Friday, February 24, 2006


In the mid-90s, there was a profound recognition by American and European policymakers that NATO,– freshly victorious in the Cold War,– was a mutually treasured asset. We were inspired by the opportunity to reshape our collective efforts to the challenges of the 21st century. Most of that energy went into expanding the institutions to take in the new Democracies of E. Europe and the big test case of the Balkans. The neglected question: what is our common global interest?

The Bush Administration arrived with a distinctly anti-European agenda. Mexico was more important. China was more important. After September 11th, the Middle East was more important. Surprisingly, when Bush launched a globally unpopular war in Iraq, not that many European leaders supported him. And then the name calling began ("Freedom Fries!"”).

Fortunately, things have calmed a bit and there appears to be momentum on both sides of the pond to patch things up. This certainly would be a priority of Germany'’s likely new conservative government and likely a new French President as well. And Bush himself has put out an olive branch, going to two EU meetings in recent months. But the riff has fully exposed core differences more substantive than cosmetics and environment.

Europeans and Americans still share immense cultural, economic, and historical ties but when it comes to the new world order, we are Mars and Venus, Felix and Oscar, windshield and bug.

- Americans feel threatened by terrorism, China, and rogue states. Europeans don'’t feel threatened (except possibly by the prospect of Turkey in the EU).

- Americans want to export democracy and free markets to the rest of the world (and sanction the non-believers!). Europeans want to export Nokia phones, BMWs, and gigantic airplanes to the world.

- Americans are independent leaders, seeking to influence other nations but not be influenced by them. Europeans prefer collective decisionmaking, rule of law, and international organizations.

So we have a long close partnership that has little to partner on. We say tomato, you say tomahtoh. Sure there continues to be cooperation on a few things (some terrorism related programs, Afghanistan, even a little in Iraq), but our public’s values and priorities are starkly different and a serious barrier to close political cooperation on future problems.

This isn'’t meant to say that we should give uptransatlanticAtlantic alliance. You don't give up on your lifelong best friend because of one argument or even if she decided to vote Republican. No, America and Europe should rekindle the alliance and discover new areas of common interest even while better understanding our current differences.

The most logical connection is multilateral counterterrorism and homeland security. Europe loves multilateralism. Terrorism and homeland security demand a multilateral approach. We love hunting terrorists. Bring on the new NATO!