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01/30/2003

Power and Weakness

[Due to travel, Hott Spotts will return on Feb. 20.]

Last summer foreign policy expert Robert Kagan wrote a piece in
Policy Review titled “Power and Weakness,” the relationship
between Europe and America today. It is still receiving substantial
press in the corridors of Washington so I thought I’d share a few of
Kagan’s thoughts. [You should still be able to find the full 21-page
piece at ‘policyreview.org.’]

“On major strategic and international questions today, Americans are
from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and
understand one another less and less.”

“Europe, because of its unique historical experience of the past half-
century – culminating in the past decade with the creation of the
European Union – has developed a set of ideals and principles
regarding the utility and morality of power different from the ideals
and principles of Americans, who have not shared that experience.
If the strategic chasm between the United States and Europe appears
greater than ever today, and grows still wider at a worrying pace, it is
because these material and ideological differences reinforce one
another. The divisive trend they together produce may be impossible
to reverse.”

“The 1990s witnessed not the rise of a European superpower but the
decline of Europe into relative weakness. The Balkan conflict at the
beginning of the decade revealed European military incapacity and
political disarray; the Kosovo conflict at decade’s end exposed a
transatlantic gap in military technology and the ability to wage modern
warfare that would only widen in subsequent years Under the best
of circumstances, the European role was limited to filling out
peacekeeping forces after the United States had, largely on its own,
carried out the decisive phases of a military mission and stabilized the
situation. As some Europeans put it, the real division of labor
consisted of the United States ‘making the dinner’ and the Europeans
‘doing the dishes.’”

“Today’s transatlantic problem is not a George Bush problem. It is
a power problem. American military strength has produced a
propensity to use that strength. Europe’s military weakness has
produced a perfectly understandable aversion to the exercise of
military power.”

“The incapacity to respond to threats leads not only to tolerance but
sometimes to denial. It’s normal to try to put out of one’s mind that
which one can do nothing about. According to one student of
European opinion Americans, writes Steven Everts, talk about
foreign ‘threats’ such as ‘the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, terrorism, and ‘rogue states.’” But Europeans look at
‘challenges,’ such as ‘ethnic conflict, migration, organized crime,
poverty and environmental degradation.’”

“When Europeans wept and waved American flags after September
11, it was out of genuine human sympathy, sorrow, and affection for
Americans. For better or for worse, European displays of solidarity
were a product more of fellow-feeling than self-interest.”

“America’s power, and its willingness to exercise that power –
unilaterally if necessary – represents a threat to Europe’s new sense
of mission. Perhaps the greatest threat. American policymakers find
it hard to believe, but leading officials and politicians in Europe worry
more about how the United States might handle or mishandle the
problem of Iraq – undertaking unilateral and extralegal military action
- than they worry about Iraq itself and Saddam Hussein’s weapons of
mass destruction.”

---

Due to difficulty in posting articles from the ship I’m on, “Hott Spotts”
will not return until the week of February 17. I appreciate your
understanding.

Brian Trumbore



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Hot Spots

01/30/2003

Power and Weakness

[Due to travel, Hott Spotts will return on Feb. 20.]

Last summer foreign policy expert Robert Kagan wrote a piece in
Policy Review titled “Power and Weakness,” the relationship
between Europe and America today. It is still receiving substantial
press in the corridors of Washington so I thought I’d share a few of
Kagan’s thoughts. [You should still be able to find the full 21-page
piece at ‘policyreview.org.’]

“On major strategic and international questions today, Americans are
from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and
understand one another less and less.”

“Europe, because of its unique historical experience of the past half-
century – culminating in the past decade with the creation of the
European Union – has developed a set of ideals and principles
regarding the utility and morality of power different from the ideals
and principles of Americans, who have not shared that experience.
If the strategic chasm between the United States and Europe appears
greater than ever today, and grows still wider at a worrying pace, it is
because these material and ideological differences reinforce one
another. The divisive trend they together produce may be impossible
to reverse.”

“The 1990s witnessed not the rise of a European superpower but the
decline of Europe into relative weakness. The Balkan conflict at the
beginning of the decade revealed European military incapacity and
political disarray; the Kosovo conflict at decade’s end exposed a
transatlantic gap in military technology and the ability to wage modern
warfare that would only widen in subsequent years Under the best
of circumstances, the European role was limited to filling out
peacekeeping forces after the United States had, largely on its own,
carried out the decisive phases of a military mission and stabilized the
situation. As some Europeans put it, the real division of labor
consisted of the United States ‘making the dinner’ and the Europeans
‘doing the dishes.’”

“Today’s transatlantic problem is not a George Bush problem. It is
a power problem. American military strength has produced a
propensity to use that strength. Europe’s military weakness has
produced a perfectly understandable aversion to the exercise of
military power.”

“The incapacity to respond to threats leads not only to tolerance but
sometimes to denial. It’s normal to try to put out of one’s mind that
which one can do nothing about. According to one student of
European opinion Americans, writes Steven Everts, talk about
foreign ‘threats’ such as ‘the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, terrorism, and ‘rogue states.’” But Europeans look at
‘challenges,’ such as ‘ethnic conflict, migration, organized crime,
poverty and environmental degradation.’”

“When Europeans wept and waved American flags after September
11, it was out of genuine human sympathy, sorrow, and affection for
Americans. For better or for worse, European displays of solidarity
were a product more of fellow-feeling than self-interest.”

“America’s power, and its willingness to exercise that power –
unilaterally if necessary – represents a threat to Europe’s new sense
of mission. Perhaps the greatest threat. American policymakers find
it hard to believe, but leading officials and politicians in Europe worry
more about how the United States might handle or mishandle the
problem of Iraq – undertaking unilateral and extralegal military action
- than they worry about Iraq itself and Saddam Hussein’s weapons of
mass destruction.”

---

Due to difficulty in posting articles from the ship I’m on, “Hott Spotts”
will not return until the week of February 17. I appreciate your
understanding.

Brian Trumbore