IMAGINE THAT, on September 11 next year, terrorists based somewhere in the Maghreb fly hijacked passenger jets into the Westminster parliament, the Reichstag, the Vatican, and the Louvre. These attacks kill thousands. Let it further be imagined that the United States is either preoccupied with China or, in the wake of the recent disasters in Iraq, has lost all appetite for foreign military intervention. After years of complaining about US unilateralism, Europeans now fulminate against US isolationism.
It is worth bearing this scenario in mind, because given existing military capabilities, Europe's nation-states, acting either singly or jointly, would be unable to conduct anything resembling the operation that the United States conducted to destroy Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in October and November of 2001. If terrorists based in camps in the Maghreb—perhaps protected by a friendly host government—promised to repeat their attacks, there would be little that European powers could— other than fulminate against US isolationism—do about it.
It is partly in recognition of Europe's current military weakness and its one-sided dependence on the United States that a number of European political leaders have said that Europe needs to become a “superpower.” Most of these political leaders want to see Europe become a “superpower” without becoming a “superstate.” Some intellectual proponents of a postsovereign Europe believe that Europe could become a “superpower”—albeit a “superpower” of a new and different type—while operating under a radically decentered form of “mixed government.”
The arguments of the last few chapters have tried to show that when situated in a context of violence, conflict, and wide disparities of power between states, many of the prevailing assumptions about European political integration look rather naïve. The widespread belief that the sovereign state is now obsolete seems increasingly difficult to accept, not least because the most powerful political units in the world today—the United States, China, and Russia among them—all jealously guard their sovereignty. Indeed, the United States—the world's only genuine global power—is, in many respects, a classic nation-state, which possesses a centralized locus of decision making (at least in the key areas of foreign and military policy) and a national culture constituted by a powerful