John Newhouse has been a respected and influential writer on American foreign policy, often on Europe, for more than three decades. His books are readable, full of interesting information about a variety of subjects, and laced with pertinent comments from politicians, bureaucrats, academics, businessmen, and journalists. Frequently they have been serialized in The New Yorker. Newhouse's interests and judgments generally reflect the current state of enlightened professional views. He is a particularly reliable presenter of opinion among senior American diplomats and professional analysts close to power, and indeed is a consultant to the State Department's European Bureau.
Europe Adrift is very much in this mold. It surveys the European scene to see how well European states are coping with Germany's unification and Russia's collapse, and how well the European Union (EU) and NATO are adapting to the new situation and whether they can successfully enlarge to the east. Anyone wanting an intelligent, well-informed, copious but readable survey of European issues can hardly expect to do better. Europe Adrift is the cream of well-informed conventional wisdom.
The book can, on the other hand, be criticized for just that reason. In its defense, it may be said that what passes for conventional wisdom among professionals is usually more right than wrong. Similarly, while the book may be faulted aesthetically for lacking focus, arguably that is Europe's fault and not New house's. He cannot delineate and analyze coherent, focused policies if European governments do not have them. Instead, as he sees it, Europe's governments, realizing the depth of the divisions that separate them, are afraid to press for real decisions, collective or domestic. Now that its nations lack a common enemy, Europe is increasingly swamped by its own problems. Such a Europe, it would seem only natural to conclude, still requires strong American leadership.
The conclusion is hardly novel. It mirrors a conviction long cherished within the American government: left to their own devices, European states are too divided, selfish, cynical, suspicious, ungenerous, and
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