After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (2003) is a bestseller in France and Germany, but has received little attention in the United States. That’s not surprising, given its highly negative portrayal of the United States. Nonetheless, Americans should read it to understand why many Europeans hold such negative views of the United States.
The book’s author, Emmanuel Todd, is a researcher at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies in Paris.
Mr. Todd argues that “America’s real war is about economics, not terrorism.” He believes that the United States “is battling to maintain its status as the world’s financial center by making a symbolic show of its military might in the heart of Eurasia, thereby hoping to forget and have others ignore America’s industrial weakness, its financial needs and its predatory character.”
Explaining how he and many others view the impact of the war on terror, Mr. Todd writes: “… Instead of reinforcing the image of America’s global leadership as the current administration in Washington expected, its forced march into war has produced a rapid decline in the international status of the United States” (p. xviii).
“A militaristic, agitated, uncertain, anxious country”
Ironically, after the first successful truly democratic elections in modern history in Afghanistan and Iraq, and rumblings of possible significant change in Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, some are reluctantly admitting that perhaps Washington’s current Mideast strategy is on the right track.
However, this is not the common view among the European intelligentsia. Mr. Todd believes that U.S. military efforts are actually a sign of weakness rather than of strength.
He explains: “… The size of the opponent chosen by the United States is the true indicator of its current power. Attacking the weak is hardly a convincing proof of one’s own strength … The United States is pretending to remain the world’s indispensable superpower by attacking insignificant adversaries.
“But this America—a militaristic, agitated, uncertain, anxious country projecting its own disorder around the globe—is hardly the Ôindispensable nation’ it claims to be and is certainly not what the rest of the world really needs now” (p. xviii).
When it comes to U.S. motivations, Mr. Todd overlooks a long history of evidence to the contrary. After all, the United States fought in two world wars to free Europe (and much of the rest of the world) from German military aggression. It fought smaller wars against communism in Korea and Vietnam and against suffocating dictatorships in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. Today hundreds of millions of people in many countries enjoy freedom and prosperity as a direct result of U.S. military intervention.
In spite of the harsh and errant assessments in this book, all should give some thought to its contents. What’s especially important to remember is that this is the perception that millions—not just in Europe, but also in much of the rest of the world—hold of America today.
Coming: A United States of Europe
Few Americans realize the extent to which anti-Americanism is driving efforts to unify Europe into a superpower to rival the United States.
“At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a geopolitical revolution of historic dimensions is under way across the Atlantic: the unification of Europe. Twenty-five nations have joined together—with another dozen or so on the waiting list—to build a common economy, government, and culture. Europe is a more integrated place today than at any time since the Roman Empire.”
So begins the prologue to The United States of Europe, a new book by Washington Post writer T.R. Reid, formerly the Post’s London bureau chief.
In an interview on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show in late December, Mr. Reid described the European Union as the greatest threat to American interests in the world today. He continued to explain that Europe now leads America in every respect other than military power.
The EU “has more people, more wealth, and more trade than the United States … It has more votes in every international organization than the United States, and it gives away more money in development aid. The result is global economic and political clout that makes the European Union exactly what its leaders want it to be: a second superpower that can stand on equal footing with the United States.”
The title of his book was inspired by the late British statesman Sir Winston Churchill, who, in the aftermath of World War II, declared that the best way to avoid another major European conflict was to create a United States of Europe. Almost 60 years later, the Europeans are about to achieve that goal. A European constitution, when approved, will bring about the full union envisaged by its founders.
The euro: A weapon against the dollar
A major turning point in the rise of the European Union was the launch of the euro, now rivaling the American dollar for global financial supremacy.
“From day one, the euro had more daily users than the U.S. dollar. As the unit of exchange for a monetary zone that includes two of the world’s five richest countries (Germany and France) and four of the top twelve (Germany, France, Italy and Spain), the euro became the world’s second most important currency on the day it was launched.
“But the Europeans have larger ambitions than that. The euro was specifically designed to challenge the global hegemony of the U.S. dollar as the world’s preferred reserve currency and as the standard unit of exchange for international financial transactions.”
Mr. Reid ends this particular paragraph with a quote from British analyst Will Hutton: “With the euro, the EU now has the weapon with which to fight back” (p. 64).
The United States is helping the rise of the euro by incessant overspending and heavy borrowing. These help increase uncertainty about the United States and push down the value of the American currency. While this may arguably help the United States export more, it also has the effect of lessening confidence in the United States and boosting confidence in the European Union as a viable alternative.
European dream replacing the American dream?
The European Dream (2004) is another book on Europe, written by American author Jeremy Rifkin. Mr. Rifkin is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., and a popular social commentator. His book is subtitled: “How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream.”
For generations the world was inspired by America, and people all over the world wanted to copy many aspects of American life. Now, Mr. Rifkin argues, the European dream is replacing the American dream.
The European Union, which began with only six countries less than 50 years ago, now has 25 members, 10 of whom joined only last year. Other countries want to join. Recent revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan highlight this trend. One young man celebrating the fall of the former corrupt regime in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, told a BBC reporter, “We all want to be like Europe now.”
Whereas the American dream was built on the individual accumulation of wealth, “the new European Dream is powerful because it dares to suggest a new history, with an attention to quality of life, sustainability, and peace and harmony. In a sustainable civilization, based on quality of life rather than unlimited individual accumulation of wealth, the very material basis of modern progress would be a thing of the past,” writes Mr. Rifkin (p. 7).
The European dream is what was often called the Third Way, or Social Democracy, something between the American and the Soviet models of existence. Increasingly, Europeans see the United States as a failed model, just as Soviet communism was a decade or more ago.
Europeans are far more comfortable with high taxes and more intrusive government than are most Americans, and view their quasi-socialist systems as more humane and secure in the long run—even if population studies show they are clearly not sustainable in the long run.
Ironically, European prosperity under its socialist system has been provided for in large part by not having to expend large sums of government money on military protection—as the United States has provided for that. With the collapse of Soviet communism, European countries see no further need for American protection—but no need for their own major military expenditure either. This will likely change as time goes on. It remains to be seen how these dynamics will play out.
European threat to the United States
Already the EU is the greatest single market with a greater population than the United States as well as the biggest trading bloc, giving it enormous economic clout with which to challenge the United States around the world.
It is also building political muscle as well. In the run-up to the Iraq War, France showed that it wouldn’t hesitate to use its UN Security Council veto to stymie the United States. We should expect to see more of the same in the coming years.
The European Union is increasingly parting ways with the United States on how to deal with such problem areas as North Korea, China and Iran, just as it has long set a different course in its dealings with much of the Middle East. It’s growing ever clearer that European and U.S. interests increasingly diverge.
The EU has taken almost 50 years to get to where it is today, during which time the United States has been the leader of the free world. Militarily stretched and burdened with a national debt that continues to grow—America is borrowing from other nations at a rate unprecedented in history, $2.5 billion a day!—U.S. preeminence can no longer be taken for granted. Just as British dominance ended before it, the time may not be far off when U.S. preeminence will likewise come to an end.
As the United States replaced Britain, is Europe ready to ascend the world stage and replace America as the world’s number one superpower? For the answer to that question, we should look at yet another book—the Bible.
God determines who rises and falls
The Bible reminds us that God is in charge. As Daniel 2:21 Daniel 2:21And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
American King James Version×tells us, “… He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.”
God revealed to Daniel that in the future different empires would dominate the globe, that one power after another would rise to preeminence. Daniel himself was to live to see the fall of Babylon, which was replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire, which then enjoyed its brief period of preeminence.
The words of Daniel quoted above were spoken to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The king had had a dream that troubled him. He called “the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans [the most learned men of Babylon] to tell the king his dreams” (Daniel 2:2 Daniel 2:2Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
American King James Version×). But they could not. Angry, the king threatened to have all the wise men in the land killed.
Enter Daniel. Daniel “asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation” (verse 16). Then follows an astounding overview of world history right down to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Verse 44 states clearly: “And in the days of these kings [the final rulers of earth’s final superpower] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed …”
Nebuchadnezzar’s vision was of a great image that symbolized four kingdoms, the first being Babylon itself. “After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron …” (verses 39-40). As noted in verse 44, this fourth kingdom is to exist at the time of God’s intervention in human affairs to establish the Kingdom of God.
Parallel prophecy provides other details
Chapter 7 of Daniel is a parallel prophecy of these empires—using different symbols —that makes all this clearer.
“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts” (Daniel 7:1 Daniel 7:1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
American King James Version×). Daniel then describes “four great beasts” (verse 3), gentile empires, great military powers that would have a dramatic impact on the world, including the physical descendants of Israel.
History shows that the four great powers of Daniel’s vision were the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greco-Macedonian and Roman empires. Remember, Daniel had this vision “in the first year of Belshazzar,” the last king of Babylon (Daniel 5:30-31 Daniel 5:30-31  In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.
 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about three score and two years old.
American King James Version×). Humanly, Daniel at this time could not have known that Babylon, the superpower of its day, would fall to the Medo-Persian Empire, or that Persia would in turn fall to Greece more than 200 years later. The Roman Empire was still centuries away. God had revealed these secrets to him (Daniel 2:28 Daniel 2:28But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
American King James Version×).
The story line of Daniel 7, like chapter 2, continues to the coming of the Kingdom of God (Daniel 7:14 Daniel 7:14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
American King James Version×). Since that Kingdom hasn’t been established yet, this means that the world now is still somewhere within the timeline laid out here.
However, the United States, the dominant power today, and the British Empire, the global superpower prior to World War II, are not mentioned in Daniel’s prophetic timeline. The empires mentioned are gentile (non-Israelite) empires with characteristics very different from the two Anglo-Saxon powers. (For a further explanation, request our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)
Revelation describes earth’s final empire
The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, adds further to our understanding of past, present and future events.
In Revelation 17, we see again that the prophecy culminates in the coming Kingdom of God. In verses 12-14 we read: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast … These will make war with the Lamb [Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them …” This is clearly still future.
In Revelation 13 we see described a composite of the four beasts (empires) of Daniel, followed by these prophetic words: “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast” (verse 3).
Later we read that this “beast” will be allied with a false religious system and a popular and powerful religious figure who will greatly influence the masses and their leaders (verses 11-18; Revelation 17). All these passages help us to understand that the world still has to see a revival of this “beast” power system, an attempt to restore again the final empire Daniel foretold, the Roman Empire.
This may seem far-fetched when you consider that the Roman Empire officially fell in A.D. 476, more than 15 centuries ago. But there have been successive attempts to revive the Roman Empire throughout history, beginning with Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, Charlemagne more than two centuries later, the Holy Roman Empire that lasted a thousand years, Napoleon and, more recently, the Axis powers of Europe that caused World War II.
Mussolini proclaimed the restoration of the Roman Empire in 1922. Attempts to restore the Roman Empire have been a constant theme of world history ever since the empire in the West fell in the fifth century.
Today we see another attempt to unify Europe, this time peacefully rather than by force of arms. Founded by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Union’s 25 member nations met again in Rome at the end of 2004 to discuss a new European constitution that will create a European superstate.
Watch these trends!
Could this be the prophesied revived Roman Empire that will lead to the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God?
While the present 25-nation EU is clearly not going to be the prophesied final superpower with its 10 rulers who “give their power and authority to the beast,” the modern-day successor to the ancient Roman Empire will likely evolve out of this system.
In light of these prophecies, The Good News has been encouraging readers for years to watch developments in Europe. We are now seeing unprecedented hostility on the part of Europeans—not to mention much of the rest of the world—toward the United States. At the same time we are seeing America face growing economic challenges—and economic power eventually dictates political and military power.
Watch the growing European-U.S. divide. It is shaping tomorrow’s world right before our eyes. GN