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Retrospective Analysis of American Foreign Policy

Updated on February 2, 2013

The split over Iraq was ignited mainly by the differences in which the two nations wanted to deal with Iraq and its situation regarding weapons of mass destruction. There are numerous differences from cultural to political reason, why the US and Europe could not find common ground on this subject. Within the political arena, a main divergence between the United States and Europe is the way each deals with foreign crises.

America’s strategy is to “fix” problems through missile threats or other forms of force. Europe on the other hand has fewer resources, which is not necessarily a handicap, tries to manage its problems through negotiations or non-force means. Simply, the way the two powers view the use of force set them at a disagreement. The people of Europe are much more socially liberal than Americans are; they are also generally opposed to war in any form, and are increasingly trying to present themselves as neutral in the world.

Even such minor details such as the true meaning of force and the use of force differs between the two nations. This illustrates the lack of compromise and corporation. Europe argues the United States are turning into a more trigger happy, imperialistic, reactionary conservative state. Others argue the first and most basic transatlantic difference between America and Europe especially after September 11, 2001 is how America truly perceived Iraq to be a threat; however Europe did not (Gordon & Shapiro, 83). Due to the a long history of relative immunity from having friendly neighbors and protective oceans not to mention being the only super power in the world, the US has developed a substantially lower tolerance for threats and intimidation then that of their counterpart Europe. Europe in general is more averse to engaging into war for a number of reasons, one of which is having experienced heavy military conflict on their own continent for numerous years. Also their lack of available military power leads them to look for peaceful solutions to threats and problems as opposed to Americas shoot now ask questions later method.

Due to Europe’s fierce background and almost never ending disputes, Europeans as well as I have come to prefer non-military actions to work through difficult situations. Americans in general want results and want them now. This demand is just a reflection of the fast pace society they live in. Even with no consent from the United Nations the US still went ahead and claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which have not been found. As per the Palestinian and Israeli conflict there seems to almost be no end in sight. Though force results are more likely to favor the mightier power consisting of a larger military and advanced array of technical weaponry. Israel is a greater force because it is backed by the US.

President Bush’s move to spread democracy throughout the Middle East is not without its costs. President Bush may believe “The vision of U.S. leadership depends on the U.S. military and diplomatic capacity to act unilaterally, though it does not expect to have to do so, since others will eventually follow. And if allies are not comfortable with American power and leadership, the thinking goes that’s their problem, not Americas” (Gordon & Shapiro, 51), however as unsettling as this statement may seem, if the US does not act now who will put an end to the oppression that has been a result of Sadam Hussein’s rule?

A possible motive for Europe’s refusal to participate in the Iraq war could be due to the fact Europe had oil and technological ties to Iraq that they did not want to see disappear. Ironically American intervention without international support regardless of individual conflict outcome is an obstruction to US aspirations to spread democracy and global liberalization. The US cannot promote globalization on its own through military coercion and expect to reap the economic and political rewards. It is the most basic conflict of interest, and as of now there is no place to draw the line between these actions, and a straightforward hostile takeover of a foreign state to gain its resources as an extreme example.

Since 9/11 the political climate in America is and was moving in the opposite direction of that in Europe. An attack on one's home soil will naturally provoke anger, which tends to be turned into a large scale of nationalistic fervor. The American people wanted blood, and they wanted guaranteed safety. Given Bush's commanding response in the days immediately following 9/11, most people were ready to put their trust in him. He convinced people that Iraq was a threat, and received large scale support both from the legislature and the general public for war. But by failing to sign certain international treaties which would ultimately benefit the world, simply because there is no direct profit for the United States, this country is therefore loosing admiration as well as respect from the international community. Withdrawal from international accords such as Kyoto is further removing the United States from globalization.

In my personal opinion President Bush has stepped beyond his legitimate international borders and has set a new precedent; in which the United States is now not only a threat to the enemies of the international community, but is a threat to the international community itself. As far as blaming one nation or another for not cooperating or blaming a nation for bullying, all depends on which side of the spectrum you’re leaning towards. If you are looking at the entire picture or for the long run, by the US going into Iraq to free and democratize the country, which was not the original reason for invading Iraq, then off course you could deem it as necessary and blame Europe for not backing the US in what should have been an international effort. Taking a more realistic look into the crisis, is it worth the absolute destruction of a developing country, or the number of innocent civilian causalities? Isn’t one American life equal to one Iraqi life? What measures are we willing to take to bring democracy to throughout the globe? Using military force to insist democracy on a country is counterintuitive and does not appear to be the example we want to set. Therefore the US is to blame, for only entering Iraq to pursue individual interests. I would have liked to see a different approach, a more European approach to dealing with the crisis in Iraq. Possibly opening the lines of communication and offering some sort of agreements however I do understand military force is a necessity in some occasions, for instance where insurgents are willing to take their own lives simply to keep their corrupt regimes afloat.

Deeper tensions can be traced back to the Cold War and World War II. The United States accused the Soviet Union of seeking to expand their version of communism throughout the world. The Soviets, meanwhile, charged the United States with practicing imperialism and attempting to stop revolutionary activity in other countries. After the Second World War, with the decline of Europe, power was largely shared between the Soviet Union and the United States. As one wanted 'to dominate the other, conflicts were inevitable. Initially conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States began at the peace-time conferences; however their conflict was intensified after President Truman declared the Truman Doctrine and launched the Marshall Plan in 1947. Even though the United States and the Soviet Union possessed hydrogen bombs after 1953, both sides realized the use of these destructive weapons in war would destroy each other. Thus they were determined to improve their relations in order to avoid direct military clash.

As far as the future is concerned, the adversity between the United States and Europe was a disagreement between America and “old Europe.” I believe the true outcome of this event cannot be measured right now. At least a decade from now we will begin to notice and deal with the true effects of the Iraqi crisis and other situations the future holds. From the lapse of time we can judge whether the tension is tighter or if time has healed wounds. There is nothing wrong with healthy disagreement, but totally cutting off the lines of communication is very counterproductive. Only time will tell if we are on the correct course right now.


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