The arrogance. The nerve. Those are just a sampling of the sentiments coming from European capitals as a result of the exposure of the scale of Bush-Obama spying on European assets.
American allies are outraged and their populations are seething. In geopolitical terms, offending your allies can be expensive. The U.S. economy may pay the price.
To the Germans, American surveillance is reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s. The Germans have built many protections into their society to prevent a reoccurrence of those dark days. Highly regarded privacy protections are foremost among them. Their American ally has shown very little regard for their privacy, bordering on contempt.
The Germans are just one example. There are others.
Unfortunately, the American mainstream media are once again leaving the American people in the dark regarding the extent of the confrontation. This latest dispute threatens to undermine the two pillars of American geopolitical dominance: preeminence in Europe and domination of the digital economy.
The European Union has long resented the power of American tech firms. Apple, Google, Microsoft and Internet giants like Amazon are ubiquitous; the Europeans have nothing to match them. Americans set the standards for e-commerce and digital regulations.
However, Bush-Obama cyber snooping has given jealous Eurocrats in Brussels an excuse to begin targeting U.S. firms through regulation. Ostensibly, these regulations would be sold as privacy protection measures, given the closeness of tech firms to Barack Obama’s administration.
In reality, they will be designed to cut into American market dominance. Given the importance of tech firms to a weakened U.S. economy – the relative weakness of which is habitually underplayed by the U.S. government – these actions could have severe long-term consequences for Americans.
If this were not enough, it further weakens U.S. moral authority, which had previously given the U.S. great influence in Europe. The primary reason the U.S. is a superpower is because Europe is part of the American system. The Mediterranean region that Rome dominated is still the center of the world, and Europe is the center of that region. American rivals have schemed to supplant the U.S. in this region since the beginning of the Cold War. The Western Europeans – and since 1992, most of the rest of Europe – have gone along with American hegemony. Until now, they had not been the direct victims of American power.
Things have changed, and Europe will not soon forget. America’s rivals in the East are watching.