P o s i t i o n
Washington´s Direction Remains Unclear
Has September 11th Put an End to American Unilateralism? Doubts Are Permitted.
ByWerner Weidenfeld - February
The American reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11th poses
serious questions for Euro-American relations. From a German perspective
possible lines of conflict or cooperation become particularly obvious.
Germany demonstrates unlimited solidarity vis-à-vis the United
States. Soldiers of the "Bundeswehr" fight alongside American
forces. For many observers this indicates the dawn of a new era in German-American
cooperation. A new Atlantic community may emerge. The common fight against
terrorism will open up the possibility to establish a future transatlantic
architecture of cooperation. However, we are faced with the question:
Is this vision in accordance with the facts? There are two stories to
be told about the German-American relationship, which is in some respects
special, but nevertheless tells us something about Euro-American relations
in a wider sense: On the one hand, there is the old traditional line of
the post-war era. A reliable relationship has emerged, not least because
the Americans guaranteed freedom and security to the Federal Republic
of Germany. Flourishing trade relations, a high level of direct investment,
extensive cultural exchange including thousands of scholarships and economic
conferences this is all part of a story of success, the core of
which could not be damaged by factors like single conflicts over trade
or different opinions on matters of security policy. On the other hand,
however, there are signs of an erosion as well: The old generation of
Atlanticists has disappeared from the top positions.
After the end of the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union, the
interest in the partner is declining. As the state of affairs has relaxed,
indifference has grown. Logically, different opinions became more important.
The Kyoto agreement, death sentence, National Missile Defence they
all cast a remarkable shadow over the relationship. No nostalgic emotionalism
could make it disappear.
It might be true that September 11th has changed all of this. The new
big common challenge is still unmistakably concrete. The realization that
even the most powerful state in the world cannot guarantee the security
of its citizens any more should be sufficient to rethink American politics.
The answer should be a farewell to unilateralism and a return to multilateralism.
The new kind of terrorism with its professional global networks cannot
be overcome by one single power. Therefore, the logic of American unilateralism
has lost its foundation. Though, the question remains whether the political
culture of Americans on the one hand and Europeans on the other is about
to turn around in such a way. On a closer look, to date Washington has
formulated its answer to terrorism unilaterally only afterwards
it demanded international support. The Americans declared Afghanistan
the target to be bombed and only afterwards asked NATO for assistance.
This symbolic procedure can also be found in other facets of the fight
Actually, this would be the time to build up a transatlantic strategic
community: a common strategy to fight terrorism by means of security policy,
a common plan to fight poverty by means of development policy and a common
project to help transform those regions that are threatened by fundamentalism.
The future of Afghanistan after the war is a test for both Americans and
Europeans. The Western World still has to prove whether it is able to
define the goals, the criteria and the steps towards a reasonable transformation
not just for Afghanistan, but for many other states, too.
Thus, historical necessities speak in favour of transatlantic cooperation.
The chances are ultimately concrete by the same token, however,
the doubts are immense, whether these opportunities can really be seized.
Dieser Beitrag wurde auch auf der Website
der spanischen EU-Präsidentschaft veröffentlicht.