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Op-Ed

American and European Differences

Review of Robert Kagan’s book Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.

Timing is not everything, but if you are writing a book on the United States and Europe, it sure helps if the possible breakup of the trans-Atlantic relationship dominates headlines on both sides of the ocean. Robert Kagan’s short book, which expands on a celebrated article published in Policy Review last summer, captures the mood of today’s crisis between the United States and many of its old European allies. The immediate object of that crisis is the difference over Iraq and over what the best response is to the threat posed by terrorists, tyrants and the technologies of mass destruction more generally.

But the cause of the crisis lies much deeper. “When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways,” writes Mr. Kagan, concluding, in words already famous in another context, “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.”

As an American living in Brussels the past three years, Mr. Kagan is in an ideal position to dissect what is wrong in the United States-European relationship and why. He does so with a surgeon’s skill, stripping away layer after layer to reveal what in the end is a remarkable conclusion: The West, which for so many decades defined the two sides of the Atlantic, has ceased to be the organizing principle of foreign policy in Europe and the United States. Whereas before Washington and its allies in Europe had to agree in order to keep the West united, now they are free to disagree and leave the West divided. Why this divergence? Mr. Kagan points to two mutually reinforcing factors.

Read full review of Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.

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