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robert kagan
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Robert Kagan is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a contributing editor of the conservative political magazine The Weekly Standard. His new book, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (2003), has been hailed as a timely and far-reaching, if controversial, analysis of the current divide between the U.S. and much of Europe. In this interview with FRONTLINE, he talks about the diverging worldviews of Europeans and Americans, how Sept. 11 and the Iraq crisis have increased the psychological distance between Europe and America, and how Tony Blair's efforts to bridge the gap represent the best hope for finding a workable compromise between fundamentally different approaches to the post-Cold War international order. This interview was conducted on March 12, 2003.

Can you tell us how 9/11 affected Americans and how Europeans maybe failed to understand the trauma of this?

Quite obviously, Americans were terribly traumatized by Sept. 11. I don't think this is merely because the United States has not, in quite a long time, suffered attack on its own territory. For most Europeans watching it, I think it was a horrifying event. But the degree to which it instilled real fear in the American people that they hadn't known probably since the Cuban missile crisis -- I think was the last time that Americans as a general population were this afraid -- I think perhaps that wasn't fully understood in Europe. Much that stemmed from that in terms of American behavior was derived from this very focused fear, and I think was misunderstood around the world and especially in Europe.

So the Europeans overreacted?

I think the biggest problem may have been, in some respects -- because Sept. 11 had occurred on American soil and because Americans were afraid and traumatized -- naturally, the country turned inward and became self absorbed, I think. And I don't mean that critically. It's quite understandable.

I do think the course that Tony Blair has tried to take is the most hopeful one -- an effort to find some synthesis between the American worldview and the European worldview.

So America's attention to the concerns and interests of the rest of the world was necessarily lessened. I think it was a normal psychological response. Europeans, who had grown rather accustomed over many decades to American foreign policy that involved them -- that took their concerns and interests very seriously, or at least pretended to -- here was a situation where the United States was really very self absorbed and not thinking very much about what the rest of the world thought about anything American.

When presidents give speeches, they're always speaking primarily to the American audience. But in this case, after Sept. 11, that was even more so. So things that sounded frightening or worrying to the European audience were never meant for the European audience; they were meant for the American audience. ...

Soon after Sept. 11 NATO [invoked Article Five, which says that an attack on any member is considered an attack on all]. Can you tell me whether you feel it was also done partly in an attempt to [constrain the United States]?

I really do think the impetus behind the invocation of Article Five was solely an expression of solidarity and a genuine offer of assistance. It was very reasonable for NATO to offer its support -- given the nature of this alliance and how it functions -- having had one of its member states severely attacked and threatened. If any other country had been attacked in a similar way that was in the NATO alliance, NATO would have evoked Article Five. So in some respects, the impetus was entirely natural to the organization.

 
 

Much less was the consideration that this would somehow be a way of constraining the United States, although at the time, as a general matter, there was concern that the United States was going to overreact somehow and start striking out in all directions. So that was certainly on people's minds, but I think it would be a mistake to attribute Article Five to that motivation.

What then were Washington's calculations in deciding not to accept NATO's offer? Was it a mistake? ...

In some respects, it gets back to the fact that the United States just wasn't thinking about its allies in particular in this situation. The United States had been struck. The administration was seized with how we were going to respond to this problem, and they just hadn't give a great deal of thought to the issues. So this came up and it was welcomed as an expression of solidarity.

But then another calculation also kicked in to some extent, which was the concern -- I would say both on the part of the military, but also among some civilians -- that an operation conducted through NATO would in some respects slow down what has become very rapid American military capability. Some of this was the residue of what American military officials believed had happened during the Kosovo war.

I think this is a case where America feeling threatened, having been struck, wanted freedom of action to move where and when they felt it was necessary to move. Also they were worried, to some extent, that if that got into the NATO decision-making process, it would slow things down, maybe make some options harder than others. ...

This is one of the elements which makes the whole trans-Atlantic crisis have the elements of tragedy, because again, I think that the decision of the administration was understandable from one perspective. But it had very negative consequences from the perspective of the effect this had on the alliance. ... The decision that they took was understandable, because they didn't want their military operations slowed down or hampered at this critical moment. But looking back, it's clear that it began a process of creating division between the United States and its European allies.

The European governments felt that the United States wasn't interested in their support, was in fact reluctant to bring them along, and the idea that would later be referred to as what Rumsfeld was talking about -- a mission determining the coalition rather than going to an existing multilateral structure, the idea that the United States would take whatever actions it felt necessary outside those structures -- began to take hold in the European [mindset]. And that obviously got worse as the months went by. ...

During the Kosovo war, the American military and to some extent, even the Clinton administration became very frustrated by the way they felt Europeans were constraining what the Americans considered the American way of war. The United States, during the Kosovo conflict, wanted to move very quickly with very heavy bombing, early on in the conflict, with no break to give Milosevic a chance to negotiate his way out. They were constantly being urged by France and Germany and others to do gradual escalations and to have pauses in the bombing in order to negotiate.

This was very frustrating to the American military, and also to some extent, to American civilians. So when the Bush administration came to power, it inherited this mindset. So when you had a situation now where it wasn't about Kosovo and it wasn't about what was happening in Europe, but it was what had happened to the United States -- and the vital interests of the United States were directly affected and threatened by this incident -- they were very reluctant at that point to want to be tied up again. They didn't want any constraints on their actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The "axis of evil" speech -- how did that speech go down in America, and how did it go down in Europe? What do the different reactions tell us about the cultures?

Well, first of all the "axis of evil" speech went over very big in the United States. It was a very popular speech, and Americans understood immediately what George Bush meant by that. He was deliberately referring in a way to something that Ronald Reagan had said early in the 1980s, when he called the Soviet Union "the evil empire." So there was, in a way, a tradition already established. I think Americans heartened to that, because Americans don't mind thinking of the world in terms of good and evil. In fact, they frequently do think of the world in terms of good and evil.

Now of course the reaction in Europe was entirely different. I think many Europeans were sort of stunned and perhaps even horrified by that speech, partly because it seemed to suggest a real American determination to march forward and deal with the three that were mentioned -- Iran, Iraq, and North Korea -- and partly because Europeans are uncomfortable with the word evil when talking about international relations.

That's partly because Europeans pride themselves on having a kind of nuanced and subtle view of humanity. It's also partly because of Europe's own history. The Europeans unified despite the fact that, in the past, there were evil regimes in the heart of Europe, and it's not proper or useful for Europe to talk in terms of good and evil. I've found many Europeans who have made that point -- that to talk about evil revisits an unhappy past in Europe. ...

Is it also not true that that speech displayed a kind of evangelical moral certainty?

Honestly, I think there has been a tendency in Europe to overstate the evangelical Christian aspect of Bush's presidency. I don't think that's what it is. If you go back to the founding generation, Americans have always tended to be moralistic in their approach to the world. The good and evil is not a religious good and evil; it's more of a moral good and evil based on what Americans consider to be the principles that human beings should live by, which is embodied in their own Declaration of Independence and Constitution. So Americans are accustomed to viewing the world in black-and-white terms. But I wouldn't call it primarily a religious motivation. ...

I don't remember at the time feeling like Europeans moved immediately to say, "Ah, this is about religion." They were more horrified at the implications of the speech than at the derivation of the rhetoric. They were more horrified at the prospect of the United States, which they had feared from the beginning on Sept. 11, would now in fact begin to strike out in all directions. It was one thing for the United States to move towards Afghanistan. It was another thing to begin risking other potential targets, and that's what I think Europeans really found frightening at the time.

Tell me about how the speech seemed to offend the European idea of international order. ...

I think Europeans feared that, on the one hand, the United States was taking it upon itself to designate what countries were considered acceptable targets and what weren't. Of course, the Europeans would have preferred that no countries be labeled targets. And here was the United States, here was the American president taking it upon himself to say this country, this country and this country. So that was certainly frightening.

There probably were the beginnings of European concerns that the United States in general was now going to take it upon itself to determine -- outside of any international legal structures, or any international institutions -- the United States was going to take it upon itself to designate the world's focus and perhaps in terms of military action. That left the Europeans powerless to control their fate in some way, which I think was a legitimate concern on the part of the Europeans. ...

It dawned on Europeans rather suddenly that what had been true actually for more than a decade was now really upon them -- that here was this enormous superpower, with power that no country had ever had in the history of the world, and it was unchecked. During the Cold War there was the Soviet Union, and American behavior was checked by the existence of another superpower. But here was the United States with the Soviet Union disappeared, so much more powerful than anybody else in the world that it really could do, if it chose to, whatever it wanted, certainly in terms of launching military attacks.

So I think that the sense after Sept. 11 and the rhetoric of the Bush administration and the clear determination of Bush to take these actions frightened Europe, because now they didn't know exactly how America was ever going to be constrained. ...

I don't think it was just President Bush. I think it was the clear determination in general on the part of the American people to use military force if they thought it was necessary. The American people were in a fairly belligerent mood after Sept. 11, and that was very evident. Bush was following the mood as much as leading it, so in a way, if the Europeans reflected a little bit more on it, they would be more concerned about the fact that the majority of Americans felt this way, and let George Bush talk that way.

I do think that Sept. 11 cast a very bright light on a gap that had been opening up between the United States and Europe for a decade. Since the end of the Cold War, Europe had been evolving in one direction with the formation of the European Union and the establishment of something quite miraculous -- an international system on the continent in which European military force played no role whatsoever -- and Europeans were moving in the direction of believing that it was possible to move beyond military power.

The United States was not moving in that direction. The United States in fact was building up its military power. In the 2000 political campaign between Al Gore and George Bush, both candidates were competing with each other to demonstrate which one was going to put more money into the defense budget. So America was still thinking very much in terms of military power.

This gap in thinking existed during the 1990s, but it was possible to ignore it and not really realize how wide it had grown. When Sept. 11 happened and you had this Republican administration in power, all of a sudden it became very clear to both sides that this gap had opened wide. ...

So Sept. 11 did bring into sharp focus for the Europeans something that they vaguely had understood since the end of the Cold War -- that here was, for the first time in history -- a power, a superpower that was unconstrained by the international system, and could act if it chose to act, with or without European permission and without any check from another major power.

We've been told that Blair saw this as an opportunity to show that the U.N. could work in the circumstances. ... What do you think Blair's agenda was? What was he trying to achieve? What did he set out to do?

As Blair realized that the administration increasingly intended to move towards an attack on Iraq, Blair did want to try to find some way to bring the United States within the European view of the proper international order. [He wanted] to get the administration and get President Bush to seek authorization for such action from the U.N. Security Council precisely so the United States would not be heading off on its own, and precisely as a means perhaps of creating a new method of dealing with this new situation of this single superpower, and which required getting that single superpower to act within the constraints that Europeans wanted to erect -- in this case, the U.N. Security Council.

Do you have any sense of how amenable to that Bush was?

It's hard to know. ... I would say that there was of course an ongoing dispute within the Bush administration; on the one hand, Secretary of State Powell didn't want to go to war against Iraq, and at the very least he wanted to try all kinds of diplomatic efforts to solve the problem of Iraq. Then of course we have on the other side Rumsfeld and Cheney. Blair then sort of stepped into the middle of that fight, and I think correctly reading President Bush's determination to do something about Iraq, [he] offered, in a way, the solution and a compromise, which was to go to the U.N. Security Council for authorization and win international diplomatic support for the operation, and also give Saddam one final chance to disarm peacefully.

So, in a way, Blair resolved the big debate that was going on, or helped resolve the big debate that was going on inside the Bush administration. ...

President Bush made a graduation speech at West Point in June 2002, in which he said that the strategy was to strike first. What happened to that speech?

What became known as the doctrine of pre-emption, that the Bush administration was beginning to set with that speech, and later came out with a national security strategy document, was very troubling to Europeans, for similar reasons that they were upset about the "axis of evil" speech. This seemed to be an even further step by the United States in declaring that it would decide when military action had to be taken.

Almost by its very nature, pre-emptive action is not something that an international body is going to agree on. It does sort of rely on the state that wants, that feels it necessary to take that action, to do so on its own, having made its own calculations. So the doctrine of pre-emption therefore seemed to open up, and I think Europeans exaggerated the meaning, frankly. But it seemed to open up the possibility that the United States could strike without warning in any number of places around the world.

I'm interested in whether President Bush appreciated how this speech would [go over] and whether he thought it mattered. What's your sense of that?

Well, I think that by and large again he wasn't thinking about what the effect would be on Europe. ... I do think that, as a general rule, the administration and Americans in general, were unaware of what effect these words and statements were having on the rest of the world, because in a way, in America too, we had not woken up to some of the realities of the new world order that we'd moved into. So the idea that the United States, because it was the sole superpower, had to be careful about how it phrased its policies and described its policies, lest others, even its friends, be frightened -- that idea had not really sunk in yet, in the administration or for the American public as a whole.

So at that stage, even America hadn't appreciated how, in a sense, how powerful it was? ...

Both the United States and Europe had come upon this new situation in a way, unaware of what had changed, and so neither Europeans nor Americans were really ready for the new world situation that we'd moved into. We were still thinking, on both sides of the Atlantic, in the old mode, in the Cold War mode of strategic partnership and rough equality. But the world had changed so much in a structural sense, that that way of thinking probably didn't apply anymore, and both sides needed to adjust.

But I would say that neither side was making any adjustment. Certainly the Bush administration was not adjusting at that point to the fact that the rest of the world might find the United States frightening. I don't think that any American -- and certainly not the Bush administration -- it did not occur to them that the United States could appear frightening to its allies. ...

The Sept. 8 [2002] meeting between Blair and Bush -- I think Blair went to Camp David this time. I think this is where he argued for a U.N. approach, and crucially, we've been told that the prime minister commits to stay with Bush, come what may. Is it clear to you that, at that stage, Tony Blair thought he could deliver Europe that that wouldn't be a problem?

I think it's quite likely that Blair did not believe that Europe would be a big problem; that if the United States did seek a U.N. Security Council authorization, he would probably receive it and that Europe would join with the United States ultimately. That was certainly Blair's view, and I don't think he or anyone anticipated the course that the French government in particular, but also the German government, were going to take in the coming weeks and months. ...

What influence do you think Blair had on the president?

I think Blair had enormous influence on the president, and partly, in fact largely, because he was so strong in providing his support to the president. Clearly Blair was willing to throw in his lot with the United States. Clearly Britain was willing to go in with the United States militarily. That gave Blair enormous power and influence and credibility with the president. It wasn't as if he was simply coming and saying, "You have to go to the U.N. Security Council." He was coming as a friend and an ally and a supporter and saying, "Please come to the U.N. Security Council. That will make things work for all of us."

So I do think Blair was enormously influential during that period; and afterwards as well.

How important is it to an American president -- President Bush, in this case -- to have the support, to know that, come what may, you're going to have the support of Britain in a military campaign? How important is that for domestic purposes? What did it mean to Bush?

It's always the case that the American people are more comfortable taking action if they believe that our closest allies support us. Americans have always been and remain uncomfortable if they believe that there's opposition, especially in Europe.

In this particular situation, where it wasn't clear how much support there was going to be in Europe, on the continent of Europe, the role of the U.K. was especially important, because for many Americans, Britain could stand in for everyone else. If we had Britain on our side, that would be sufficient. It wouldn't matter necessarily whether Germany was on our side. ... It was very important to Americans to have Britain. Not to have Britain would also have been very important. Then the United States would really have felt tremendously isolated. ...

Tell me how you think the speech that President Bush made to the U.N. on Sept. 12 was taken at the time, and how, in the wake of subsequent events over the next few weeks, there was a reinterpretation put on it. ...

I think that the president's statement on Sept. 12, that he would go to the U.N. Security Council for authorization, was taken as a very positive sign in Europe. Partly this was because the assumption had been that he would not do so, and the expectations were of Bush going unilaterally. ...

So when Bush did go to the U.N. Security Council, I think that was seen as a victory for Blair and for the European view in general. It was only later actually many months later ... that Europeans looked back on Bush's statement on Sept. 12 and read into it a disregard for the U.N. Security Council. At the time, I think Bush's offer to come to the U.N. Security Council was taken as a great victory for the European point of view; a great victory for Powell over Rumsfeld and Cheney, a great concession that had been wrung out of President Bush, and a very promising moment.

Resolution 1441 came up in November. ... What were the French trying to get from this? What to them was the great significance of this? ...

I think the Bush administration made a serious mistake when it didn't put down a resolution immediately after the president gave his speech on Sept. 12. That was the moment when the United States could have put a very broad, general resolution regarding Iraq that would have won fairly rapid assent, because the drama of the moment of Bush going to the U.N. would have given him momentum in the Security Council.

As the weeks of negotiations dragged on, one of the things that happened was that France -- which had been sort of depressed and getting ready to roll over in front of this American steamroller that had been building -- France was empowered by the negotiations. In a way, Powell strengthened France and made, I think, the French government feel that they really had an opportunity to shape things, which they had not felt before. One of the effects of the eight weeks of negotiations leading up to Resolution 1441 was that France actually moved into a position of believing that they could in fact stop this conflict, and also play a very pivotal role at this great moment of international crisis.

So by the end of the negotiations over 1441, France insisted upon -- and the United States eventually agreed to -- certain aspects of a resolution which made it clear that the debate was going to continue; that 1441 didn't settle anything, that there would have to be a second resolution, that it would be up to the inspectors, not the United States and even the other Security Council members to make a decision. France succeeded in building in and guaranteeing a second round of battling over the Iraq issues, which proved to be a disaster both for the United States and for Tony Blair. ...

What led the French to stand their ground, rather than come over to the American side at the eleventh hour, as they normally do? What happened?

Well, that's a good question and I don't think we yet know quite what the answer is. I believed at the time that Resolution 1441 was a false peace between the United States and most of its European allies. They had reached something that they could agree on, but it couldn't last, because at some point, we would be back to the question of whether to invade Iraq or not. I always felt that at that point, France and Germany would in fact jump off the train. But it didn't seem so to most observers at the time and understandably so; it seemed only logical that France, having put up this big fight, would eventually throw in its lot. The assumptions were, it wouldn't want the United States to go in alone; it would want to be there, too. It has interests in Iraq, and it wouldn't like to be sidelined in American action.

But I think that what happened was that, during this whole period in the weeks after Resolution 1441, public opinion in Europe began to build. As the United States made it clearer and clearer that it was intending to go to war because it believed Saddam was in violation of 1441, opposition to the war in Europe began to grow. France began to see itself, the French government began to see itself as the champion of this position. As public opinion grew, France became more emboldened. So we wound up with a situation where France was so emboldened by growing opposition to the war that it was willing to take this stand.

I also don't think anyone should underestimate that, within France, Chirac and de Villepin were becoming national heroes for delaying the American war and perhaps stopping the American war. Politically, Chirac was enjoying a popularity that he'd never known in his entire political career. I think to some extent, it was intoxicating. It became harder and harder for this politician -- they're both politicians -- to say "No" to tremendous popular support and to say, "Well, that was all well and good, but now we're throwing in our lot with the Americans."

So I think that it was a political thing in France that kept France moving further and further out to a position that Blair never anticipated. ...

How far have President Bush's advisors, especially from the Defense Department, failed to take account of Europe's sensitivities, and thus made the whole process much harder? ...

One hears all the time in Europe that the administration has not sold its policy well, which sort of begs the question about what is the right thing to do. I find many Europeans avoiding the question precisely of what the right thing to do is, setting aside whether the administration gets an "A" or a "D" for its presentation. Yes, there were mistakes made in presenting this policy, partly, I would say -- not because of what Europeans believed, that the United States is arrogant -- but because the administration itself has had such a difficult time coming to agreement amongst themselves. The fights in the administration over the policy have made it very difficult to do forward planning, because they don't even know what result they're aiming for.

This -- what I would say is a certain dysfunctional quality of the administration -- has been read in Europe as arrogance, and I think probably misread in Europe as arrogance. That having been said, let's face the fact that we have been dealing with two fundamentally different worldviews. Europeans simply do not look at the Iraq issue the same way that Americans do, and I'm not sure that any amount of clever salesmanship could solve that problem. We have fundamental issues on which we fundamentally differ, so it's not just a matter of good PR. ...

[Can you explain] what the different worldviews are? ... And how it applies to Iraq?

The gulf that had opened up between Americans and Europeans concerned the use of military power, the legitimacy of military and also the proper mechanisms to seek authority for the use of military power. Iraq was the perfect issue that exposed all these differences. Americans were quick to believe that a military option was the right option to use with Iraq. Yes, there was a big debate in the United States, but a majority of Americans early on believed that that was appropriate. It was never the case in Europe that Europeans believed that the military option was the appropriate option in Iraq.

I've described the difference between Americans and Europeans by suggesting that Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus. What I mean by that is that Europeans have moved to a stage in their development where they increasingly believe that the use of military force is unnecessary, inappropriate and illegitimate, and Americans have not moved in that direction. Americans still believe that military power is an essential tool of international relations.

This is what Iraq has exposed, this great difference. ...

The "Group of Eight" letter comes along and here are European leaders writing to each other in public telling each other they are completely split over Europe's foreign policy. ... What to you are the implications of that letter and the split in Europe for the future of Europe as a foreign policy body, the E.U. as a foreign policy body?

First, let me say that I don't really think it's fair to say that that letter was the first blow struck in the inter-European fight, because I think that that letter was produced in response to the perception that France and Germany were professing to speak for all of Europe in not only opposing American policy, but also maybe destroying the trans-Atlantic relationship.

I think it was in response to concerns that France and Germany were leading Europe in the wrong direction that Blair and Asnar and the others got together to write this letter, which was an attempt to pull things back toward the trans-Atlantic relationship. So I think, in a way, it was a response to French and German behavior.

That having been said, clearly Europe is not united at this point on perhaps the most important question of all, which is how to deal with the United States. I mean, we spend a great deal of time talking about what's our view toward the Middle East and what's our view toward Asia and what's our view toward Africa. But of course for Europe, surely one of the most important questions is, how are we going to deal with the largest power in the world, with whom we've had this long relationship? On that subject, Europe is divided. Europe is not actually divided on the subject of Iraq, has not been divided on the subject of Iraq. But it has been divided on how close to maintain this trans-Atlantic relationship.

But what does it mean to Europe as a foreign policy body? ...

I personally have always been skeptical that the European Union was going to advance as far on foreign and defense policy as it has on economic policy and political integration. I think the European Union has scored tremendous successes. But in the area of foreign policy, there's been almost no progress, and in some respects even backward movement since Maastricht. On any major foreign policy crisis, foreign policy has reverted to the capitals to London and Paris and Berlin, and this was only another example of that.

In terms of Europe being able to wield influence around the world, which is a huge component of power, Europeans have been unwilling to spend the money to provide themselves with the military capacity to do so. So I think that the European Union has jumped over many hurdles that no one expected it to jump over in the past, and it could be that some day they will unify on the subject of foreign policy. But right now, I would say that day is as distant as it's ever been. ...

Where does all this leave Tony Blair and his vision of world order? I mean, the bridge he tried to build has pretty much collapsed. Can you tell me what influence he's lost in Europe?

... If the war goes fairly quickly and the aftermath of the war leads to a fairly calm situation in Iraq, Tony Blair will be strengthened, probably in Britain and probably in Europe as well. The case that he's made for trying to bridge the trans-Atlantic gap will be strengthened as well. I think that's clear. Of course, if the war goes very badly, Blair will be terribly weakened, and his position and his argument in Europe will be will be terribly weakened. ...

... If what we are seeing here is a new world order in which America is effectively prepared to go alone, isn't there a danger that in the future it will be prepared to go alone where the moral rights and wrongs are not so clear cut, but it's more about American self interest? Shouldn't Europe be worried about that?

... I think Europeans have a legitimate concern -- that because of the structure of the international system right now there is no natural check on American behavior. During the Cold War, you had the Soviet Union and now that's gone. So Europeans are left to rely, in the absence of such a check, on American self restraint and the ability of Americans to regulate the use of their own power. They're left hoping that America will use its power for moral and just ends.

Of course that is an uncomfortable situation for Europeans. However, as Europeans look at the past record of American foreign policy -- while there are certainly occasions when we disagreed and when American behavior has not necessarily been in conformity with its own principles, as in Latin America on occasion and elsewhere -- nevertheless, by and large, the United States has used its great power, not only in its selfish interest but with a certain generosity and in service of the interests of others.

Europeans in particular have been the great beneficiaries of a certain degree of selflessness on the part of the United States, certainly the putting of American power in the service of a just and moral cause. For Americans, it's a little troubling that now that Europeans no longer feel they need that protection and support of the United States, now they've decided that they can no longer trust the United States.

What price is America paying in exercising power in the way it is over Iraq? Is it being excluded from paradise?

In my view, America has never had the opportunity to enter paradise. Europe enjoys the paradise it enjoys, in part because the United States provides the overall security that allows Europe to live in a system where military power is not a major issue. ...

At a very practical level, it is the case that the United States can go it alone. They have the military resources. They have the economic power that in certain circumstances, even if Europe abstains, the United States can take action. But there is a psychic cost to that, and there's also the question of legitimacy, which Americans do take seriously.

Europeans should understand that they have enormous influence over Americans. They can affect the American conscience, and Americans have been very uncomfortable with the fact that there is so much opposition to American policy. So the cost for Americans is the sense that maybe they're not in the right. This can have an effect on American foreign policy, but we have to separate the material capabilities of the United States from the sort of psychic costs of acting alone.

I mean, the consequences of this crisis are likely to be many, and not all moving in the same direction. On the one hand, the United States and the people of the United States in particular will have had the experience of going to war without real support in Europe. The possibility that they will get used to that is a danger that Europeans should be concerned about, that in fact the object lesson of this whole conflict will be [that] we can survive if the Europeans are very unhappy with us; we can do what needs to be done, and it can work. So that next time there's a crisis and Europeans complain, it's possible that that complaint will be discounted to some extent.

At the same time, I do think there's going to be a reaction against the perceived unilateralism of American foreign policy in America, and that there will be pressure to repair the damage with the Europeans. It will be a popular political cause, at least for the Democratic Party, but probably for more than the Democratic Party, to say, "We need to get back in sync with the rest of the world. We can't be going off with the rest of the world angry at us."

I think that both of those will be sort of cross-cutting pressures in the American political system afterwards. A lot of the decision about what course America ultimately takes will depend on statesmanship both in the United States and in Europe -- how do the statesmen on both sides of the Atlantic try to repair the damage after we've moved past this conflict.

Where are U.S.-French and U.S.-German relations left by this?

There's no question that there's damage done to both U.S.-German and U.S.-French relations. In the case of Germany, Americans generally, and even the administration in particular don't have a great feeling of hostility toward the Germans. There's much greater sympathy for the German position. Everybody knows Germany's history. Everybody knows how complex these issues are for Germans. There's a sense that Germans undertook this opposition to the United States perhaps more in sorrow than in anger.

The view of the French is very different of course, because to the American eye, France not only took its own position in opposition to the war, but led the opposition to the United States. France has sort of made it its mission, not only to stop the United States in Iraq, but to try to curb the United States and control its power and oppose American power. I think that breach will be a little bit harder to patch up.

Although again, you know, governments change on both sides of the Atlantic, and when governments change, we will move on. I do believe that although the strategic gap between us and the gap in terms of use of military power is broad, there are the many things that that still bind us together. The economic ties, the political ties, the common culture are very important. It's a clichà©, but they are things that will continue to bind Americans and Europeans.

Where does this leave the U.N.? And does it matter?

It's important to remember that, for 40 or more years during the Cold War, no one thought about going to the U.N. Security Council for major decisions -- not Americans and not Europeans, because the Soviet veto was there. It's only been a brief period since the end of the Cold War when anyone could have imagined going to the U.N. Security Council on major issues. And on the one occasion when they did go to the U.N. Security Council on a major issue, 1999, on Kosovo, it was impossible to get a U.N. Security Council resolution. So we're in the early stages of building up the legitimacy of the Security Council, actually even though the U.N. has been around for 60 years.

The danger of this most recent crisis is that a new generation of Americans will have become convinced that the U.N. Security Council is not the place to go. I don't see why this is a great victory for Europeans. I think this is where the French in particular may have made a very serious mistake, because if the goal is to rope the United States in as best as possible inside the international order and to get the United States to seek legitimate authorization from the U.N. Security Council, I'm not sure this was the best way to go about it. The lesson that the American public -- set the Bush administration aside -- the lesson that the American public may have learned is that the U.N. Security Council is hopeless. ...

The question of legitimacy for taking military action in particular is going to be the big question of the new world order. We all know where legitimacy came from in the past -- Europeans and Americans agreed through NATO during the Cold War on actions that needed to be taken. The legitimacy came from the fact that the United States and Britain and Germany and France fundamentally, as well as other allies, were in agreement about what needed to be done. That old definition of legitimacy may not be applicable to the new situation, and it's not clear if the U.N. Security Council is going to be a substitute for that, either.

So I would say the question of legitimacy for military action is now up in the air. What constellation of powers need to come together to bestow legitimacy on action? Many Europeans insist that it is the Security Council. I would say most Americans don't agree with that, and that is going to be one of the questions that we're all going to have to grapple with.

What do you think is the big question for the future thrown up by the disputes and fallouts of this, the geopolitical question? ...

I think the big question that we all face is, how do we all adjust to the new situation of having a single power that is dominant in the world?

Europeans and Americans need to adjust to the fact that they don't share the same perspective on international order and questions regarding the use of military force, and the legitimacy for action. It's not something that we can wish away. It's something we need to adjust to and learn how to manage, and it's not going to be easy.

I do think that the course that Tony Blair has tried to take is the most hopeful one -- an effort to find some synthesis between the American worldview and the European worldview; again, without wishing it away. Finding a workable compromise is the great task of the future. I don't know exactly what the answer to the problem is going to be. I don't think Europe is going to fundamentally change the course that it's on, and I don't think that the United States is going to change the course that it's on. So they're going to have to adjust to each other.

Again, a lot of this will come down to statesmanship. How can the Europeans best affect American behavior? How can they best shape American behavior? Some of it will come from opposing American actions, but some will also have to come from cajoling the United States and coaxing it along. This is just a reality it seems to me.

One answer also is that Europe must provide itself with more power and influence. I sometimes get the sense that Europeans want to decree a multipolar world, but they're unwilling to take the steps to create the other pole that could be used to influence American behavior.

Which are?

Which would consist of building up their military capacity. Europeans have to get past the idea that military power no longer has any relevance to the modern international order. I think it does have relevance. Europe will not have influence if it doesn't have more military capacity. Then I think Europe must learn if it's going to try to speak with one voice, it must learn to work out its problems and present a unified position on all range of issues, including the issue of dealing with the United States.

 

 

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posted april 3, 2003

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