Re: virus: R. Kagan - Power and Weakness

Date: Sat Aug 17 2002 - 18:53:59 MDT

On 17 Aug 2002 at 18:18, rhinoceros wrote:

Interesting article; thanks.
> Have you noticed this huge article by the American historian Robert
> Kagan? It is being quoted a lot and has an interesting perspective.
> Some of the conclusions about specific issues seem to me somehow
> lacking, but it is still interesting.
> Power and Weakness
> by Robert Kagan
> Policy Review, June 2002
> 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. On
> the all-important question of power the efficacy of power, the
> morality of power, the desirability of power American and European
> perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to
> put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a
> self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation
> and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace
> and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s "Perpetual
> Peace." The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history,
> exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international
> laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense
> and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and
> use of military might. That is why on major strategic and
> international questions today, Americans are from Mars an! d Europeans
> are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less
> and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory the product of
> one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the
> transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to
> endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining
> threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign
> and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.
> <snip>
> Despite what many Europeans and some Americans believe, these
> differences in strategic culture do not spring naturally from the
> national characters of Americans and Europeans. After all, what
> Europeans now consider their more peaceful strategic culture is,
> historically speaking, quite new. It represents an evolution away from
> the very different strategic culture that dominated Europe for
> hundreds of years and at least until World War I. The European
> governments and peoples who enthusiastically launched themselves into
> that continental war believed in machtpolitik. While the roots of the
> present European worldview, like the roots of the European Union
> itself, can be traced back to the Enlightenment, Europe&#8217;s
> great-power politics for the past 300 years did not follow the
> visionary designs of the philosophes and the physiocrats.
> As for the United States, there is nothing timeless about the present
> heavy reliance on force as a tool of international relations, nor
> about the tilt toward unilateralism and away from a devotion to
> international law. Americans are children of the Enlightenment, too,
> and in the early years of the republic were more faithful apostles of
> its creed. America&#8217;s eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century
> statesmen sounded much like the European statesmen of today, extolling
> the virtues of commerce as the soothing balm of international strife
> and appealing to international law and international opinion over
> brute force. The young United States wielded power against weaker
> peoples on the North American continent, but when it came to dealing
> with the European giants, it claimed to abjure power and assailed as
> atavistic the power politics of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
> European empires.
> Two centuries later, Americans and Europeans have traded places and
> perspectives. Partly this is because in those 200 years, but
> especially in recent decades, the power equation has shifted
> dramatically: When the United States was weak, it practiced the
> strategies of indirection, the strategies of weakness; now that the
> United States is powerful, it behaves as powerful nations do. When the
> European great powers were strong, they believed in strength and
> martial glory. Now, they see the world through the eyes of weaker
> powers. These very different points of view, weak versus strong, have
> naturally produced differing strategic judgments, differing
> assessments of threats and of the proper means of addressing threats,
> and even differing calculations of interest.
> <snip>
> ----
> This message was posted by rhinoceros to the Virus 2002 board on
> Church of Virus BBS.
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