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"The United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community"

Georgetown Prof Charles Kupchan has published the interesting essay "Grand Strategy: The Four Pillars of the Future" in Democracy Journal.

The first and most important, yet also quite mainstream and redundant recommendation is to reduce oversea commitments:

A progressive grand strategy must help guide the United States from its current state of overextension toward a new balance between its foreign policy ends and its economic and political means. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the scope of America's commitment has far outstripped the interests at stake. The Iraq War, as unnecessary as it has been expensive, has drained the nation's coffers and ground down the U.S. military. In Afghanistan, it makes little sense for the United States to spend more than $100 billion per year in a nation whose annual GDP is roughly $14 billion, or for 100,000 U.S. troops to be in the fight when Al Qaeda's operational capability in that country has been largely dismantled. An open-ended strategy of counterinsurgency should give way to a much smaller U.S. mission focused on counterterrorism.

The fourth pillar of his grand strategy concerns the transatlantic alliance. I am positively surprised that Prof. Kupchan still sees enough value and potential in Europe to make this one of his pillars: "Fourth, the United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community":

Progressives should make a priority of reviving the West. (...) Atlantic Alliance is much more than a military tool kit-it is an institution vital to preserving the coherence and effectiveness of the West as a political community. NATO should certainly continue to ensure the common defense of its members and undertake joint military operations, as it has done in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Libya. But the alliance should also serve as the West's main venue for coordinating engagement with rising powers and advancing global security by helping other organizations secure peace in their own regions.

Although conservatives are often dismissive of Europe due to its lack of hard power, they generally appreciate the importance of a transatlantic community that rests on common values and interests. While neoconservatives tended to denigrate the Atlantic partnership during George W. Bush's first term-particularly because many Europeans opposed the Iraq War-Bush changed course during his second term and worked hard to repair the Atlantic link. The Tea Party may not relish the binding commitments to collective defense that come with NATO membership, but its supporters would at least in principle welcome institutions that might be able to pick up the slack as they orchestrate the retraction of America's geopolitical commitments.

Nonetheless, the policies pursued by conservatives are likely to do more harm than good to the Atlantic partnership. Europeans have little stomach for the brash unilateralism favored by neoconservatives. Nor do they deem wise calls from the right for NATO to offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine, a move that would provoke Russia and saddle the alliance with new and onerous commitments. As for the Tea Party, mainstream conservatives in Europe do not relate to either the isolationism or the social and fiscal conservatism of America's far right. Simply put, an America that plays by conservative rules abroad and at home is not an appealing partner for Europe. American progressives are the natural political allies of Europeans and would therefore provide the Atlantic community a much firmer foundation of affinity and interest.

A few quick comments:

1. Regarding the last sentence: Well, Europe welcomed the election of President Obama. America is much more popular than before, but European policies have not changed that much. The US is not getting that much more support from Europe. When Obama surged in Afghanistan for instance, Europe has also increased troops, but not at a level to justify the term "surge". I think Democrats had illusions regarding support from Europe before Obama's election, but now they don't have them anymore. Well, then again, Kupchan did write that Afghanistan is not so important to US interests.

2. I thought the term "progressives" referred to only the very left wing of the Democrats, but this seems to have changed as Kupchan seems to adress the party mainstream.

3.. Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but it seems to me that Kupchan is trying to convince the Democrats that Europe and NATO are important, while acknowledging that conservatives already recognize this.


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