The Travails of Union: The American Experience and its Implications for Europe 103

The Travails of Union: The American Experience and its Implications for Europe
Charles A. Kupchan
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Europe’s ongoing process of integration has entered an uncertain and tentative phase. Member states have agreed upon a constitutional treaty, but ratification is by no means assured. From the United Kingdom to central Europe, candidates questioning the merits of deeper union have fared well in recent elections. Scepticism of the European Union (EU) runs strongest on matters of geopolitics. The Iraq War continues to divide the union, prompting observers and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic to be generally dismissive of the geopolitical consequences of European integration. This attitude is hardly surprising in the United States, where the EU tends to be seen, even among the foreign policy elite, as little more than an economic union. But Euro-scepticism is also mounting in Europe itself, revealing a worrisome level of self-doubt. ‘Taking a long-term strategic look at the present EU’, Wolfgang Munchau recently wrote in the Financial Times, ‘it is difficult to see how it can fail to split’.1 To fret about Europe’s future and dismiss its geopolitical relevance may be fashionable, but it is neither justified nor wise. To be sure, the EU is hardly on the cusp of becoming a superpower; it is still struggling to establish the institutions needed to forge a common foreign policy and to come up with the manpower required to carry out modest military missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan. But Europe’s trajectory, when put in a comparative and historical context, points definitively to its successes, not its shortcomings. Acts of political union are always slow and difficult, their geopolitical implications becoming apparent only gradually.
Charles A. Kupchan is Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University and Senior Fellow and Director of European Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His most recent book is The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century (New York: Vintage, 2003).
Survival, vol. 46, no. 4, Winter 2004–05, pp. 103–120 © The International Institute for Strategic Studies
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Consider the case of the United States. A federation of Britain’s former colonies began life in 1789, with the ratification of the Constitution. It was another 70 years, however, before the union had a single currency. In military terms, the United States remained strikingly weak for decades. A century after the union’s foundation, the US army maintained an active force of only 25,000 men. America’s governing institutions were similarly underdeveloped. Federal institutions were weak throughout the nineteenth century, falling prey to the continuing power of the separate states and to paralysing struggles between the executive branch and Congress. All the while, however, the United States was quietly but steadily altering the balance of power across the Atlantic, gradually driving European influence from the Western Hemisphere. At century’s end, imperial aspirations accompanied the consolidation of the federation and the country’s increasing naval strength. Over the course of the next five decades, the United States emerged as the world’s pre-eminent military power. This article draws on the early history of the United States to put European unification in historical relief, suggesting that Europe’s accomplishments after five decades of integration are anything but trivial. On the contrary, they are singularly impressive. Europe’s experience with union hardly parallels that of the United States, and the EU is unlikely to attain a federal character similar to America’s – at least for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, a comparative perspective makes clear that political unions take shape in incremental fashion and not without setbacks, indicating that Europe’s ongoing experiment is proceeding apace and hardly irrelevant in geopolitical terms. Indeed, the geopolitical consequences of European integration are in part responsible for the turmoil that has beset Atlantic relations: greatpower peace and political union mean the end of Europe’s strategic dependence on the United States. It is not the case, however, that Europe’s mounting ambition need come at the expense of its link to the United States. The rise of a more muscular Europe, if handled adeptly by both Europeans and Americans, has the potential to salvage a transatlantic alliance that is currently strained to breaking point. Building a strong Europe is a critical step toward rebuilding a strong Atlantic community.

The travails of integration: the United States After attaining independence from Great Britain after the Revolutionary War of 1776, the American colonies formed a loose union in 1781. The governing institutions established by the Articles of Confederation quickly proved too weak to sustain the union – Congress did not even

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have the authority to raise taxes or regulate inter-state trade – resulting in a second attempt that led to the Constitution ratified in 1789. Although the United States was nominally a federation from 1789 onwards, it was not until the twentieth century that the country attained a distinctly unitary character with a strong federal government and common national identity. Throughout the nineteenth century, Americans grappled with many of the same issues that Europeans have been confronting amid their ongoing effort to construct a political union.2
Divided loyalties: the states versus the union

Fearful that a strong central government would imperil the freedom of its citizens, the founding fathers deliberately designed federal institutions whose power was divided among executive, legislative and judicial branches. The miniscule size of the civil service further weakened the reach of the federal government, as did the power of the individual states, which retained the right to raise their own militias and had authority over many other matters, including economic regulations, police and law enforcement. In addition, northern and southern states were deeply divided over a host of core issues, including slavery, protective tariffs, westward expansion, and the pace of industrialisation and urbanisation. During the union’s early decades, state legislatures not infrequently resisted the authority of the federal government. Consider the response of Virginia and Kentucky to the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress in 1798 to limit foreign influence and domestic dissent during conflict between France and Britain. The legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky endorsed resolutions contending that state governments had the right to declare acts of Congress ‘void and of no force’. The Kentucky Resolution (drafted by Thomas Jefferson) maintained that the Constitution was a ‘compact’ between the states and that the ‘parties to the constitutional compact … in their sovereign capacity’ should be the ‘rightful judges in the last resort, whether the bargain made has been pursued or violated’. The Virginia Resolution (drafted by James Madison) declared that ‘in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact’, the states had the right ‘to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them’.3 Although the legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky endorsed these resolutions, they were not enforced, preventing an open clash with the federal government. The centre was weakened not just by the determination of the states to resist its authority, but also by the fact that contrasting political

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Contrasting political cultures divided the union

cultures divided the union. More religious settlers tended to gravitate to the North, whose culture was heavily influenced by Calvinist, Puritan and Quaker teachings. The South attracted settlers seeking to escape the constraints of religious authority and moral obligation, leading to a libertarian outlook that historians have dubbed ‘Cavalier’ in coastal regions and ‘Scotch-Irish Highland’ in the interior. Whereas northerners were interested in building communities infused with social and moral purpose, southerners preferred a rugged agrarian individualism. These differences impaired the consolidation of the federation and slowed the spread of a common national identity. The individual states asserted a strong hold over political identities and loyalties through much of the nineteenth century. When Robert E. Lee, an officer in the US army and ardent opponent of secession, was facing the prospect of choosing sides on the eve of the Civil War, he stated his intention to head to Virginia and fight against the union, claiming ‘I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people’.4 Before the late nineteenth century, a plural verb always followed the use of the term ‘the United States’, connoting a grouping of semi-autonomous polities, not a unitary nation. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 revealed just how contested and fragile the union was by the middle of the nineteenth century. Although the war did settle most of the political issues that had divided the union, thereby strengthening the hand of the federal government, the power of federal institutions began to weaken soon after the fighting ended. Burdened with the debts accumulated during the war as well as the costs of the reconstruction of the South, Washington was in no position to argue in favour of an expensive expansion of the civil service. So too did the nation only slowly surpass the states as the primary locus of political life. Soon after the Civil War, Americans deemed the United States sufficiently unitary to begin using a singular verb following references to the country’s name. But a sense of national unity remained elusive, with local and state loyalties continuing to exert a strong pull. It was not until the two main nation-building experiences of the twentieth century – widespread industrialisation and great-power war – that a strong national identity eventually took shape.
The regulation of trade and monetary union

Prior to the Revolutionary War, each colony oversaw its own economic policy, including the setting of import duties. The independent states

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retained authority over fiscal policy under the Articles of Confederation, one of the reasons that Congress proved unable to govern. The Constitution transferred to Congress responsibility for setting duties for the union as a whole and for regulating interstate trade, making the United States a customs union. Rather than speeding political and economic integration, however, a common external tariff proved extraordinarily divisive. An industrialising North sought protective barriers for its infant manufacturing base while an agrarian South preferred an open market for its cotton, tobacco and other agricultural products. The diverging economic interests of individual states not infrequently induced them to challenge the federal government’s authority over matters of trade. The economy of New England was crippled by the trade embargoes and blockades that accompanied the War of 1812. A regional protest movement culminated in the Hartford Convention of 1814, at which the states of the region came close to breaking with the union and adopting their own trade policies. In similar fashion, in response to the tariff bills of 1828 and 1832, the legislature of South Carolina passed the ‘Ordinance of Nullification’, declaring both tariffs ‘null and void’ within the state’s boundaries. President Andrew Jackson charged that South Carolina was ‘on the brink of treason and insurrection’, and threatened the use of military force to compel the state to collect duties.5 Due in part to a tariff compromise in Congress, the crisis was resolved without conflict. Clashing economic interests were to play an important part in the outbreak of the Civil War, the outcome of which strengthened the union’s hold over economic matters. But even after the war, individual states and local communities retained significant control over economic policy and regulation. It was not until the late 1800s and early 1900s, with the rapid expansion of interstate trade and a national railway network, that the federal government and courts intervened to establish economic regulations and regulatory agencies. As for monetary matters, the Constitution expressly granted to Congress the right ‘to coin money’. Nonetheless, the United States did not have a single currency for another seven decades. From the ratification of the Constitution until the Civil War, notes issued by statechartered banks served as the primary paper currency in circulation. Fear of centralisation was the primary impediment to a common currency. Alexander Hamilton argued in favour of establishing a national bank, but many others feared the accumulation of economic power in the hands of federal authorities. Legal considerations also played a role: the Constitution gave Congress the right to regulate and standardise coins, but not to issue paper notes.

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To finance the Civil War, the federal government finally began to issue paper money. Although the Supreme Court initially found the issuance of ‘greenbacks’ to be unconstitutional, it eventually reversed its position, and federal issue soon supplanted the notes of state-chartered banks. The United States thus did not enjoy a single currency until almost a century after its first attempt at union under the Articles of Confederation.
National security policy

From its founding until the end of the nineteenth century, the United States remained a geopolitical lightweight, possessing neither the will nor the capacity to project influence outside its immediate neighbourhood. Throughout the 1800s, America’s diplomats were few in number; the Department of State was housed in a few rooms. Most US emissaries abroad occupied honorary rather than professional posts. Even adventurous presidents found themselves unable to flex the country’s muscle, stymied by a Congress that checked repeated presidential attempts to expand US commitments in the Caribbean and Pacific. Writing about the decades following the Civil War, Fareed Zakaria notes that ‘the United States could not expand because its policymakers presided over a weak, divided, and decentralized government that provided them with little usable power’.6 America’s armed forces, like its geopolitical ambition, remained limited until the end of the 1800s. During the union’s early decades, state militias constituted the country’s main fighting units, numbering about 700,000 at the time of the War of 1812. The regular army focused primarily on conflicts with Indians. In 1861, this force consisted of only 16,000 men, most of them serving at posts on the Indian frontier. The army swelled in size during the Civil War, but it was rapidly demobilised thereafter, with the active force soon dwindling to roughly 25,000 men. By 1890, the United States was a world-class economic power, but it ranked fourteenth in the size of its army, just after Bulgaria. The US navy also remained limited in size and mission during the balance of the nineteenth century, focusing primarily on coastal defence and commerce protection. Before mobilisation for the Civil War, some 7,600 men served in the navy, about one-tenth the manpower of the British navy. After increasing in size during the 1860s, the navy demobilised quickly after the war. Between 1864 and 1870, the number of naval vessels fell from 700 to 200, only 52 of which were operational. When Benjamin Harrison took office in 1889, the US navy ranked seventeenth in the world. The 1890s proved to be a crucial turning point in America’s career as a great power. The federal government embarked on a major naval

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building programme, drawing on the country’s economic strength and industrial base to build a fleet that ranked seventh in the world by 1894. With political power centralised in the hands of President William McKinley – and with a new battle fleet at his disposal – the United States in 1898 began to flirt with formal empire, driving Spanish forces from Cuba and colonising the Philippines and a host of other islands. Backed by a muscular brand of popular nationalism, the United States appeared ready to emerge as a geopolitical heavyweight. Even with its new military power and centralised institutions, however, America’s appetite for global engagement remained quite limited. The United States preferred neutrality during the First World War, entering the conflict only after German attacks on US shipping. After the war, it quickly retreated into isolationism, resisting global leadership until President Franklin Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor convinced Americans of isolationism’s folly. America’s rise to power was thus slow and belaboured. But the long decades of incremental union were step-by-step changing the face of global politics.

The 1890s were a turning point in America’s career as a great power

The travails of integration: Europe History appears to be reversing itself. Over the course of the nineteenth century, America’s political union gradually came together, endowing the United States with the will and capability to challenge Europe’s hegemony over global affairs. Now, Europe is slowly but surely building a political union, endowing it with the will and capability to contest America’s dominating sway. To be sure, this historical analogy must be qualified. Americans may have had to overcome potent regional differences, but Europe faces more enduring cultural and linguistic dividing lines. America’s states fought only one war against each other, whereas Europe’s have fought many. European nation-states, each with its own armoury of history and communal myth, are poised to remain the primary locus of political identity and loyalty – at least for the foreseeable future. These obstacles to deeper integration may put an upper limit on the ultimate scope of Europe’s union. The difficult course of US amalgamation does, however, shed optimistic light on Europe’s past and future. Even with a common language and religion, it took well over a century for the US federation to cohere and exhibit geopolitical ambition beyond the Western Hemisphere. America’s pursuit of a federal union faced not only regular

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setbacks, but nearly collapsed amid civil war. In light of this record, it is par for the course that Europe, after 50 years of working at union, should still face struggles between Brussels and national capitals, experience periods of political malaise, and have yet to forge a common approach to foreign and security policy. Some EU members remain hesitant to enter the euro zone. Others may balk when it comes to ratifying the constitutional treaty. But such setbacks pale in comparison with the destruction and bloodshed of America’s Civil War. Judging from America’s past, the EU is on, if not ahead of, schedule. The United States may have had a constitution from the start, one that specified – at least in principle – the balance of power between the central government and the states and among the different branches of the federal government. But it was not until the twentieth century that a relatively stable equilibrium emerged among these competing centres of authority. Furthermore, the balance of power between the states and the union remains unsettled, with the two still contending for authority over a host of issues, including education, gay rights and civil liberties. In similar fashion, Europe’s institutions have evolved as integration has proceeded. The European Commission and Parliament have substantially more power than they did several decades ago. A constitutional treaty has been agreed upon and member states are now gearing up for ratification. If adopted, EU institutions would be immeasurably strengthened. The Council would have a chief executive who serves for two and one-half years rather than an unwieldy presidency that rotates every six months. Europe would have a single foreign minister and its own diplomatic corps. The EU is certainly not headed toward a US-style federalism, but it may well consolidate in a manner sufficient to make its geopolitical interests and its military capacity major factors in shaping the global landscape. Europe already enjoys a single market with an aggregate economic output comparable with that of the United States. The EU now has a population of 450 million, compared with 295m in the United States. It is true that Europe’s population is poised to shrink while that of the United States is expected to grow. But at current rates of fertility and immigration, America’s population will not draw even with that of the EU until 2040 or later. For the next four decades, Europe’s market will be substantially larger than America’s. The EU’s introduction of a single currency has been an unqualified success. The German mark and French franc are gone for good, and the British pound may soon follow. The euro has gained considerable ground against the dollar over the past two years, indicating investor confidence in its ability to serve as a reserve currency. The euro accounts for almost

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20% of the foreign exchange reserves held by national central banks.7 As the euro gradually takes its place alongside the dollar as a global reserve currency, the US Federal Reserve will increasingly have to share power with the European Central Bank in managing the international monetary system. This transition could occur more quickly than expected should America’s eroding fiscal situation induce international investors to rush toward euro-denominated assets. Europe’s progress on matters of defence admittedly lags behind its success on other fronts. But that is to be expected; the units that come together to form unions as a matter of course cling tenaciously to their sovereignty when it comes to security. In the United States, the individual states for decades insisted upon maintaining their separate militias and only gradually became comfortable with the prospect of a sizable army and navy under the control of the federal government. A full century after formal union, America’s army ranked fourteenth in the world and its navy seventeenth. Although EU member states have yet to integrate their defence policies and their militaries, an aggregate look at Europe’s armed forces reveals considerable capability. In terms of aggregate defence spending, the EU ranks second in the world, well behind the United States, but ahead of China and Japan. It also ranks second in the total size of its armed forces after China. To be sure, these aggregate numbers need to be discounted because of the relatively low readiness and quality of European forces and the absence of a unified policy or command structure. But they do indicate impressive potential should Europe’s integration on matters of defence move forward. Indeed, Europe may well be ready to turn the corner on the defence front, decidedly moving toward greater integration on matters of both policy and capability. The EU has established the European Defence Agency to oversee military planning and procurement. It is gradually assuming responsibility for peacekeeping operations throughout the Balkans. In August 2004, the Eurocorps took over command of the NATO operation in Afghanistan. Individual member states are implementing important defence reforms intended to give their forces greater firepower and mobility. Europe may well pursue these efforts with added urgency now that Washington has announced its intentions to withdraw America’s main combat units from the European theatre. The EU may well be passing through a period of institutional transformation and centralisation not unlike that experienced by the United States at the end of the nineteenth century.

The EU’s single currency has been an unqualified success

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The geopolitical consequences of European integration Under the best of circumstances, the European Union will have a modest military capability by 2010, giving it the ability to fight a regional war in Europe’s periphery and to contribute in a limited manner to operations in other areas. It is inconceivable that Europe will acquire within the next decade or two a military capability in any way comparable to that of the United States. In this respect, it is quite likely that the United States will remain the sole military superpower for the foreseeable future. Europe’s ability to contest America’s military primacy is, however, far too high a standard for determining whether European integration is of geopolitical consequence. The United States did not become a global power until the Second World War, but its rise had global implications far earlier. During the nineteenth century, America effectively drove European powers from the Western Hemisphere, irreversibly altering the distribution of power across the Atlantic. And by the end of the nineteenth century, the United States was exerting its influence in East Asia and the Middle East, ending Europe’s exclusive influence in these regions. In similar fashion, the EU is extending its democratising and pacifying effects eastwards, obviating Europe’s need for its American protector. The United States is accordingly getting ready to decamp from the Continent. Coupled with EU enlargement, America’s departure from Europe will give the EU a new sway across Eurasia. The future of pivotal states, such as Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, will be more heavily affected by decisions taken in Brussels than in Washington. The EU, not the United States, may soon be the most influential actor in the world’s ‘strategic heartland.’ In addition, the EU is already deeply engaged in the Middle East and is broadening its political and economic presence in East Asia. The EU’s geopolitical weight is being felt far ahead of its emergence as a major military power. Many observers of transatlantic affairs dismiss the geopolitical consequences of these ongoing changes in the relationship between Europe and the United States. The two sides of the Atlantic, they contend, form a stable security community, with the West resting on durable institutional and normative foundations capable of withstanding international change.8 A shift in the balance of power is of little relevance because the Atlantic community no longer plays by the rules of realpolitik. Recent events suggest otherwise. Power balancing across the Atlantic was generally absent during the Cold War, but the Atlantic security order that emerged after the Second World War is fast coming undone. The political divide that opened over the Iraq War may well prove to have been

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an extreme moment of transatlantic discord. But even if so, it marks the end of the transatlantic era that opened amid the Second World War. The United States and its principal allies on the European continent – France and Germany – have parted company on fundamental matters of war and peace. The failure to reach a consensus about the merits of attacking Iraq stemmed from a broader divergence in strategic outlook. As an independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations recently concluded, the divide over Iraq marked ‘the first major crisis within the alliance to take place in the absence of an agreedupon danger’.9 The Atlantic allies certainly took opposing positions during the Suez crisis and the Vietnam War, but the ongoing threat posed by the Soviet Union limited the strategic consequences of these disagreements. Absent the sense of common purpose engendered by the Cold War and amid diverging views on how best to confront the threat of terrorism, the strategic divide that emerged over Iraq marks the beginning of a new – and much more troubled – era of Atlantic relations. The long-term implications of the transatlantic rift over Iraq have been magnified by the diplomatic confrontation that accompanied and followed the war. Germany and France, along with Russia, not only opposed the war, but actively campaigned to organise a blocking coalition in the UN Security Council – and succeeded in doing so. Such behaviour does not constitute ‘balancing’ if that term is limited to mean the mobilisation of countervailing military force, but it certainly constitutes behaviour of considerable geopolitical consequence. The war was denied the legitimacy of a UN blessing, eroding public support for it on a global basis. As a result, the United States has had great difficulty convincing other countries to send troops to Iraq, leaving coalition forces dangerously exposed and Iraq plagued by violence and instability. Despite the dire strategic predicament in which the United States has found itself in Iraq, NATO – the institutional and symbolic foundation of the transatlantic alliance – could muster the will only to dispatch a limited mission to help train the Iraqi army. Washington responded in kind, working to separate a pro-war faction of EU members from the anti-war coalition – effectively backing away from decades of US support for European unity. The United States was taking advantage of the fact that the war was at least as divisive within Europe as it was across the Atlantic. In this sense, the transatlantic rift over Iraq cannot be directly attributed to the successes of European integration. Indeed, most of the governments that supported the war did so largely to avoid a strategic separation between the EU and the United States, preferring that both remain firmly anchored within the Atlantic alliance.

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European governments that backed the war have paid a heavy political price

It is the case, however, that Berlin and Paris – along with most European publics – were prepared to break with Washington precisely because Europe is at peace and no longer needs its American guardian. In this sense, the rift was directly related to the success of European integration and the consequent desire of many Europeans for strategic independence from the United States. Furthermore, the transatlantic divide over Iraq is in the long run likely to advance rather than hamper European unity on matters of defence – for a number of reasons. Firstly, those European governments that backed the war have paid a heavy political price for doing so, especially in light of the ongoing chaos in Iraq. As a result, pro-European sentiments have been strengthened at the expense of Atlanticist inclinations. The fall of the Aznar government in Spain was a critical turning point in this respect, weakening the prowar coalition and complicating the political fortunes of Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, Alexander Kwazniewski and other leaders who aligned themselves with Washington. Central Europeans have also been disgruntled with the absence of tangible rewards for their loyalty, with Polish citizens asking why their companies have not been awarded lucrative contracts in Iraq, why they still need a visa to visit the United States, and why the US forces based in Germany are leaving Europe rather than relocating to Poland. Secondly, the war has driven home to many Europeans that they are increasingly on their own in geopolitical terms, with the United States focusing its attention and resources on other quarters. The Pentagon has announced plans to bring home the main combat units that have for decades been deployed in Europe. Even if many Europeans were to remain staunch defenders of a tight strategic bond with the United States, Europe’s traditional Atlantic option is no longer available. Whether they like it or not, countries like Britain and Poland will have no choice but to look to a stronger and more collective EU to manage European security. Thirdly, anti-American attitudes are at least for now informing electoral politics in many EU member states. What began as popular opposition to the Bush administration and its policies appears to have deeper and broader political implications, with surveys revealing that some two-thirds of the public in France and Germany have unfavourable views of the United States.10 Furthermore, rather than seeking to moderate anti-American sentiment, a number of European leaders have been capitalising on it for electoral purposes, magnifying its political

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significance and intensity. This trend gives a boost to European unity by adding allure and urgency to the call of some Europeans for the EU to serve as a counterweight to America. It also, however, marks an unfortunate and dangerous development; the emergence of a Europe that defines itself in opposition to the United States would have adverse consequences for not just Atlantic relations, but also the broader international community. Competitive instincts would be reawakened on a global basis should balance-of-power logic again divide the two sides of the Atlantic. Europe and the United States have thus reached a strategic turning point, one at least as important as that of a century ago when an integrating America crossed a critical threshold in its evolution as a union, embracing a new level of geopolitical ambition and fundamentally altering its relationship with Europe. At the turn of the twentieth century, Britain had the good sense to make room for America, paving the way for a peaceful power transition across the Atlantic. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the challenge ahead is to ensure that the current strategic transition between the two sides of the Atlantic is as peaceful as the last.

Renewing Atlantic partnership: the need for a strong Europe The traditional Atlantic alliance is gone for good. The United States is ending its days as a European power at the same time that the EU and its member states are becoming ready to emerge from the shadow of American influence. A central question emerges amid the political rancour and conceptual confusion that accompany these tectonic shifts: are the prospects for reclaiming an Atlantic partnership more auspicious if the EU emerges as a stronger and more unified geopolitical actor or if it remains primarily a civilian power with decentralised policies on matters of security and defence? Proponents of a civilian avocation for the EU have several arguments in their favour. A more unified and muscular union would, at least at the outset, lead to more transatlantic tension, not less. As it has in the past few years, Washington would likely react with affront to the prospect of an increasingly autonomous EU – as well as one in which a common security policy makes it difficult for the United States to partner with individual member states as it sees fit. It is also the case that the international community will continue to rely heavily on the EU’s civilian profile; its capacities in nation-building, peacekeeping and democracy promotion are poised to remain crucial assets for years to come. 11 The Atlantic partnership, however, will be far better served by a militarily capable EU rather than by one that defines itself as a civilian

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power. A division of labour in which the United States fights wars while the EU focuses on nation-building will prove uniquely corrosive over time. Americans would resent the fact that they would be running far greater risks than their European counterparts. With the US homeland now facing the threat of terrorist strikes, Americans have become particularly sensitive to the contributions of others in neutralising this threat. In turn, Europeans would resent their ancillary strategic role as the clean-up crew of the international community. They would also bristle at the permanently diminished influence that comes with such a role. A civilianised EU is a recipe for dismantling the Atlantic partnership, not rebuilding it. A more capable EU would restore a measure of balance to the Atlantic community, providing the foundation for a meaningful and equitable sharing of tasks along the full spectrum of missions. It is true that Washington may well take umbrage as the EU fashions its own security policy and embarks on a more independent course, but Americans would ultimately welcome the prospect of an EU able to shoulder more responsibility in Europe and to contribute to operations elsewhere – especially those aimed at combating terrorists and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq war has placed extraordinary strains on America’s military, making the United States particularly aware of the importance of securing the help of capable allies in the future. Greater EU capacity also increases the likelihood that the United States and Europe succeed in forging a consensus on vital strategic issues. The more capability the EU has to offer, the more Washington will work to secure its help, listening to Europe’s concerns and modifying US policies accordingly. In addition, when the EU’s capabilities are more robust, its perception of threats may also be in closer alignment with those of the United States. How parties perceive threats is at least to some degree shaped by the means at their disposal to deal with them. A stronger and more unified EU is paradoxically less likely than a weak union to cast itself as a counterweight to the United States. Anti-American sentiment in Europe stems in part from Washington’s dismissive attitude toward Europe, an attitude that would change in step with the EU’s evolution. So too does European pique arise from Europe’s frustration about its own weakness; standing up to America is to some degree a way of compensating for the EU’s inability to affect outcomes through any other means. A stronger EU would enable Europe to contribute actively to international missions, thereby removing this important source of antiAmerican resentment and clearing the way for shared interests to promote joint action. Even if a more autonomous EU and the United States might at times pursue separate paths, Europeans and Americans in

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the end share a common purpose and a commitment to democratic values. Each is still the other’s most natural and reliable ally. A more capable Europe would bring these commonalities into greater relief. Finally, the EU needs to improve its military capacity in order to pick up the strategic slack left by America’s impending departure from Europe. Europe’s periphery is almost certain to experience violent conflict in the years ahead; the EU needs to prepare itself accordingly – or find itself exposed and impotent. The EU would not be the only party to suffer. When Europeans proved incapable of stopping ethnic conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s, political tension and mutual recrimination beset the Atlantic community, not just Europe.

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This analysis points to several policy recommendations for leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. European elites need to restore to the European project the political momentum that it has lacked in the recent past, making deeper union – and, in particular, a more common and robust security policy – a top priority. Britain has a particular role to play in this respect, with its military experience and capability critical to turning the EU’s geopolitical aspirations into reality. Precisely because enlargement may make it difficult for the union as a whole to move forward on defence issues with alacrity, a vanguard group leading the way is not only desirable, but vital. In the meantime, EU leaders should intensify efforts to reach out to their counterparts in the United States. Making a greater contribution to missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and working to counter anti-American sentiment within the EU would be helpful steps. Washington can do its part by returning to a steadfast policy of supporting European unity, ending its counterproductive efforts to foster divisions within Europe’s ranks. The United States should also welcome unambiguously the construction of an autonomous and capable EU defence force, its current ambivalence only giving some quarters in Europe an excuse for failing to tackle the urgent task at hand. Finally, Washington needs to return to the centrist brand of internationalism that guided US foreign policy for the last six decades. Only by doing so can the United States restore confidence among Europeans that they still have in America a responsible and reliable partner. Only then can Europeans and Americans refashion an Atlantic community capable of anchoring a stable and prosperous international order.

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Political unions are radical and contingent experiments

The future course of European integration is anything but foreordained. Only a clairvoyant could have foreseen in the late 1800s that the United States was headed for political centralisation and global pre-eminence. The EU today is similarly a work-inprogress, with the character of its governing institutions and the scope of its geopolitical ambition still evolving. America’s integration admittedly cannot serve as a model for Europe’s; political unions are radical and contingent experiments, whose results are always unpredictable. Nonetheless, the history of America’s arduous ascent does make clear that Europe has already made remarkable progress along the path of political integration. This insight reveals little about Europe’s ultimate disposition – but a great deal about the urgent need to begin adapting Atlantic relations and global politics to the realities of Europe’s emerging union.

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Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Jonathan Monten and Rositsa Petrova for providing research assistance.
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‘An à la carte Europe is likely to split,’ Financial Times, 4 October 2004, p. 15. This historical overview draws on Charles A. Kupchan, The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century (New York: Vintage, 2003). For further discussion and citations, see pp. 160–177. See Walter Hartwell Bennett, American Theories of Federalism (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1964), pp. 92–100; and Thomas Bailey, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic (Boston, MA: Heath, 1956). Cited in Michael J. Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 15. John Blum et al. (eds) The National Experience: A History of the United

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States (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), pp. 218–219. Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 55. International Monetary Fund, Annual Report 2004, 30 September 2004, p. 103, Appendices, table 1.2. G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), esp. pp. 246–256. ‘Renewing the Atlantic Partnership,’ Report of an Independent Task Force, Henry A. Kissinger and Lawrence H. Summers, co-chairs, Charles A. Kupchan, project director (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2004), p. 9. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, ‘A Year After Iraq War: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists’, 16 March 2004, p. 24. See Andy Moravcsik, ‘Striking a New Transatlantic Bargain,’ Foreign Affairs, vol. 82, no. 4 July/August 2003.

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