it for that reason.

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RickyB
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Well, if you regard scientology as a religion then Germany does have a problem. Since I regard scientology as a twisted, evil racket, I have no problem with Germany's approach toward them.

Being Mormon, it is possible that Pete is referring to some real or perceived ill treatment of Mormons in Germany. That would be very messed up if real, since Mormons are generally only as annoying as any other religion and no more [Big Grin]

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