Tethering the Hegemon

The Transatlantic Divide on the Use of Force

When examining American or European views on the use of force and the role of international institutions, it is necessary to speak only of general tendencies.  There are, of course, many exceptions to the overall trend on both sides of the Atlantic.  Nevertheless, generally speaking, America’s longtime European allies have become increasingly alarmed at aspects of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.  Criticism of U.S. actions is most pronounced in France and Germany, the core of what U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once derisively referred to as “old Europe,” but it is spreading to Washington’s previously enthusiastic new allies in Central and Eastern Europe as well.

The Bush administration’s conduct has heightened the scope of disagreement, but the administration is not the sole cause of transatlantic estrangement.  American and European interests and perspectives are diverging on an array of issues and have been doing so for some time.  With the demise of the Soviet Union, there is no longer a focal point of unity in the Western alliance, and, although policymakers in both Washington and some European capitals have tried to make the “War on Terror” into a new source of cohesion, that effort has been, at best, a partial success.  It has taken more than a decade and a half, but transatlantic relations are beginning to return to their normal...

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