General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

How do you feel about the term 'old' Europe (introduced by Donald Rumsfeld in 2003)?

Asked by mattbrowne (31600points) May 13th, 2009

Does the term mean anything to you? Is the term dead?

From Wikipedia: Old Europe is a term that was popularized in January 2003 after then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used it to refer to European countries that did not support the 2003 invasion of Iraq, specifically France and Germany. Since then, the term has been used by pundits and media personalities to describe various combinations of the first-world countries of Europe; comedian Jon Stewart, for example, has applied the term humorously to all Western European Great Powers, most notably Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

On January 22, 2003 Rumsfeld answered a question from Charles Groenhuijsen, a Dutch journalist, about the potential US invasion:

Q: Sir, a question about the mood among European allies. You were talking about the Islamic world a second ago. But now the European allies. If you look at, for example, France, Germany, also a lot of people in my own country—I’m from Dutch public TV, by the way—it seems that a lot of Europeans rather give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam Hussein than President George Bush. These are U.S. allies. What do you make of that?

Rumsfeld: Well, it’s—what do I make of it? (...) Now, you’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east. And there are a lot of new members. And if you just take the list of all the members of NATO and all of those who have been invited in recently—what is it? Twenty-six, something like that?—you’re right. Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem.

The German translation altes Europa was the word of the year for 2003 in Germany, because German politicians and commentators responded by often using it in a sarcastic way. It was frequently used with pride and a reference to a perceived position of greater moral integrity. The terms altes Europa and Old Europe have subsequently surfaced in European economic and political discourse. For example, in a January 2005 unveiling for the new Airbus A380 aircraft, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder said, “There is the tradition of good old Europe that has made this possible.” A BBC News article about the unveiling said Schröder “deliberately redefined the phrase previously used by… Rumsfeld.”

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14 Answers

Harp's avatar

Rumsfeld is Old America.

Crusader's avatar

Simple reason why the division.
France is a political opportunist, always will be.
Germany is furious about losing 40% of its male population
and many women and children murdered/abused in two world wars.

TaoSan's avatar


Why do you always write about things you don’t know anything about? This is a very good question, why hose it like this? Let me bring it to you that way: Dein Geplapper ueber Deutschland ist kompletter Bloedsinn.

Crusader's avatar


Mein Geplapper ueber Deutchland ist kompletter Bledsinn?
Vielleichk obwohl America, und die meiste Welt, meit die slawischen Nationen ausgennomen, wird nie wissen, dass das vom
groshandelsschlachten der Meinschheit ausdehnt.

Harp's avatar

Translation courtesy of :

“My Geplapper over Deutchland is complete Bledsinn? Vielleichk although America, and most world, meit the slawischen nations expenditure nouns, will never know that of majority-commercialslaughter the Meinschheit expands.”

oratio's avatar

I haven’t thought about it like that. I thought it was a reference america’s to european heritage.

kevbo's avatar

“Emerging” economies notwithstanding, it’s bullshit propagandizing and posturing. Rumsfeld and his ilk were trying to position eastern Europe favorably as part of the quid pro quo deal to help them gain NATO/EU status (and probably American arms) in return for their willingness to be a part of the “coalition of the willing” either by providing troops or bases for the American military. Corporations fronted by the American government/military are trying to lock up the oil and gas in the former Soviet republics, so naturally we’re going to put them on a pedestal and pooh pooh anyone who tries to get in our way.

There’s also possibly an alien technology thread to this schism that has to do with French and German archaeological excavation of ancient cities/an ancient city in Iraq. (You’ll have to take my word FWIW, since I can’t find the links.) Anyway, the story is kind of like a Raiders of the Lost Ark in that France and Germany were close or were finding ancient/alien technology (or maybe tablets or whatever) and the U.S. moved in to prevent them and Saddam from capitalizing on them. This would be an untold backstory to all the (oops!) looting of antiquities that occurred in Baghdad when the U.S. came to occupy the city.

Crusader's avatar


Well the Russians moved into Afganistan shortly after the discovery of an ancient Greek city built by Alexanders forces. Perhaps something there also…Technology is best served by thouse who do not have a declared interest in ‘wiping off the face of the map’ Any group/country.

kevbo's avatar

Huh. I hadn’t heard about that, but it would certainly fit the pattern, if either is true.

TaoSan's avatar


LOL, I didn’t want to say it rofl

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

I see you’re having to resort to old news to keep getting mileage out of this Germany vs. United States schtick. Hello! This man hasn’t been SecDef since Dec. ‘06 and a whole new administration is in town these days.

mattbrowne's avatar

@TaoSan – Don’t feed the trolls. Schadenbringende Geisterwesen bitte nicht füttern.

mattbrowne's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop – The term created quite an earthquake in Germany and repercussions for several years. I’m not kidding. Sometimes it’s worth looking back at history and find the lessons learned. Rumsfeld might not be SecDef anymore but it’s still interesting to see how Europe is perceived by Americans today. Therefore I asked the question. Fair enough?

TaoSan's avatar


HA! Sorry, my bad….. the temptation….

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