Atelier No.15, article 17

Andrew Johnston :
©International Herald Tribune, August 15, 2001

                                   Europe's Ties With America: New Cause for Concern

                                   The problem with allies," Winston Churchill said, "is that they
                                   sometimes develop opinions of their own."

                                   International analysts are divided over whether the current
                                   trans-Atlantic tension, evident in a new poll of European attitudes
                                   toward George W. Bush, is just a bad case of overdeveloped
                                   opinions or reflects a growing estrangement between the United
                                   States and Europe.

                                   But they agree that the future of the world's crucial geopolitical
                                   relationship depends on how Mr. Bush chooses to handle things
                                   from here on.

                                   The poll, by the International Herald Tribune and the Pew
                                   Research Center for the People and the Press, comes at a time
                                   when two main schools of thought are emerging. One school,
                                   championed by Antony Blinken, a National Security Council
                                   official in the Clinton administration, says the United States and
                                   Europe are actually converging.

                                   "The 'crisis' in U.S.-European relations is largely a myth
                                   manufactured by elites," Mr. Blinken wrote in Foreign Affairs

                                   But some of the IHT/Pew poll results challenge Mr. Blinken's
                                   assertion that the views of politicians, intellectuals and the media
                                   on this subject "clash with those of the people they purport to

                                   The poll shows that most people in the four largest West European
                                   countries sharply disagree with the way Mr. Bush is handling
                                   international affairs, with few saying that he takes European
                                   interests into account.

                                   Pluralities of Europeans think the basic interests of the United
                                   States and Europe have remained the same in recent years. But
                                   their deep concern about Mr. Bush's approach appears to support
                                   the opposing camp of analysts, represented by the French
                                   commentator Dominique Moisi.

                                   "For the first time since 1947 a mutual decoupling of the United
                                   States from Europe is truly possible," Mr. Moisi, deputy director
                                   of the French Institute of International Relations, argued in a
                                   response to Mr. Blinken in the next issue of Foreign Affairs.

                                   For Mr. Moisi, as for many other commentators, the end of the
                                   Cold War, the changing nature of Europe and globalization have
                                   caused a fundamental change in the 50-year relationship.

                                   The United States in the 1920s and '30s was isolationist, refusing
                                   even to join the League of Nations. All that was changed by
                                   World War II and the generation of American internationalists
                                   who rescued Europe from postwar economic misery with the
                                   Marshall Plan and helped to found the United Nations and

                                   Faced with the Soviet military threat, Europe had to be content all
                                   through the Cold War with a trans-Atlantic partnership in which
                                   both sides contributed but Washington predominated. But since
                                   the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europeans have been freer to question
                                   some of the assumptions underlying the alliance.

                                   What they see, Mr. Moisi and his camp argue, is an unequal
                                   partnership with a military-minded America obsessed with rogue
                                   states and weapons of mass destruction.

                                   The new Europe, on the other hand, increasingly relies on treaties
                                   and diplomacy to pursue goals linked to the future of the planet
                                   and the less elevated aim of bolstering its own economy.

                                   The countries of the consolidating and expanding European Union
                                   have been finding, like everyone else, that not only do they have to
                                   compete in the global marketplace but that they also must decide
                                   what they want to protect from the market's ravages.

                                   That means an emphasis on cultural values seen as European and a
                                   need for something to push against. "One way for Europeans to
                                   define their identity," Mr. Moisi says, "is to distinguish themselves
                                   from the United States."

                                   Mr. Blinken argues instead that on many such cultural issues - the
                                   death penalty, genetically modified foods, the dominance of
                                   American popular culture - the gap between Europeans and
                                   Americans is often exaggerated.

                                   Mr. Bush seems to have presented many Europeans with a
                                   concentration of all their fears.

                                   "Bush's popularity, or lack thereof in Europe, may be more
                                   important now than it would have been in the Cold War," Dana
                                   Allin, a policy analyst at the International Institute for Strategic
                                   Studies in London, said in an interview.

                                   Not only are Mr. Bush's values different, but he also goes about
                                   things the wrong way, Europeans felt. "The new administration has
                                   sinned against the first commandment of diplomacy: Line up your
                                   ducks first," Josef Joffe, a German analyst, wrote in an opinion
                                   article in The New York Times after Mr. Bush withdrew the
                                   United States from the Kyoto Protocol without offering an
                                   alternative to combat global warming.

                                   After the Kyoto decision, "all the resentments about American
                                   national life," wrote Henry Porter, the London editor of Vanity
                                   Fair, "coalesced into a single charge sheet which damned
                                   American society as being arrogant and out of touch with global

                                   Amid what has become a flood of international criticism of Mr.
                                   Bush's performance so far, several influential commentators have
                                   urged caution.

                                   "Any new occupant of the Oval Office starts out as a neophyte in
                                   foreign policy," Mr. Joffe said, and will offend because the United
                                   States is the bull elephant of global politics: "Whichever way he
                                   saunters, he will trample grass."

                                   In a searching analysis in Foreign Affairs of attitudes and
                                   problems, William Wallace, of the London School of Economics,
                                   argued for a more balanced relationship and warned against a war
                                   of words, saying: "Trans-Atlantic relations would benefit from a
                                   process of moral disarmament, in which both sides moderate their
                                   rhetoric and their attacks on each other's failings."

                                   If a theme runs through the public worryings of analysts and
                                   commentators, it is that the future of the trans-Atlantic partnership
                                   lies in the hands of a man who is seen as managing clumsily the
                                   transition from the governorship of Texas to the most powerful job
                                   in the world.

                                   Commentators emphasize that Americans are not about to turn
                                   their backs on Europeans. But U.S. isolationism of the 1920s and
                                   '30s is part of a recurring European nightmare.

                                   "The greatest danger today," wrote Thomas Friedman, The New
                                   York Times's foreign affairs columnist, "is not European
                                   anti-Americanism, but American anti-Americanism. The greatest
                                   danger is if America is no longer ready to play America - the
                                   benign superpower that pays a disproportionate price to maintain
                                   the system of which it is the biggest beneficiary."