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Europe and the United States (May 31, 2003)

This manifesto by French philosopher Jacques Derrida and German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas had special significance in the European debate on the Iraq war. The two noted that the unpopular war had made Europeans conscious of the failure of their common foreign policy. Europe, they argued, needed “to throw its weight on the scales” on the international level and in the UN “to counterbalance the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States.” The philosophers wanted those countries that advocated close European cooperation to play a leading role in forging a common foreign, security, and defense policies. Critics of the manifesto viewed it primarily as a call for deliberate separation from the United States. Others were critical of the fact that the intellectual debate on the Iraq war took place in Western European newspapers and failed to take Eastern European positions into account.

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February 15, or, What Binds Europeans Together:
Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in Core Europe

It is the wish of Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas to be cosignatories of what is both an analysis and an appeal. They regard it as both necessary and urgent that French and German philosophers lift their voices together, whatever disagreements may have separated them in the past. The following text was composed by Jürgen Habermas, as will be readily apparent. Though he would have liked to very much, due to personal circumstances Jacques Derrida was unable to compose his own text. Nevertheless, he suggested to Jürgen Habermas that he be the co-signatory of this appeal, and shares its definitive premises and perspectives: the determination of new European political responsibilities beyond any Eurocentrism; the call for a renewed confirmation and effective transformation of international law and its institutions, in particular the UN; a new conception and a new praxis for the distribution of state authority, etc., according to the spirit, if not the precise sense, that refers back to the Kantian tradition. Moreover, many of Jürgen Habermas’s points intersect with ones Jacques Derrida has recently developed in his book, Voyous: Deux essais sur la raison (Galilée, 2002). Within several days, a book by Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida will appear in the United States, consisting of two conversations which both of them held in New York after September 11, 2002.* Despite all the obvious differences in their approaches and arguments, there too their views touch on the future of institutions of international law, and the new tasks for Europe.

We should not forget two dates: the day the newspapers reported to their astonished readers that the Spanish prime minister had invited those European nations willing to support the Iraq war to swear an oath of loyalty to George W. Bush, an invitation issued behind the backs of the other countries of the European Union. But we should also remember the 15th of February 2003, as mass demonstrations in London and Rome, Madrid and Barcelona, Berlin and Paris reacted to this sneak attack. The simultaneity of these overwhelming demonstrations – the largest since the end of the Second World War – may well, in hindsight, go down in history as a sign of the birth of a European public sphere.

* The book has since appeared: Giovanna Borradori (ed.), Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

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