MOYERS: Anyone who's been eating freedom fries or not knows there's a bad taste befouling America's relations with Europe.
Call it a lover's quarrel among old allies, but it's left some nasty scars.
The French, for example, are complaining that the Bush White House has been spreading ugly and false rumors about them for opposing the war in Iraq.
Early in the week, six French journalists were actually turned back by customs officials at the Los Angeles airport.
And there'll be fewer American planes at the prestigious Paris Air Show next month.
In Europe, there's a backlash against American companies and goods.
One restaurant chain in Hamburg declared the sale of Budweiser, Marlboros, and Coca-Cola verboten, and a German bicycle maker no longer will take supplies from American contractors.
But there have been some efforts this week to improve things, including the support France and Germany provided this week to a UN Security Council resolution giving the American-British coalition interim control over Iraq.
And the U.S. construction company Bechtel, the prime contractor in the rebuilding of Iraq, held a meeting in London today so that European firms could bid on the estimated 90% of the work that Bechtel plans to subcontract.
Will Hutton is here to talk about the friction between the United States and Europe. It's the subject of his new book, A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: WHY AMERICA SHOULD JOIN THE WORLD.
An old friend of America's, but a friendly critic as well, Will Hutton was for years Editor-in-Chief of one of Britain's most influential newspapers, THE OBSERVER, for which he still writes a column.
MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.
HUTTON: Thank you.
MOYERS: Why do you feel compelled to write a book asking America to join the world? I mean, to many people, America's all over the world, everywhere on the globe, as it is. It's actually not only joining the world, but is shaping the world…
HUTTON: On America's terms. It's shaping the world on America's terms. It's shaping the world around American principles. It's asking the rest of the world not just to benchmark themselves against America, but to be like America. To make the same kinds of economic, political, and social choices as America. And that is actually, I think, quite a dangerous thing. I think it makes the world less safe for America. So, that's an important reason to write the book. And the other aspect of it is, is that the network of treaties, the network of security treaties, the approach to the environment, approach to the criminal court, approach to drugs, approach to terrorism, approach to the fight against Iraq, reconstruction in Iraq, everything, if you live outside America, is that comes at you in American terms.
Now, America is a good place. You know, America is, you know, the republic that actually is the most substantive power in the world. You know, the world needs it. But the way the world needs it is actually multilaterally. The way the world needs it is actually engaging with the rest of the world. Leading it, but co-governing it.
Not actually saying, "This is the deal. You know, take it or leave it. You're for us if you're not for us, you're against us." That is actually the problem.
MOYERS: But you might hear it said while you're in this country, that that's what America wanted to do. That we've had this long as you write about in your book long philosophical partnership with today's Europe. But that it was the Europeans, in particular the Germans and the French, who shattered that philosophical partnership, by not encouraging the United Nations to do something about Saddam Hussein. That it was Europe that took the initiative to shatter that governance, as you say.
HUTTON: Well, there's two things there. First of all, I don't think the French government actually played the Iraqi-UN issue particularly cleverly. There's a lot of people within France, actually, who regard Chirac as having made a profound mistake. And the view is, is that he should have joined with the British, and sent troops to the Gulf.
There should have been 50,000 Frenchmen, 50,000 British soldiers, ready to go with American soldiers. But only if the second UN resolution had been passed. And that had he done that, he couldn't have been accused of leading a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys.
MOYERS: For people who may not know, what are the surrender monkeys?
HUTTON: The surrender monkeys are the French.
MOYERS: Well, that's what Americans think.
HUTTON: The surrender monkeys, the great accusation was by the NEW YORK POST, I think, was that the French were no more than that.
But that doesn't mean, because one country miscued one issue, that the whole of Europe should be tarred with the brush of being surrender monkeys, useless socialists, hopelessly wet and feeble, in these international issues. The European approach is fundamentally to look to co-govern the world with the United States.
And we know, actually, that the reality is that the U.S. has more military power. Much more than Europe. We don't expect to reproduce it. There's no point in having… America's got nine nuclear battle fleets, you know, at sea. What is the point of the Europeans building nine? You know. It's ridiculous.
MOYERS: Good question.
HUTTON: I mean, America doesn't even need nine. It'd be absurd to have 18. You know. We can look to the Americans to do that. And we will accept our role. Our role, in doing what's required. There's aid. There's debt. There's trade. There's all kinds of ways in which there's peacekeeping. There's all kinds of ways, which Europe can play its role in a multilateral framework.
MOYERS: Europe, of all places, knows what happens when a dictator understands there's no cop on the block. And aren't the Europeans just a teeny weeny bit pleased that the United States took out the Middle Eastern equivalent of Adolf Hitler?
HUTTON: Oh, there's no question. There is no question that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. And there's no question that actually, of the Middle Eastern countries, Iraq is very well-placed to actually be an Arab democracy. And an Arab capitalist state.
MOYERS: So, what's the beef?
HUTTON: The beef is the way it's done. There's absolute shared ends here. The beef is the means. It was vital that this was done in a way the world considered to be legitimate.
MOYERS: But you're…
HUTTON: And now you're seeing it. You're seeing it with America shouldering this burden, of reconstructing Iraq pretty much alone. The British are trying to do their bit, but pretty much alone. And actually, although the UN is not great, and some of the calls it would have made might have been cleverer than some of the calls Americans have made. It's not reasonable or fair for the Americans to have to do it by themselves.
MOYERS: If the United States had not acted, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and there wouldn't be this chance, which even you concede, that the potential democratic state, where a dictator once ruled. If we had just waited, do you think it would have happened? Wouldn't Saddam Hussein still be in power?
HUTTON: Well, I'm with Tony Blair on this. And I was… and Tony Blair, as you know, supported your President.
MOYERS: The strongest support.
HUTTON: I mean, but Blair was very anxious that this was done in a multilateral framework. He was very anxious to get that second UN resolution. He was anxious. He is anxious to have the UN playing a central role in the reconstruction of Iraq.
He wants to mobilize the world behind the reconstruction of Iraq. He wants the world to be in there, trying to build a democracy in Iraq. Shouldering the responsibility of being in there for five, ten, 20 years. And I think that Blair and his line on this is right. And I think there's a lot of Americans who actually don't disagree with Blair, do they?
MOYERS: No. But he did go along with the President, when the President said, "It's do or die." And I just saw a poll last weekend that said that Blair's standing is higher then it's been in years, and he's likely to be Prime Minister longer than anyone else in modern British history.
HUTTON: If he wants to go on that long, yeah.
MOYERS: Well, he's a young man. Fifty years old.
HUTTON: I know. Well, he's certainly gonna win the next election.
MOYERS: So, this didn't hurt him, by joining forces with George W. Bush, when the rest of Europe said no.
HUTTON: It hurt him within the Labour Party. And it's hurt him in his relationships with the rest of Europe. But the rest of Europe also know that actually Blair is their way back to recreating a reasonable relationship with America. So, it has hurt him. But it's also strengthened him. It's not a story of win-win-win. Blair's taken some collateral damage in this.
MOYERS: You say in here that Britain actually has to cast its lot with Europe. But your Prime Minister has cast his lot with America. There's a paradox there.
HUTTON: Mr. Blair is a pro-European like me. Mr. Blair believes in that the world, essentially, is about the relationship between the European Union and the United States. We are the two areas which have got the most wealth, the most GDP. We account for most of the world's trade.
And if that relationship goes down on us, then actually, it's a world of blocks that starts to appear. A European block, an American block, an Asian block. Down that road, you see enmity. Down that road you see unilateralism. Down that road, you see trade war. Down that road, you see a collapse of prosperity. It's in our mutual interest to do that. And so he says, "Let's get Europe together. And then let's get together with the states."
MOYERS: But the United States just showed what it can do without the European Union in the Middle East.
HUTTON: The United States trades with the rest of the world. And the United States actually needs our money. This is one of the great things about the United States, which actually isn't talked about much here. The United States owes the rest of the world $3 trillion.
HUTTON: A half of America's national debt is owned by Europeans, Japanese, Asians.
MOYERS: You say that's one of our weaknesses right now.
HUTTON: Well, it's a weakness in this sense: that if they decide to sell them at the same time, as not buying all the fresh assets that come on stream, because you run a big trade deficit, the dollar's gonna go down the pan. And you're gonna have… and either that's gonna be something you live with, and say, "That's fine."
Or you're gonna say, "We want some support." And you're gonna look to the Europeans for support. The only central bank that's got enough financial firepower to help out, if there was an absolute collapse of the dollar which I'm not predicting, but I'm saying is a risk would be the Europeans. I mean, Donald Rumsfeld would have to be part of an administration that actually turned to old Europe, who he absolutely detests, to actually support the dollar. I don't think he'd ever do it. But that's the financial reality.
MOYERS: In the opening, I mentioned several nascent acts of protest. The beginnings of some boycotts against American companies. What's going on?
HUTTON: Well, what's going on, is that for a long time America in Europe was, I mean, just seen as the best. Seen as modern. Seen as funky. Seen as the place to be. And you know, you want to drink Starbucks. You want to wear Nike shoes. You want to wear Levi jeans. You want to smoke Marlborough cigarettes. Sorry, but there are, Bill, still people that want to smoke in Europe.
You want you want to play American rock and roll. You want to use Microsoft and American IT technology. You know, not only because it's good, but because it's American. But for the first time in my lifetime, the fact of being American has actually… has now got downsized.
HUTTON: Because America is seen as a bully, actually. It's seen as a country which is throwing its weight around. Making the world less secure. Not just for America, but for Europeans. And if the west is seen by the Arab world in particular and the rest of the world in general, as just a bunch of bullies who go into places, and open them up and then walk away again, we're not gonna get the collaboration we need. This isn't an argument about the ends. It's an argument about means.
MOYERS: What specifically do you want America to do that we're not doing right now?
HUTTON: I want America to get behind the United Nations. Maybe reform it, but get behind it. Not talk about isolating it. I want America to support and finance the IMF and World Bank.
I want America to really support the judgments that the World Trade Organization uses. And I want to work… I want it to sign the International Criminal Court. I want America to come in behind, maybe invent new institutions, with which we can govern globalization. It'll always be, because it's America, the most important voice at the table. It need never worry about that. It need never worry about that. But I want America to be at the table in a constructive way.
MOYERS: When you look at American democracy right now, what do you see that concerns you?
HUTTON: What concerns me about American democracy is the role of money. I think that since the 1970's, money has been having a bigger and bigger influence on American politics. I'm very concerned about the structure of the way gerrymander is impacting on, you know, the character of Congressional districts, so that very little changes hands in national elections. So that, you know…
MOYERS: The incumbents have always the advantage. Because…
HUTTON: 98 percent of incumbents win in America, in elections. Which is amazing, by world democratic standards. It's partly about the way Congressional districts are drawn. It's partly about the role of money. At a national level.
At the local level, American democracy is really something I admire enormously. Then I'm very… that's one thing I'm worried about. The second thing I'm worried about is the structure of your national debate.
MOYERS: The political debate?
HUTTON: The political debate. It has moved, in my view, not just so the center of gravity has moved to the right. You know, the center of gravity in countries moves to the right then moves back to the left. That's fair enough. What I find disarming, is that the people who argue the liberal or the liberal left point of view and every democracy needs both. You need an argument in a democracy. You need…
MOYERS: An eagle needs two wings.
HUTTON: An eagle needs two wings. You need public debate. And you have…
MOYERS: You don't find us having that?
HUTTON: I don't find the liberal wing of American politics getting up there and saying things in a language that regular Americans understand and relate to sufficiently.
My view is that Americans aren't that different from Europeans. That you, like us, believe in an idea of the social contract, that proposition of the social contract is absolutely fundamental to a good society.
MOYERS: Give me your definition, in the kind of plain language you use here, of the social contract as you see it.
HUTTON: A social contract is everybody in a society coming together and insisting that the system works in a just and fair way. That they have access, that everyone has access to health.
MOYERS: But the…
HUTTON: That everyone has access to education. That everyone, at the starting gate of life, has the equal opportunity. And that all of life's hazards unemployment, growing old, having cancer are taken care of by everybody underwriting it.
That is a social contract. The values about mutuality, about fairness, about generosity, about kindness. That is a social contract.
MOYERS: That's what the philosopher Rawls called the infrastructure of justice? Is that what your point is?
HUTTON: That is what your American philosopher called an infrastructure of justice. And a good society has an infrastructure of justice. And Europeans have it. And actually, America, you know, this idea that America is somehow, you know, on a different planet from Europe, I find difficult to get hold of.
You know, an awful lot of Americans are the sons and daughters of European immigrants. And you hold the same values as we do. And you set about constructing your own social contract, starting with the New Deal, and following through with the Great Society program. That's what you were doing. And you were right to do it.
Now, what American conservatives, it seems have been doing, is saying, "That's coercive." A social contract is coercive. Paying taxes is coercive.
And the notion that we the people can form a government that actually constructs a social contract that looks after our interests, has been written off as a socialist proposition. It's not. It never was a socialist proposition.
MOYERS: But the conservatives say that ran its course. It was exhausted. It created an over-weaning, and burdensome government. And somehow along the way, the very people whom you say have made a moral argument for, say, intervention in the world, in Iraq, also have a moral claim on their argument. Their idea, that there's an alternative in the social contract.
HUTTON: We all know that, you know, character matters. And what they've done is, they've said, "Let's place at the heart of the argument, good character."
Let's say that a good character is a man who will work hard. A man who's industrious. A bad character is someone who doesn't work hard, and who is poor. And let's actually… a good character is someone who's not gonna want support from the state. The good character's going to want to pay less tax.
A good character is going to be rich. In fact, the rich must be good characters. Otherwise, they couldn't be rich. And you're getting yourself into a kind of unbelievable world, in which poor people are seen as having poor characters, because they're poor.
MOYERS: But this message seems to resonate with many voters' sense of reality.
HUTTON: There's a kind of crooked half-truth at the bottom of it. Because of course, character does matter. But character matters in the context of the social contract, then.
And so what American liberals have done, is just given up the… they haven't, you know, made the case. They haven't returned fire, if you like. They haven't used, you know, good American language, that regular American people understand, in putting the counter-case. And they've fled the field.
And as a result, America's social contract is in tatters. Your social mobility is falling. You have all kinds of problems that I think are avoidable. And, you know, what's more and here's me as a Briton speaking that has influenced the way thinking has developed in the rest of the world. That's influenced the way thinking has developed in Europe. And that's why I want to not only want to get the Europeans to stand up for these ideas but I also want American liberals to stand up for these ideas.
MOYERS: Have you, on your visit here, eaten any Freedom Fries?
HUTTON: I haven't been offered any Freedom Fries. But if I'm offered them, I'll certainly eat them.
MOYERS: Will Hutton, A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: WHY AMERICA SHOULD JOIN THE WORLD. Thank you for joining us.
HUTTON: Thank you very much for inviting me.