Response to Kagan, by a European
Just read the full version of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power (the essay that predated the book is available here). It was incredibly insightful, although perhaps a little reckless in its analysis. The central claim of course was that America lives in a world of Hobbesian realities, and knows how to practice power politics, while Europe is inhabiting a Kantian paradise, and that the two have become incompatible partners. America appreciates the value of coercion, force, threats, and occasional unilateralism, while Europe clings to ideals of non-violence, diplomacy, soft power, and international law. Moreover, his claim is that Europe, being weak, has developed this ideology partly for practical reasons (the weapon of the weak is to appeal to principles of multilateralism and non-violence), and partly out of ignorance; ie. the military protection provided to her by America has allowed Europe to forget the importance of possessing it herself.
What is particularly insightful on Kagan's part is the description of how the ideologies of Europe and America have arisen out of their respective levels of power--he even points out that Hamilton and Jefferson used "European" language (invoking international law, etc.) when America was weak in relation to Great Britain and France. But while he may be right about the European "psychology of dependence," and refusal to build up military power, he assumes--in rebuking her for this--that it has been at America's expense and in European interest. Of course, during the Cold War, America had reasons for wanting Europe to arm herself (and take responsibility for self-protection), but in the aftermath of the Cold War, it has been to America's advantage to be able to establish world hegemony. In fact, Europeans have shown a desire to build up military power, in contrast with American demands. The Bartholomew telegram of 1991 was a response to the development of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of Europe, warning that this would be harmful to the transatlantic relationship. And Europeans continue to show a growing affection for 'power'.
The other inadequacy in Kagan's analysis is the failure to understand what the European perspective on international relations can offer. Kagan decides in favor of the American ideology of power, claiming that the European ideology could not have sustained Europe in the absence of American protection. This may be true, and yet it denies that there is a place for diplomacy, soft power, and negotiation that Europe--uniquely--offers. For example, when Pres. Bush identified the 'axis of evil', including Iraq, Iran and North Korea, Europe understandably reacted to this language. Among other things, Europe succeeded in getting Iran's support for the invasion of Afghanistan. In addition, as Europe is fond of boasting of, it provides more humanitarian assistance abroad than the US does. These things should not be ignored.
In fact, they suggest that Europe, with European ideology, may be an important complement--and thus, partner--for the US to have. There needs to be an alternative to 'confrontational, coercive politics' and Europe embodies precisely that. In a recent speech, Kagan suggested that America cede more power to Europe (through Nato), in exchange for Europe seeing the world through America's eyes. Kagan ignores the asset that the European perspective--while incomplete--provides. He moreover assumes that Europe will be a better partner to the US by becoming more like it, which seems untrue. While it may benefit America in the long run for Europe to become stronger, it will not benefit her for Europe to embrace the full implications of the 'ideology of power.' Perhaps, though, in embracing the multilateralism of Nato, Kagan is inadvertently seeing things through European eyes?