Reviving the West: For an Atlantic Union

Courtesy Reuters

The West has cause to rejoice as this century draws to a close. The fundamental ideological and geopolitical cleavages of past decades are no more. Democracy and capitalism have triumphed over fascism and communism, and this ERA’s three revanchist powers -- Germany, Japan, and Russia -- are quiescent. Regional disputes that festered for years, such as those in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, are moving toward resolution. And the world economy is growing more liberal and vibrant as old markets expand and new ones come on line.

But the West is not celebrating. Without the Cold War to induce unity, politics among and within the liberal democracies are fragmented and disoriented. In the Bosnian conflict, the West remained paralyzed until the United States wrested control of the diplomatic process. Voters across Western Europe and North America are in a foul temper, profoundly weakening their governments. Politicians and analysts alike bemoan the West’s identity crisis and the breakdown of civic democracy; last September even President Bill Clinton admitted that America had descended into a ‘funk.’

To reverse this trend and breathe new life into the established democracies of the West, its leaders are seeking to broaden and deepen the collaborative institutions that served the Atlantic community so well during the Cold War. The European Union (EU) is persisting in its quest for a federal Europe while at the same time opening its doors to the continent’s new democracies. The borders of NATO are expected gradually to stretch eastward, ensuring America’s engagement in Europe and defending an enlarged democratic community.

Despite their good intentions, these leaders have embarked on a course that will lead to the demise, not the renewal, of the West. They are trying to broaden the community of peaceful, democratic nations even as they deepen it. But if enlargement is to be both politically feasible and strategically desirable, they must first loosen the West’s structures. Were the Soviet Union still around to fuel integration,

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