German Politics, Germany, Iraq, Political Theory, US Politics, USA

A deeper rift? Some context…

Firstly, a noteworthy article by Robert Kagan concerning the fundamental policy-style differences between Europe and the US, published in May in the Washington Post.

Secondly, The Economist’s analysis of these differences. Thirdly, a paper called “Mutual Perceptions” by Peter Rudolf of the German Institute for Foreign and Strategic Policy (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Berlin), presented at a conference of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies on Sept. 10, 2002.

Some key quotes from the latter :

“The American and the European publics, including the German public are also not so far apart in their view of the world. They do not live on different planets, the one on Mars, the other on Venus, as Robert Kagan`s now famous dictum says. Looking at the collective preferences on both sides of the Atlantic, we are no way drifting apart. In their majority, Americans and Europeans do share a positive view of international institutions, Americans are more multilateral than unilateral oriented; Europeans, even Germans, are by far less opposed to the use of military force, although they are inclined to support it for humanitarian purpose and for upholding international law. Although the use of military means for combating terrorism finds support among a majority of people across Europe, the preferred measures to combat terrorism lie – to a greater extent than among Americans – in the economic realm: in helping poor countries to develop their economies. Thus, Americans and Germans do not live on different planets but those neoconservatives do, those – to quote former President Carter – “belligerent and divisive voices” now seemingly dominant in Washington, those whose vision of America`s role in the world implies a basic strategic reorientation of American foreign policy. Using the dramatically increased perception of vulnerability to asymmetric threats and instrumentalizing the “war on terror” as the legitimizing principle, the hegemonic – or better: the imperial – wing of the conservative foreign policy elite effectively dominated the political discourse and left its imprint on a series of decisions..” (p. 2)

“Should the neoconservatives succeed in turning the United States into a crusader state waging so-called preventive wars, German-American relations will head to further estrangement. If the current debate on Iraq is indicative of things to come, the expectation of American neoconservatives that their European allies will in the end jump on the bandwagon might be disappointed, at least in the German case. In their despise of their irrelevant amoral European allies and in their overconfidence in American hard power resources, they simply ignore the value dimension of the current transatlantic conflicts. It is a conflict about different visions of world order.” (p. 6)

Lastly, for those who can read German, another SWP study – “Preventive war as solution? The USA and Iraq.” For those who don’t read German, the footnotes are a remarkable collection of mostly English language documents concerning the intra-US-administrative discussion as well as the international one. I’ll probably post some key references later.