During the Cold War, the ever-present Soviet threat helped keep the West united. More recently, however, attempts to mend the transatlantic rift by pointing to present dangers have only deepened the cultural divide. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic must accept that "the West" has now split into European and American halves. But both sides still need each other -- now more than ever.
The United States increasingly looks, walks, and talks like an empire. It should therefore heed the lessons of its predecessors, exercising strong and determined global leadership. At the same time, it must avoid the temptation to meddle when American interests are not at stake. This means, among other things, dropping the doctrine of universal democracy promotion.
In "The Sources of American Legitimacy" (November/December 2004), Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson respond heatedly to my essay "America's Crisis of Legitimacy" (March/April 2004). The heat is disproportionate to our disagreement. They argue that the United States has "a serious legitimacy problem" and needs international legitimacy to conduct a successful foreign policy. In my article, which they selectively quote, I made the same point at great length, noting that "for the first time since World War II, a majority of Europeans has come to doubt the legitimacy of U.S. power and U.S.