An Ocean Apart
The United States and Europe have vital shared interests, but is the Bush
administration serious about ﬁnding common ground?
Andrew Moravcsik | February 21, 2005
History will surely judge us not by our old disagreements but by our new achievements,”
Condoleezza Rice told a Paris audience on February 8, speaking on her ﬁrst European
trip as secretary of state. If the Bush administration is truly interested in a trans-Atlantic
rapprochement, it is not a moment too soon. U.S.–European relations are more
acrimonious than they have been in decades. The broad European opposition to the Bush
administration's policies on Iraq, global warming, human rights, arms control, and trade
is reciprocated by Washington's disdain for everything from Europe's view of Iran to its
proposed new constitution.
American conservatives are angry not just at the failure of much of Europe to support the
Iraq War. They are also alarmed by Europe's effort to achieve closer integration through a
new European Union constitution and greater coordination of foreign and defense policy,
all of which are seen as evidence that Europe is going its own way in world affairs -- or
worse, following the French recipe of “balancing” the United States.
Yet even a truculently conservative United States and an occasionally self-indulgent
Europe share abiding vital interests. Europeans and Americans agree on the need to
combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the desirability of a two-state solution for
Israel-Palestine, the need for humanitarian intervention, support for democratization from
the Ukraine to China, multilateral maintenance of a liberal world economy, debt relief for
developing countries, and the expansion of the EU to include Turkey, to name just a few.
The areas of disagreement, such as the Kyoto accords and the International Criminal
Court, are far from trivial, but the core common interests are far more extensive.
Indeed, the recent Iraq War is quite unrepresentative of deeper trends in trans-Atlantic
relations. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western powers have intervened repeatedly
outside the NATO homeland -- the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Sierra
Leone, the Ivory Coast, and Afghanistan -- and every one of those interventions was, at
least in the end, strongly supported by both the United States and Europe. European
nations now deploy more than 100,000 troops abroad, most of them in defense of U.S.
commitments. Twenty years ago, the possibility that European troops would be stationed
in Afghanistan to back a U.S. intervention would have been treated as an absurd fantasy.
This unheralded revolution in European policy demonstrates substantial Western
consensus even on the use of force, contrary to Robert Kagan's oversimpliﬁed distinction
between America as “Mars” and Europe as “Venus.”
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