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Printed in Baltic Defence Review no. 11 vol 1/2004

An empire unveiled

In the US election the Democrats promise to undo the Bush revolution in foreign affairs, but will they go far enough to satisfy the conflicting needs of the Baltic States as both EU and NATO members?


Can you think of a worse year for transatlantic relations than 2003? This question was put to a senior EU commission official last December, and, without hesitation, he answered: 2004.

But, alas, 2005 is already in the competition. Many US allies after three years of George W. Bush in the White House looked forward to the presidential election for a change in leadership. But the joy of expectancy might this time be the greatest pleasure. As the year progressed US opinion polls, despite tremendous political set backs for Bush,  did not exclude the possibility of four more years.And even if Bush is defeated, John Kerry might throw Europeans the greatest challenge. As a key theme in his campaign, Kerry has promised to revitalise NATO and “lead a broad coalition against our adversaries”[i]. A likely contender for Secretary of State in a Kerry administration, former Clinton national security adviser Samuel Berger, in a programmatic article gave “the good news” – “that the world is eager for the United States to return to its tradition of leadership”[ii].

It is, however, far from obvious that Europeans are ready for US leadership and substantial burden-sharing. The Bush administration did find close allies in Europe but, with the exception of the United Kingdom, none of them ventured much beyond the symbolic in support of US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some limits were set by domestic opposition but anti-Bush sentiments also were a convenient cover hiding European inability, caused by both lack of will and military resources, to play a larger role. Many observers claim a more fundamental clash of interests is the cause of transatlantic discord. On what these interests are and what the clash is about no consensus exists. During the last couple of years in the US a new debate on grand strategy has focused on “American Empire”. Fear of  domination by an empire can explain why some European countries have resisted accepting US leadership. But analysts disagree on the nature of this empire. Definitions stretch from a “Liberal Empire”[iii], offering all members freedom and the pursuit of happiness, to “a new American militarism”[iv].

With a Kerry administration we could get the ultimate test of the differing claims. A Democrat in the White House will benefit from a honeymoon in the transatlantic relationship. A sigh of relief will go through European capitals. Nobody really desire confrontation with the US, and a change of American policy could also remove an obstacle to European unity. As Nicole Gnesotto, director of the European Unions Institute for Security Studies, note, “it is now much easier for the Europeans to agree a view on external crisis than on American policy”[v]. The divisive issue in EU security and defence policy is America because the Union’s role in managing world crisis is closely related to the type of relationship each member country want to build with America. But even a honeymoon can lead to new transatlantic conflict. Greater European unity will establish the EU as a stronger global actor and, according to some analysts, also a stronger competitor for the US.

Thus, key questions are: Has the gap in the Euro-Atlantic relationship widened to such an extent that even a Democrat in the White House is unable to bridge it? Are we really at “the end of Atlanticism” as another national security official from the Clinton era, Ivo Daalder, and several other scholars and policy makers fear?[vi] Will we see “the return of rivalry among the world’s main centers” of power?[vii] Kerry can make a clean break with his predecessors policies and remove anti-Bush sentiments as an obstacle, but will that be enough? Or, put more briefly, what is enough?

The Baltic dilemma

Such questions hang as a dark cloud over the simultaneous enlargement of both the EU and NATO. Countries in “the new Europe” face a growing tension in their role as both American allies and Europeans. As an American observer with Latvian roots, professor George Viksnins, has stressed the three Baltic States “in particular” are beginning to face what only a few years ago would have seemed an “unthinkable dilemma”: having to choose between the United States and Europe[viii].

They have already faced that choice. In June 2003 the EU presidency stated that prospective members are expected to follow the official EU position on the International Criminal Court. A few days later the US suspended military aid to all countries refusing to sign an agreement on immunity for US personnel from prosecution by the Court. But, like some countries in “the old Europe”, the Baltic States and other new EU and NATO members prefer not to be presented with such choices.  Janusz Onyszkiewicz, director of Poland’s Centre for International Affairs and a former defense minister, predict that countries along the eastern borders of  NATO and the EU “will be very pro-NATO, pro-American, for historical and practical reasons”[ix]. Criticism directed against the Bush-administration often is characterised as incomprehensible, silly, Anti-American.

Seen from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland a US anchored security guarantee is indispensable. In the Baltic Sea area also Denmark, having put itself outside EU defence co-operation, put great emphasis on US relations. The US is in the area moreover seen as a counter-balance to a regional Franco-German hegemony and a stabilising influence to counter European great power rivalry. Whether the EU can survive as a unified institution with a prospect of providing a security guarantee is not certain. Atis Lejins,  director of the Latvian Institute of International affairs, even claims, that “a split EU and a rump NATO, and the possibility thereby of regaining the Baltic states, is a scenario that is being studied by several Russian strategic studies institutes”[x]. The security agenda for the Baltic states is changing now when membership in both the EU and NATO has been obtained, but after extensive research the American scholar Stephen Larrabee did conclude that the first regional priority is to maintain American engagement.But it takes two to tango. The US could now regard the Baltic problem as “fixed” and decrease its engagement – “indeed, there are already signs of this happening”, Larrabee warns[xi]. The Bush administration “simply does not care about Europe”, says Philip Gordon, an expert on European affairs at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC[xii]. A former official in the Rumsfeld Pentagon, Thomas Barnett, attack a “transatlantic partnership overtaken by events” and favour “developing an entirely new alliance” with China, India and Russia because “messy wars requires allies who don’t mind getting dirty”[xiii]. Baltic concerns might then not compete very well in Washington with Russian concerns.

The Baltic States can naturally, as ordained by Larrabee, make an effort to keep American attention, but the future relationship is also a matter of how a US administration views the strategic utility of alliances. The Baltic states want security and influence, but what if the US has overriding priorities and what if membership of NATO give influence on very little? Some studies suggest that the Bush administration has an “ad hoc and temporary” view of allies[xiv].  Such signals are noticed around the Baltic Sea. The easy division of Europe in “old” and “new”, in “pro-American” and “anti-American”, sometimes is exploded. Atis Lejins has attacked the notion, popular in the Rumsfeld Pentagon, that NATO should be a toolbox for the US. “We all know”, the Latvian director writes, “that tools have nothing to say about how they are used. That would be the end of the Alliance”[xv].

Sweet music from the Democrats

For anybody concerned about the transatlantic relationship listening to the Democratic candidates for president must have been sweet music. All leading contenders expressed a strong consensus on the need for alliances, rejected a future for NATO as merely a toolbox to enable coalitions of the willing, stressed the necessity of compromise in working alliances and highlighted addressing common problems.

The Bush administration “has often acted as if our alliances are no longer important”, said former governor Howard Dean in a key presentation of his foreign policy views, a speech co-authored by a group of former Democratic top-officials. It can, he acknowledged, at times be frustrating to obtain the cooperation of allies, but “America is most successful in achieving our national aims when our allies are by our side”[xvi].

In a similar vein former SACEUR Wesley Clark promised to “rebuild our alliances” and “strengthen them, so that when America has to act we can call on the military, financial and moral resources of others”. He proposed a “a new Atlantic Charter” to reinvigorate the security partnership with Europe. The Charter should “define the threat we face in common, create the basis for concerted action from our allies to meet them, and offer the promise to act together as a first choice – not a last”[xvii].

And John Kerry will “replace the Bush years of isolation with a new era of alliances”, because “our need for allies” is “as great or greater than at any time in the past”. As president he would not cede US security to any institution and adversaries should not have doubts about his resolve to use force if necessary but “even the only superpower on earth cannot succeed without cooperation and compromise with our friends and allies”[xviii].

Candidates explicitly rejected unilateralism and the associated policy on ad hoc coalitions of the willing.

Dean would be “far more interested in allies that stand ready to act with us rather than just willing to be rounded up as part of a coalition”. Alliances “train together so they can function effectively with common equipment, communications, logistics, and planning” [xix]. Clark launched a slogan that was to reappear again in the Kerry campaign: “We will act with others if we possibly can and alone only if we absolutely must”. Repeatedly he stressed that in an alliance you have a two way relationship. “Nations are more likely to share burdens if they are also sharing decisions” [xx].  He faulted the Bush administration for not having worked with allies on issues of concern to them. It has shown friends and partners “contempt” and in many ways sent the message: “Your security is your own concern, and your concerns are of no concern to us”[xxi].

Kerry started out 2003 with a most noteworthy attack on unilateralism as “the right’s old isolationist impulse in modern guise”. At core, he explained, is a familiar and beguiling illusion: “That America can escape an entangling world, that we can wield our enormous power without incurring obligations to others and that we can pursue our national interests in arrogant ways that make a mockery of our nation’s ideals”[xxii]. During the year he consistently argued for full involvement of both NATO and the UN in Iraq. While also president Bush says that involvement of allies is crucial, it nevertheless “runs roughshod over the interests of those nations on a broad range of issues – from climate change, climate control to the International Court of Justice, to the role of the United Nations, to trade, and, of course, to the rebuilding of Iraq itself”. The overriding imperative in a Kerry administration will, he added, be to “replace unilateral action with collective security of a genuine nature” [xxiii].

Throughout the Democratic primaries candidates did not just find fault with concrete Bush policies. They rejected his general approach in harsh terms rarely heard. Dick Gephardt, a prominent member of the House of Representatives, blasted the “cold warriors” brought out of semi-retirement and their “overwhelming arrogance and lack of appreciation for the subtleties of democracy building or alliance strengthening – all those niceties that intrude on their Hobbesian world”[xxiv]. Wesley Clark saw “pride, arrogance, weak leadership, pure domestic politics and poor decision-making” combined with “the terrible idea that we must selfishly pursue national interests with a kind of 19’th century realpolitik”[xxv]. Kerry delivered the toughest blow: “Simply put, the Bush administration has pursued the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in modern history”[xxvi].

Carnivores fighting herbivores

Rhetoric in an election campaign is not always to be taken as an expression of sincerity, and Democrats did compete on who could provide a tough challenge against Bush. But several speeches, only a few are referred to here, were thoughtful and with more substance than normally found in campaign “stump” oratory, and no attack on an administration has reached such heights in recent memory. In 1964 the Republican challenger Barry Goldwater did have quite a battle with the sitting president Lyndon B. Johnson. The election in 1972 between the Republican president Richard Nixon and his opponent George McGovern did reflect the animosities caused by the war in Vietnam. But in both cases much of the foreign policy establishment rallied against the “ousiders” – Goldwater was a right wing extremist and McGovern a candidate for the peace movement – or kept a facade of neutrality.

In this election the foreign policy elite is split or, depending on how this elite is defined, even massively against the president and his team. Since the early nineties the US national security community has been involved in a debate on grand strategy. By end of the decade a split had grown to proportions that lead some observers, inspired by the dinosaur fad after Jurassic Park,  to characterise the fight as one among carnivores relying on raw power and herbivores with a live and let live attitude. After 9-11 many herbivores did see a need for long teeth but disagreement on fundamental elements in strategy persist and has been documented in numerous policy papers and studies by scholars.

A most prominent Democratic strategist, former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a recent book established a stark choice for the United States: Global domination or global leadership? A quest for domination can bring “self-isolation, growing national paranoia and increasing vulnerability to a globally spreading anti-American virus”. The land of the free can be transformed “into a garrison state imbued with a siege mentality”[xxvii]. Brzezinski advocate “a co-optive hegemony” – one in which “leadership is exercised more through shared conviction with enduring allies than by assertive domination”[xxviii]. Samuel Berger, president Clintons national security adviser, see the real “clash of civilisations” taking place within Washington. It is a clash “between diametrically opposed conceptions of America’s role in the world[xxix]. Many positions taken by Democratic candidates were incorporated in a lengthy policy paper signed by 15 former Democratic officials, likely candidates for positions in a Kerry administration. They accused the Bush administration of not only “bad manners” but also “bad strategy”. The surest way to isolate America, these experts wrote, is to succumb to “the imperial temptation and attempt to impose our will on others”. Too many of our friends, they continued, now question “whether America is a reliable partner in tackling common problems”[xxx].

Republicans rehabilitate imperialism

A Democratic president “will want to undo the ‘Bush Revolution’ in foreign policy and be much less assertive”, says Michael Peters, vice-president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

What is this “Bush revolution”? An obvious  place to look for an answer is in a for Europeans most peculiar phenomena: The  rehabilitation of  “empire” and even “imperialism”. This is no longer just an insult socialists throw at the US. It is terms now approvingly embraced by the far right. “The fact of American empire is hardly debated these days”, according to Thomas Donelly of Project for the New American Century, a foreign policy organisation set up in 1997 with support from, among others, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz[xxxi]. Also many independent scholars use the term – a rapidly growing list of recent books has “empire” as the topic. While president Bush himself repeatedly have stressed that the US is not an empire and its not striving for one, even some centrist Republicans accept the term. Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center (a think tank) find it understandable why some balk at any mention of the “e” word. Many past empires gave the term a bad reputation. But Simes nevertheless  find it “an important analytical tool” to see the US as an evolving modern empire with profound consequences. In fact, he says, any realistic discussion of US foreign policy “must begin with the recognition” that most of the world sees the United States as a “nascent imperial power” [xxxii].

Rehabilitation was conducted by conservative intellectuals through books, magazines and institutes. Many articles were published by The National Review, The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal. Institutionally writers often were situated in The American Enterprise Institute, The Hoover Institution and Project for the New American century. For conservatives the end of communism and the triumph of capitalism was a mixed blessing. They were left with an ideological belief in a free market, a quite boring commitment. American conservatives are not status quo oriented but revolutionary in their zeal to change the world. Now they were faced with a zeitgeist of  promoting self-interest over the national interest. They felt deeply ambivalent about the culture of capitalism and its elevation of buying and selling above political virtues such as heroism and struggle[xxxiii].  In raging against the alleged timidity of president Clinton in asserting US power they for a while found a new mission. Some started focusing on a more grand mission. Ralph Peters, a prolific writer with military background, in 1999  put a choice to his audience: “Shall we dominate the Earth for the good of mankind? Or will we risk the enslavement of our country and our civilisation?”[xxxiv]. Peters saw a new warrior class of erratic primitives with no stake in civil order arising, and this class is to be confronted by America, in the service of mankind, to create a new golden age.

A decisive kick off in the rehabilitation campaign came with the new millennium when Irving Kristol, godfather of neo-conservatism, declared the US an empire – a reality, he predicted,  soon to be recognised[xxxv]. What’s the point, he argued in an interview, of being “the greatest, most powerful nation in the world and not having an imperial role?”. The United States “should play a far more dominant role in world affairs - not what we're doing now but to command and to give orders as to what is to be done”[xxxvi]. After the terror of 9-11 conservatives found new receptivity for a mission to defend civilization and freedom against barbarism and terror. Max Boot, at the time op ed editor at The Wall Street Journal, called acceptance of an imperial role the most realistic response to terrorism[xxxvii]. A journalist, Robert Kaplan, in the 90’s made himself a name through travels in the worlds disaster zones chronicling growing anarchy and could thus with considerable weight in 2002 declare re-establishment of order the paramount question for world politics in the early twenty-first century. “A century of disastrous utopian hopes has brought us back to imperialism, that most ordinary and dependable form of protection for ethnic minorities and others under violent assault (…)”, he declared. “Despite our anti-imperial traditions, and despite the fact that imperialism is delegitimized in public discourse, an imperial reality already dominates our foreign policy”[xxxviii]. Writing just before invasion of Iraq a neo-conservative writer, Stanley Kurtz, abstained from calling the United States an empire because “we have not yet used our military to secure direct and continuous control over the domestic affairs of foreign lands”. But in Afghanistan he did see “the germ of a new American imperium”,  and extended occupation of Iraq to encourage democratization would be “just policy”[xxxix].

An empire of a new type

The Bush-administration is inhabited by conservatives of differing ideologies but its policies have clearly been influenced by the new imperialists. Out of the so-called war against terrorism a “neoimperial vision” is emerging in which the United States arrogates to itself the global role of setting standards, determining threats and using force, professor John Ikenberry from Georgetown University concluded in 2002. Washington will use coalitions of the willing but ultimately the US will be “unconstrained by the rules and norms of the international community”[xl].

But what kind of empire is the Bush administration striving for? And, by the way, is empire only a recent US goal? Such questions have been thrashed through by numerous contributors in the debate but little agreement is in sight.

A common theme is that the United States is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and the white man's burden. A left liberal writer, Michael Ignatieff, see  “a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known”. Behind the new imperialism stands a people “who remember that their country secured its independence by revolt against an empire, and who like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere”. It is “an empire without consciousness of itself as such, constantly shocked that its good intentions arouse resentment abroad”. But, like Ikenberry, Michael Ignatieff also acknowledge, that an empire dictates the rules while exempting itself from other rules that go against its interest[xli].

William Odom, head of the National Security Agency from 1985-1988, has co-authored a most original contribution. He warns against use of terms like “imperial” and “empire”. Those words convey notions of a hierarchy or power, subordination and dominance that are “either missing from the American empire or only loosely institutionalized”. The US is head of a “Liberal empire”, a “voluntary community of sovereign states”, most of which have mature, Liberal constitutional regimes[xlii]. By definition countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is thus not a part of the empire. A requirement for full membership is a constitutional break through in establishing Liberal institutions and values – thus around the Baltic Sea countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, allthough members of the empire through membership of NATO, are not really full members because the constitutional break through is deemed “uncertain”.

The study is most useful by describing requirements for stability in this empire and can thus indirectly explain recent transatlantic discord. Liberalism, the classical kind, lead to a separation of powers in the US constitutional order, and the US elite developed an ideological approach about public service. This is vitally important for stability in the US as barriers against abuse of power. But the Liberal empire is not a replica of the US federal government. It lacks ‘checks and balances’. The “most serious danger to the American empire”, identified by Odom, is that the “power of its leaders is limited primarily by their ideology – that is, by the Liberal norms that guide their use of that power”. Thus, “to insists that the United States conduct its foreign policy mainly on the basis of unilateralism is to promote the destruction of the American empire”[xliii].

A conservative professor from Boston University, Andrew Bacevich, also see the empire as more than a Bush administration invention. The vision of empire was set out by president Truman on July 4, 1947 in a speech at Monticello. Truman declared that “nations are interdependent and that recognition of our dependence upon another is essential for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of all mankind”[xliv]. The collapse of communism offered an opportunity to fulfil that vision. While the orientation of US policy until then had been primarily defensive it now became largely offensive. Since the end of the Cold War the United States has adhered to “a well-defined grand strategy” the purpose of which is to “expand an American imperium”. Bacevich describe the imperial project as “as an open and integrated international order based on the principles of democratic capitalism, with the United States as the ultimate guarantor of order and enforcer of norms”[xlv].

A rich variety of views is offered by other contributors in numerous books and articles. The historian James Banner date the start of American empire to 1803 when president Jefferson bought Louisiana from France – an enormous land mass from Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains – and founded what Jefferson called “an Empire of Liberty”. This initiative also gave genocidal warfare against natives and slavery a considerable boost. According to James Banner an American imperial mission was rooted at that time and a dichotomy  between rhetorical justification and actual deeds accompanied the enterprise ever since[xlvi]. At the start of a bloody colonial war for control of the Philippines president McKinley allegedly prayed to God for light and guidance. It came to him, as he later explained,  “that there was nothing left for us to do but take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift them and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the best we could by them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also died”[xlvii]. The Spaniards had, of course, Christianized the islands a while back but the argument carried the day. When listening to more recent justifications of empire the traditional dichotomy should not be forgotten. As Dimitri Simes of the Nixon Center mentions also today “double standards and deception, or at least considerable self-deception, have become all too common”[xlviii].

Many writers do not see any or few redeeming elements in American imperialism. Professor Benjamin Barker from University of Maryland, a prominent anti-globalisation ideologue,  believe that his country’s present leaders “pursue a reckless militancy aimed at establishing an American empire of fear more awesome than any the terrorists can conceive”[xlix]. A huge biography on the geographer Isaiah Bowman  (1878-1950) in the introduction reveals that today’s push for empire springs from two earlier attempts in 1919 and 1945. The war on terrorism  actually is “a war devoted to the completion of the geo-economic globalism of the American Empire”,  the writer, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography Neil Smith, states[l]. Another professor, Chalmers Johnson, decry that most Americans “do not realize  that a vast network of American military bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire”[li]. And veteran journalist John Newhouse documents “the Bush assault on the world order”[lii]. A more classical view of imperialism is expressed by Michael Klare, author of numerous books on the changing nature of warfare. American strategy now, he states, “focuses on oil-field protection, the defense of maritime trade routes, and other aspects of resource security”[liii].

Dominion is an imperial strategy

International relations theory is supposed to assist in cutting through the fog of arguments, set up some definitions for what constitutes an empire and even help in understanding their likely development. Confusion reigns, though, because “empire” is used with so many differing definitions, and, historically, empires have appeared in differing forms. Much American rhetoric today is just an echo of the allegedly altruistic motives behind British empire-building in the 19’th century. All empires are not just known for their cruel subjugation of foreign people in far away lands. Some European powers did promote development in their colonies. Total loss of sovereignty did not take place in parts of the empires Athens or the Soviet Union build – in the latter case the, say, Estonian and Polish experience differed. Also, a master plan for conquest often did not exist. Empires developed step by step, sometimes as a search for security. Calling the United States an empire thus can be fitted into the historical pattern without necessarily invoked all the worst excesses of previous empires. 

Often the superior  power of the United States – military, political, economic and ideological (cultural) - is highlighted as proof of American empire. But some scholars see that as insufficient evidence. Empire also is a matter of what power is used for.

“Hegemony” at times is used synonymous with empire. The word indicate that an imperial power establish the rules by which others routinely play. Others may come to approve of the rules as mutually beneficiary, so that hegemony is partly legitimate. That was the case in much of the world after World War II. But the catch is, as professor Michael Mann from University of California writes, “to be hegemonic, the US has to play by the rules it has established”[liv]. If it abandons the rules, its risks losing hegemony, and, in order to continue ruling, the US must enter a more directly repressive phase. That this is happening seems to be a widespread fear, among left-liberals in the US and in much of the rest of world.

In an examination of eight possible grand strategies Robert Art, Professor of International  Relations at Brandeis University, explore “dominion” and distinguish it from “superiority” or “primacy”, as he prefers. Dominion and primacy differ in two important respects. First, dominion is a grand strategy; primacy is not. “Dominion prescribes a goal – the triumph of American values – and the means to achieve it: imperial rule”, he says. Primacy does not prescribe the ends of policy, only a means to achieve them. Second, dominion and primacy differ in the margin of strength they call for. “Dominion is absolute rule; primacy is superior influence”. Dominion implies invariably prevailing; primacy means winning more often than others do[lv].

Stephen Peter Rosen, Professor of National Security and Military Art at Harvard University, agree that hegemony or primacy is not the same as empire. The issues facing an empire differ qualitatively from those facing merely a powerful state. And he provides a theoretical framework for an analysis of whether contemporary American power is imperial in nature[lvi]:

“Empire is the rule exercised by one nation over others both to regulate their external behaviour and to ensure minimally acceptable forms of internal behaviour within the subordinate states. Merely powerful states do the former but not the latter. The central – one may say the necessary but not sufficient – imperial task is the creation and management of a hierarchical interstate order (…) But an empire must also ensure the security and internal stability of its constituent parts, extract revenue to pay the costs of empire, and assimilate the elites of non-imperial societies to the metropolitan core, tasks that presuppose influence over the internal affairs of other societies”.

In an empire rules for the behaviour of states differ from those scholars of the realist tradition stress. The organizing principle of interstate relations is, according to them, anarchy. States help themselves by balancing against centers of power that could hurt them – building up their own military power or by joining with others. Rosen continues:

“The organizing principle of empire rests, in contrast, on the existence of an overarching power that creates and enforces the principle of hierarchy, but is not itself bound by such rules. In turn, subordinate states do not build up their own capabilities or join with others when threatened; they call instead on their imperial power for assistance. In so doing, they give up a key component of state sovereignty, which is direct control of their own security”.

The Bush revolution in foreign affairs

Dominion is a powerful temptation for a superpower like the United States. Why should a state accept threats against its security and see its interests challenged, if an alternative is possible through application of overwhelming military might? In fact, since World War II dominion has been on the US agenda several times.

In the early 1950’s voices on the extreme right demanded a roll back of communism. Former Communists and Trotskyites brought a radical fervour to a movement otherwise best known for the isolationism represented by senator Robert Taft and his warnings against a permanent global engagement which could create “an American  Empire, doing what the British have done for the past 200 years”[lvii]. Now James Burnham and other conservative intellectuals in the pages of National Review called for  political warfare, paramilitary actions and ultimately general war to liberate the peoples enslaved by the Soviet system. Rollback never became official US policy; General Eisenhower could as president from 1953 deflect the right wing pressure. But secretly a version of rollback was adopted in a policy of psychological warfare. Throughout the entire Cold War era the United States also blocked and overthrew governments in the Third World deemed to be communist influenced or in other ways against US interests. A second coming for roll back came during the 1980’s in the Reagan-administration. Many neo-conservative intellectuals got their first taste of power during these years, seeing in the ultimate dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union a confirmation of the utility of military power in an offensive mode.

At the end of the Cold War president George Bush, “The Elder”, advocated publicly a new world order to be build on cooperation with the Soviet Union and a strengthened UN. But his administration included officials favouring a strategy of dominion. Among them were the then Secretary of Defense, Richard Cheney, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. With the demise of the Soviet Union not only a possible strategic partner disappeared, also a possible check on US power was gone. Adherents to a strategy of dominion presented their views in a DOD planning document, drafted by an office lead by Paul Wolfowitz[lviii]. The scent of imperial strategy, as outlined by professor Rosen, is unmistakeable.

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival”, the document says. It outlines three additional associated obectives: “First  the U.S must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. Second, in the non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. Finally, we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”. The US should aim to “encourage the spread of democratic forms of government and open economic systems”. Outlined is several scenarios in which US interests could be threatened: “Access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, threats to U.S. citizens from terrorism or regional or local conflict, and threats to U.S. society from narcotics trafficking”. There is no mention of taking collective action through the United Nations. Instead it states that the U.S. "should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies" formed to deal with a particular crisis and which may not outlive the resolution of the crisis. But if coalitions can’t be assembled, the US should be postured to act independently.

The draft was leaked to The New York Times and caused an uproar. A final version was toned down, but with George W. Bush, “The Younger”, as president the adherents of dominion got a new chance. They came to the task having spend the years in between attacking the policies of president Clinton. America had, they argued, become a Gulliver tied down by the midgets of the international community. The fourth appearance of dominion strategy was in part a reaction to the Clinton foreign policy, and in part a reaction to fears caused by the possible spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. But it was also, Robert Art states, “due to an arrogance born of the knowledge that American power, especially its military power, bought the United States a lot of freedom  of political maneuver”[lix].

As a presidential candidate Bush did not shine as a foreign policy expert, and thus many observers has seen him as a puppet, directed by more experienced advisers and groups – vice-president Cheney and neo-conservatives as the foremost. But this view is rejected by two skilled observers, former Clinton National Security Council staffers Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay[lx]. They portray George Bush as coming into office with a set of simple views and then leading a revolution in US foreign policy. 9-11 did not father this revolution; it was already on its way. First, Bush believed that the only way to  ensure US security in a dangerous world was to “shed the constraints imposed by friends, allies, and international institutions”. Second, “an America unbound should use its strength to change the status quo in the world”. In claiming that “Bush led his own revolution” they may be overdoing an interesting argument, but Ronald Reagan did not impress intellectually either and still were able through stating simple principles to lead his government. As stressed by William Odom and Robert Dujarric in their study, the ideology of American leaders is most significant for the nature of the empire they lead. Bush abandoned the Liberal ethics guiding and limiting many of his predecessors  and thus passed from just seeking primacy to seeking dominion. How far he had strayed was best illustrated when he invoked a Leninist axiom, either you are for us or against us, in his so-called war  against terrorism. As Robert Art stress, “dominion would  create a global American imperium; it would be an aggressive, interventionist, unilateralist, and transformational strategy”[lxi]. Seen in this light the realist use of “unilateralism” to describe US foreign policy is not exactly measuring up.

Might is right in Bush world

After World War II the US was the driving force in the creation of a new international legal order build on treaties, agreements, multilateral institutions and alliances. As tools they made exercise of US power easier but they also inhibited American empire – and thus made the new world order acceptable to countries on their way to give up empire themselves. An international legal order is founded on the principle of equality under the law. The most powerful must subject themselves, even when difficult, costly or unnecessary, because superior military, diplomatic or economic power would, in the absence of law, secure the desired objectives. Although praising this ideal the US often broke international law, but development of an international legal order continued, often with American leadership. This  order was seen as an alternative to conflicts and war. It could not eradicate war and breaches of law, but it could limit the associated risks – and during the Cold War military confrontation that was quite an advantage.

As this confrontation disappeared also the benefits in an international legal order grew smaller in the eyes of some US national security experts. The price paid by the worlds only superpower seemed unnecessarily high. The Clinton-administration focused on economics and globalisation and in this context interdependence of nations became a strong argument in favour of legal order. But pressure from right wing radicals in Congress blocked enactment of the Clinton vision – several planned treaties and reforms could not be passed.  The attack on the whole concept of international law was escalated by the Bush administration before and after 9-11. Among the victims were the Chemical Weapons Convention CWC (limited US compliance), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty CTBT (not ratified), the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty NPT (promises and obligations broken), the Biological Weapons Convention BWC (draft protocol rejected), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Control and the Kyoto Protocol (treaty obligations in UNFCC not being met and protocol rejected), the International Criminal Court (signature called back and attempts to sabotage implementation), the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty ABM (unilateral withdrawal), and Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war and the populations in occupied territories (deemed irrelevant).

Without an international legal order the powerful becomes “police, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one”, one group of American legal experts claimed. And if the rule of power rather than the rule of law becomes the norm, then security is likely to be a casualty. When an influential state like the US treat legal obligations as a matter of convenience “other states will see this as a justification to relax or withdraw from their own commitments”, these critics charged[lxii].  But seen with the eyes of the Bush administration this is an acceptable risk, because nobody can combine the mentioned functions of police, judge, executioner et.c. better and with greater power, and the US itself is a honourable country without a need for treaties to do the right thing. If the US is to play a leading role, Paul Wolfowitz prescribed before his appoint as Deputy Secretary of Defense, it means “demonstrating that your friends will be protected and taken care of, that your enemies will be punished, and that those who refuse to support you will live to regret having done so”[lxiii]. Hierarchy, with other words, becomes a substitute for a legal order.

Logically, the Bush administration also picked a confrontation with the UN Security Council. This institution gives other powers an influence not matched by the real power relations in an American empire. Before the war against Iraq Bush challenged the world organisation  and gave it a choice: Accept my will or become an ineffective, irrelevant forum for debate! But the problem was not really the challenge from Saddam Hussein, Professor of International law Michael Glennon showed, but “rather an earlier shift in world power toward a configuration that was simply incompatible with the way the UN was meant to function”. It was, he continue, “the rise in American unipolarity” along with “cultural clashes and different attitudes toward the use of force”, that gradually eroded the council[lxiv].

Also the formal alliances created in an earlier era are not compatible with the desired hierarchy. The NATO-treaty for example is closely tied to a world order with the United Nations in a key role, and through the North Atlantic Council a single member can block consensus and thus collective action. But the Bush administration goal is “to prevent America’s security from being undermined by constraints imposed by other powers, including— and perhaps most especially— those of America’s traditional allies”, professor James Chace said[lxv]. Use of ad hoc coalitions evade control by allies through NATO. And president Bush himself has dismissed the need for consultation and agreement with allies before action with this philosophy: “Confident action, that will yield positive results, provides kind of a slipstream into which reluctant nations and leaders can get behind  (…)[lxvi] 

Military hierarchy with nukes as trump

American military power becomes an indispensable guarantee for the security and interests of smaller powers in the absence of an effective international legal order. Being providers of “tools” for the exercise of US power might give them a favoured position in a world order characterized by hierarchy and US dominance. And the equation works both ways: An absence of legal order can secure the dominant access to compliant tools for policing an empire.

Since the end of the Cold War US security managers have focused on the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Both threats have been dismissed by scholars of the realist school in international relations. Professor Kenneth Waltz, almost the dean of this school, have argued that the likelihood of war “decreases”  as nuclear weapons spread because deterrent and defensive capabilities will increase. Thus, “the gradual spread of nuclear weapons is more to be welcomed than feared”[lxvii]. Scholars also have attacked the focus on terrorism. The term should not, they argue, be detached from concrete context. Use of terrorism can, Jeffrey Record of the US Army War College, claim “reflect rational political choice”[lxviii]. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy, former NSA-director William Odom and Robert Dujarric stress and for good measure add: “The United States, by any legal definition of terrorism, has been the largest sponsors of terrorist operations since World War II”[lxix].

'But in an empire different forces are at work. Weapons of mass destruction can be used by smaller powers as a deterrent against the US, and terrorism can be an effective tool in asymmetrical conflicts. And for the US, using “weapons of mass destruction” – an impossibly broad term – and terrorism – detached from context – in an ideological campaign, provide glue for an empire. Successful imperial governance must focus on justifying and maintaining an advantage in the ability to generate military power. For American citizens and Europeans an effort against proliferation and terrorism can make good sense as self-defense and a program to ensure global stability – a view not shared by many others as opinion polls in several Muslim countries has shown. But, at professor Rosen says, viewed through the lens of imperial practice “US non-proliferation policies compose a classic case of an imperial effort to keep a monopoly on the forms of military power that help provide its dominance”[lxx].

Change in US military strategy to fit an imperial policy was signalled very clearly by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his confirmation hearing in the Senate. He repeatedly ruminated on the concept of deterrence in novel ways. Credible deterrence, he said, can no longer be based solely on the prospect of punishment. “We don’t want to win wars, we want to prevent them”, he said. “We want to be so powerful and so forward looking that it is clear to others that they ought not to be damaging their neighbors when it affects our interests, and they ought not to be doing things that are imposing threats and dangers to us”[lxxi]. The ambitious goal is no less than dominate the thinking of any possible adversary, but Rumsfeld also admitted: “I don’t know that I really understand what deters people today (…)”. Thus the most important – and probably only possible – goal is to influence the thinking of American leadership itself. They are to believe that no adversary can believe that the United States can be challenged. Secondly, everybody under the shield of empire must believe that the US can’t be challenged.

This is more than a prescription for an arms race with the US itself: If challenges are perceived, logic dictates that the US is not strong enough, and thus a continuos arms build up is necessary. What is sufficient can’t be measured in traditional terms of military balance, like just spending as much as the rest of the world combined. The imperial will-power also must be demonstrated in doctrines and projection of military assets.

Upgrading preventive warfare to a prominently positioned doctrine in the national strategy was for this reason a necessary step. Pre-emption and even preventive war has always been an option, sometimes also exercised. Critics might, as they have, claim that preventive warfare is contrary to international law. But such arguments overlook the important point. The doctrine is to keep everybody who could come under suspicion for harbouring aggressive plans against US interests in perpetual fear – and force them unto a track of constantly sending accommodating signals. To publicly claiming a right to preventive war, in spite of international law, also demonstrate who is on top.

In the early 90’s US leaders saw nuclear weapons as obsolete. As Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell told Third World leaders that nuclear weapons is a wasted investment of limited political and military value[lxxii]. But in the Bush strategy nuclear weapons again play a key role. They emphasize the distribution of power in the global military hierarchy. As stated in a report from the National Institute for Public Policy, an important think tank for development of the new nuclear posture, “strategic nuclear weapons continue to play vital roles in foreseeable US defense planning”[lxxiii]. Besides deterring Russia and China the roles described in this report and official documents from the Bush administration include: 1) Dissuasion of rogue states and other adversaris from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction (WMD); 2) Deter aspiring peer competitors; 3) Provide a “hedge” while exploring defenses and conventional alternatives; 4) Provide options for striking some WMD facilities and deeply buried targets; 5) Provide “a secure guarantee of American power in the face of asymmetric attacks from small, despotic cuntries, failed states, non-state actors – all with access to an increasingly lethal toolbox of means”.

Development of Ballistic Missile Defenses in similar ways highlight the special status of US power. As spears and shields earlier in the history of war complemented each other to enable offensive action, the nuclear arsenal and the missile shield will, it is claimed, secure freedom of action. It is not very likely that any state armed with long range missile will attack the US. Retaliation will be swift and devastating. The only exception is if the US want to depose a regime – then threats and use of long range missile can be a last and desperate defense. An anti-missile system could provide answers to such threats and give a policy of regime change credibility. It could also give other countries protection and make a security guarantee to them more credible because the American homeland will seem less vulnerable and US leaders can be perceived to have more freedom of action.

Ensure minimally acceptable forms of internal behaviour

In assessing American empire and its future potential the greatest uncertainty arise on what constitute “minimally acceptable forms of internal behaviour within the subordinate states”. At the strategic level the Bush administration has advocated “a new principle” limiting sovereignty if states support terrorism or massacres their own people. But an empire would be more demanding.

During the election campaign in 2000 both Bush and his soon to be national security adviser Condoleezza Rice refuted, that the US should play a significant role in the internal affairs of foreign countries. Prominent neo-conservatives had long argued for promoting democracy abroad, and after 9-11 and during mobilisation for war against Iraq “democratic imperialism” came on the agenda. With a series of speeches in 2003 president Bush joined this, in the opinion of many experts, utopian vision of democratic transformation in the Middle East with Iraq as a showcase[lxxiv]. In more general terms the Bush administration the previous year had published a national security strategy stating, that the goal not only is a more secure world, it should also become a better world[lxxv]. Administration spokesmen went to great length in stressing the voluntary nature of the project. President Bush in a cover letter said: “We seek (…) to create a balance of power that favours freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty”. And Condoleezza Rice said the US will not “impose democracy on others”. Our vision of the future, she explained, “is not one where every person eats Big Mac and drinks Coke (…)[lxxvi]

But many observers read the strategy differently. To former Clinton officials Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay it embodied “a hegemonist worldview” and “the essense” of the strategy is to “remake the world in America’s image”[lxxvii].  In Iraq the imported American staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority did with great zeal try to implement many social reforms favoured by conservatives in the US. But a distinction should be made separating democracy-building in newly “liberated” dictatorships and failed states from the control imposed by empire-builders in all subordinated states. Andrew Bacevich is probably close in described the minimalist demands to members of the empire when he writes about “the imperative of openness and integration, given impetus by globalisation but guided by the United States”. In this global order American enterprises will enjoy free reign and American values enjoy pride of place and thus “benefit the US most of all”. US global leadership means perpetuating American political, economic and cultural hegemony[lxxviii].  According to former Reagan trade negotiator Clyde Prestowitz strategists in the Bush administration see globalisation as a kind of soft power “that will induce integration within the empire by dint of others wanting voluntarily to do what we want them to do”. Prestowitz find this view naïve[lxxix]. But such minimalist demands are not dramatically at odds with the practice of some former empires. A British historian, Niall Ferguson, even claim that all empires were based on cooperation and not primarily use of force[lxxx].

Cooperation is also what the US benefit from in financing empire. In a study of US finance policy the American economist Michael Hudson claims that the US has “achieved what no earlier imperial system had put to place”. Americans can live beyond their means with large deficits on the trade balance and the fiscal budgets through “forced loans” from abroad – sale of US Treasury bonds[lxxxi]. In January 2004 The International Monetary Fund estimated US foreign debt at 40 percent of the gross national product – “an unprecedented level”, the IMF said[lxxxii].

A clash of two world order projects

If a single truth can be distilled from the US debate on empire it must be: It makes a difference whether an empire is formal or informal – these forms of empire are then the outer, opposite, points on a sliding scale with the degree of dominion begin the decisive factor.

The subordinated states and their peoples certainly experience the difference. Before Bush and the new imperialists got into the drivers seat Europeans knew, if they thought about it, very well where real power was situated in the transatlantic community. And Americans knew it too. Even years after the Cold War had ended and the EU had sets its sights on a more independent course Zbigniew Brzezinski could write: “The brutal fact is that Western Europe, and increasingly also Central Europe, remains largely an American protectorate, with its allied states reminiscent of ancient vassals and tributaries”[lxxxiii]. It was rare, though, to see the power relations described in such direct terms, and Brzezinski himself added, that the roles are unhealthy, for both the US and European nations. He of course portrayed an American empire, but it is markedly different from  the empire, which the US apparently has been striving for under the reign of president Bush. Brzezinski could claim that in contrast to previous empires the US is not heading a “hierarchical pyramid”. No, in this empire power is exercised  through “continuous bargaining, dialogue, diffusion, and quest for formal consensus (…)”[lxxxiv]. And he, like many American foreign policy sages in the early 90’s, viewed empire as a passing stage to a truly cooperative global community.

This empire based on co-optation was rocked when the Bush-administration passed the divide separating superiority and dominion. The subordinate Europeans were challenged when the empire took a still more formal character raising fears of the extent to which the US would seek dominance in not only their external behaviour but also their internal behaviour.

Naturally Brzezinski, when the new aims of the Bush administration became clear, in 2003 had to call its foreign policy “narrow and extremist”. We need, he said, the Europeans, “we need the European Union”, and not seek to divide it up into “a fictitious new and a fictitious old”[lxxxv]. Splitting Europe is exactly what the Bush administration had attempted. Colin Powell, almost valiantly, as Secretary of State tried to deny the obvious by talking about misunderstandings obscuring the real US “strategy of partnerships” and on the relations with the EU highlighting “never has our common agenda been so large and mutually significant”[lxxxvi]. But ideologues like John Hulsman from the conservative Heritage Foundation, closer in mind than Powelll to the White House and the Pentagon, saw an EU “that matters only peripherally in the international system”. He advocated a general American transatlantic foreign policy based on “cherry-picking” – engaging coalitions of the willing European states on a case-by-case basis. The US has a “unique opportunity” faced with a Europe more about diversity than uniformity[lxxxvii]. Richard Perle, the grey eminence of Bush administration hawks, together with David Frum, former speechwriter for the president, suggested that Americans first of all  “must acknowledge that a more closely integrated Europe is no longer an unqualified American interest”. European government should be forced “to choose between Paris and Washington”[lxxxviii]. Gunther Burghardt, the EU ambassador in Washington, commented in May 2004: “The situation has never been so bad in 50 years. It is a fact of life that America is a hegemonic power, but the question is how that power is used. We need to know that America is open to a confident relationship, not just with certain member states but with the EU as such”[lxxxix].

On both sides of the Atlantic experts are eyeing a nascent conflict between the antagonistic interests of states. This conflict, they claim, is obvious when France, Germany and Russia gang up against the US before the war against Iraq and it will become more obvious the more the EU take state like properties. The wisdom in these predictions are based on theories from the realist school in international relations predicting that a unipolar system is short lived because weaker states will get together against the hegemon and in an empire subordinate units prefer greater autonomy and thus upon opportunity will seek to get it. A more advanced, related theory is presented by Philip Bobbitt, an American academic of considerable experience as also a national security manager. Both the United States and Europe are moving into a new world order where old rules of behaviour is abandoned because they do not adequately answer the challenges of today. As often before in history, he argues, the state is changing, this time into what he calls “The Market-State”. The state is moving beyond the national looking for tools to effectively handling security and economics on the regional and global marketplace. The EU and the US typifies two out of three kinds of Market-States he describes. Their ability to cooperate , relative power and differing views of an acceptable world order will determine events in the next few decades[xc].

Europeans do, at the French prime minister Raffarin has said, want a “dialogue among equals” in the transatlantic relationship, and they also want “common goals for the world” to constitute the basis for cooperation[xci]. This will not be easy. The EU is about a new world order comparable to a spiders web. A network of mutual obligations to block unilateralism of the strong is the goal. The European peace project is governed by a few fundamental principles: 1) The political is above the military; 2) Negotiation and compromise is the very foundation of international relations; 3) No state should be above or apart from international law. When the new American imperialists prefer a hierarchical pyramid instead of a spiders web characterized by interdependence they not only strangle dialogue. They also promote a world order in fundamental conflict with European historical experience, present goals and the very identity of the European Union. Peaceful coexistence is to be hoped for but not very likely.

A viable transatlantic community

The eminent British military historian Michael Howard in a foreword to the Bobbitt study warns that mankind could be facing a tragedy without precedent in its history if the new Market States fail to cooperate and slide into confrontation. But realist theory, although in common use by politicians and strategists alike, is not necessarily a sound reflection on today’s realities. Conventional wisdom might be wrong if we live in a qualitatively new era of world politics. Few could have predicted that the ideological bent of a few top officials would steer the United States off a course followed for decades, against the better advice of its traditional foreign policy elite. And just projecting theories based on historical patterns of inter-state rivalry on to the relationship between Europe and the United States is a bit lazy. Europe is, for beginners, not a state, hardly even a well defined geographic entity, but much more, as Raffarin wrote, “a state of mind”. It is possible that Condoleezza Rice is right when she claims that old arguments from academic disciplines “obscure reality” because the worlds great centers of power are united by common interests, common dangers and – increasingly – common values[xcii]. And it is very possible the Bush administration too has obscured that reality. Neither the US nor Europe can afford divorce. Economic integration is so far advanced that the price of confrontation will be prohibitive. Cooperation and respect for international law do benefit all. And Americans and Europeans do have important values in  common.

Transatlantic economic intercourse is much deeper and broader than at the times when divorce among interconnected states gave rise to realist theories. The end of the Cold war allegedly has weakened transatlantic ties but the 90’s actually strengthened economic integration. Far the greatest part of investments by American corporations abroad went to Europe and European corporations have invested greatly in the US. Business for American enterprises in Europe has been estimated at 333 billion dollar in the year 2000 and European firms in the US had a turn over of 301 billion – far more than the national product of most nations. In total these businesses provided jobs for 13 million people[xciii].

The main charge against the dreams of new  American imperialists is that the price of empire will be too high. The Bush administration has in fact tried a discount version of imperialism in sending too few soldiers and too little economic support to Iraq and Afghanistan. In both cases hybris – America can do everything on its own – has been succeeded by going begging at the doors of allies and the UN. And in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal a very high price was paid for having created an atmosphere of lawlessness by putting the US above international law. But even de facto admission of defeat in Iraq, although sobering for empire-builders,  will not make today’s challenges go away. Together the EU and the US can move the world but the Bush administration strategy, its empire building, and its ideological blinders, block this possibility.

The claim about common American and European values is more fragile. It is a fact, but tinged with banality, that a belief in freedom, democracy and market economy unites the Euro-Atlantic community and that we have common cultural roots. But right wing radicalism in the US have highlighted differences in the view of property, equality, social solidarity, public services and power politics[xciv]. An American commentator, Robert Kagan, had great success when he proclaimed: Americans are from Mars – and Europeans are from Venus. His portrayal was even greeted with, unintended, applause by left wing Europeans. But a more correct version of this War of the Worlds is that the Bush administration and its ideological backers are invaders from Mars. They have swept themselves in the American flag, but they are a crowd apart – both on Earth and in America.

Opinion polls often are used to prove a great, and rapidly growing, gap between the US and Europe. Overwhelming majorities in Europe are against the Iraq war, reject US leadership and president Bush. But from this perspective surprising results also do appear. The gap more represent a dislike of current US policies than a gap between two communities. A poll from September 2002 lead to this conclusion: “European publics look at the world in a similar way to ordinary Americans, while harbouring deep reservations about the conduct of certain aspects of US foreign policy”[xcv]. They for example agreed on the relative importance of economic versus military strength – economic strength was rated higher by 84 percent of Europeans and 66 percent of Americans. Either a plurality or a majority of the public on both sides of the Atlantic believes the World Bank, IMF, WTO, NATO and UN should be strengthened. And Europeans, contrary to Kagans claim, were in principle as willing as Americans to use force. Almost a year later another poll found: “Americans and Europeans do not live on different planets when it comes to viewing the threats around them”[xcvi]. This poll found that not only Europeans, but also Americans, share apprehension of the way in which the US is exercising its power. When asked whether US unilateralism is a possible threat in the next ten years, 78 percent of Europeans and 67 percent of Americans listed it as an extremely important or important threat.

The polls raise a question of key significance for the transatlantic relationship: If Europeans and Americans have so many views in common, how come policies on the two sides of the Atlantic are so different? In an analysis of the latter poll, three scholars gave an interesting answer. Based on fundamental attitudes to power they created four distinct groups: Hawks, Pragmatists, Doves and Isolationists. This division revealed a dramatic difference. Pragmatists constitute the great middle group on both side of the Atlantic - 65 percent in the US and 43 percent in Europe. But Hawks are so numerous in the US (25 percent), that if a leader from this group can win support from Pragmatists, a majority is possible. But in Europe Doves are 42 percent – a centrists Pragmatist can as a leader not ignore them – but Hawks are extremely few, 7 percent, foreclosing their appeal or possibilities for coalition. The difference between America and Europe thus is not so much a matter of different attitudes in the general public as very different possibilities for national leaders when coalitions are made for elections and sustainable government. “If Washington is interested in restoring a viable consensus across the Atlantic”, this analysis concluded, “when it comes to the use of force, it must recognize the need to develop a rationale for such action that takes the structures and requirements of European public opinion into account (…)”[xcvii].

American pragmatists will, while looking at Europe, see a spectrum of attitudes not far from their own, more hawkish politicians will see a dramatically different scene. It is common for Democrats to stress that Europe both can and must cooperate. They see differences as quite natural disagreement to be overcome through dialogue and compromise because they do not constitute an unbridgeable gap. As Daniel Hamilton, in the Clinton administration head of the State Departments office for political strategy, has said: “Many transatlantic tensions result less from the fashionable notion that our societies are drifting apart, and more from the growing evidence that they are in fact drawing closer together”[xcviii]. Robert Hunter, ambassador to NATO during the Clinton years, claim: “The destinies of the United States and Europe are now intertwined in such critical ways as to be inseparable”[xcix].

From this perspective conflicts in the transatlantic relationship is not so much an issue of international relations as an issue of “transatlantic domestic politics”, as Hamilton and others have suggested. It is becoming quite common to look at inter-European relations as an issue of domestic politics but we have yet to approach the transatlantic relationship in similar ways. The socalled laws used by the realist school for analyzing interaction between states are not very useful any longer. In domestic politics we have more than a few “rational actors” and ideology play a significant role. Popular participation add a new complexity and we have a myriad of issues on the agenda. In the case of Iraq, for example, we had European states, based on raison d’etat, giving the Bush administration support while their own publics overwhelmingly were against the war. That is why members of this ad hoc coalition only could provide symbolic support – their publics would not allow greater national sacrifice at the level of what was claimed to be at stake.

We are thus faced with an issue of transatlantic governance. The social reality is fundamentally at odds with the system of government. Empire is as unnatural as dictatorship would be in the individual democracies making up the empire. In the EU concentration of power in Bruxelles is perceived by many as a threat – leaders are considered to be distant and outside the influence of democratic processes. But the EU still provide ways of democratic control and leaders must work hard for their legitimacy. American leaders can’t be held accountable by European voters and democratic institutions.

This study started out posing a question: How far should a new US president go in reversing the Bush revolution to restore transatlantic cooperation? The answer is that he must distance himself from everything that makes the empire more formal than informal. The subordinate publics will not accept dominion. If an American president wants to be “the leader of the free world” he must work hard for his legitimacy also in Europe. He can’t gain legitimacy through a vote and exactly that fact makes a permanent campaign, listening and explaining, necessary because he can be rejected at any time. He will not get legitimacy just through approval from European leaders. And he can choose a strategy not very different from the one EU leaders adopted in December 2003 by listening to people like Zbigniew Brzezinski who sets the goal as “a global community of shared interests”, develop “a web of  interdependent relations” through “the natural evolution of interstate relations into an informal governance structure”[c]

Indications are that president Kerry has understood this. He has attacked the basic premises of dominion: “Intoxicated with the pre-eminence of American power, the administration has abandoned the fundamental tenets that have guided our foreign policy for more than half a century: belief in collective security and alliances, respect for international institutions and international law, multilateral engagement, and the use of force not as a first option but truly as a last resort”[ci].

Rejection of this alternative to four more years of empire-building will force the Baltic dilemma to the top of the political agenda, but in this they will not be alone. If Kerry wins we can, as the veteran journalist Elizabeth Pond, as a minimum hope for enough trust to be rebuilt “between the natural allies of the United States and Europe to prevent the next clash too from being fatal”[cii]. And we might even see a new and strengthened progressive alliance among equals.

Jørgen Dragsdahl is a Danish journalist with almost 30 years covering international security issues. He works for military magazines in Denmark, Danish Radio, the daily newspaper Information and has written and contributed to several books on US affairs and arms control. Internationally his articles and studies has been published by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Pacific News Service, Nuclear Times, British-American Security Information Council  and others. 



[i] Kerry, John: Remarks at Westminster College. April 30, 2004. www.cfr.org/campaign2004/pub6990/kerry/remarks_at_westminster_college.php

[ii] Berger, Samuel: “Foreign Policy for a Democratic President”. Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004

[iii] Odom, William and Dujarric, Robert: “America’s Inadvertent Empire”. Yale University Press, New Haven  2004.

[iv] Mann, Michael: “Incoherent Empire”. Verso. New York 2003.

[v] Gnesotto, Nicole: “EU, US – visions of the world, visions of the other” in “Shift or Rift”, Institute for Security Studies, Bruxelles 2004. p. 21

[vi] Daalder, Ivo:  “The End of Atlanticism”. Survival, Summer 2003

[vii] Kupchan, Charles: “The End of the American Era”. Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2002. p. xiv

[viii] Viksnins, George: “New Europe, New Problems”. The National Interest, Fall 2003

[ix] Quoted by Dempsey, Judy: “We used to be sandwiched between the big powers”. Financial Times, April 29, 2004

[x] Lejins, Atis in ”One year on: Lessons from Iraq”.  Institute for Security Studies, Chaillot Paper 68, March 2004, p. 92

[xi] Larrabee, Stephen: NATO’s Eastern Agende in a New Strategic Era. RAND, 2003. p. 59

[xii] Quoted by Cohen, Roger: “America has second thoughts about a united Europe”. The New York Times, May 2, 2004

[xiii] Barnett, Thomas: ”Forget Europe. How about these Allies?”. Washington Post, April 11 2004

[xiv] Mann, Michael: Op. cit. p 2

[xv] Lejins, Atis: ”The EU and NATO on the shores of the Baltic Sea”. Diena, December 20, 2003. In translation by BBC Monitoring Service, December 22, 2003

[xvi] Dean, Howard: ”Fulfilling the Promise of America”. Speech at the Pacific Council, Los Angeles. December 15 2003

[xvii] Clark, Wesley: ”General Wesley Clark outlines Success Strategy in Iraq”. Speech in South Carolina. November 6, 2003.

[xviii] Kerry, John. ”Making America Secure Again”. Speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. December 3, 2003.

[xix] Dean, Howard. ”Fulfilling the Promise of America”.  Op. cit.

[xx] Clark, Wesley: ”General Wesley Clark outlines Success Strategy in Iraq”. Op.cit.

[xxi] Clark, Wesley: Speech at Center for American Progress, October 28, 2003

[xxii] Kerry, John: ”Remarks at Georgetown University”. January 23, 2003

[xxiii] Kerry, John: “Making America Secure Again”. Op.cit.

[xxiv] Gephardt, Dick: “Reconciliation and Renewal”. Speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. January 13, 2004

[xxv] Clark, Wesley: Speech at Center for American Progress. Op.cit.

[xxvi] Kerry, John: “Making America Secure Again”. Op.cit.

[xxvii] Brzezinski, Zbigniew: ”The Choice”. Basic Books, New York 2004. p. viii

[xxviii] Brzezinski, Zbigniew: ”The Choice”. Op.cit. p. 217-218

[xxix] Berger, Samuel: “Foreign Policy for a Democratic President”. Op. cit.

[xxx] Asmus, Ronald et al. ”Progressive Internationalism”. Progressive Policy Institute. October 30, 2003

[xxxi] Donelly, Thomas: ”The Past as Prologue – An Imperial Manual”. Foreign Affairs, July/August 2002

[xxxii] Simes, Dimitri: ”America’s Imperial Dilemma”. Foreign Affairs. November/December 2003

[xxxiii] Robin, Corey: “Endgame – Conservatives after the Cold War”. Boston Review, February/March 2004

[xxxiv] Peters, Ralph: ”Fighting for the Future”. Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania 2001. p. 210. First edition 1999.

[xxxv] Kristol, Irving: ”The Emerging American Imperium”. American Enterprise Institute. January 1, 2000

[xxxvi] Quoted in Robin, Corey: “Endgame – Conservatives after the Cold War”. Op. cit

[xxxvii] Boot, Max: ”The Case for American Empire”. The Weekly Standard. October 15 2001

[xxxviii] Kaplan, Robert: ”Warrior Politics”. Random House. New York 2002. p. 147

[xxxix] Kurtz, Stanley: ”Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint”. Policy Review, April 2003

[xl] Ikenberry, John: ”America’s Imperial Ambition”. Foreign Affairs, September/October 2002

[xli] Ignatieff, Michael: ”The American Empire – the Burden”. New York Times Magazine, January 5, 2003

[xlii] Odom, William and Dujarric, Robert: ”America’s Inadvertent Empire”. Yale University Press. New haven, 2004. p. 5

[xliii] Odom, William and Dujarric, Robert: ”America’s Inadvertent Empire”. Op. cit. p. 204-207

[xliv] Quoted in Bacevich, Andrew: ”American Empire”. Harvard University Press. Cambridge 2002. p 5

[xlv] Bacevich, Andrew: ”American Empire”. Harvard University Press. Cambridge 2002. p. 2-3

[xlvi] Banner, James: ”The Wellspring of American Empire”. The Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2003

[xlvii] Quoeted by Boot, Max: ”The Savage Wars of Peace”. Basic Books, New York 2002. p. 105

[xlviii] Simes, Dimitri: ”America’s Imperial Dilemma”. Op. cit. p. 95

[xlix] Barker, Benjamin: ”Fear’s Empire”. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, 3003. p. 15.

[l] Smith, Neil: ”American Empire”. University of California Press. Berkeley, 2003. p. xiv

[li] Johnson, Chalmers: ”The Sorrows of Empire”. Metropolitan Books. New York, 2004. p.1

[lii] Newhouse, John: ”Imperial America”. Alfred A. Knopf. New York  2003.

[liii] Klare, Michael: ”Ressource Wars”. Metropolitan Books. New York 2002. p. 6

[liv] Mann, Michael: “Incoherent Empire”. Op.cit. p. 12

[lv] Art, Robert: ”A Grand Strategy for America”. Cornell University Press. New York 2003. p. 90

[lvi] Rosen, Stephen Peter: ”An empire, if you can keep it”. The National Interest. April 2003

[lvii] Quoted in Bjerre-Poulsen, Niels: ”Right Face”. Museum Rusculanum Press. Copenhagen 2002. p. 92

[lviii] Defense Planning Guidance 1992 (excerpts). www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/iraq/etc/wolf.html

[lix] Art, Robert: ”A Grand Strategy for America”. Op. cit. p. 89

[lx] Daalder, Ivo and Lindsay, James: “America Unbound – The Bush revolution in foreign policy”. Brookings, Washington DC 2003. p. 13-16

[lxi] Art, Robert: ”A Grand Strategy for America”. Op. cit. p. 87

[lxii] Deller, Nicole et al: ”Rule of Power or Rule of Law”. Apex Press. New York 2003. p. xxxv-xxxvi

[lxiii] Wolfowitz, Paul: ”Remembering the Future”. The National Interest. Spring 2000

[lxiv] Glennon, Michael: ”Why the Security Council Failed”. Foreign Affairs. May/June 2003

[lxv] Chace, James: ”Present at the Destruction – The Death of American Internationalism”. World Policy Journal. Spring 2003

[lxvi] Quoted in Woodward, Bob: Bush at War”. Poclet Books. London 2003. p. 341

[lxvii] Waltz, Kenneth and Sagan, Scott: ”The Spread of Nuclear Weapons – A Debate”.  W.W. Norton & Company. New York, 1995. p. 45

[lxviii] Record, Jeffrey: “Bounding the Globar War on Terrorism”. Strategic Studies Institute. December 2003

[lxix] Odom, William and Dujarric, Robert: ”America’s Inadvertent Empire”. Op. cit. p. 213

[lxx] Rosen, Stephen Peter: ”An empire, if you can keep it”. Op. cit. p. 17

[lxxi] Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. January 11, 2001. Federal News Service Transcript.

[lxxii] Quoted in Dragsdahl, Jørgen: ”USA en atomslyngel?”. Danish Foreign Policy Institute. Fokus no. 1, 2002

[lxxiii] National Institute for Public Policy: ”Strategic Offensive Forces and the Nuclear Posture Review’s New triad”. March 2003

[lxxiv] For the most detailed vision by the president Bush see speech at The National Endowment for Democracy , November 6, 2003

[lxxv] National Security Strategy of the United States. Washington DC, September 2002.

[lxxvi] Rice, Condoleezza: ”A Balance of power that favors freedom”. Speech at the Manhattan Institute. October 1, 2002

[lxxvii] Daalder, Ivo and Lindsay, James: “America Unbound – The Bush revolution in foreign policy”. Op. cit. p. 123

[lxxviii] Bacevich, Andrew: ”American Empire”. Op. cit. p 216, 218.

[lxxix] Prestowitz, Clyde: Rogue Nation”.  Basic Books. New York 2003. p. 41

[lxxx] Expressed during debate at the American Enterprise Institute July 17. 2003. Transcript.

[lxxxi] Michael Hudson: ”Super Imperialism”. Pluto Press. London 2003. p.23

[lxxxii] International Monetary Fund: “U.S. Fiscal Policies and Priorities for Long-Run Sustainability”. IMF January 7, 2004

[lxxxiii] Brzezinski, Zbigniew: ”The Grand Chessboard”. Basic Books. New York 1997. p. 59

[lxxxiv] Brzezinski, Zbigniew: ”The Grand Chessboard”. Op. cit. p. 28

[lxxxv] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Speech October 28 2003 at New American Strategies for Security and Peace Conference.

[lxxxvi] Powell, Colin: ”A Strategy of Partnerships”. Foreign Affairs. January/February 2004

[lxxxvii] Hulsman, John in ”One year on: Lessons from Iraq”.  Institute for Security Studies. Op.cit. p 175

[lxxxviii] Perle, Richard and Frum, David: !An End to Evil”. Random House. New York 2003. p. 247 and 249

[lxxxix] Quoted in Cohen, Roger: “America has second thoughts about a united Europe”. The New York Times. May 2, 2004

[xc] Bobbitt, Philip: ”The Shield of Achilles”. Allen Lane. London 2002

[xci] Raffarin, Jean-Pierre: ”Europe can trust in France’s support”. Financial Times. January 14, 2004

[xcii] Rice, Condoleezza: ”A Balance of power that favors freedom”. Op. cit.

[xciii] Quinlan, Joseph: ”Drifting Apart or Growing Together”. Center for Transatlantic Relations. Washington DC 2003

[xciv] For an excellent exploration see Hutton, Will: ”The World We’re In”. Abacus. London 2003

[xcv] Poll conducted by The german Marshall Fund of the United States. September 4, 2002

[xcvi] Power, War and Public Opinion. Transatlantic Trends 2003. p. 2

[xcvii] Power, War and Public Opinion. Op. cit. p. 14

[xcviii] Hamilton, Daniel:. Testimony in ”Transatlantic Partnership”. Hearing of the Committee on International Relations. House of Representatives. June 11, 2003. p. 23

[xcix] Hunter, Robert: ”Europe’ Leverage”. The Washington Quarterly. Winter 2003-2004. p. 91

[c] Brzezinski, Zbigniew: ”The Choice”. Op. cit p. 218

[ci] Kerry, John. ”Making America Secure Again”. Op. cit.

[cii] Pond, Elizabeth: ”Friendly Fire – The Near-Death of the Transatlantic Alliance”. European Union Studies Association. Pittsburgh 2004. p. 96.



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