After spending much of August in the United Kingdom, I began thinking about the idea of substructure in foreign policy. Substructure is the foundation upon which a building rests. There are three tiers to any building (or idea, or philosophy).
We tend to focus on the first tier, the visible ornamentations. Some deeper thinkers focus on the second tier, which consists of the sturdiness of its walls. But rarely do we reflect upon the foundation of the structure. The world media is almost exclusively focused on ornamentation, overturning this ladder to make us believe that it is the substructure.
In 2003, Robert Kagan published a book entitled, “Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.” The book contended that post-Second World War consensus was vanishing. Unlike Europeans, Americans saw the world in stark terms of good and evil, were sure of their mission, their willingness to use force, and their primacy.
Kagan’s argument still resonates well today, but it focuses on the wall, not the substructure.
The real divide between the United States and Western Europe, especially the original NATO countries, is over Christianity. The latest statistics indicated that under half the population of the United Kingdom profess the faith. This compares with over 2/3 of the American population. However, now, I am only looking at the wall and not the foundation. The statistic is valuable, or at least as valuable as any piece of quantitative data can be. It ignores the deeper issue. After attending service at both St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, I was struck by the contrasts.
The presence of God was palpable, the attendees were primarily tourists (more often than not American), and the ceremony (beautiful as it was) was center stage. The sermons in both cases were expressions of traditional Christian belief, and in the case of St. Paul’s, there was even an attempt to link the sermon to contemporary events and people. This all misses the point that in my numerous trips to Europe and especially the UK, there is an absence of God from the human perspective (naturally, God is omnipresent regardless of perspective). It is almost an exercise in mental gymnastics not to use religious terms or arguments. Thus, there exist societies that are full of the ornamentation of Christianity, which, for example, in the UK is dominated by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian traditions.
Meanwhile, it is a society rent by upheaval, which on the one hand wishes to declare independence from the yoke of the European Union while trying to maintain a bizarre nanny-state and an infantilization of its citizenry. The obsession with “safety” is omnipresent.
One vignette was when I was putting fuel in my car at a station in Nottingham; my son came out of the car to watch me do this. First, the pump shut off. I thought there was a mechanical problem; suddenly over the loudspeaker came an announcement, I was told: “Pump number 7, the child must remain in the car!” Later, when the station had reduced Def-Con 1 back to Def Con 5, I asked the lady if this was common in the UK. She was equally taken aback by my question and joked that Americans must allow children to pump gas with a lit cigarette in hand. To the dismay of my family, I jokingly stated that not only do I let my son be with me, but pumps gas with a gun in his hand. I felt it was a good time to enhance a stereotype.
The great author and devout Christian, JRR Tolkien remarked that he hated the notion of the state being treated as a person or glorified beyond its needed limitations.
“I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good.”
Some may ask what any of this has to with foreign policy. Nothing, unless we are looking at substructure, the substructure for the future, for diplomacy, for the alliance, for our place in the 21st century. If Western Europe shifts ever more into a combination of secular progressiveness, and an abstract nationalism without tradition, it will distance itself from not only American civilization but from American interests. We witness this American vs. European substructure disparity over many contemporary issues such as the UK’s handling of issues with Iran, France, Germany, and Italy’s reluctance to sufficiently prosecute the war on terror, and in general, an attitude of quiet acquiescence over Russian and Chinese actions.
In the end, all is determined by the substructure and only in these depths can any issue be understood or resolved. A civilization that does not correct itself with a moral compass which can only be derived from God is doomed to strife, conflict, and aggression.