Mending the Transatlantic Rift

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Mending the Transatlantic Rift

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 ushered in an era of dramatic change for foreign policy and the international system. Most obviously, the United States’ sense of invulnerability eroded as an acute awareness to the perils of terrorism gripped the American public. In American foreign policy, the dominant paradigms evolved. Whereas the Cold War notion of the centrality of powerful nation-states had helped order the Bush administration’s outlook before the attacks, the new paradigms explicitly accounted for the importance of non-state actors and rogue regimes as the salient elements of American foreign policy. In emphasizing rogue states, President George W. Bush focused on regime change in Iraq and ultimately decided to invade Iraq despite the opposition of important allies and the lack of authorization from the United Nations Security Council. The war in Iraq, along with an array of diplomatic and policy differences between the United States and its European allies, ultimately produced notable divisions in the transatlantic relationship. An analysis of the events and conceptual divergences that contributed to this rift renders a portrait of U.S.-European relations in which real rather than cosmetic differences separate the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Nonetheless, enduring commonalities and the realities of the present geopolitical situation leave hope for improvements in the relationship. In the end, mending the transatlantic rift will require the United States to exhibit a genuine commitment to diplomacy with Europe and engagement with the world’s most pressing issues.


Historically, the relationship between the United States and its European allie...

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