Rogue Elephant in the Forest

Courtesy Reuters


A PROFOUND shift is taking place in the relations between the United States and Western Europe. Though there is a temptation to think of the shift as the result of yesterday's headlines, its causes run a good deal deeper, and its consequences are likely to remain for a long time. For those who assume that the achievement of a moderate world order depends on some sort of working coöperation in the Atlantic area, the implications of the change are deeply disturbing.

Throughout most of the period since the end of World War II, the economic relations between Western Europe and the United States have been conditioned by a few fundamental considerations. First and overwhelming was the question of relative size. The United States was five or six times as big as any state in Western Europe, and it enjoyed the highest per capita income by a large margin. Second, the United States was profoundly self- confident. When occasional uncertainties arose over national purpose, they were usually internal matters, matters that had very little to do with the country's perception of its place in international affairs. Beyond that, the United States Could be counted on to use its strength, so most West Europeans assumed, in ways that were not blatantly hostile to Western Europe. Finally, the problem of America's disparate size was commonly thought of as only a transitional state, until the time when a united Western Europe would develop which was equal in dimensions to the United States.

Today, the assumption that the United States could be expected to use its great economic and military strength in benign and unhostile ways has been badly eroded in Western Europe. The Suez crisis of the 1950s may have begun the process; but, so far as many Europeans were concerned, it was fortified by the U.S. role in Vietnam, ratified by the U.S. decision unilaterally to suspend the convertibility of the dollar, and confirmed by the

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