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Redefining Transatlantic Relations

Casualties in Iraq have decreased a bit, European leaders speak more softly and Russia is a bit more assertive. Now some on the right feel uplifted and apparently assume that the kids in Europe are running to their daddy America.

At the weekend, I wrote about Charles Krauthammer's claim that "the rise of external threats to our allies has concentrated their minds on the need for the American connection." Victor Davis Hanson made similar claims in the National Review Online:

In the build-up to the invasion, anti-Americanism in Europe reached a near frenzy. It was whipped up by French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and evoked warnings of an eternal split in the Atlantic Alliance. If Iraq had proved a catalyst for this expression of near hatred - fueled by long-standing angers and envies - it soon, however, proved to be a catharsis as well.

Both leaders overplayed their hands when the U.S. had already begun downsizing its NATO deployments in Germany. Elsewhere, Europeans started to have second thoughts about alienating America at a time of rising Russian belligerency, and suffered from increased worry over radical Islamic terrorists, at home and abroad. The result is that their successors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, are staunchly pro-American in ways their previous governments were not, even well before the Iraq War."

I don't think Chirac and Schroeder were the ones who "overplayed their hands," if you know what I mean... Besides, I wonder why Victor Davis Hanson considers Sarkozy and Merkel "staunchly pro-American." I'd thought that military historians would be a bit more skeptical about the rhetoric of politicians. What staunchly pro-American policy have Merkel and Sarkozy implemented?

Or perhaps what we are seeing here is a trend of lowered expectations, which one commenter recently put this way: "Six years ago [America's] message to the world was 'you're with us or you're against us.' Now it's 'well, so long as you're not against us...'"

Yet another way to look at it is: Europeans have not contributed very much to Iraq and "the good war" in Afghanistan. Many Americans don't see Europe as a crucial ally who has the power to help in America's hours of need. Thus nice statements and withholding public criticism is the only thing to expect from Europeans. If we Europeans want to be taken more seriously, we need to offer more.

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Anonymous on :

This whole 'you're with us or against us' rhetoric referred to attacking Afghanistan, not Iraq--which you did. As to 'redefining transatlantic' relations, that's a bit rich. When has Germany or France been on the short-list since the end of the Soviet threat? Or even in the context of implementing deterant strategies on your own territory within the NATO security umbrella? Pershing crisis anyone? VDH equates pro-American as a country that wont attempt to throw a spanner in the works from pique or myopic short term interests. Merkel and Sarkozy both fit that term presently. Joerg, you are consciously re-inventing history. When havent the Americans told the continental types to stfu and sit in the corner when matters of import arise? It is, after all, a pretty low threshold to meet; hence, the anger when continental principles evidently can not be comprised and some political hack gives a press conference b/c "friends must give advice" or some other tosh.

Don S on :

"I don't think Chirac and Schroeder were the ones who "overplayed their hands," if you know what I mean..." I do. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one; I think these two leaders are going to be regarded as twin disasters when the history of the era is written. "Besides, I wonder why Victor Davis Hanson considers Sarkozy and Merkel "staunchly pro-American." I'd thought that military historians would be a bit more skeptical about the rhetoric of politicians. What staunchly pro-American policy have Merkel and Sarkozy implemented? Hanson is a classical historian - Greece and Rome, not pnecessarily a 'military historian'. Compared to their immediate predecessors Sarkozy and Merkel are far more pro-American, although whether they fit that description on a more objective scale is debateable. "Or perhaps what we are seeing here is a trend of lowered expectations," There is something to this, I think. My expectations have been radically lowered - to the point where I expect precisely nothing from either country or theor leaders. In my view the NATO alliance is dead, but the corpse has not begun stinking enough to make it obvious to people with their eyes firmly closed. "Yet another way to look at it is: Europeans have not contributed very much to Iraq and "the good war" in Afghanistan. Many Americans don't see Europe as a crucial ally who has the power to help in America's hours of need. Thus nice statements and withholding public criticism is the only thing to expect from Europeans." It's funny. I DID see Europe as a "crusial ally who had the power" - until Europe deliberately held it's nose and decided not to be a crucial ally. Europe still could be a crucial ally - but Europe doean't want to. And it won't. That means the alliance is dead and nice words is all that is possible. "If we Europeans want to be taken more seriously, we need to offer more." I think the train has left the station. 'Europe' may be able to call a cab and catch up to the train at the next station, but I see no significant efforts to run to the taxi rank. Indeed, I see Europe proposing to offer less, if anything. Note that 'Europe', while a useful abstraction, is not a precise enough term to accurately describe the situation. The US will remain closely allied to large parts of NATO (the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and Canada). But NATO links to the continental European members have been fatally weakened and are parting even as we watch.

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