Letter to Europe

Philip H. Gordon
Philip H. Gordon Former Brookings Expert, Mary and David Boies Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy - Council on Foreign Relations

July 1, 2004

Dear Friends. How did it come to this? I cannot remember a time when the gulf between Europeans and Americans was so wide. For the past couple of years, I have argued that the Iraq crisis was a sort of “perfect storm” unlikely to be repeated, and that many of the recent tensions resulted from the personalities and shortcomings of key actors on both sides. The transatlantic alliance has overcome many crises before, and given our common interests and values and the enormous challenges we face, I have beenconfident that we could also overcome this latest spat.

Now I just don’t know any more. After a series of increasingly depressing trips to Europe, even my optimism is being tested. I do know this: if we don’t find a new way to deal with each other soon, the damage to the most successful alliance in history could become permanent. We could be in the process of creating a new world order in which the very concept of the “west” will no longer exist.


I am not saying that Europe and America will end up in a military stand-off like that between east and west during the cold war. But if current trends are not reversed, you can be sure we will see growing domestic pressure on both sides for confrontation rather than co-operation. This will lead to the effective end of Nato, and political rivalry in the middle east, Africa and Asia. Europeans would face an America that no longer felt an interest in—and might actively seek to undermine—the united, prosperous Europe that Washington has supported for 60 years. And Americans would find themselves dealing with monumental global challenges not only without the support of their most capable potential partners, but perhaps in the face of their opposition. Britain would finally be forced to choose between two antagonistic camps.

Reprinted by permission of Prospect, (Issue 100, July 2004).