April 01, 2004
Posted by McQ
Dale Franks has an excellent article at Tech Central Station concerning alliances in general and our alliances in Europe in particular. Read the whole thing, but the money paragraphs are these:
Nations do not become friends in the same sense that people do. The people of one nation may retain good feelings for the people of another - think of the US and UK, for example -- because of common cultural or familial links. But nations, as such, do not define their relationships by the feelings they have for one another. Instead, nations have interests -- goals that will further the well-being or security of their citizens.
When national leaders perceive that an alliance with another nation will secure those interests, it enters into one. As World War II showed, even nations that are fundamentally hostile to one another will ally themselves when their perceived interests dictate that they do so. That is, after all, how the USSR ended up allied with the US and Britain.
But when the interests of allied nations no longer converge, the reason for their alliance disappears, and the alliance splits apart. The former allies do not necessarily become enemies, but each becomes freer to pursue its own interests.
That’s ground truth in the international political arena.
Colin Powell is now in Europe, Berlin specifically, and he’s essentially validating Frank’s point:
Although the secretary used more diplomatic language such as "shifts in focus" in an article in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he was nevertheless unusually blunt and direct.
"As time has passed, our concerns have been redirected and our sense of mutual dependency has been relaxed," he said in reference to the period since the end of the Cold War in U.S.-German relations.
He then broadened the geographical scope of the trend he was describing to include Germany's neighborhood.
"For Americans, more recent events, particularly the tragedy of September 11, 2001, have reshaped our view of the world. For Germany and its neighbors, the project of building the new Europe now molds attitudes and expectations," Mr. Powell said.
"These shifts in focus diminished our Cold War-era camaraderie," he wrote in the English original of the article, which his aides provided to reporters traveling on his plane.
NATO is an attempt to keep the previous alliance in existence, but it is becoming increasingly irrelevant (its an alliance looking for a job).
Terrorism and 9/11 as well as the end of the cold-war have obviously changed the “perceived interests” of both Europe and the US. The question now is can they find common ground upon which to again base their “perceived interests” or will we, as Powell states, continue to “talk past each other” and drift further apart.
If so, what will be the impact? If not, how are our "perceived interests" to again be made to coincide?