NEAL CONAN, host: 2003 will go down in the books as a very strained year in the history of
American-European relations. Although there have been disagreements before–a
Suez crisis in 1956, the French withdrawal from NATO–this year’s conflict over
the war in Iraq has expressed major fault lines. Joining us now to talk about
the future of US-European relations is Ivo Daalder, senior fellow at The
Brookings Institution, co-author of “America Unbound: The Bush Revolution In
Foreign Policy.” He is with us from his home in Vienna, Virginia. Good to talk
to you again.
IVO DAALDER: Very glad to be here.
CONAN: And also with us is Josef Joffe, the editor of Die Zeit, a German
weekly newspaper. He joins us from Italy, where he’s at a New Year’s Eve party.
And thanks for taking the time to join us.
JOSEF JOFFE: Oh, it’s a pleasure.
CONAN: The split between the US and Europe over Iraq showed a difference in
approach to Saddam Hussein, but it also displayed a deeper rift. Josef Joffe,
has this gone any way towards being repaired since the war ended?
JOFFE: Well, if I may, by way of introduction, say the following: the
split was not just between Europe and the United States. The split was between
Europe and Europe. In fact, more nations, though not the largest ones,
supported the United States on the Iraq war than opposed it, and those were
about 18 nations that ranged from Spain and Italy to Slovenia and Slovakia,
etc., so it’s not just that split. But what you’re talking about is essentially
a split between the United States on the one hand, and France and Germany on the
other, with France and Germany trying to organize Europe into a kind of
counterweight to the United States. Has that split been repaired? No. Are both
sides trying? Yes. Will it be repaired next year? No. But the kind of
acrimony and the sheer nastiness that suffused the debate in the last year, that
hard edge will be gone.
CONAN: Well, Ivo Daalder, as you certainly know, President Bush is being
accused of abandoning the alliances that stood the United States in such good
stead over half a century and more in Europe–that the United States has
abandoned the policy. Is that an accurate way of putting it?
DAALDER: Well, I think it’s more accurate, actually, than Joe Joffe puts
it, which is basically to say there was a disagreement about Iraq and that
disagreement was actually stronger within Europe than between the United States
and Europe. I actually think the split that was manifested by the debate over
Iraq is deep-lasting and likely to continue for some time, in part because it
reflects a fundamental change in direction of American foreign policy in exactly
the way that you, Neal, point out, which is that instead of relying on
alliances, this administration has created coalitions of the willing.
They have exploited divisions within Europe in order to cherry-pick niche
capabilities, so that the Poles could provide a particular kind of capability,
the Czechs could deploy the biological and chemical detection capability for the
Iraq war, and they have abandoned the process and the policy that has
characterized American foreign policy for a good part of a half a century, which
is to work in partnership with our allies and friends, to go through
international institutions and to adhere to the basic norms of international law
in favor of a belief that the way we get ahead in this world is to do as we can,
and because the United States is more powerful than any other country and, in
some ways, the most powerful country that history has ever seen, we can go it
alone and we don’t need Europe in the way that we thought we needed Europe in
the past 60 years. That …(unintelligible) change.
The [Barcelona] attacks, to me, show both the strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are obviously that [the Islamic State] has an array of supporters, especially in Europe, that it can call upon to do attacks. The weakness, though, is that it has had difficulty doing more sophisticated operations.