Another interesting article from The Economist.
In fact, I think you should all go out & purchase this week's edition-it is filled with interesting viewpoints & propositions.
"WHEN George Bush arrives in Europe next week, he will find not quite a lunar landscape but a political one littered with disputes (see article). He will also find many Europeans apparently inclined to believe that he is uninterested in co-operation, perhaps because so many voices in his own administration seem inclined to believe that America should do its own thing in its own way, never mind the rest of the world, including the have-your-cake-and-eat-it Europeans. Inevitably, some will speculate that this is the end of an affair that dates back, with breaks, at least to 1917, and culminated in marital alliance with the signing of the NATO pact in 1949.
The Euro-American relationship does indeed have something in common with a marriage, but countries are not people: they pursue interests, not affairs of the heart. If the alliance is to fall apart, it will be either because America’s interests cease to be congruent with Europe’s, or because the two sides carelessly allow their friendship to fall into disrepair. Fortunately, neither of those developments has yet come to pass. As so often in Euro-American relations, appearances deceive.
Disputation is the stuff of alliances, marital or otherwise, and the ether above the Atlantic has often crackled angrily over trade disputes, Suez adventures, missile deployments and so on. In time, with luck and good management, the squabbles that now separate the allies will go the way of these past rows, all of which gave rise to dark forebodings. But a happy outcome is not inevitable. It depends on a common, and correct, appreciation both of what is happening and of what is genuinely at stake in the transatlantic alliance.
The arrival of Mr Bush in the White House seems to represent a clear break with the past. In truth it merely brings into focus the fact that America’s furrow in world affairs has long been diverging from the European Union’s. Mr Bush has appointed a host of officials who reject multilateralism—or at least many United Nations activities, treaties on global warming, nuclear tests and a world criminal court, or joint action on tax havens. Whether these officials will prevail is still unclear.
Their unilateralist tendencies, however, have long been present, especially in Congress, which had put 70 countries under sanctions by 1999, balked at paying America’s UN dues and thumbed its nose at the Kyoto climate-change treaty long before Mr Bush, too, gave it a Bronx cheer. The Senate, indeed, had refused to ratify more than 60 treaties negotiated by the United States. And therein lies a clue to the new danger: that this administration might reinforce the unilateralism of Congress, whereas its predecessors, Republican and Democratic alike, have generally resisted it.
The danger in Europe is different: it is that it meets what it sees as American arrogance with an arrogance of its own, deluding itself that it can have superpower status without political maturity and defence spending to match, and creating institutions (its rapid-reaction force?) to compete with America rather than to complement NATO.
Here too the tendencies have been evident for a while, though they are not, at present, in the ascendant. Europeans can be hypocritical—not one EU government has yet ratified the Kyoto treaty—but most know their collective foreign-policy prowess is modest. And their new defence force, boosted this week by a deal-in-the-making with Turkey, should in time fit in harmoniously with NATO.
So a transatlantic bust-up is not imminent. But it will remain a possibility. The United States is a very different place from Europe, and the differences will grow. Demographically, Americans are increasingly Asian and Latino, less inclined when looking “home” to turn to Europe.
Their affection for guns, religion, the death penalty and genetically modified crops seems strange to Europeans. Just as baffling to Americans is Europeans’ toleration of high taxes, fussy regulation and indulgent state help for idlers and unfortunates. While Americans remain individualistic citizens of a nation-state at the height of its power, Europeans are absorbed in an unprecedented enterprise of union-building. Good luck to them, Americans may say. Let them sort out their Balkan backyard.
The ties that bind
Yet these two partners still have much in common. They are, together, not only the main engine of the world’s economy but the main custodian of its liberal values.
They have strong interests in common, and each has additional interests in persuading the other to be at least partly involved in less obvious areas of concern: America needs European help in Asia, Europe needs American help almost everywhere. Why? Because neither power, not even the United States, is usually strong enough, on its own, to carry the day. Moreover, experience—remember Bosnia—shows that one without the other makes little headway, whereas the two together can be effective.
Solutions exist, or can be found, for all the problems that beset the allies, so long as they are prepared to work to settle their differences.
The Europeans will swallow their reservations about missile defences, if Mr Bush can persuade them that the pursuit is practical (and practicable), not ideological; a deal can surely be done with the Russians over the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
For their part, the Americans will swallow their reservations about Europe’s defence initiative, if it does not draw resources away from NATO. The settlement of the long-running banana dispute shows that trade rows need not be terminal. Even apparently jarringly different policies—as over the Middle East or North Korea—can in practice be combined to promote a common objective.
First, however, the two sides must realise how much they need each other. Europe would soon discover the truth of that if Mr Bush were to pull his forces out of the Balkans (better take them from Germany first). America might take longer to feel Europe’s absence, but it would only be a matter of time.
They may have no common Soviet enemy, but they still have common values, and a common interest in upholding them. In an alliance based on interests, not wedlock, that should be enough to keep Europe and America together for a while."