"America badly needs to improve its global image," says The Economist in a special survey on "American and the world." The magazine is pretty optimistic regarding the next US president's chances to win back Europe's "love with America" (HT: Atlantic Community):
Many Europeans are ambivalent about America: prone to sounding off about Yankee imperialism but nevertheless infatuated with American culture. Many of them were furious with the Bush administration precisely because of its refusal to live up to the American ideals that had served the country so well during the second world war. Given a little wooing, they might be willing to fall back in love with America.
Was Europe ever truly "in love with America"? Is "just a little wooing" enough? I doubt it.
Related: Le Figaro says that Europe has to get prepared for rising US isolationism and fill the void (See Top Press Commentary in the Atlantic Community.) Europe won't do that either, I believe.
You think that American soldiers defeated the evil Nazis and brought democracy to Europe? Think again, says British historian Norman Davies: Militarily, the Allies contributed less than the Soviets to the defeat of Germany. About 80 percent of German forces were lost on the Eastern Front.
The Soviets won the war in Europe in terms of replacing political systems with their own. More at Dialog International.
The Soviets also had huge casualties, which still has an influence on Russian policies: David A. Bell, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in the Los Angeles Times (and discussed on the Atlantic Review post Responding to "Al-Qaeda's Revival"):
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.
David Vickrey, editor of Dialog International and a volunteer for Senator Obama's presidential campaign, discusses in the following guest blog post the likely development of transatlantic relations in an Obama presidency:
Recently Stern Magazine polled German readers concerning who they supported in the US primaries in the race for president. Barack Obama was the clear preference. You could say that Obamamania has gripped Europe just as it has much of America. Many Germans share the view of Elmar Brok - a German member of the European Parliament- that "Obama's candidacy is romantic".
But would an Obama administration meet the expectations of his European fans? Or is this a case of "be careful what you wish for" and the reality of a President Obama will disappoint?
Obama has said very little about his views on Europe and transatlantic relations. The focus of his campaign has understandably been on his plans to end the war in Iraq and his policies for addressing the economic meltdown in the US. But he has written and spoken enough about foreign policy to provide some clues on his approach to Europe:
Senator McCain has spoken out in favor of a free trade deal with the European Union, building on the North American Free Trade Agreement, writes DW World: "I think to head a free trade agreement with the European Union would be a great thing to happen."
The United States did not single-handedly win the Cold War; the transatlantic alliance did, in concert with partners around the world. The bonds we share with Europe in terms of history, values, and interests are unique. Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union as we continue to support a strong NATO. The future of the transatlantic relationship lies in confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century worldwide: developing a common energy policy, creating a transatlantic common market tying our economies more closely together, addressing the dangers posed by a revanchist Russia, and institutionalizing our cooperation on issues such as climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion.
Anatol Lieven, however, warns in the Financial Times that Europe should fear a McCain presidency. (Hat tip: Detlef).
In just three years, the Brussels Forum has established itself as an elite annual conference for the key players in transatlantic relations. The Brussels Forum is what Davos is for the business elite and the Munich Security Conference for the defense politicians.
Constanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund, the main organizer of the Brussels Forum, presented an interesting sounding paper: "America and Europe, seven years after 9/11: Hard power humbled, soft power exposed, and a looser, more pragmatic relationship," available for download as a PDF.
Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, writes about the Brussels Forum in the SF Chronicle:
Many European leaders will be saddened to see President Bush leave the White House next year. No, they won't miss his soaring inspirational rhetoric, collegial foreign policy or sophisticated knowledge of the world. What worries many Europeans is that their free pass is about to expire. Not since Richard Nixon's final year in office have foreign leaders been so free to say no to Washington with few if any political repercussions. In fact, for the last few years, agreeing with the White House has held greater political risks than snubbing Bush and his aides.
Yes, most political observers (at least in Berlin) believe that it will be harder for European governments to say no to a new president. I, however, think that German and European public opinion on issues like Afghanistan or Iran is not going to change, when a new president is inaugurated in the United States. European politicians will find plenty of good (and not so good) reasons to say no. Besides, 2009 is an election year in Germany. Don't expect any changes in our Afghanistan policy until after the elections.
Senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has repeated his calls for a 'league of democracies' in a Financial Times op-ed directed at Europe.
We need to renew and revitalise our democratic solidarity. We need to strengthen our transatlantic alliance as the core of a new global compact – a League of Democracies – that can harness the great power of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.
At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. We Americans recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we must pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”. Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed.
The words about respect and trust are welcome. However, the idea of a leage of democracies is also likely to run into some opposition among America's European allies. The reasons McCain gives for his league of democracies, both in the FT and in a May 2007 speech reported on in the Washington Post, have much to do with America's perceived national interest. On issues like confronting the 'turn towards autocracy' in Russia, 'acting where the UN fails to act' on a problem like Darfur and providing 'unimpeded market access' to open market democracies, continental Europe has completely different perceived interests.
Dialog International scans the German press coverage regarding the Iraq war anniversary and translates a Sueddeutsche Zeitung interview with Gunter Pleuger, Germany's ambassador to the United Nations during the run-up to the war. Pleuger speaks about his impressions of Colin Powell's presentation at the UN Security Council:
It was all very surreal. Most of us in the UN auditorium knew that what Powell was presenting had no basis in reality. But we couldn't imagine that Colin Powell would deliberately present falsehoods.
I beg to differ with Dialog International's the headline "Bush's War Enters its Sixth Year." It is America's war. A majority of Americans were in favor of the war in 2003. The United States is a democracy with various powerful branches of government and with a free press. Thus I would not blame the war on Bush only. Writing in Foreign Policy Magazine (subscribers only) Alasdair Roberts described Iraq as "The War We Deserve."