Courtesy Reuters

The North Atlantic Drift

TURNING THE TIDE

Reconstructing the transatlantic partnership is one of the most important strategic challenges facing President George W. Bush in his second term. Having squandered global sympathies after the attacks of September 11, 2001, stretched U.S. military forces to the breaking point in Afghanistan and Iraq, and run up such massive deficits that only enormous infusions of foreign capital can avert a meltdown of the dollar, Washington is learning the hard way that even the world's sole superpower needs allies. With too few troops and funds to shape the world as it wants, the United States will need to rely on moral suasion rather than brute force if it wants to recapture hearts and minds abroad and sustain its unparalleled power throughout the twenty-first century.

The place to start is in the 40-odd democracies spread across Europe. Over the last four years, the Atlantic alliance has suffered serious damage. On both sides, trust has been eroded by bickering over the war in Iraq and Washington's growing penchant for unilateral action, notably the Bush doctrine of preventive war. At the same time, however, the enlargement of both NATO and the EU has finally sealed the last fissures of the Cold War and created opportunities for Washington to renovate the transatlantic relationship--arguably the most successful alliance in history.

As President Bush embarks on a second term, he will need to prove to his critics that he can rediscover the values of Republican internationalists. He will have to reshape the transatlantic relationship by replacing the unifying struggle of the Cold War with a new common resolve to fight terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as well as embrace fresh initiatives to bring peace to the Middle East and defuse a potential world energy crisis. Tensions between the United States and European states only exacerbate global instability. But together, these nations form the bedrock of a powerful coalition of democracies that can command worldwide support on a range of important issues.

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