We must not forget that the boiling heat of modern capitalistic culture is connected with the heedless consumption of natural resources, for which there are no substitutes.

- Max Weber, 1906

That Western Europe is in a state of disarray has become a commonplace. The headlines proclaim it, the capital flight confirms it. After a generation of unprecedented prosperity and progress, the West European nations, though still remarkably strong, are encountering a network of difficulties that threatens them in various realms and that seems to defy known remedies.

As with every major historical change, the present disarray springs from a confluence of events. The economic order, so beneficent for so many years, had eroded even before 1973, but the Arab-Israeli war of that year, together with the oil embargo and the quadrupling of oil prices, brought to the Europeans a sudden realization of their vulnerability: their economic survival required Middle Eastern oil and their military survival American arms. The European nations discovered their double dependency, made worse by domestic enfeeblement and occasional wrangling abroad. Europe's combination of power and dependency is a rare phenomenon in history.

The Europeans are not alone in their new predicaments: all oil-importing countries face similar pressures and have to devise new means of paying for the more expensive fuel. Japan is the prime example of a country that responded to the oil crisis by greatly increasing its already strong exports. But Europe shared with many non-European countries yet another striking, debilitating factor of contemporary politics: the disappearance of the political giants of the postwar period and of the parties or movements that seemed to perpetuate their influence. Of the giants only Tito remains; de Gaulle, Adenauer, de Gasperi, Nehru, Nasser, and Ben-Gurion are dead. And with their disappearance and for many other reasons, the Gaullists have come to quarrel, the Italian Christian Democrats have come to grief, as have the Israeli Labor Party, the Indian Congress Party, and, to some extent, the Liberal Democrats in Japan. The great parties seem to have exhausted themselves or succumbed to the temptations of habitual power. In most parts of the world, economic problems have become sharper as political institutions have become weaker, and the two processes are intimately linked.

Europe's present weakness must be seen in historical perspective. For the better part of this century, Europe's position in the world has shrunk, but the decline has been so gradual and Europe's energy still so remarkable that it has not always been fully realized. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Europe lost its empire but quickly compensated for that loss by unprecedented economic gains - and in the process confounded Marxist critics. Now economic growth has come to falter, and Europe confronts intensified demands for the redistribution of wealth and power - at home and abroad. And with the redistribution of wealth comes a further diminution of European power. The very physiognomy of Europe is changing: in London, the Arab presence is highly visible; at Krupp or Fiat, less visibly, foreign states hold partial ownership.

Weakness has contradictory consequences: it can - and in the case of Europe, did - foster insularity. In the postwar era, even at the time of its great prosperity, the Europeans cherished what Andrew Shonfield so felicitously called "the illusion of privacy." The present disarray could reinforce that insularity and augment it by growing protectionism, but it might also force Europe to become still more involved with the outside world, and not only with the United States. True, European capital has flowed in unprecedented quantities to this country, but exports of the European Economic Community (EEC) to western Asia have jumped by 250 percent in the last three years. Under new conditions, Europe is rediscovering countries that once had claimed its great interest; until 1914, perhaps until 1939, the European countries had appeared in Asia and Africa as imperial masters or at least in a mood of arrogant superiority. The present encounter is taking place under different auspices, indeed in a different world.

The outward thrust of Europe has been its characteristic achievement over the last five centuries. No other civilization has managed to shape the world in its apparent image, burden or bless others with its technology and thought, exploit, murder, nurture, and school other peoples and older civilizations. If we live in a global village, as the cliché has it, that is to a large extent a European achievement, or, put differently, a European creation completed by the North Americans. This partial Europeanization of the world is one of the momentous themes of history; in truth, it shaped Europe as much as it shaped the outside world. What a mixture of motives impelled generations of Europeans, often under horrendous conditions, to seek their destinies or fortunes in torrid and inhospitable places; how much the Europeans must have hidden even from themselves the economic element of their outward thrust, the obvious intent to enrich themselves, in order to have later generations believe that Hobson's and Lenin's narrow emphasis on this one factor could be taken as dogmatic revelation rather than as partial truth. The fact of Europe's expansion is instantly and universally visible; the multifarious causes behind it remain to be fully explored.

In the postwar era, roughly from 1948 to 1973, while the Europeans with more or less dispatch and grace withdrew from empire, the North Atlantic became the great highway for the exchange of people, ideas, innovations and goods. In the shadow of America, Europe receded geographically and recovered economically, but its involvement with the rest of the world had deeper roots and survived the initial shock of decolonization. Under the impact of the oil crisis and the mutual needs of the Europeans and the non-Europeans, the former will again have to become more conscious of the latter - or decline still further.

In the past, Europe's relations with North Africa and Asia have received less attention than its relations with Russia or America. But those relations are likely to assume new importance and their place in the contemporary world must be seen in their historical context. What in fact is left of Europe's presence abroad? What are the ties between ex-imperial and newly independent nations? How strong is the anti-imperialist sentiment among the once colonized peoples? Do these peoples distinguish between European and American influences or do they lump them together as "Western"? What do they want from Europe - and what do they expect? How do they view Europe, its culture and its politics, its present and its future? Or has Europe become irrelevant to them? How great is the coincidence of views or interests within the Third World, and do they have a common attitude toward the ex-imperial powers? In the historic encounter, or collision, of cultures that marks today's world, what role do the non-Europeans envision for the Europeans? Is there a match between foreign expectations and Europe's outlook and probable performance? Or has the end of the old imperialism brought on a new and unprecedented isolationism, which would allow Europeans to maintain economic links but neglect the possibilities of a larger role?

With these and other questions I left Europe in February and embarked on a trip that lasted 14 weeks and took me from Algiers to Tokyo. I wanted to see Europe from afar, from countries that it had once dominated, from monuments that it had once built to its own glory. In all these countries I interviewed a wide range of people: government leaders, officials, journalists, academics, businessmen, casual acquaintances; and everywhere I found a ready, and for my purposes, gratifying concern with Europe. The history of Europe cut across all these countries.

My net was large, but not excessively fine. I hoped that my knowledge of Europe's past would help me to ferret out and understand contemporary facts that would in turn illuminate Europe's present state. I asked people about Europe, and their answers told me something about themselves and their self-perceptions as well. What follows, then, are first and tentative impressions, echoes of conversations, and occasional digressions, as, for example, about human rights in developing nations. Much of this may prove ephemeral, soon to be overtaken by events; that is the risk of addressing contemporary problems. The very fleetingness of impressions prompted this initial account.1


Algiers may be the ideal place to begin a journey out of Europe to Africa and Asia: it conjures up the imperial past and represents the militant post-colonial present. The struggle for Algerian independence was the most embittered of all colonial conflicts. In international forums, Algerians often lead the radical chorus of anti-colonial, anti-Western, anti-Israeli sentiment. Having won independence in years of extraordinary anguish, Algerians feel that they have a mission of leadership in the Third World. When the Egyptians signed the first Sinai disengagement agreement, Boumedienne was angry. An Israeli capture of Cairo, indeed repeated Israeli occupations, would have been preferable to such an agreement. What we need, he said, was "une guerre dure et qui dure." The words were French, the thought was French, the stance was French. A high French diplomat and I talked of the Algerians' national arrogance and pride, and to my remark: "You taught them that," he replied after but a momentary annoyance: "You are right; they are now where we were in 1801, when we thought we had the proper prescription for Europe."

The rhetoric remains militant, even in private: the fury at the rich nations, the threat of wholesale terrorism against tourists in Africa if certain long-term demands are not met. But other and more significant themes predominate: in the development of Algeria, both its subterranean riches and its human potential, pragmatism is the order of the day. Expertise and trade are sought from everywhere. It is a pragmatism tempered by nationalism: the road signs, for so long in French, had just been painted over and replaced by Arabic signs, which some Algerians and most foreigners cannot read. A leading law professor explained to me the three stages of independence: political, economic, and cultural - the third, the end of Western tutelage, of the hegemony of Western newspapers and communications generally, would not come until the 1980s, but it was the most cherished goal of all.

Many of the Algerians I talked with alluded to their country's special role vis-à-vis the Third World. But their own potential richness, which is likely to be realized despite distortions and mismanagement, is at variance with the utter poverty of other African peoples. Their own violent quarrel with Morocco over the Sahara belies the notion of the unity of the Third World. The contrasts within the Third World are almost more striking than the differences between North and South; the accident of oil deposits makes one nation rich and its absence further impoverishes another. In the developed countries, wealth bespeaks effort, innovation, denial; not so in the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia, and the contempt with which Algerians and Egyptians talked of the Saudis was for me a new and surprising variation on the old prejudice against rich parvenus. The Third World exists - whenever it confronts the First; otherwise the rivalries and antagonisms within its camp are immense and explosive.

Unlike their neighbors in the Maghreb - to say nothing of the Egyptians - the Algerians had no great history before French colonization. Their history is the war of independence and their passion their independence. And in that passion they have one foreigner who serves as a heroic model: de Gaulle, who is alive and well and lives in Algiers. Algerians remember de Gaulle as the foe who understood them and who compelled his compatriots to accept the unacceptable, i.e., the independence of Algeria. (On the rest of my trip I was to discover how much of a mythical figure de Gaulle had become for the entire world and how often his example of moral authority is evoked. In death, it would seem, he vanquished Roosevelt and Churchill, who in life had thwarted his presumption.) Algerians have a Gaullist vision of politics: the dream of a certain grandeur mixed with an unsentimental, tough, even amoral, pragmatism. They remember his authoritarian leadership, and they cherish his vision of an independent France in an independent Europe: they see in him - wrongly, I think - a proponent of their nonalignment policy. A Gaullist Europe, they think, would be a Europe free of American predominance, and such a Europe would necessarily cultivate closer ties with the Arab and African world.

The more ideological elements in Algeria see Europe as an American satellite, with America, the military giant and political reactionary, stifling the "progressive," that is to say radically socialist elements in Europe. Their own dream is a free Europe, or at least a Mediterranean belt without any military bases. In short, some Algerians would like the Europeans to free themselves from American tutelage - while they themselves draw closer to America. The American presence in Algiers is steadily growing, often at the expense of the French; an Algerian professor observed that America is at once "so far and too close." At the moment the Algerians are expanding their commercial ties to the United States and to West Germany, not by choice but by necessity, and in part because the French, so I was told, still think of Algeria as a chasse guardée, as their own turf, and hence expect the Algerians still to give them preferential terms and treatment. The ties between Algeria and France remain very strong, even if their political relations have deteriorated sharply; the Algerians will continue to accept French preeminence in medicine, for example, or French coopérants in Algerian education, but in economic matters they will behave as rationally as any capitalistic country: they will buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market.

The physiognomy of Algiers remains French; at one time, it must have looked and felt like any French city on the Mediterranean. But the population of Algiers has tripled since independence, partly because of the influx from the countryside that swarmed into the abandoned French dwellings and partly as the result of a very high birth rate. The population of Algeria is a third that of France; last year the number of births in both countries was the same. To some Algerians, this suggests dynamism as opposed to decadence.

But there is a price to pay. Algiers today is run down, over-crowded and undercleaned, the drab result of individual neglect and state ownership. It is a kind of East European socialism - among palms. After the terrors of war, the Algerians have gone through a decade of belt-tightening in order to build up their industrial base. At the moment there seems some grumbling that after all these years of sacrifices, life is still so difficult. In February, an election had to be postponed because of unanticipated dissatisfactions.

Algeria's natural resources, on the other hand, are so great that it probably can afford its socialism and its wasteful ambitions - but its very resources make it anything but a model for the Third World. Its present difficulties underscore the need for pragmatism: the Algerians are ready to accept aid from all systems and will become less adventuresome in foreign affairs.

One last word about the Algerians: they suffered terrible, tangible hardships under the French; the benefits received were often intangible and indirect. Today's generation is not interested in drawing up a balance sheet of benefits and injuries. There is remarkably little actual resentment against the French. Habits and feelings seem to belie rhetoric. True, political relations with France are clouded right now; the teaching of French recedes. The Algerians complain that their compatriots working in France suffer from all kinds of discrimination and exploitation. Neither de Gaulle's hope that Algeria would become France's bridge to the Third World nor the Algerian hope that France would become its bridge to Europe is very much alive today. But the cultural and scientific links remain: Le Monde is read every afternoon; there is widespread hope that a left-wing government in France will show greater understanding of Algeria than Giscard's regime has. A high official of the Algerian Foreign Ministry told me that perhaps no two people know each other as intimately as do the Algerians and the French; they know each other's pensées et arrière-pensées. "We fought the system, never the French," he added. There are quarrels galore between the French and the Algerians; what is surprising - especially in light of the anti-imperialist crusade - is the residue of mutual regard and respect. Even each other's weaknesses are recognized as common traits.


To go from Algiers to Cairo is to go from an unrealized future to a great, declining past. In Algiers, people are cold but hopeful; in Cairo, I found them warm, hospitable and despondent. I arrived in Cairo a few weeks after the January food riots, riots that had spontaneously erupted after the government had imposed higher prices on essential foodstuffs. The police proved helpless - for whatever reason, perhaps even sneaking sympathy with the strikers; in the end the army had to be called in, and the ensuing violence and the immediate rescinding of the price rise attested to the government's weakness. It was a great shock to President Sadat, which he quickly and deceptively blamed on the communists.

The riots were the backdrop to rampant pessimism. Cairo's faltering services epitomize the difficulties of the Egyptian economy: strained beyond endurance, encumbered by incompetence. Cairo, too, has had its population more than doubled in recent years, while housing and services, far from expanding, deteriorate under neglect and wear. (I was told of a commuter, of below average height, who suddenly realized that he was going to suffocate in the underground train, and bit the hand of the person closest to him - who instantly pulled away; the person then hit the offender, but that was several life-saving breaths later.) The Egyptians need help; and the Saudis are keeping them on a short leash. The United States has also extended aid, and at Sadat's request Bonn has sent a former finance minister to be his personal economic adviser. The Egyptians I talked with saw little hope for improvement; one of them sighed that Alexandria used to be like Nice, Cairo like Paris, and soon the two are going to be like Bombay and Calcutta - and all of Egypt a Bangladesh. Elegiacal evocations of doom? Or a reflection of oppressive reality: 80 percent of a growing population are living on four percent of the land. Many Egyptians emigrate, and the most skilled lead the way to Canada or to the richer Arab states that can employ and reward their services. The rich in Egypt, on the other hand, are very rich - and very new; they have the most elaborate and expensive weddings in the Hilton. The discrepancy between affluent and poor nations is recreated, so to speak, in the life of most undeveloped countries.

The Egyptians are dependent on foreign help, as they have been frequently in their history. And how often one is reminded, physically and rhetorically, that this is indeed a great historic civilization. Asked about their relations with Europe - a subject that is close to their minds - Egyptians often responded with a discourse on Egypt's history. The Egyptians have several identities, and they can move easily from one to another: they can claim their Pharaonic descent, their old civilization that had first established a centralized state; they can identify themselves with the Arab world at large; or they can assert their Mediterranean identity, i.e., their belonging to a Mediterranean culture, linking Europe and North Africa, but especially Egypt, in a cultural entity.

I was in Cairo at the time of the most recent EEC-Arab dialogue; the Arabs wanted to talk politics, i.e., Israel, while the Europeans stuck to economic issues and cultural exchanges, such as the diffusion of European television. And still the Arabs, and most especially the Egyptians, want a European dialogue and feel that in time their relations with Europe will have to become stronger: history and geography dictate it, the present economic conjuncture compels it, and the Arabs want it.

In part they want it as a defense against America, the superpower, the pervasive presence, the smothering influence. In a way, Europe is a lesser and hence more acceptable America; technologically and culturally it is considered at once model and enemy, loved and hated, but in some ways it is commensurate with Egyptians or with Arabs generally. Educated Arabs have been to Europe, they know Europeans, their parents dealt with Europeans; the Europeans are a known quantity, in all their cupidity and culture. The Egyptians, like the Algerians, would like to have the Europeans detach themselves to some extent from the Americans, both for immediate tactical reasons, i.e., to enlist their support against Israel, and for more general, long-range purposes. As a leading Egyptian official and self-proclaimed inventor of the oil weapon said to me: "Arab oil is an inducement to the Europeans to pursue closer relations." Inducement is a euphemism for bribery or coercion, but the Arabs know that the Europeans need not only their oil, but their petrodollars, their immense markets, and, perhaps, their cheap labor. How can the Europeans resist?

The anti-American element in this Gaullist dream is unmistakable. It is an odd anti-Americanism that acknowledges American help, Kissinger's successful efforts at serving both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and American amiability as against European remoteness or hauteur. But there remains the boundless suspicion of American power, power that can compel the Europeans, power that could coerce the Egyptians in the form of "wheat colonialism," i.e., the imposition for political or retaliatory reasons of an embargo on the export of wheat, which is indispensable to Egyptian survival. Better, then, the predatory powers of the past than the superpower of the present, whatever its beneficent record or pretense. This fear of America and the consequent attentiveness to Europe, which also includes a dash of second-hand European cultural snobbery vis-à-vis America, will survive, I believe, even the Arab-Israeli conflict; it will last as long as America is a superpower and it may become stronger if a left-wing Europe tries to pull closer to the Third World.


Cairo and Jerusalem are 20 minutes direct by air or some eight hours via Athens, but even the longer journey does not prepare one for the difference. Cairo is a swarming, bustling metropolis, in some ways reminiscent of New York; Jerusalem has a haunting serenity, a small city, nurtured as an oasis by Mayor Teddy Kollek's sense of the beautiful and his grasp of the practical. Jerusalem is a city of faiths and conquests, of history that belongs to all the great religions of the world; it tells of change, and its present occupants see themselves in part as caretakers and they wish to excel in that role - which will earn them the further anger, not the approbation, of the dispossessed Arabs.

A beautiful and seemingly prosperous city, but underneath its calm the Israelis are somber. Theirs is a mood derived less, I felt, from the precariousness of Israel's external position, the pressures its people are exposed to, than from an internal malaise, at once tangible and intangible. Israel has pressing economic problems: a vast deficit, an unfavorable balance of trade, a galloping inflation, an unwillingness to accept the burden of austerity reflected in a succession of strikes that the government is unable to control, and a slowdown of the economy. And two danger signals: scandals and mounting emigration, the latter a subject that is perhaps the most painful to Israelis. The revelations of corruption were the equivalent shocks in Israel to the riots of Cairo. Israeli scholars talked of a generational crisis, of a social unrest that would take a long time to overcome.

The Jews of Europe settled Palestine; the Oriental Jews, refugees from neighboring Arab countries, now constitute a majority of the population. But East European Jewry still sets the dominant note in public life, and hence Europe has a special meaning for Israelis - quite aside from the tremendous importance for Israel of the EEC market. European anti-Semitism was the catalyst of Zionism: the dream of a homeland for oneself, of Zion redeemed, was nurtured by decades of Czarist persecution and finally realized because of Hitler's attempted extermination of European Jewry. In the pre-Hitler period, the Zionist movement lived precariously by the material and political support of Western-assimilated Jewry. The conversion of a partial homeland into the autonomous state of Israel, duly recognized by all the powers of Europe, was made possible, indeed inevitable, by the aftermath of the holocaust; the conscience of the world found Israel a moral convenience, slighting for a moment the fact that from the Arabs' or Palestinians' point of view the easing of European consciences was done at their expense. Were they to expiate the blood that Europeans had so mercilessly spilled?

For some years, the relations between Israel and Europe were exceptionally close. But this changed in the aftermath of 1967, and even more radically during the oil crisis of 1973-1974, and subsequently. The oil embargo had taught the Europeans their vulnerability, and their initial response, led by the French, was to court the Arabs - and blame the Israelis. Europe has been a great disappointment to the Israelis - which they quickly explicated to themselves by a cynical reminder that the Europeans had ever been ready to sacrifice their Jews. The Israelis can understand the exigencies of survival; they can understand amoral selfishness. What pains them is that they think Europe's piecemeal submission to the Arabs is going to harm the Israelis without helping the Europeans. (I was told, for example, that the Dutch pay less for their oil than the overeager French.) And what outrages them is the moral posturing of the Europeans. The Israelis resent European lecturing on the wrongs of annexationism - as if the history of Europe had not been a record of competitive rapacity.

The Israelis, moreover, are astonished at what they deem to be universal hypocrisy at their expense. Thus, the efforts of some socialist parties in Europe to admit Arab socialist parties to the Second International appalled Israeli socialists: Could the Europeans really pretend that the Arab parties were democratic?

But the root of the matter is that the Israelis want unconditional support, while the Europeans have given conditional support to the Arabs. The gap between Israeli expectation and European performance is growing.

The Israelis recognize their isolation - and between present isolation and past persecution they tend to dismiss a little too readily the strictures from abroad as evidence of foreign failings (cravenness, oil expediency, reemergent anti-Semitism) rather than as utterances that may reflect sympathy or historically conditioned apprehensions. Embattled groups easily succumb to thinking: who is not for me is against me, but imperviousness to criticism is probably a luxury that even great powers cannot afford. It is one of the ironies of the Israeli predicament that a people thought dominant in mass communications has in fact been losing the battle for public opinion. The Israelis are quick simultaneously to ignore criticism and to bank on a reservoir of goodwill among the peoples of Europe. But some criticism in Europe springs from the anguish of friends - and hence deserves Israeli scrutiny, not contemptuous dismissal.

But Europe still matters to the Israelis and matters desperately: isolated as they are, it is the only "neighbor" they have. There remains a kinship and there remains a cultural and scientific partnership; Europe is Israel's largest trading partner and the chief ally of Israel's sole ally. For reasons of sentiment and practical survival, Europe must remain a major element in Israel's future.

I asked a well-known Israeli general about his assessment of Europe, and his instant reply was that "Europe's main contribution today would be its own survival." He ended a long interview by calling NATO's defensive strategy a sin - only a superior power can afford such a strategy; inferior forces must plan an offensive defense in case of attack. The two statements together bespeak Israeli concern (which, as we will see, others share) that Europe has succumbed to prosperity, has become unwilling to take risks anymore, politically or militarily. Israelis acknowledge the same exception that other observers make; only the Germans are strong, with a will to defend themselves. It is an ironic acknowledgment, and the counterpart to a remark that Helmut Schmidt made to a Dutch industrialist, to the effect that the German army was the second best in the world - second only to the Israelis.

The Europeans continue to matter, but on the crucial issues of war, peace and security, they are marginal; most Israelis would say they have a negative impact, as nations which encourage Arab ambitions and which put pressure on America to put pressure on the Israelis. The Europeans matter in another way: their history and the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict are deeply and tragically interwoven. Both Arabs and Jews feel themselves to have been perpetual victims of history, exploited and oppressed by their former European masters, and their recollections of past injuries foster suspicions and fears that diminish their willingness to gamble on peace.

Almost my last interview was with a former Israeli general, who believed strongly in the possibilities of peace but wondered whether any Israeli government could convince its people of the need for certain concessions: "Perhaps we need a de Gaulle, but none is in sight."

An Israeli de Gaulle: in some ways an enticing and not a totally improbable vision, nor one devoid of irony. But in the meantime, the mood is bleak - despite and perhaps because of all the optimism generated elsewhere.


"East of Suez" the British used to call the legendary region that stretched from the Arabian Peninsula to the eastern shore of the Indian Ocean and beyond. In times past, the British had a paramount role in that region; now it is a cluster of independent states, in the throes of uneven development, jealous of their independence and desirous of foreign know-how.

Most countries are developing, even the advanced ones, but there is a special rhythm and contortion to those countries that seek to make a sudden leap from traditional to industrial ways. Europe suffered the anguish of modernization, the painful adjustment to industrial capitalism. The Luddites in England, the strikes of Germinal, the sacrifices of early socialists - all these recall the horrors of dislocation and exploitation. But in our own time the pace is quicker, the trauma and the exhilaration of development even more extraordinary. The East - in our traditional perspective, a realm of mystery and meditation - has sprung to hectic life, and with incredible speed seems bent on erecting islands of modernity in its midst. One has to see Tehran or Singapore to understand the new pace.

Iran epitomizes the possibilities and the strains of change. Iran is rich, perhaps unimaginably rich; it has oil and gas and, recently discovered, vast reserves of copper. It is in the throes of a gold rush, and Tehran is a boom city - with all the attendant excitement, promise, and squalor. The wealth of Iran draws thousands, probably tens of thousands of foreigners to its midst: a motley group of technicians, salesmen, soldiers; most are adventurers after profit, and their restraints weaken as their appetites expand. West Europeans, Americans, Japanese, Russians, Indians and all the rest compete for profitable contracts; corruption is a much-lamented phenomenon of contemporary Iran (and elsewhere) and one that foreigners abet.

There are few regimes in the world that are as detested in Western eyes and especially in the Western press as Iran's. It has become a kind of Chile of the East. Perhaps it is the combination of wealth and repression, of boundless military spending (strenuously solicited by the arms suppliers of the world) and human wretchedness that arouses such hatred. The most outrageous of all violations of human rights - torture - was once routinely exercised; critics of the regime, both Iranians and Westerners, told me that it had ceased to be an instrument of policy. Still, people think any deviation from the prescribed condemnation of the Shah's regime suspect.2 Western consciousness seems unable or unwilling to grasp the other side of the Shah's regime, a side that his domestic critics acknowledge: the regime is trying to raise the conditions of the people; its reforms in landholding and its provisions for workers' share in industry have earned it the opprobrium of the Right, further deepened by the regime's disregard of fundamentalist religious objections to modernization. Talk to any foreign diplomat in Tehran or to many American experts who have had dealings with the Shah, and the impression conveyed is that of an enormously hard-working, brilliantly informed, shrewd statesman, perhaps the most serious ruler on a throne today. Some of his critics at home say that despite all his faults, he is indispensable; no better, viable alternative is imaginable. In his ambition to make Iran a modern society - not only in its military posture but in the opportunities supplied to its people - he reminds one of Kemal Atatürk, whose example in fact had inspired the Shah's father.

The Iranians have had a long history of contact with the Europeans, especially with the British and the French; their judgment of European capabilities is informed and consequential. As an economic presence, Germany today is preeminent among the European partners of Iran. Iran has, in fact, acquired a major interest in Krupp, a further tangible stake in European affairs.

I talked with one Iranian leader, whose perception of Europe was reluctantly gloomy. He saw Europe as a sick, permissive society, in which certain interest groups - the British labor unions, for example - had a stranglehold on government. Minorities rule, majorities suffer; is that democracy? Is there not a crisis of legitimacy in European governments? No doubt there is a self-serving aspect to such an observation, but it is a common one in the East, and one at times made more in sorrow than in anger. Europeans still have a tremendous concentration of technological, scientific know-how, but their power is inadequately deployed. Their defense effort is risible. America has suffered great reverses as well; in its present mood would it honor its obligations, would it even defend its most immediate interests if defense implied a nuclear war?

Western weakness, however, was not set off against Soviet strength and aggressiveness. The picture of the U.S.S.R. - with which Iran has a border of 1,300 miles - was remarkably calm: the U.S.S.R. has such difficulties at home that it was unlikely to take military advantage of Western disarray. But the West's naive sentiments could offer the Soviets enticing possibilities. A Palestinian state, for example, as now advocated by some in the West, would be a Frankenstein monster that would bring instability to the entire Middle East. In this perspective, a Palestinian state would be a threat not so much to Israel (it could protect itself) as it would be to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, two countries that are as rich as they are vulnerable to subversion. A communist-infiltrated Kuwait or Saudi Arabia would alter the physiognomy of the Middle East and the oil economy of the world.


I came to India during the electoral campaign - in time to witness that extraordinary tribute to Western forms of legitimacy, an election that would decide whether a British-style democracy could govern a subcontinent. It was a historic moment, and the Indians, their volubility previously curbed by Mrs. Gandhi's Emergency, now discussed politics with the greatest intensity. They saw the elections as a fundamental confrontation between the claims of authority and the elemental rights of the people. Mrs. Gandhi's supporters argued that the Emergency had been necessary to save India from economic collapse; some went further and questioned whether liberal democracy anywhere (including Europe) could cope with inflation and unemployment. Many a comfortable Indian and many a thoughtful Westerner agreed with Mrs. Gandhi's dictatorial response. On the other side, the opposition breathed outrage - at the indignities that the Emergency had brought about, at the corrupt Sanjay Gandhi's rise to power and at the brutality with which he and the government pursued the sterilization program.

Yet there had been little overt resistance to the Emergency - something that seems to have surprised everyone alike. One of my most moving interviews was with Romesh Thapar, the publisher of Seminar, who was appalled by the ease with which India had slipped into dictatorship, the rapidity with which friends had shunned him on the street, as he became known as the regime's enemy. The first issue of Seminar after the Emergency had been temporarily lifted for the election - and at a time when no one could know whether it would not be reimposed if Mrs. Gandhi were to win - was devoted to European fascism and its ready acceptance in some European countries. The lesson was clear: Indians should harbor no false idea of immunity. Again, the history of Europe provides the political vocabulary of the present.

It would take extreme temerity to attempt even a discussion of the continued presence of Britain in India today. A few remarks must suffice: many Indians suggested that the very outrage against the Emergency attested Indians' attachment to British customs; others smiled at this all-too-intellectual explanation. But in a hundred ways - of which language is but the fundamental element - the British presence lingers on, and a few Indians expressed something akin to regret that the British had formally departed. On the other hand, I was told that when Mrs. Gandhi contemplated the Emergency, she had aides check into the possibility of abandoning the Westminster model and embracing a version of de Gaulle's constitution for the Fifth Republic. (Again the General remains a force and active myth.)

The Indians I talked with were very much aware of Britain's present malady, but without much Schadenfreude. They regret its decline, and some Indians blame it on British socialism, on which they themselves were largely nurtured. They are aware of the racial antagonism that Indian immigrants encounter in Britain - and it troubles them. For the rest, they have a remote sense of Europe's economic travails, but are far more impressed by Europe's unfathomable wealth, revealed by its scientific expertise and by its standard of living, especially as compared to India's poverty and mounting unemployment. Many Indians I talked with had a curiously naive faith in technology; as long as Europe had its technological superiority, it could solve all its problems.

The Indians have a - perhaps symptomatic - ambivalence about the modern world. On the one hand, they are immensely proud of their own scientific and technological achievements; in some fields, they successfully compete in export markets with the Europeans and the Americans. A German diplomat told me that Indian nuclear medicine was superior to Germany's. For the rest, they have an amazing adaptive skill that enables them to manufacture improved versions of foreign goods. In the belly of India there is a modern France, it has been said; in other words, about ten percent of the Indian population lives and works in the modern world. The rest live in conditions ranging from primitive privation to the pre-modern forms of rural survival. For them older traditions prevail. Seen in that perspective, India is a study in historical geology, with layers reaching into the remote past; India lives simultaneously in many centuries and amidst vast discrepancies.

The Indian elite, even more than the elites of other countries, tends to be educated abroad, and if they are not physically educated abroad, they are spiritually raised in another culture. The English near-monopoly on educating Indians has been broken, especially by America and in the technical and professional fields. Students return with strange reactions; as one journalist put it, from Lumumba University in Moscow they return as conservatives and from Harvard as "flaming radicals." In the old, imperial days, to become, in Macaulay's phrase, a "brown Englishman" was a badge of distinction; now it is the source of deep misgivings. One minister in Mrs. Gandhi's government recalled having been brought up in Indian schools on Shelley and Wordsworth, even though the two were irrelevant to Indian life; their laments about the bleakness of winter meant nothing to people to whom winter is the loveliest season. The theme recurred in many conversations: "The books on my shelf alienate me from my brothers and sisters," said a journalist, and the director of a training institute for administration put it succinctly: "My education is my alienation."

It is probably always galling to be dependent, but to be dependent on a civilization that you adjudge to be inadequate or spiritually inferior may be particularly galling. The Indians are ambivalent about the West and resent its indifference to them. They want to be understood, but "understanding" precludes criticism.3 The Europeans, they think, understand them better than the Americans, who grate on Indians because of their "ostentatious affluence," their easy manner, their occasional swagger, their often-pretended lack of learning. The Indians still have a reservoir of fashionable Left Bank prejudices against the Americans, who, as one Indian gentleman put it to me, "are a phenomenon beyond our range." An Indian political scientist remarked of his compatriots: "The country they love is England, and the country they hanker after is the United States." Only the Punjabi, the buccaneer element in India, can appreciate the hustling American. Here, too, every American carries the burden of supreme power with him; Europeans invest; Americans dominate. With a moral insouciance that has driven many an American frantic, an Indian minister explained to me: "Anti-communism is boring."

But the Europeans do neglect India. Over the years the Soviet Union and the East European states have sent a steady stream of flattering missions. The West Europeans exude indifference - at the very time when the Indians crave to be recognized as the world's most populous democracy, as the most Western of the Third World countries, as a potential bridge between the First and the Third Worlds, between East and West. Some Indians were appalled by the term "industrial democracies," which Henry Kissinger had coined in order to expand the list of the virtuous beyond the West so as to include Japan - and perhaps inadvertently to exclude India.

I often asked people whether they saw any models of development in the world; the answer was no, but one Indian remarked to me: "Only India, China, and Japan know what problems are." It was in many ways an arrogant and perhaps, unconsciously, a "racist" statement: the white man is too rich, the black man too poor, to know what problems are. But one can readily acknowledge that India's problems and achievements are staggering and portentous.


There is a range of East Asian states in which authoritarian, conservative governments are promoting profound economic and social transformations. These states, and most especially the countries belonging to the ASEAN bloc in Southeast Asia, have dynamic economies and fragile polities. East Asia is the fastest growing region of the world; as such it has intimate and expanding links with the industrial world.

The largest country of the region is Indonesia, and its huge potential wealth is the magnet that draws swarms of foreigners to its shores. Its recent history has been turbulent: the older generation remembers Dutch rule and Japanese occupation, followed by the anti-communist coup of the mid-1960s. The upheavals of the past strengthen the regime's determination to maintain independence and stability at all costs.

A prominent Indonesian statesman, now in retirement, remarked that from Indonesia Europe was remote, "alternately a ghost or an angel." The Dutch presence appears in both guises: the ghost of colonial rule is almost as pervasive as it is in Algeria. It begins of course with the language: "Our thinking is Dutch, even our English is Dutch in the sense that we think first in Dutch and then in English." The Dutch had been the funnel through which European ideas had entered Indonesia. Now Dutch is being rapidly replaced by English, and the days when Sukarno would lapse into Dutch at critical points in a Cabinet meeting are long forgotten. The Dutch influence on medicine and on the administrative and educational institutions persists. Nor are the Dutch heedless of their present responsibilities: they are returning some of the archaeological treasures that their scientists and settlers had collected and then shipped home to Holland; these tangible tokens of the spirit are not negligible. Holland's chairmanship of the intergovernmental agency for aid to Indonesia is a still more important contribution in Indonesian eyes. Holland, on the other hand, has been too weak to exert pressure in the EEC or elsewhere on behalf of its ex-colony, as the French and British have done for theirs, notably in the Lomé Convention.

The Indonesians I talked with seemed remarkably free of anti-Dutch sentiment; there was even some nostalgia for the good old days of Dutch rule. A Dutch diplomat praised the Indonesians' lack of resentment against the Dutch, which, he said, could serve as a model for the latter as regards their feelings toward the Germans. Not that relations between Holland and Indonesia have always been smooth since independence; they were embittered by the dispute over West Irian, and at present the fact that the Dutch Left has been critical of aid because of Indonesia's repressive regime has aroused concern. The Indonesians, I was told, are more sensitive to Dutch than to European criticism generally. The hold of former tutelage is peculiarly strong and lasting.

The Dutch are losing and their European partners are gaining ground in Indonesia. The Germans are in first place among the Europeans; the French, however, staged a most elaborate exhibition of their industrial and technological products. Like Iran, Indonesia is a battleground for commercial rivals from all over the world. The struggle for markets will be particularly intense in these few developing islands of wealth, where competition and corruption unfortunately go hand in hand.

Indonesia has a modern veneer, which stirs thoughts about how thin the modern layer is in most developing countries. The Jakarta skyscrapers are an anomaly: they obstruct one's view of what essentially remains a traditional world. One should remember that in the last century in, say, Britain or France the same partial and surface modernization took place; for a long time, the French peasant remained closer to his remote ancestor than to his Parisian or industrial contemporaries.

Iranian fears of European enfeeblement were echoed in East Asia - and especially in Singapore - that booming city-state with its multiracial population, with its official ideology of a special brand of socialism and its reality of a special brand of capitalism, i.e., one that works. Singapore is the banking metropolis of the East and thus is exceptionally well versed in European affairs.

Its post-independence face has probably changed more drastically than that of any ex-colonial city in the world. Once a bastion of the Empire, it witnessed the ignominy of Britain's sudden collapse. Like the Shah of Iran, the long-time Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, has some fervent admirers among Western statesmen - and his fierce detractors. The Singapore leaders, keen observers of the world with which they trade, are also apprehensive about a Europe in disarray and an America in its post-Vietnam mood of retrenchment and withdrawal. In East Asia, too, Eurocommunism is regarded as a grave danger, even if few leaders would quite accept the Chinese position that the Italian or the French Communist Parties represent but a new form of Soviet expansionism and revisionism. Concerned Asians argue that Western defenses are precarious enough without having communists - with whatever ambiguity they must feel about a conflict between the superpowers - in seats of power.

There is a fierce and, no doubt, partially self-serving anti-communism among some developing nations; leaders there see liberal reformers as potential (or, as the Stalinists would say, "objective") communists; on the other hand, they have seen the reality of communist subversion. And the more they are afraid of radical unrest whether of the Qaddafi kind or of a less specific communist variety, the more they are worried about Europe, so strong in scientific achievement, so weak in its internal and external defenses. At times the worry is spiced with contempt: speaking of European deference to the Arabs on account of oil, a Singapore leader said: "For Europeans, the worst thing is to go without butter; for others, the worst thing is not to be able to eat for a second or third day." And for many Asian leaders there is the fear that a Europe further weakened or frightened could resort to protectionism, which would have the most deleterious consequences for East Asia.

Many of these countries have had direct or proximate experience of communist subversion; earlier they had the most painful experience of Japanese occupation. They are jealous of their independence. Afraid and relatively isolated, they have adopted repressive regimes; often enough, they fight terrorism with a preemptive terror of their own.

This is true of Indonesia and of Singapore, which was described to me as a "smiling dictatorship"; to opposition leaders in prison, the adjective may seem a travesty. It certainly is a cautious regime; the works of Mao are allowed in English, not in Chinese; Marxism-Leninism is not taught at the university. Even a prominent businessman cum diplomat had seen his son imprisoned as a dangerous radical; he thought the arrest a superzealous aberration in the necessary fight for stability.

As one discusses this problem in Indonesia and Singapore - and in Iran - the Carter Administration's concern for human rights hovers in the background; it will have - and already has had - a considerable impact in countries like Singapore and Indonesia. I could not avoid feeling that the concern should be accompanied by an informed solicitude about the special problems and achievements of the countries in question, and by a firmer demonstration of our concern for Third World economic conditions. Developing countries argue with some force that before human rights can be securely established, indigenous progress in other fields must be made, as was the case in Europe and America. More specifically, our often pious generalities about human rights need at the core a specific statement of the minimal conditions that we think should be universally binding - such as the abolition of torture. It is likely that by virtue of our new policy the prisons of our friends and dependents will become emptier and perhaps less brutal, while the prisons of our chief adversaries may become still more crowded and degraded.4 The weak we can compel; the strong we affront.


I came to Japan in April, at a time when the Japanese had suddenly become conscious of their sharply deteriorating relations with Europe. For nearly a century before the Japanese surrendered to the Americans, the European influence in Japan had transformed that country. No country not of European stock had so completely adapted Western techniques - and to some extent, Western thought - as had the Japanese. The American occupation displaced the European hold and for the last 30 years America has been the preeminent presence; geographically much closer than Europe, it is also the guarantor of Japan's security. In those years, Europe became a remote, if important, trading partner; the principal connection for both Europe and Japan was America, but the connections between America's chief allies were weak. Trilateralism was an attempt to create a link that did not exist. America remains the hinge of the free world.

Japan suffered the Nixon shock of 1971 and the oil shock of 1973; both shocks made it more conscious of its vulnerabilities. Japan is totally dependent on Middle Eastern oil, even more than Western Europe. Shaken, Japan concentrated on what it could do best. The country that had audaciously exported cameras to Germany, watches to Switzerland, cars and TV's to America, ships to Britain, and textiles to all, now redoubled its efforts at exports - in order to earn in America and Europe the extra fare it had to pay in the Middle East. But the Japanese miracle threatened to boomerang; the industrial countries were unwilling to see Japan expand its exports at the expense of their own adverse balance of payments; this year the United States and the EEC are likely to run a deficit of $45 billion, while Japan is expected to earn a surplus.

Under pressure from abroad, and especially from the Europeans, the Japanese cut back. In unprecedented harshness, the EEC formally criticized Japanese commercial policies; the informal howl was even greater. The Japanese made some concessions and came to understand the fragility of the weakest European economies, such as Britain's and Italy's. They also understood the force of the European argument that Japan should divert some of its resources to building up its own infrastructure and cleaning up its own environment, physical and social.

But the Japanese resented the European clamor. Suddenly they thought that the Europeans were harking back to "the yellow peril," a slur that the Japanese are particularly sensitive to. They imagined that the world was again talking of the "ugly Japanese," and they minded the half-admiring, half-awed depiction that had suddenly become popular in the West - that of an island people tirelessly and a little unfairly working at Japan, Inc.

The Japanese rediscovered Europe at a moment of mutual anger; it was not an auspicious beginning to a new dialogue. The Japanese made what they thought were important concessions, both by cutting back on their exports and by easing the influx of European imports. They sponsored technical discussions and political conferences in order to build new bridges. But European grievances remain, as does Japan's capacity for exports. Even if restraints on exports to Europe continue, the competition in third markets will grow more intense. (The Europeans will also discover the full weight of competition from what have been called the mini-Japans, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.)

The Japanese are puzzled by this storm, perhaps more puzzled than they should be. They are not used to thinking of themselves as an economic giant, and the discrepancy between their achievement and their self-confidence remains extraordinarily great. It leads them to exaggerate European hostility; as one Japanese remarked, the Europeans would like our whole island to be submerged in the sea. It nurtures their own critical attitude toward the Europeans.

The Japanese have a nostalgia for European culture; they would like to reknit cultural ties that once were so close. But they are also exasperated by what they regard as Europe's decline into a museum of culture, into "an old men's home," whose inhabitants are content to live out their remaining days with whatever comfort they can find. They believe that the Europeans are morose, "dying spiritually and economically," unwilling to work, unwilling to compete or collaborate. Underneath the strictures remains the desire for good relations with Europe, for a better understanding with partners once considered inspiriting models.

The Japanese are uneasy about their economic future, worried about America's simultaneous retrenchment (the withdrawal from Korea) and renewed assertiveness (the veto on nuclear breeders). They are and feel isolated; America is remote and puzzling, Russia and China are close and ominous. The Europeans and the Americans may resort to ever greater crypto- or open protectionism, thus putting in jeopardy Japan's export markets. In East Asia, the Japanese still encounter residual resentment left over from the wartime days of the "co-prosperity sphere." Their own political structures are undergoing change, and they worry lest economic setbacks could tear their social fabric, as exemplified by the unique relations between industry and labor. In this mood of worried isolation, they wish to reach back to their own roots, to preserve and strengthen what is quintessentially Japanese in their culture.


From afar, Europe is still perceived as a giant, if, to many observers, a wounded giant. It remains the world's principal market, with an immense capacity for technological and intellectual innovation that is a great potential resource to developing countries; its free, liberal institutions still hold and still retain their appeal. The very fact that the Nine have adopted common commercial codes, that they tend to speak with one voice in commercial matters, and with coordinated voices on political issues, gives Europe greater weight. In recent years, the Europeans have given more aid to the developing world than has the United States. The critics of Europe abroad - and there are many - do not doubt Europe's capacity; it is its political will and stability they question.

The legacy of European imperialism is far more ambiguous than official anti-imperialist rhetoric would lead one to expect. For the Europeans, it is at once an obstacle and an opportunity. Bitterness remains, but anti-imperialism as ideology may be stronger today in the lecture halls of Western universities than in the hearts of Indonesians or Indians. And as between Europe and the United States, it is the latter that is the focus of anti-imperialism today - however ironic that may seem when one recalls the record of U.S. pressures on Europe to decolonize.5

For the Europeans today, to find a proper stance and policy, both in private and official contacts, will not be an easy task. If the Europeans were to resume their habits of authority and arrogance, they would quickly reap a new harvest of hatred. But the past could become a bridge to a new future; there is a residue of mutual understanding that could become a striking asset in the world. A more balanced view of the imperial past might help to chart the proper course for the future. The Europeans committed atrocities in their empires, made easier by their conviction that these atrocites were visited on "lesser breeds." But there was more to imperialism than that, and the Europeans - and their American relations - would perhaps find their bearings today more easily if they had a more complicated sense of the past.

We live in a world without models; no nation today has the universal presumption that in earlier times power and ideological attractiveness conveyed. After 1945, the United States served as such a model, and thought of itself as playing that role. We lost our interest in that role and our self-confidence in the anguish of Vietnam and Watergate and in the revelations of injustice, corruption, waste and pollution in our own society. The U.S.S.R. lost its appeal a long time ago, and China is a model only for those observers who cherish the promise of equality and overlook the reality of coercive uniformity. Nor have the developing nations found a model among themselves.

In such an eclectic and pragmatic world the Europeans, more accustomed to overseas roles than ourselves, may have a new role to play. There is today not only a universal search for economic betterment but for a kind of psychic and intellectual identity. People want the necessities of the modern era while retaining the values of their autonomous past. The Europeans will appear in the developing world as traders, perhaps as tutors of technology. But long acquaintance with formerly subject peoples may also give them a better appreciation of some of the spiritual longings that are astir today. They may develop that "understanding" which so many of the peoples of the world - or their educated leaders - seem to crave.

There is perhaps little reason to discriminate between European and American efforts in this endeavor - except one: the world distrusts superpowers. The Europeans have shrunk to the dimensions of some of their former dependencies; they are perceived to be less of a threat than the Americans. Put differently, the imperialism of the past causes less resentment today than the sway of American power.

Paradoxically, then, Europe's relative weakness may also be a source of strength. The Europeans may find that they have intangible as well as tangible assets in countries that for some time now they have neglected. If they do play a larger role in these countries - and there are some signs of that - they will be closely watched for signs of neo-imperialism by peoples jealous of their independence; in turn, the other powers, notably the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan, will worry about too pronounced a European hold. Commercial rivalries in developing countries are bound to get much fiercer. The Europeans will encounter foreign criticism; in their cultural efforts they will be rebuffed by some indigenous groups. But a new European presence, larger in both material and cultural terms, is possible and would be consonant both with Europe's past and with the temper of the times. Despite and to some extent because of Europe's present disarray, its outward thrust is likely to grow stronger.


1 My travels in North Africa and Asia are part of a larger inquiry: the writing of a book on present-day Europe, with particular emphasis on Europe's destiny abroad. I am grateful to the Ford Foundation not only for supporting this study but for having provided me with all manner of indispensable assistance in the trip here discussed.

2 Is this revulsion perhaps nurtured from far more sinister quarters? A most fair-minded and well-informed British historian recently remarked that an organized press campaign against the Shah had been launched by that most notorious of fanatics and subverters, Colonel Qaddafi of Libya.

3 At times, they have strange notions about the roots of being misunderstood. One Indian official, a close adviser to Mrs. Gandhi, quite abruptly exclaimed that the Indians had a bad image in the West because of their policy toward Israel (which, he said, had to be understood in light of the 70 million Muslims who live in India). Jews, he added, dominated the Western press and Western politics generally, and hence could calumniate India.

4 These states may find that reducing the prison population can be functional. Various Indonesians remarked that "many more communists come out of detention camps than go in."

5 The other superpower suffers even more, I believe, from the worldwide suspicion of overwhelming power. Yet on my trip I found curiously little concern with the Soviet Union. As I encountered the occasional nostalgic note for the departed Europeans, I had to wonder whether, if the Soviets ever removed themselves from Eastern Europe, they would leave a similar legacy of benign memories.

The Russians play an important economic and military role in Algeria and India - in Egypt they were extruded - but their presence is a purely practical matter. The Soviet Union is nowhere regarded as a model. Repeatedly I heard that men trained in the U.S.S.R., while often returning with Soviet wives, had little liking for the Russian experience. An Indian journalist, aware of how important the Soviet Union was to India's foreign policy and economy, regretted that "since Kronstadt, the thugs have been in power." I found none who propounded a different view. Of East Europe, on the other hand, a good many people spoke more appreciatively.

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  • Fritz Stern is Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the Building of the German Empire and other works.
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