A European offers a tentative welcome to Philip Gordon's new deal but insists that the test of commitment to that deal cannot be the level of European support in Iraqby Timothy Garton-Ash / July 24, 2004 / Leave a comment
Dear Philip. Talk of “friendship” in international relations is always a slippery business, but informed Europeans know you really are a friend of Europe. You take Europe seriously – whereas one of the biggest problems in transatlantic relations at the moment is that most Americans do not. You know what you are talking about. And you propose a new transatlantic deal.
So do we. In my new book, Free World: Why a Crisis of the West Reveals the Opportunity of our Time, I argue, as the subtitle suggests, that the crisis which climaxed over Iraq exposes a tremendous opportunity – and a historic imperative – for Europeans and Americans to work together on a new agenda of world politics. I find many other Europeans thinking along similar lines. So this is not just a matter of Europeans “responding” to a magnanimous American offer of co-operation. It is a matter of two old partners sitting down to thrash out a new deal. Two partners drastically unequal in military power, to be sure, but if you consider economic power and what Joseph Nye has called “soft power,” the asymmetry is less acute.
I agree with much of what you say about a new deal, but agreement is boring – so let me begin with a disagreement. I do not think this new deal should be attempted this summer, nor should its litmus test be Iraq. Rather, we need first to know the complexion of the new administration in Washington and – less importantly – in Brussels.
If it is George Bush again, then we Europeans will have to work with what may perhaps – and I share your cautious hope – be a slightly more multilateralist version of the current administration, sobered by bitter experience in Iraq and perhaps shorn of some of its more offensive members. That will still be very difficult, both because of the nationalist attitudes of many Bushies and because of the now profound and probably ineradicable anti-Bush sentiment in Europe. (Yes, there is worrying anti-Americanism too, but mainly the feeling is anti-Bush.) If your new president is John Kerry, and we have the right constellation of political leaders in Europe, including the new European commission president and EU “foreign minister,” then this will be a vastly more promising opportunity to relaunch the relationship.
So let us keep our powder dry until November. And let us not…