From the beginning of George W Bush's presidency there has been a profound unease in ... more
relations between Europe and the United States. Robert Kagan's Paradise & Power: America and Europe in the New World Order offers a diagnosis and prognosis of the current malaise, which recent events such as Bush's "axis of evil" speech and UN divisions over Iraq have made even worse. Kagan argues that the 20th century has seen an inversion of history, whereby the once great, imperial, war-mongering powers of the 19th century (Britain, France and Germany) have become doves and multi-lateralists and the precocious and defenceless small power of the earlier era (America) has become a military and economic giant, hawkish and resolute in its defence of global security. Europe (or more specifically France and Germany), Kagan argues, have learned that nation-states must live together or die, while America has come to rely on the blunt diplomacy of the pre-emptive strike. Europeans resent America for its bully-boy tactics; Americans get fed up with whining Europeans who would not enjoy their freedom to moan but for the post-1945 umbrella of NATO security. Kagan is wise and perceptive throughout his long essay and pleads reasonably that the US and the EU must develop a common policy that recognises their historical and strategic differences. He is a realist and there is little of the triumphalism to be found in similar recent works by American foreign policy experts such as Francis Fukuyama. Kagan is good on the military and diplomatic aspects of the question, but brushes over the resentments fuelled by America's MacDonaldisation of European culture. --Miles Taylor
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European leaders increasingly disturbed by U.S. policy and actions abroad feel they are headed for a moment of truth. After years of mutual resentment and tension there is a sudden recognition that the real interests of America and its allies are diverging sharply and that the trans-atlantic relationship itself has changed possibly irreversibly. Europe sees the United States as high-handed unilateralist and unnecessarily belligerent; the United States sees Europe as spent unserious and weak. The anger and mistrust on both sides are hardening into incomprehension. Tracing the widely differing histories of Europe and America since the end of World War II Kagan makes clear how for one the need to escape a bloody past has led to a new set of transnational beliefs about power and threat while the other has perforce evolved into the guarantor of that postmodern paradise" by dint of its might and global reach."