As the wisest of all American philosophers, Yogi Berra, has insightfully observed, making predictions is hard, especially about the future. And he might have added-pointing to the predictions of an impending Euro-American rupture that have been a staple of debates about U.S.-European relations at least since the 1956 Suez crisis-prognosticating accurately about the future of Transatlantic relations is extra hard. Through all the ups and downs in U.S.-European relations over the years, those many Chicken Littles who have gone out on a limb to forecast an impending drifting apart of Europe and the United States never have had their predictions validated by events.
Until now, perhaps?
The Iraq War has produced a very different kind of rift. The damage inflicted on Washington's ties to Europe by the Bush Administration's policy is likely to prove real, lasting and, at the end of the day, irreparable. In other words, if the fat lady isn't singing already, she clearly can be heard warming up her voice.
To understand why this crisis is different, we must understand its causes. The rupture between the United States and Europe is not, as some have asserted, mainly about an alleged Transatlantic rift in the realm of culture, values and ideology. It is not about the relative merits of unilateralism versus multilateralism. It is not even about the issues that framed the debate about Iraq during the run-up to war (Should the weapons inspections process have been allowed to play out? Was the United States wrong to go to war without a second resolution from the United Nations Security Council?). For sure, Iraq was a catalyst for Transatlantic dispute, but this crisis has been about American power-specifically about American hegemony.
Of Balance and Hegemony