“It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world,” begins Robert Kagan in a highly perceptive and relevant piece entitled “Power and Weakness.”
The article has been increasingly referenced by parties on all sides of the current debate. Given the current critical state of international diplomacy, this article is well worth a reading, a pondering, and a thoughtful discussion. In analyzing the psychology of the powerful and the weak Kagan astutely notes: “Americans, when they were not themselves engaged in the subtleties of detente, viewed the European approach as a form of appeasement, a return to the fearful mentality of the 1930s. But appeasement is never a dirty word to those whose genuine weakness offers few appealing alternatives. For them, it is a policy of sophistication.”
Another pithy quip: “The current situation abounds in ironies. Europe’s rejection of power politics, its devaluing of military force as a tool of international relations, have depended on the presence of American military forces on European soil. Europe’s new Kantian order could flourish only under the umbrella of American power exercised according to the rules of the old Hobbesian order. American power made it possible for Europeans to believe that power was no longer important. And now, in the final irony, the fact that United States military power has solved the European problem, especially the ‘German problem,’ allows Europeans today to believe that American military power, and the ‘strategic culture’ that has created and sustained it, are outmoded and dangerous.”
The discussion of the differences between Europe and the United States has many parties involved. A past attempt of mine can be seen in “No More Hatfields and McCoys: The Value of Nations of Ideas.”. Also, one of my favorite books on the topic (although out of print) is Stuart Miller’s Painted in Blood.
Kagan’s article is assidous and highly pertinent. In the end, it is his even-handed approach to critical observation that produces a fine piece of policy review.