The Future of the Transatlantic Alliance. The Viewpoint of a European Realist

The Future of the Transatlantic Alliance. The Viewpoint of a European Realist

Mini Teaser: Vittorio Emanuele Parsi.

by Author(s): J. Peter Pham

Setting himself against Charles Kupchan's scenario of a parting of the ways between America and Europe occasioned by the unification of the latter,[4] Parsi maintains that the transatlantic alliance is more needed now than ever and that any rupture in the institutionalized relationship of cooperation between the two sides of the Atlantic would be a setback for both. If Europeans live in a "Kantian paradise governed by laws, and not by force," they do so only because the United States "is doing the dirty work of maintaining security" against "threats that are increasingly diffuse and costly and difficult to defend against," especially since the E.U. "has neither common resources, army, or arms industry, nor appropriate and efficient institutional instruments, nor even a common security doctrine." Europeans cannot delude themselves that their peaceful existence can be exported as a model without force, because "in order to promote and defend the good it is necessary to resist evil, sometimes by combat." Americans, on the other hand, still need their European allies, not only to lend political legitimacy to their undeniable hegemony-the author makes an interesting point that the U.S. success in the Cold War contest, while indisputably a victory in a major conflict, came without the battlefield triumph that would have transformed its power into legitimate authority-but also to defeat the global threat of terrorism that renders any unilateral response inadequate. In Parsi's analysis, the "unity of the West is not only the indispensable condition for the security of Europe and the United States, it also represents the requirement for any chance of democratic peace in the world." Thus, if Europeans and Americans are increasingly aware of their differences, they ought to also recall what the common Western heritage they share as well as their common aspirations to individual rights, liberal democratic politics, and economic freedom, as well as to more transcendent values. To this end, Parsi concludes succinctly:

If what motivates us is the desire, not for just any kind of world order or simply an "equally divided" order, by just world order, then the multilateralism between Europe and America is the only multilateralism possible or acceptable…founded on principles of liberty not subject to negotiation. As other states gradually arrive at a complete adherence to these values, the broadening of multilateralism becomes morally obligatory…It is not a challenge of race or culture: it is simply a question of the principles on which the order must be built…But the sharing of values must be bound to a willingness and capacity to share fully in the responsibility of guaranteeing the security of the international system. As long as America is the only one bearing the burden, any discussion of greater multilateralism risks being a mere rhetorical exercise. This is where Europe, precisely because of its wealth and history, must make greater efforts. Only if we learn to be a reliable and credible partner in this task, if the share of security that we are able to guarantee increases significantly, can we hope to obtain greater weight in the making of decisions, including those of war and peace. This is the only alternative…to an exasperated American unilateralism.



A former diplomat, Dr. J. Peter Pham is the author, most recently, of Liberia: Portrait of a Failed State (New York: Reed Press, 2004).


[1] New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. Also see David P. Calleo, "Power, Wealth and Wisdom: The United States and Europe after Iraq," The National Interest 72 (Summer 2003): 5-15.

[2] See Jean-François Revel, Anti-Americanism, trans. Diarmid Cammel (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003).

[3] See William C. Wohlfort, "The Stability of a Unipolar World," International Security 24 (1999): 5-41. Also see Barry R. Posen, "Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony," International Security 28/1 (2003): 5-46.

[4] See Charles A. Kupchan, The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002).

Essay Types: Essay