The American Enterprise

How wide is the Atlantic? Victor Davis Hanson, Danielle Pletka, James Glassman, and Thomas Donnelly offer very different views on the future of the relationship between America and Europe.

Victor Davis Hanson: Today's Euro-USA Split Will Persist

The new chasm between Europe and the United States seems to widen still--even as transatlantic diplomats assure us that it has narrowed--despite a common heritage and a supposedly shared goal of global democracy, free markets, and defeating terrorists.

Europeans sell arms to autocratic China that will threaten democratic Taiwan. They legitimize the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah, and mostly caricature the American efforts at democratizing the Middle East. All this follows the past appeasement of Yasser Arafat, strife over the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court, and the use of the United Nations to hamstring the United States in the war that followed 9/11.

What is behind this divide? Is it that the U.S. is militarily strong while the wealthy Europeans have made themselves essentially impotent--classic ingredients for deep-seated envy?

Or did the close of the Cold War bring an end to the shared purposes that used to paper over the cracks of innate cultural differences? Americans tend to wish for less government and more personal freedom. They are more religious, aggressive, and acquisitive. Europeans instead prefer statism and an enforced equality of result. Far more of them are irreligious, pacifist, and more interested in leisure than in national progress and personal wealth. Now that they have no fear of the Soviet army, they have little need for us--or so they think.

Proponents of the old transatlantic alliance shrug and say things will improve. Some allege that George Bush's cowboyism is to blame for the current rift. With a bit more astute diplomacy and softer voices--or someone like a French-speaking John Kerry as President--we could get along as well as in the past.

Really? Euro-U.S. relations may have returned to civility and even shared commitment after the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, but our real closeness is probably over. NATO is comatose--a Potemkin alliance without a mission. It has devolved into Americans trying to shame affluent Europeans into buying a few more planes to add to their dreadfully feeble fighting forces--which lack any reflection of the vast wealth and population of Europe.

The shaky European Union is as much driven by anti-Americanism as by pro-Europeanism. Only with unity comes the hope to rebuff the United States effectively. In response, it is far more likely that Americans will envision Germany and France less as friends than as rivals. Since our own European ancestors tamed the frontier in order to craft a nation that would in many ways be an antithesis to their home continent, this is not a big stretch.

Careful reading of American history does not suggest a natural U.S. partnership with Europe. Rather, our past shows frequent antipathy, punctuated several times by violent hostilities: most recently in 1898, 1914, and 1941. Apart from the special British-American companionship, solidarity between the U.S. and continental Europe was more likely a Cold War exception, not the rule. For 50 years the United States stayed engaged with Europe specifically to ensure that intercontinental squabbles would never again devour American blood. The Soviet Union served as a sort of ancient Persia--an enemy colossus that kept feuding Greek city-states friendly for a while, until the common threat faded and their innate suspicion returned. …

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