Transatlantic relations after Bush

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The hopes of many Europeans for a different relationship with the US after the Bush mandate rests on a premise that the Bush administration is unique, writes Kori Schake in this paper from the Centre for European Reform. The future of transatlantic relations will depend on the will of Europeans and Americans to take the sensibilities of the others into account, she argues.

Contrary to what is generally believed, it was Clinton who put in place the policy of pre-emption in the US and not George W. Bush, notes the author. Bush is less of an anomaly that we would like to believe, she claims. 

Clinton in fact attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 after having failed to obtain UN approval, launched missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan in response to terrorist attacks on US embassies in Africa and presided over a lengthy bombing campaign against Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq, recalls the author. 

The turning point in American policy came in August 1998 when terrorist attacks were perpetrated against American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the author says. When the Clinton administration traced the attacks to Al-Qaeda and launched missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan, the purpose of using military force was not only punitive but also pre-emptive, she notes. 

Even though Clinton’s reaction to the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania was an “extraordinary and sweeping shift” in American strategy, the attacks did not provoke a reaction in Europe, notes Schake. 

The Bush administration subsequently chose an even more “aggressive and unilateral” strategy, she adds. As a result, Bush will be remembered as the US President who created an enormous gap between US and European views on security.

However, many Europeans consider the US to be an indispensable power. They expect the next US president to bring back “a more pliable, chastened and multilateral US” that is willing to solve problems on terms comfortable to European sensibilities, concludes the author. 

The next US President is also likely to expect a more helpful Europe that takes responsibility and is prepared to take risks to solve common problems, she adds. 

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