The deterioration of transatlantic relations is no longer a debatable issue–it is a reality that has resulted from a variety of convergent circumstances. For some, transatlantic tensions stem from the difficult but temporary adaptation of the Alliance to the new security threats of the 21st century; for others it signals a long-deferred re-balancing of responsibilities within the Alliance or even a divorce of the transatlantic couple. Probably it is a bit of all of these, but what is certain is that the criticisms, sometimes the outright insults, that have been hurled across the Atlantic by both sides have provoked a mutual loathing that threatens the interests of both sides.
Taking the long view, history has merely retaken its normal chaotic course after the parenthesis of the cold war. Unfortunately, we have not experienced history in the same way on both sides of the Atlantic. Confronted with a new strategic threat, that of terrorism, we reacted differently because our historical experiences and the implications for our geopolitics are different. One need not be troubled by this divergence–the United States and Europe have taken different but not inherently incompatible approaches. The United States has adopted a classic imperial stance that emphasizes hard power, military tools, and immediate solutions to pressing problems. The still-consolidating European Union emphasizes a new method of gradual expansion of its zone of peace that offers the possibility of escaping from classic balance of power dilemmas. The challenge is to find some strategies for common action that will permit the Atlantic Alliance to confront together what is primarily a crisis of modernity.