Much of what we think we know about transatlantic relations stemmed from the extraordinary circumstances of the Iraq war – the last time when a flurry of observers, not all of whom were competent and few of whom were objective, paid sustained attention to US-European relations.5 Since then, the flood of commentary has given way to a trickle, with global attention and intellectual fads hypnotized by the “rise of the BRICs.” Europe has
fallen so far outside dominant fields of vision that it somehow was left out of recent works that assessed the geostrategic shifts caused by the assertion of non-Western powers. In the US, observers talked of a “post-American world,” or disserted upon the fate of American power. What has been comparatively missing from the literature is an outlook that would highlight the stubborn centrality of transatlantic relations in the grand strategy of the world now emerging.6 Recent studies that yet again indulged in a self-centered disquisition of the relationship,7 yet again examined the future shape of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),8 US-EU cooperation,9 the “transatlantic culture drift,”10 or bilateral relations between America and specific European nations11 were valuable but insufficient. What is needed instead is a grand strategic approach that will proclaim among Europeans and Americans that neither will comprehend their role within the emerging world, or be in a position to shape it, if they ignore the interdependencies that still tie the two sides of the Atlantic together, or if they mischaracterize the divergences that tear them apart. This book aims to contribute to such a transatlantic grand strategy. The first two chapters look back at the historical and cultural contexts of America’s relations with Europe. In Chapter 1, we begin by analyzing the historical evolution of the US role in European grand strategy from 1776 to the present – in order to elucidate how America has become simultaneously an intolerable and indispensable nation in Europe. Chapter 2 takes issue with conventional accounts of a “transatlantic culture drift” that supposedly now – and only now – condemns both sides of the Atlantic to mutual strategic antagonism. We argue instead that the theory conjures the illusion of a “Golden Age” that never was, mischaracterizes today’s transatlantic cultural relations, and in any event overstates the relevance of culture to policy-making. The next two chapters examine the proposition that vital interests and existential threats defined by the US and Europe are now too divergent to allow transatlantic cooperation. Indeed, the more pessimistic observers of transatlantic affairs argue not only that US and European strategies are drifting apart, but that each side has become a threat to the other. Chapter 3 begins by examining the processes through which the US and Europe go about defining their interests in the first place. This lays the groundwork for a more careful interpretation of the overlap or divergences that exist between the resulting strategic documents. Chapter 4 provides a comparative analysis of the substance of American and European security doctrines, concluding that the demise of the potential for transatlantic strategic cooperation has been greatly exaggerated. Chapter 5 contrasts the “high politics” of Western strategic outlooks with the “low politics” of transatlantic economic relations. Recent analyses have helpfully pushed back against the conventional wisdom that exclusively focuses upon the economic rise of the Pacific rim, shedding light instead upon the continued preeminence of the transatlantic economy. Even a
thorough critique of this assessment does not fundamentally weaken its central point. However, a more problematic analytical jump occurs when observers argue that healthy transatlantic economic relations should (or indeed even could) percolate onto the field of “high politics,” and produce comity among US and European leaders. In Chapter 6, we disaggregate the transatlantic relationship into some of its constituent parts, in order to refine simplistic characterizations of “US-European” interactions. A series of case-studies analyzing the politics of transatlantic affairs among several national constituencies is not only helpful insofar as it breaks down monolithic assessments – but also because it challenges the analytical legacy of the Iraq crisis, which often produced interpretations that are now far from accurate, if they ever were. Upon closer examination, widespread notions such as France’s “post-Gaullist” instincts, Britain’s “special relationship” with the US, Germany’s “foreign policy normalization,” and central Europe’s “Atlanticism” all turn out to be in dire need of fundamental revision. The following two chapters provide a general overview of transatlantic institutional capacity in the field of crisis response. To begin with, Chapter 7 assesses whether the new security strategy agreed by NATO at its Lisbon summit in November 2010 sets the stage for a more capable Alliance – or merely papered over doctrinal cracks that will continue to limit its effectiveness. Chapter 8 then examines the extent to which the breakdown in the relations between NATO and the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) undermine the West’s ability to remain a coherent and effective provider of global security. Chapter 9 then turns to the “implementation perspective” that is all too often missing from technical disquisitions of NATO-EU relations. It assesses the pragmatic costs of transatlantic institutional weaknesses as they arise on the ground, in those theaters where the US, NATO, and the EU have launched common – or occasionally concurrent – security missions: most notably in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Libya. The final three chapters explicitly restore the analysis within the broader global environment that implicitly framed it from the start. They examine the outlook of the transatlantic relationship as America and Europe confront the “rise of the rest.” Chapter 10 assesses the impact of this trend upon the global allocation of “hard power,” and concludes that Western dominance in this respect at least is not immediately threatened. Symmetrically, Chapter 11 evaluates the comparative “soft power resources” of the West and the BRICs – yet also takes issue with some of the more simplistic formulations of the “soft power” mantra. Lastly, Chapter 12 describes current evolutions in the balance of power among international organizations – and specifically assesses the likelihood that the West can entrench its global dominance by effecting a “controlled reform” that will see multilateral structures open up to emerging powers, yet ultimately remain under the West’s aegis.