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Domestic Politics and American Foreign Policy: American & European political culture, an unsolvable misunderstanding?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The European and American political culture.
    1. A geopolitical argument on the boundry American and Europe.
    2. The importance of historical factors to the contrast between European and American political culture.
    3. The perception of Individualism as a threat in Europe.
    4. United States' refusal to consider that any power can incarnate the sovereign will of the people.
  3. Robert Kagan and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
    1. The divergences between two conceptions of the world implying two different use of force.
    2. The contemporary realpolitik of the United States.
    3. The weakness of Europe.
    4. Considering Europe as a consistent whole.
  4. Conclusion.

The end of the cold war with the collapse of the Soviet Union enabled the emergence of the United States as a hegemonic power. At this time Realist Theories in International Relations predicted that a counterbalancing coalition should soon be organized. The European Union appeared as the most probable counter power, with France as leader of this coalition. However, other theories of international politics (Constructivist ones) suggested that such a dramatic change in European-American relations was unlikely because of shared values and beliefs between the two continents. But September 11 2001 attacks produced the most significant change in the U.S foreign policy since a generation and soon major shifts would appear, the quarrel over whether or not to wage a war in Iraq being the last and most important crisis between the ?old trans-Atlantic partners'. The provocative statement I have chosen to quote in the beginning of my paper has been made by Robert Kagan in his article "Power and Weakness", first appeared in the June/July 2002 issue of Policy Review. In 2003, the author has quickly expanded and released it in a book form under the title "Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order." Robert Kagan's essay claims to offer an analysis of the current malaise between Europe and the United States. His reasoning is based on the idea that the US is the ?Power? maintaining its predominant position through a Hobbesian use of force, while Europe is living in a Kantian world in which its ?Weakness? appeared through its inability to cope with the anarchical menaces of the global world, and its reluctances to try to. For this reason, Kagan even went as far as to say, ?It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world?.

[...] The Cold War has been an ideological war, the Vietnam War ended because of military failures but also because of ever growing opinion movements, and the Vietnam Syndrome has effectively shaped the American Foreign Policy for years. Another reproach can be made to Kagan, the one of considering Europe as a consistent whole, whereas the Iraqi crisis has at the opposite revealed the difficulty to have one Foreign policy. The author also collapses very easily into the plainest stereotypes or even misinformation, tending to ignore the fact that some European countries as France still own a military arsenal. [...]


[...] - Howard, Dick. ?Europe as a Political project?. Logos online. Spring 2004.12 /15/04 - Nye, Joseph S. The Paradox of American Power: Why the Worlds Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone .Oxford University Press - Wiarld, Howard J.American Foreign Policy: Actors and processes. New York: Harper Collins,1996 - Woodward, Bob. Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster Kagan, Robert. ?Power and Weakness'?, Policy Review, June/July 2002. [...]


[...] After having briefly studied both European and American political culture, it is now time to come back to Kagan's quote, about the fact that is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world?[11]. To say a few words about the author, Robert Kagan is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He writes abundantly on American diplomatic history and the historical traditions that shape American foreign policy today. [...]

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