Policy Review Banner

Will Europe Arrest Its Strategic Fade?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Europeans don’t come from Venus. They are the conflicted inheritors of a long military tradition which still survives — but which nearly devastated their continent, leaving in its trail a complex relationship to war.

In 1870, as a result of the French defeat, the Germans invaded France and annexed its eastern region of Alsace-Lorraine, home of my family. But my great grandfather, André de Chevigny, was born French rather than German, because his mother would always make sure to cross the French border a few weeks before delivery so as to avoid giving birth to little Germans. André attended the Saint-Cyr military academy, class of 1897, and became a colonial officer. He took part in the fight against the Boxer rebellion in Beijing, and administered various territories in Indochina and in Madagascar.

In 1914, when World War I broke out, Germany invaded eastern France again (André had moved to the French part of Lorraine in the meantime), this time with considerable violence. In the nearby small town of Longuyon, more than 80 civilians were executed by German soldiers, including the mayor and the priest. While André’s manor was pillaged and occupied by Bavarian and then Prussian troops, who turned it into a hospital, he was on his way to Turkey, for the Dardanelles expedition (Gallipoli). While trying to seize Koum-Kale from the Turks and the Germans, he was shot and fell in the water. He was rescued at the last minute by one of his Senegalese soldiers and slowly recovered from his wounds in a military clinic in Alexandria, Egypt. He went on to fight in Verdun in 1917, where he suffered mustard gas attacks, and in the Somme in 1918, where he was severely injured again. He was lucky to be alive at the end of the war, unlike other men in his family and so many of his fellow officers — indeed, the entire Saint-Cyr class of 1914 was wiped out by the war. After the war, he spent a lot of time in the administrative process of obtaining reparations to rebuild his property.

Robert Kagan captured the zeitgeist of a particular place, the Brussels of the EU, at a particular moment.

In 1940, when World War II broke out on the Western front, Lorraine was invaded again, the family property occupied and damaged again, and André’s son Pierre de Chevigny (my grandfather) fought in the campaign of France. But his antiaircraft platoon was no match for Hitler’s stukas, and he had to retreat until the armistice. After being demobilized, he took on the management of a regional youth organization for the Vichy regime. In 1942, this organization became a front for a Resistance movement called Alliance. Alliance was affiliated with the British intelligence services, and Pierre was reporting on German aircraft movements in Lyon. He and his young wife were arrested by Klaus Barbie’s Gestapo in the summer of 1943 and brutally interrogated in Paris. While my grandmother was released to give birth to her first child (my mother), Pierre was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in January 1944. Even though he was not part of the underground communist organization which was running daily life in the camp with an iron fist (and tacit acquiescence from the Nazi guards), he survived the horrific experience of Buchenwald. In April 1945, the 80th Infantry Division of General Patton’s Third Army took control of the camp, and liberated him.

But his return home was tainted with sadness. His younger brother had died a few months before fighting the Germans after landing in Provence, as part of the French African army. Two of his brothers-in-law also died for France. Like his father had done 25 years earlier, he spent considerable time in the process of obtaining reparations to rebuild his property. But this time, the international situation was different. Things had gone too far between France and Germany. Even in the disputed and patriotic region of Lorraine, there was a solid European movement, in which Pierre de Chevigny took part. He embraced a political career, was elected a senator, and was part of the nato parliamentary assembly in the 1960s — where he cooperated with his American and West European, especially German, counterparts, to build a militarily strong and united West.

Family histories like this one, marked by nationalism and violence, with their tragic harvest of young men at each war, are in large supply across Europe, particularly in countries like Germany, the uk, France, and Poland. They provided the original impetus for reconciliation and the European construction after World War II. But they also led to contrasted and internally conflicted strategic cultures and sensitivities toward the use of force — although certainly not to a general debellicization of the continent.

When he wrote his famous article “Power and Weakness” in 2002, Robert Kagan captured the zeitgeist of a particular place at a particular moment: the Brussels of the European Union at the turn of the century, where he had been living for a few years. The contrast could then not be greater with a nationalist and aroused America, seething at the infamy of 9/11, inebriated by its easy takeover of Afghanistan, and conditioned by the Bush administration to see Iraq as a true danger. So while “Power and Weakness” was a fair reflection of the dominant strategic culture in eu circles at the time, and of its stark contrast with George W. Bush’s America, it is not unreasonable to think that it would have been a very different article had Kagan lived in London or Warsaw — or in Paris a few years earlier or later — rather than in Brussels.

The modelization Kagan used in the article was critical to his success. The image of Venus-Europe, and its inability to understand Mars-America, triggered a spirited transatlantic debate — a useful one. But the complexity of European strategic cultures, as well as the historical variations in public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic, rendered that very modelization unsatisfactory and, ultimately, inaccurate. With the benefit of historical perspective, I would like to revisit the recent past of transatlantic relations over issues of war and peace in light of the article, and offer a more nuanced view of the opposition between European and American strategic cultures.

Strategic cultures in Europe

After world war ii, Germany was undoubtedly the country which underwent the most profound recasting of its strategic culture, for obvious reasons. The Federal Republic adopted an entirely different foreign and security policy logic, as Hanns Maull put it, “built on cooperation instead of competition, on the pursuit of wealth rather than power, on a quest for integration through transfer of sovereignty instead of a vain search for autonomy, dominance and status.” In his classic characterization, Maull describes Germany’s strategic orientations by the three pillars of “never again,” (the rejection of the imperialist and Nazi past and the adoption of a norms-based foreign policy), “never alone” (European integration and nato), and “politics before force” (the preference for negotiated solutions).1 Militarism rapidly faded out in the German society, and the dominant political attitude vis-à-vis war, even among families with a distinguished military history, was one of instinctive repulsion.

But even “exceptional” Germany, with its widespread pacifism, the limitation of the use of force inscribed in its Basic Law, and the foregoing of nuclear weapons, took part in the Western effort of defense against the Soviet bloc, which led to heated domestic debates — about the extent and modalities of rearmament in the 1950s or during the Euromissile crisis of the 1980s for example. Germans might have migrated to Venus to everyone’s relief, but it was Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schroeder, the leaders of the Greens and the Socialists, the most pacifist-oriented parties, who supported German military participation in the Kosovo war in 1999 and sent German troops to Afghanistan, admittedly with caveats (restrictions in the rules of engagement). And in spite of the various limits of their engagement, and of the many predictions of an anticipated exit, they are still there ten years later, alongside tens of thousands of other European soldiers.

Even Germany, with its pacifism and the limits on force that exist in its Basic Law, took part in the Western effort against the Soviet bloc.

Very different was the experience of nations which emerged victorious from World War II — the uk and France. In these countries, the most important waves of pacifism occurred in the 1920s and especially the 1930s, as a reaction to the absurd violence of the Great War, rather than in the second half of the century. After World War II, both countries fought various wars, including bloody wars of decolonization in Indochina and Algeria for France, but also the Falklands War for the uk, and various smaller operations like the Suez expedition undertaken together with Israel, or postcolonial interventions in Africa for France. Both countries acquired nuclear weapons and maintained robust forces backed up by an extensive military-industrial apparatus.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, both countries fought alongside the U.S. in the Gulf War, and sent ground troops to patrol a nonexistent peace in the ex-Yugoslavia as part of the unprofor. In May and June 1995, it was Jacques Chirac — a former officer in the Algerian war and a president who had just decided to resume testing nuclear weapons in the face of worldwide criticism — who started reversing the humiliating situation of the unprofor by ordering to push back against the Serbs and by creating the nato Rapid Reaction Force, and who then pushed the Clinton administration to act decisively. The dominant trend in U.S. strategic culture at the time seemed to be a combination of the Weinberger-Powell doctrine, meant to avoid impulsive interventions, and of the political imperative to avoid casualties. In May 1999 it was Tony Blair, by declaring himself ready to commit tens of thousands of British troops for a ground invasion in Kosovo, a move that prompted the Clinton administration to follow suit, who turned the tide of the war against Milosevic. This is not to diminish the crucial role played by the U.S. military, which flew an overwhelming majority of sorties during the Bosnia and Kosovo campaigns, but to highlight the fact that Europeans were not shrinking from using force — their own force.

The strategic culture of both the uk and France is characterized by a complex juxtaposition of two elements, both explained by tragic histories like that of my family. On the one hand, there remains a profound attachment to the flag, the armed forces, and national honor, especially at the popular level. On the other hand, there is an estrangement from war and violence, compounded by the professionalization of the armed forces, and reinforced by so many decades of peace on the European continent — and yes, by the shared European ambition to go beyond balance-of-power politics and lead the world towards peace.

The UK and France share an attachment to the flag and armed forces and estrangements from war and violence.

The French case in the past decade illustrates both tendencies. The rejection of the Iraq war in 2003, for example, was accompanied by a brief wave of pacifism: Even Jacques Chirac declared that war was “always the worst of solutions.” The tragic ambush of Uzbin in the Surobi District of Afghanistan in August 2008, when ten French soldiers were killed in a skirmish with the Taliban, also seemed to put in question the traditional link between the nation and its armed forces. It triggered a turn of public opinion against the mission in Afghanistan, but more importantly, it led to developments that could be interpreted as signs of debellicization. The families of the dead soldiers were flown to Afghanistan, as is commonly done for victims of plane crashes or natural disasters, and they decided to sue the military leadership for failing to provide soldiers with adequate equipment or backup support. This lawsuit was upheld by the Paris Court of Appeal, which drew consternation in the armed forces because it implied that the soldiers had been passive victims of negligence rather than fighters dying for France in combat operations. Another sign of debellicization came during the presidential campaign of 2011–12. The candidate for the Green Party, Eva Joly, criticized the annual military parade on the Champs-Elysées on Bastille Day, commenting that it reflected the war-prone France of the past, and proposed to replace it with a “citizens’ parade” featuring schoolchildren, students, and seniors.

The nearly unanimous outrage her suggestion triggered, from the left to the extreme right, however, demonstrated the resilience of a robust strategic culture and the attachment to military traditions. And it is not surprising that many on the right, including Prime Minister François Fillon, attacked the candidate’s foreign origins: She was born in Norway, the criticism went, and couldn’t understand French political culture (Norwegians, he could have added, are from Venus). Similarly, while each new fatality in Afghanistan reinforces the popular desire to leave the country, because of the perception that no national interest is really at stake there (the same relationship is at play in the U.S.), France has also seen the renewal, or the reinvention, of public gatherings to salute the coffins of dead soldiers passing on the Alexandre III bridge in front of the Invalides in Paris. These ceremonies are led by veteran organizations, but they gather a larger crowd.

Had Kagan lived in France in 2011 he would have painted a much different portrait from the one in “Power and Weakness.”

France has also been more than comfortable with the use of military power under Chirac and Sarkozy. Had Robert Kagan lived in France in 2011, for example, he would have painted a decidedly different portrait from the one in “Power and Weakness.” During the course of that one single year, France launched a commando operation in Niger in pursuit of militants from aqmi (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), who had abducted French citizens — one year after a similar operation in Mauritania. It provided the troops and attack helicopters for the unoci operation to forcibly remove former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo from power and install democratically elected President Alassane Ouattara in his stead — a successful regime-change mission. It was engaged in fighting counterinsurgency operations in the hotly contested Kapisa Valley in Afghanistan. It participated in various eu, nato, and un peacekeeping operations from the Balkans to Somalia. It was at the forefront of efforts to impose costly sanctions on Iran. Last but not least, Paris triggered the allied intervention in Libya, alongside London, managing to convince an initially reluctant Obama administration to lend its support to an operation which led to the removal of dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. Indeed, Sarkozy launched the first wave of bombing to defend the insurgent-held city of Benghazi from Qaddafi’s troops on March 19, 2011, before Libyan air defenses had been suppressed, and he later made sure the rebels could win by sending weapons and using attack helicopters.

In terms of strategic cultures, other Western European nations tend to fall between the German model and the French-British one, and all present the same tension between the two strands of strategic culture mentioned above — the persistence of a military tradition and the aspiration to go beyond Machtpolitik. Among large countries, Italy and Spain are probably a bit closer to Germany, while smaller nations like the Netherlands and Denmark have retained a somewhat more robust strategic culture. Further east, however, in countries like Poland and the Baltic states, is where one finds the true European Martians (as the joke goes, they come from Vilnius). Because of their geographic location close to Russia, still considered a potential threat, countries from “New Europe” tend to place more emphasis on hard power and take a more hawkish view of international relations, a position accompanied by a strong commitment to American reassurance through nato. Indeed, small countries like Estonia have sent sizeable contingents to Afghanistan, some of them engaged in violent combat, to demonstrate their solidarity.

Strategic cultures in the U.S.

If strategic cultures among and within European nations are more contrasted than Kagan allowed, another aspect of “Power and Weakness” also needs more nuance. There is no doubt that the American strategic culture in general tends to be more hawkish than the eu one, but the idea that there would be a fundamental transatlantic disconnect, and that two American leaders would necessarily be culturally closer to one another than to any European counterpart when it comes to the use of force is debatable. On the 2011 Libya operation for example, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were closer to John McCain than to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And they were certainly closer to all three Americans than to Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister who opposed the operation (and led Germany to abstain on Resolution 1973 at the un).

The truth is that even though American strategic culture has a constant basis (stability over time is indeed inherent to the definition of a strategic culture), the American attitude vis-à-vis the use of power and the rest of the world is fluctuating in cycles, which alternatively take the U.S. closer to European strategic culture or further away from it — even if the European strategic culture is itself heterogeneous, as shown above, and also fluctuates. To get an idea of these cycles, one can simply contrast even decades from odd decades. Even decades — the 1940s with World War II and the Cold War, the 1960s with the Bay of Pigs, the Peace Corps, and Vietnam, the 1980s with the Reagan Doctrine and the 2000s with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — seem devoted to idealistic extroversion, military interventions, and assertiveness. Odd decades — the 1930s with isolationism, the 1950s with Eisenhower’s prudent self-restraint, the 1970s with Nixon and Kissinger’s realism, détente, and reliance on regional allies, the 1990s with Clinton’s caution and reluctance to intervene, and the 2010s with Obama’s winding down of American presence — seem reserved for realism, introversion, and retrenchment. A chart of U.S. defense spending over time illustrates these cycles perfectly, with steep increases during even decades and budget cuts for the Pentagon during odd ones.

Not surprisingly, “Power and Weakness” was written during a peak of extroversion and assertiveness on the U.S. side. It could conceivably also have been written from 1980 to 1984, at the height of transatlantic disputes over Euromissiles and the Siberian pipeline. But it could not have been written during the Clinton years, when American strategic culture seemed to be redefined by the imperative of “zero deaths,” and it could not be written in the 2010s under Barack Obama. U.S leaders have always had a constant superiority over European ones in terms of military capacities, which gave them more options, and they have had global responsibilities to shoulder. But they have not necessarily had a Martian cultural predisposition to use the military, and have often made a subtle use of different levers of power, as European leaders have generally done (admittedly, the latter didn’t have the choice to go all-military against other major military powers). It always struck me that the powerful dialectic established by Kagan between military means and political ends worked better to explain George W. Bush’s America than Europe. The idea that Europeans’ relative military weakness has led them to pacifism and a Kantian vision of the world seems at the very least debatable, while I find more convincing the idea that Bush’s overreach and excessive confidence were a product of a preponderance of easily usable military power (inherited from the Reagan military build-up, which accelerated the U.S. advance over the rest of the world). In this case, the means somehow defined the ends, rather than the other way round, with little benefit for political wisdom.

If fluctuations of American strategic culture over time have thus played an important role in the genesis of “Power and Weakness” and the war in Iraq, they have been complemented by the effects of its variation in space — or more precisely among social and political subgroups. Social scientists and foreign policy analysts have long highlighted the strong contrasts in political culture (including the attitude vis-à-vis the use of force) that exist among regions and subgroups in the United States. Peter Trubowitz, for example, has pointed out the regional differences in the definition of the American national interest since the 19th century, while Michael Lind has focused on the particular contrast between the bellicose South and the Pacifist Northeast in the support for military intervention abroad.2 Walter Russell Mead has also identified a hawkish and nationalistic strand in America, but while Lind tends to locates this strand in the particular culture of the South, Mead makes it a more diffuse “tradition,” which he calls Jacksonian, and which he sees as providing America with its fighting spirit — a tradition discredited in Europe after the nationalistic excesses of the two world wars.3  George W. Bush’s America was dominated by a coalition of Jacksonians and Wilsonians, one possible combination of the various American political cultures — and the one portrayed in “Power and Weakness.”

This combination, however, was temporary, and it gradually faded during the course of the decade — with the Bush administration becoming more Hamiltonian (through its Wilsonian rhetoric) and the Obama administration exhibiting a mix of Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian tendencies. The Jacksonian element was clearly located among conservative Republicans — the backbone of support for G.W. Bush’s policies. But the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan shifted the mood of this group away from internationalism and foreign interventions. However imperfect they may be, polls reflect this shift. While in 2004 conservative Republicans were still the only segment of American public opinion to support internationalism by a majority (58 percent were saying it was “best to be active in world affairs”), by 2011 only 39 percent still held that view, while 55 percent were saying America needed to “pay less attention to problems overseas” — with all other segments between 30 and 40 percent. And a larger proportion of Republicans than Democrats (45 percent vs. 43 percent) were now saying that the U.S. “should mind its own business.”4 main page Isolationism is not on the verge of dominating public opinion on the right, despite signs of progress (in parts of the Tea Party and around libertarian candidate for the Republican nomination Ron Paul), but the appetite for foreign interventions has clearly faded.

With the Jacksonian element weakening, America's position tends to get closer to Europe's.

With the Jacksonian element weakening, America’s position tends to get closer to that of Europeans. It was already striking that the attitude of Democrats on the Afghan war had been mirroring that of Europeans for the past few years, but Libya indicated a more general convergence. In May, even though the level of support for action against the Qaddafi regime was higher in the U.S. (59 percent) than in the eu on average, it was broadly similar among countries which participated in operations like the uk and Spain (53 and 54 percent), France (58 percent), and the Netherlands or Sweden (65 and 69 percent)5 — and Republicans were less supportive than Democrats, after initially approving the mission.6 Even more interesting: According to a gmfus poll, when respondents were asked about sending their own country’s ground troops to assist the rebels, support dropped to 31 percent in the United States and 32 percent in the eu on average. The only countries where a majority supported this option were the Netherlands (57 percent) and France (56 percent). Earlier polls taken in April indicated moderate but comparable support across Western countries, from Italy (29 percent) to the U.S. (31 percent), Germany (34 percent), Spain (37 percent) and France (40 percent), with more than one respondent out of four being neither in favor nor opposed.7  Admittedly, these results depended in part on other variables — whether a country had committed military resources and political capital to the mission or had opposed it (levels of support were low in Poland), and, in the U.S., whether the respondent was of the same party as the president. But they still demonstrated that on top of having triggered a military intervention which they thought necessary, Europeans were not retreating to a distant planet, leaving Americans to pick up the slack, and were able to see it to the end.

The tragedy of eu military power

To some extent, “Power and weakness” was thus a child of its time, the product of a particular disposition of political and social forces on both sides of the Atlantic at a particular juncture, between the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. There is also little doubt that the article underestimated the diversity and complexity of European strategic cultures, as well as the cyclical nature of the American one (or at least of its expressions over time). However, it did reflect two important truths about Europe. One has already been mentioned: it is the absence of a constituency that would be reliably pro-war like the Jacksonians in the U.S., as well as the existence, instead, of a more solid pacifist bloc, especially in Germany. This element provides some validity to Kagan’s generalization. The second important truth Kagan captured is the tragedy of the European Union as a military power.

If history and geography are the two sources of strategic culture, the origin of political entities is of particular importance to understand their international behavior and especially limitations. The United Kingdom for example, as an island which managed to protect and assert itself against the continent, will always have difficulty integrating in the European project. Israel, born after the debased abandonment of the Jews of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, will always have difficulty trusting other parties to make peace or even provide reassurance. The U.S., born as a pioneer, can-do nation, will always be tempted to fix problems, find solutions, and project itself in the world. Even though such broad generalizations might not be very scientific, they contain truth. And it is that truth that Kagan expressed when he wrote about the European Union (rather than its individual member states). The very purpose of the European Union, its original raison d’être, is the realization of peace. How could it seriously betray its dna and turn itself into a military power with a combatant ethos?

The tragedy of European defense can be explained through several other contradictions, which have been painfully revealed in the past decade. There is a tension between the gradual abandonment of sovereignty necessary to further European integration and the reality of the military world — as opposed, say, to the world of business. Being at the core of sovereignty, control over the use of force is the most difficult to relinquish. On top of a reflexive desire for  control among governments, there is also a rational calculation: Countries with serious military capacities can measure the loss of sovereignty they suffer by sharing resources, but the collective gain is unclear, unlike in the economic sphere. This leads to an even more important contradiction. The European Union is neither a true, integrated federation, backed up by serious democratic institutions and a profound sense of community, nor a purely intergovernmental entity like nato. It is, and will stay for the foreseeable future, an in-between. But issues of war and peace are the most profoundly political ones and are to be decided at the level of an organic and democratic community, which at this time remains the nation-state. Few soldiers are keen to make the ultimate sacrifice for an eu directorate: When they kill and die, they do it for their nation.

In these conditions, the fact that there exists a European Union defense at all is a remarkable achievement.

Lastly, European defense suffers from a contradiction between the willingness to create something new and the existence of a solid and tested institution, nato, as well as the presence of a powerful military power, the U.S., in the absence of a threat serious enough to trigger natural unity. Americans may complain that Europeans are not doing enough on defense, but they know they also have themselves to blame for providing cheap and reliable security over the past six decades — a blessing which has acted as anesthesia and encouraged the tendency to neglect defense spending. This, in turn, has amplified the differences between countries which retain a global presence — mostly the uk and the France — and countries which have limited geopolitical horizons, fueling the gaps among strategic cultures.

In these conditions, the fact that there exists a European Union defense at all is a remarkable achievement. esdp is a limited but useful tool, which should not be belittled. From the Balkans to Africa, esdp missions have contributed, however modestly, to security and stability. The Atalanta mission to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia launched in 2008, for example, has gathered the largest aero-naval force available, and it is performing a geopolitical task generally shouldered by Americans: keeping sea lanes open and safe. But when it comes to larger questions of war and peace, the eu is generally set aside in favor of ad hoc European coalitions or nato. In Afghanistan, nato is the natural framework, and if European countries have been dependable allies, the eu police mission has been a failure. On Libya, divisions among Europeans prevented them from even conducting a humanitarian mission. The military intervention itself was launched by a directorate composed of France, the uk, and the U.S., before being placed, two weeks later, under nato command (and the political supervision of a contact group). On Iran, the eu has been remarkably united. It has followed a constant strategy in partnership with the Americans, and has imposed incrementally harsh sanctions on Tehran — sanctions which have come at a much greater cost than American ones, since Washington has had almost no economic relations with Iran since the Revolution. This is certainly not a “strategy of weakness.” But when it comes to the crucial political decisions, while the eu is nominally present with Javier Solana and now Catherine Ashton, the real power remains in the hands of the eu-3 (France, Germany, and the uk) and the U.S., in a very intergovernmental fashion.

The Eurozone crisis has dealt a massive blow to Europe's confidence that it would “run the 21st century.’

The way forward is not very encouraging for the eu. The uk, which made European defense possible under Tony Blair by deemphasizing its insistence on the absolute primacy of nato (having come to realize with the Balkan wars that Europeans needed some sort of autonomous capacity for action), has turned its back on it under David Cameron. France, the constant backbone of esdp, has been discouraged by the lack of reaction among its fellow member states — in spite of the recent surge of support and interest by the Poles — and has turned towards a bilateral military deal with the uk. Germany is reforming its armed forces towards a more interventionist posture, but it is also making deep and uncoordinated cuts in defense spending. In other words, ten years after “Power and Weakness” Europe seems to be undergoing a phase of renewed divergence of strategic cultures, and esdp seems to be losing steam.

This tendency is amplified by the effects of the financial crisis. When Robert Kagan was writing about the threat posed by the use of American power to “Europe’s new sense of mission,” he was reflecting the image of an eu on the rise, confident about its model of post-modern sovereignty, regional integration, multilateralism, and international law. And for a few years after “Power and Weakness,” that confidence only grew: Europe, according to some analysts, would simply “run the 21st century” (not exactly a benign ambition, it should be noted).8 The Eurozone crisis, however, dealt a massive blow to that self-assurance. It led to strong internal tensions and a creeping renationalization of foreign policy, and it undermined Europe’s soft power, its image in the world as a model of integration and multilateralism. It also started undermining its ability to project power, whether through development and cooperation budgets (the response to the Arab Spring has been modest) or through military budgets, which have been severely cut. Some experts estimate that defense spending reductions will reach an astonishing one-third between 2006 and 2014.9  The true danger, in these conditions, is not European illusions of inhabiting a paradisiacal world and fighting the U.S. over the contours of the international system. It is the fading of Europe as a meaningful partner alongside the U.S. on an increasingly multipolar international scene.

1. Hanns Maull, “Germany and the Use of Force: Still a ‘Civilian Power’?” Survival, 42:2 (2000).

2. Peter Trubowitz, Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy, (University of Chicago Press, 1998); Michael Lind, “Civil War by Other Means,” Foreign Affairs, 78:5 (September-October 1999).

3. Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (Knopf, 2001).

4. These statistics come from the Pew Research Center’s survey from June 16, 2011, “In Shift from Bush Era, More Conservatives Say ‘Come Home, America,’” available at http://www.people-press.org/2011/06/16/in-shift-from-bush-era-more-conservatives-say-come-home-america/ (this and subsequent weblinks accessed February 14, 2012).

5. See the German Marshall Fund’s 2011 report “Transatlantic Trends.”

6. See “In Shift from Bush Era, More Conservatives Say ‘Come Home, America.’”

7. These data come from a Financial Times/Harris poll from April 2011.

8. Mark Leonard, Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century (Harper Collins, 2005).

9. Nicolas Gros-Verheyde has estimated as much. See his brief piece “Les budgets de défense s’effondrent en 2011. Et 2012 ne sera pas mieux” on the Bruxelles 2 blog.

About the Author

More from Policy Review