Courtesy Reuters

Reinventing the West


Does "the West" still exist? Have we moved from a world with two Europes and one West to a world with one Europe and two Wests? Transatlantic tensions of the past -- the Suez debacle, the French departure from NATO in 1966, the Vietnam War, and the Euromissiles crisis in the 1980s -- were contained by painful memories of World War II and the unifying effects of the Soviet threat. But if the long-term cause of today's emotional estrangement was November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall came down, the short-term catalyst was September 11, 2001. For the past two years, the United States has been at war, but attempts to elevate America's foe to a new common enemy, to redefine the West in purely negative terms, have been largely divisive.

Islamic fundamentalism, international terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have not had the same unifying effect as yesterday's Soviet threat because Europe and the United States have increasingly differed on how to confront them. It is ironic that since September 11, the United States has adopted the Bismarckian approach to foreign policy, dominant in late-nineteenth-century Europe, placing dramatic displays of military might at the heart of its strategy. Europeans, meanwhile, have behaved more like early-twentieth-century American idealists, advocating measured and principled foreign interventions. This role reversal has profound causes, underpinned by political and social changes on both sides of the Atlantic and, like September 11 itself, by deep-rooted geopolitical trends. The challenge is to accept that although Europeans and Americans have different interests, values, and sensibilities, both sides still need one other and must work toward a new modus operandi.


Europeans have always found it difficult to understand Americans. This is particularly true today, when less savory sides of the American character -- its nationalist religiosity, its intolerant suspicion of others -- have returned to the fore. These forces, moreover, are no longer counterbalanced by the deep understanding of Europe that American elites possessed in the past. Who

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