This is the best study yet of the transatlantic crisis over Iraq, well informed and eminently fair; it concludes with excellent advice, particularly regarding the need for Washington to continue supporting European integration and a collective European defense effort. What the authors make clear, without shrillness or grandstanding, is that "the European complaint that the American decision-making process and diplomacy about Iraq violated reasonable alliance norms and expectations is valid." They prove this point with careful analysis of what happened in 2002 and 2003 and with a short, sharp reminder of previous alliance crises and how they were overcome. This is not to say that the authors side with France and Germany; their criticism of those countries' diplomacy is often quite stinging. But the fact that the United States is the "indispensable power" does not mean that its allies must support it in every case. As Gordon and Shapiro write, "when taken too far, assertive leadership can quickly turn into arrogant unilateralism, to the point where resentful others become less likely to follow the lead of the United States." "Even a country as powerful as the United States," they explain, "needs a certain level of legitimacy and consent." And indeed, it is clear that U.S. rashness and roughness in its handling of Iraq has weakened its legitimacy and, as a result, badly damaged its interests.
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