The fundamental challenge facing the United States and Europe is to reaffirm the core Transatlantic alliance so as to ensure that the collective West is more than an exercise in nostalgia, argues Andrew A. Michta, the dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
The first post-Cold War decade saw elite views on the U.S. role in the world shift from the central role some thought it would play in a unipolar world, through the view of the United States as an “indispensable nation” that would structure the international system around a generalized set of norms, to democracy-building and projection of American values, subsequently married to hard power after 9/11. The past 15 years saw, first, a rapid expansion of U.S. engagement during the George W. Bush era driven by the terrorist threat, followed by the eight years of the Obama Administration’s search for a new paradigm in foreign and security policy, with its “reset with Russia” and “pivot to Asia,” and a fundamental shift on U.S. policy towards Iran.
The United States and Europe have spent the past quarter century laboring under two mutually complementary if increasingly questionable assumptions about the likely course of change in the international system, he writes for The American Interest:
Today the prospect that countries will continue to adopt systemic solutions favoring democracy and market capitalism is dim at best. Likewise, globalization and free trade may not automatically deepen the complex interdependence among nations, nor attenuate national and ideological friction and allow the norm-setting regime to moderate state-on-state competition. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case: competition between states has become more intense as economies have become more interconnected. This makes it imperative for the United States to buttress the Transatlantic security link, because—warts and all—Europe remains America’s closest ally.