THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S IMAGE OF EUROPE:
FROM AMBIVALENCE TO RIGIDITY
Charles-Philippe David and Frédéric Ramel
Throughout the history of post-War international relations, the image
of Europe held by successive American administrations has been defined
by a longstanding ambivalence between recognition of Europe as an equal
partner and reduction of Europe to secondary status. The George W. Bush
administration's image of Europe starts from the same fundamental opposition
and is organized around three main elements: Europe is regarded as broad,
secondary, and ultimately unrealistic in its approach to security.
In an article published in National Interest in 2000,
Zbigniew Brzezinski (2000, pp. 17-32) outlined his view of Europe. Building
an integrated Union will never achieve a military design, he argued:
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remains the only regional
organization equipped to respond to the security challenges of the post-Cold
On this view, transatlantic relations remain asymmetrical and tilted
towards the US, a depiction which breeds criticism and resentment in
Europe. For example, Christoph Bertram and Timothy Garton Ash give a
trenchant theoretical reply to Brzezinski's argument. They consider
the development of a European defense identity to be inevitable. Indeed,
Ash argues that this, rather than the introduction of a common currency,
should have topped the political agenda. A European Union (EU) with
real operational military capabilities would, in the not so distant
future, become an equal partner to the United States. The US should
wish for nothing better: the new Europe would be a genuine partner in
the exercise of leadership and the pursuit of the international system's
global stability (Brzezinski, 2000, pp. 30-31).
This debate provides a good illustration of the relatively open tensions
in relations between the US and the major European States. But new questions
have arisen since the fall of 2000: is the George W. Bush administration
following in its predecessors' footsteps when it comes to relations
with its European allies? Does it entirely accept Brzezinski's representation
of Europe? Was September 11 a watershed event, one that is causing the
administration to develop a new image of Europe? (Specifically, does
the administration regard the European Union as less of a bit player?)
More generally, all these questions suggest that we should investigate
the mutual impact of structural changes in the international system
and the strategic practices of States on both sides of the Atlantic
since the end of the Cold War, particularly given that September 11
has introduced strains of uncertainty and anxiety into the post-bipolar
world of the past ten years.
The American image of Europe is not independent of the larger system
of global strategic representations. During the Cold War, the image
of the Soviet Union as enemy provided an analytic framework which confined
foreign policy within certain boundaries. The American image of Europe
was informed by the bipolar international system and Washington's desire
to buttress the free world's positions in the Old World. It was grounded
in security considerations, which required, to be sure, that Western
Europe be an ally, but also, and most importantly, reduced it to a series
of second-string States subject to US constraints (Hobsbawm, 1994, pp.
239-252; Bideleux and Taylor, 1996, pp. 2-3; Anderson, 1996, pp. 126-127).
The disappearance of the Communist bloc reshaped the security picture
in Europe. It can reasonably be supposed that this would have had an
impact on Washington's representation of European strategic issues.
Does this mean that Europe is becoming an equal partner in defense or
a rival? Since the end of the Cold War, no US President has failed to
come up with a pithy phrase to summarize his conception of Europe. George
Bush Sr. called for "a Europe whole and free," Bill Clinton
for a "peaceful, undivided and democratic Europe"; George
W. Bush outlined his vision of "a Europe whole, free and at peace"
on June 15, 2001 at a joint press conference in Warsaw with the Polish
President. What do these slogans mean in practical terms? Precisely
which institution is conceived as the key player in the new security
environment, NATO or the European Union?
As can be seen, our questions spring from a research tradition which
seeks to analyze the function of images in international relations.
This tradition has been enriched by contributions from new theoretical
approaches in recent years. Since the innovative work of Kenneth Boulding
(1956), Uri Brofenbrenner (1961, pp. 46-56) and Robert Jervis (1970),
image studies have been used extensively to understand the decision-making
process in foreign policy. Initially, the focus is on identifying values,
the building blocks of images (Eldridge, 1979, pp. 158 ff). According
to Boulding (1959, p. 423), "It is what we think the world is like,
not what it is really like, that determines our behavior." Numerous
studies have attempted to explain conflicts using this approach, leading
to a proliferation of "enemy image" studies (Frank, 1965;
Eckhardt, 1991, pp. 87-95; Rieber, 1991). More recently, scholars have
applied the image approach to situations that are not necessarily conflict-driven.
They are expanding the field of study and investigating the decisive
influence of leaders' representations of the problem on strategic policy
development (David, 1994; Sylvan and Voss, 1998). The way the situation
is conceived provides the basis for the decision-making process, which
seeks appropriate means for addressing the identified problem. This
representation of the problem is largely conditioned by image, defined
as the decision-makers' assessments, positive or negative, of another
State or entity that is comparable in terms of capabilities and culture
(Sylvan and Voss, 1998, p. 19; Cottam and McCoy, 1998, pp. 116-124).
During the Cold War, many studies of the American image of the Soviet
Union were published (Ramel, 2000, pp. 532-533; Eckhardt and White,
1967, pp. 324-332; Siverson, 1972, pp. 203-210; Starr, 1984; Koopman,
Snyder and Jervis, 1989, pp. 119-138; Bossuat, 1994). As this line of
research became more refined, it improved our understanding of the conditions
under which images emerge and typologies develop. As dependent variables,
images are highly complex objects located at the intersection of several
disciplines. Scholars do not agree on the origins of images. The two
leading schools are the psychological/psychoanalytical (Conover, Mingst
and Sigelman, 1980, pp. 325-337; Freud and Bullit, 1966) and cognitive
(Herrmann, 1986, pp. 841-874; Herrmann and Fischerkeller, 1995, pp.
415-422) approaches. The factors in the creation of images can be divided
into soft facts, the set of biases a government brings to bear on an
event (the idiosyncratic aspect), and hard facts, which are structural
in nature (e.g. social change, an economic slump, challenges to cultural
identity, contact with other leaders, collective and individual memory
(Fiebig-von Hase, 1997). In the search for the determinants of mental
images, the analyst must forsake single-cause explanations. The other
area in which this line of research has added to our knowledge is the
construction of typologies of tendencies within the ruling elite. One
example is the well-known study by Ole R. Holsti and James Rosenau (1986,
pp. 375-409), which distinguishes among Cold War internationalism, Post-Cold-War
internationalism, and semi-isolationism.
While discrepancies between analyses resting in different disciplines
can be found (particularly with the rise of political psychology), image
analysis seems to be increasingly robust methodologically (Kaplowitz,
1990, pp. 39-82; Herrmann, Voss, Schooler and Ciarrochi, 1997, pp. 403-433),
and is being enriched today by contributions from constructivist theory
as applied to international relations. The advantage of this approach
lies in the way it conceives the construction of images: it carries
image analysis beyond the realm of foreign policy and attempts to understand
the importance of images in the structure of the international system.
Constructivism applies sociological concepts, such as Anthony Giddens'
key categories, to international relations; it reads international phenomena
on the basis of intersubjective representations shared by State actors
and classifies images in terms of those representations (Klotz and Lynch,
1999, pp. 51-63; Adler, 1997, pp. 319-363; Checkel, 1998, pp. 324-348).
The structure of the system, suggests Alexander Wendt (1992, pp. 391-425;
1994, p. 384-396; 1995, p. 71-81), consists of rules, knowledge and
We do not claim to apply in this article a strictly constructivist methodology.
Rather, we propose to use Wendt's propositions to shed new light on
the Bush administration's image of Europe. In other words, we will assess
changes in transatlantic relations with attention to the impact of American
images of European otherness (which vary depending on the State in question
and the institutions under consideration, beginning with NATO and the
EU) on US strategic practice. While the end of the Cold War wiped away
the United States' enemy image of the Soviet Union, there has been no
equivalent transformation of its image of Europe, which is fairly rigid
and still consists of the same major elements.
We will begin by describing the main elements of the Bush administration's
image of Europe, and particularly the values that inform US actions
in Europe. The Bush team started out with an ambivalent image of Europe
and regarded the emergence of a European defense identity with deep
misgivings. September 11 did not materially affect this view. The Bush
administration's picture of Europe is broad, fuzzy and generally subordinated
to US interests.
We will then consider the American image of Europe as a dependent variable,
using a series of explanatory hypotheses to understand the reasons for
its persistence among officials in Washington over a period of decades.
In this second section, our focus will be on mechanisms such as the
United States' role and self-definition as a superpower, rather than
on psychological or even legal factors (Sabbag, 2001, pp. 135-162).
Our purpose here is not to provide an exhaustive discussion of all the
forces at work but to underscore the key structural factors that promote
the durability and rigidity of the American image of Europe. In the
conclusion, we will compare our results with John Duffield's findings
(2001), in order to make a contribution to the theoretical debate on
post-Cold War transatlantic relations.
The Bush Administration's Current Image of Europe
Throughout the history of post-War international relations,
the image of Europe held by successive American administrations has
been defined by a longstanding ambivalence between recognition of Europe
as an equal partner and reduction of Europe to secondary status. The
George W. Bush administration's image of Europe starts from the same
fundamental opposition and is organized around three main elements:
Europe is regarded as broad, secondary , and ultimately unrealistic
in its approach to security.
An Ambivalent Starting Point
In 1973, Henry Kissinger (1979, p.81) believed firmly
in trying to implement the ideas of Jean Monnet. He thought that the
United States had a duty, in the post-War period, to support a politically
united Europe with supranational federal institutions, which could become
an equal partner for the United States (Brandon, 1992, p. 6). However,
he vastly preferred bilateral diplomacy with European governments to
talks with Community institutions, which he likened to "walking
on eggs" (quoted in Brandon, 1992, p. 6). This is the spirit in
which successive US leaders have regarded Europe. They paid lip service
to Europe's political status, particularly as a unifying institution;
when it came to strategic practice and foreign relations, Europe remained
in the shadows. In this sense, Europe as an institutional construct
was not really considered a potentially equal ally in terms of capabilities
and culture, but more an actor subordinated to US geostrategic interests.
American administrations swung back and forth between support for greater
European autonomy based on growing political integration (accompanied
by scaled-back US involvement in Europe) and for the status quo, leaving
the US considerable room to manoeuvre.
The Bush administration's foreign policy has not been immune to this
ambivalence. From the outset, the administration wanted to establish
a new division of labour and slash the US presence in Europe, particularly
in the Balkans. Condoleezza Rice, Bush's National Security Advisor,
believes the US should let the Europeans run their own peacekeeping
missions in Europe and focus its attention on other regions, such as
the Gulf and the Middle East (M. Gordon, 2000). At the Wehrkunde conference
in Munich, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was very evasive about
American involvement in Europe, causing considerable concern among European
officials. But this position has softened under the force of regional
events. President Bush (2001), Condoleezza Rice (2000a) and Secretary
of State Colin Powell (2000; 2001a) have reaffirmed the American commitment
to the Balkans and promised that any withdrawal of US troops would be
gradual and would be carried out in consultation with US allies.
The current US image of Europe betrays a classic NATO-first conception,
relegating European aspirations to autonomy to no more than a pious
hope.1 The Janus head is an appropriate icon for this American view.
On the one hand, the US tends to recognize that Europe needs to have
a more dynamic and responsible defense role. On the other hand, Janus'
other face is determined to limit that role at all costs in order to
safeguard classic alliances. Washington's impulse is reign in Europe.
Its attitude provides an object lesson in Platonic reminiscence: the
European idea is, first and foremost, what the US conceives it to be.
Three Basic Issues, Three Major Components
This current image of Europe, strongly tinged with conservatism,
turns around three key issues: missile defense, European capabilities,
and the creation of a genuine Common European Security and Defense Policy
(CESDP); NATO and the issue of NATO enlargement; and, above all, the
partnership with Russia. This way of framing the issues suggests that
the Bush administration regards the Europeans as sharing common values
and has some desire for them to acquire greater autonomy. Upon analysis,
however, this desire quickly evaporates, since the latent values (Holt
and Silverstein, 1989, p. 3) behind US foreign policy betray a classic
conception of transatlantic relations, particularly when it comes to
continued US involvement in Europe, as Condoleezza Rice (2000a) herself
The American missile shield plan. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
claims there is a bipartisan consensus in Congress in favour of the
missile shield; the question is not whether the project should go ahead,
but how and when. At the beginning of May 2001, the Bush administration
decided to create a Global Missile Defense Washington says this is
a firm decision and the project is necessary to defend the US against
"rogue states". As currently conceived, the missile shield,
which is similar to Reagan's 1983 plan, will not neglect the allies,
starting with Europe. Bush has stated, "The dangers ahead confront
us all. The defences we build must protect us all" (Vershbow, 2001).
The missile defense issue, which has been on the transatlantic relations
agenda since the late 1990s, upsets the Europeans for several reasons,
even though President Bush has said he wants to discuss it in a cooperative
spirit. To begin with, while they agree that the arsenals of rogue States
are a legitimate concern, the Europeans feel that limited or "national"
defences undermine the transatlantic security relationship. Furthermore,
defences of this nature could promote the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction and derail multilateral cooperation in this sphere.
Last but not least, some European governments fear that opting for the
missile defense, at the expense of expanded negotiations on the ABM
treaty, may have a lasting impact on relations with Moscow and therefore
on European security (Daalder and Goldgeier, 2001, p. 86).
On all these issues, the US tends to favour discussion but, at the end
of the day, the administration is fuelling European fears and suspicions
about US security intentions. The main consequence of this major difference,
in the foreseeable future, will be to drive a wedge between Europe and
the US (Gordon, 2001, p. 33). This first issue points to the first component
of the Bush administration's image of Europe: the leading allies, members
of NATO, or of the European Union do not take the threats to the West
seriously enough. They are not looking where they should; they are much
more concerned with the failed States, which need lavish economic and
financial assistance to rebuild and to maintain their stability. In
the view of the Bush administration, this is a short-sighted attitude.
European defense capabilities. Since the Helsinki summit in December
1999, the European Union has held to a fairly strict agenda for building
the CESDP. The drive to achieve the headline goal by 2003 continued
apace under the Portuguese and particularly the French presidencies.
It involves strengthening the Union's permanent structures and, most
importantly, creating a Rapid Reaction Force of 60,000 troops plus support
logistics. It is in line with the European desire to create a comprehensive
crisis management and conflict prevention capability, which would allow
the EU to intervene in situations where NATO as such is not involved
(Dumoulin, 2000, pp. 11-19). This dimension of European defense policy
was driven by the Kosovo effect and by the European consensus on the
need to intervene, spurred by the neutral countries' strong position
in favour of greater humanitarian involvement by the EU in Petersberg
missions. Many questions surrounding the creation of the force have
yet to be resolved. The EU will be judged by the resources the member
States allocate to honouring this military commitment. In short, the
money must follow, a contentious matter for the Europeans (Howorth,
2000, pp. 43-46).
At first, the United States welcomed the European plan. On November
20, 2000, Madeleine Albright stated: "We, along with the other
Allies, are working closely with the European Union to make this initiative
a success" (Daalder and Goldgeier, 2001, p. 79). But the American
support was mainly for show: US nervousness about a European Rapid Reaction
Force quickly became apparent and has been a constant from the Clinton
administrations to the new Bush team. For example, Madeleine Albright
was quick to point to the potential risks involved in the creation of
a European force. Her 3D doctrine opposed the creation of a force that
could eventually become an embryonic European army and lead to a decoupling
of Europe's security from that of the US, a duplication of capabilities
that NATO already possesses, and a certain discrimination against European
NATO countries that are not EU members (Daalder and Goldgeier, 2001,
p. 79). This fear was shared by William Cohen (2000, p.2), Clinton's
Defense Secretary, who issued a warning to the Europeans just before
the European summit in Nice in December 2000: they must, he said, develop
"open, transparent" mechanisms if NATO is not to become a
"relic of the past".
The new Bush team is taking the same line (Vershbow, 2001). For example,
Colin Powell stresses that the American position is to keep European
forces from duplicating NATO's operations and planning (Powell, 2001b).
US foreign policy is therefore based on fear of the emergence of an
independent international player with specific defense capabilities.
And although the appearance of such a player depends in large part on
the will of certain members of the EU, such as France (Walker, 2001),
and seems uncertain at the moment due to European social priorities
(Yost, 2000-2001, pp. 97-128; Holmes, 2000, p. 5), this fear remains
constant within the American ruling elite. It also reflects a core US
position on Europe: NATO first (Nye, 2000, pp. 51-59). Here we see the
second component of the Bush administration's image of Europe: the European
defense identity is secondary, NATO is primary. The development of new
institutions must not undermine NATO or challenge the United States'
position in the regional security system.
The future of NATO: from enlargement to relations with Russia. To Colin
Powell (Powell, 2001b), NATO remains the primary alliance; it constitutes
the backbone of European security arrangements. Nothing can be done
without NATO, which is to say nothing can be done without the Americans.
The Alliance has ensured the security of its members in the past. Today,
it provides security guarantees in light of new threats such as AIDS,
drug trafficking, environmental degradation and the proliferation of
arms of mass destruction (Powell, 2001c). Obviously, NATO must make
some changes due to shifting strategic issues and the emergence of new
threats. The Bush team recognizes the altered strategic concept adopted
in 1999, which confirms a shift in the Alliance's activities towards
peacekeeping operations and crisis management. However, President Bush
tends to emphasize the Alliance's original defensive mission (Daalder
and Goldgeier, p. 81).
On the issue of NATO enlargement, Colin Powell (Powell, 2001c) has come
out in favour of adding more new members in order to enhance European
security and promote its unification: "NATO enlargement is a key
part of the process of uniting all of Europe. A decision to invite in
qualified new members is among the most serious the Alliance could make.
It threatens no one, the enlargement of NATO, and contributes concretely
to stability in Europe". The Republican Party's platform in the
2000 presidential elections set the administration's tone on this issue.
It called for a dramatic expansion of NATO not only in Eastern Europe
(with the Baltic States, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania) but also, and
most significantly, in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The purpose is to develop closer cooperation within NATO in dealing
with geopolitical problems from the Middle East to Eurasia. The program
therefore takes a broad and rather fuzzy view of Europe.
But since the end of the Cold War, these classic American priorities
when it comes to European security have been disturbed by another recurring
image: the view of Russia as a force that must be contained. Since the
fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Communist system, Washington
has generally leaned towards strengthening its dialogue with Moscow,
but the dialogue has been strained by a deep-seated ambiguity in US
foreign policy: there is a tension in American strategic practice between
recognition of Russia as a true partner and the lingering view of Russia
as a threat (Walker, 2000, p. 471). During the Kosovo crisis, Russia
was never invited to informal NATO meetings. Colonel Walsh, the French
ambassador to NATO, reported that the doors were closed to Russian representatives
despite the ostensible partnership with Russia, which was supposed to
promote closer cooperation. Today, the suspicious attitude towards Russia
persists. The US does want to engage Russia in a closer partnership,
as the opening of a NATO information office in Moscow in February 2001
demonstrates. However, American leaders tend to lay the responsibility
for the outcome of negotiations at the feet of the Russians. They feel
it is up to Russia to adjust and to respond favourably to American demands
(Vershbow, 2001). This approach neglects the internal political mechanisms
that condition Russian behaviour and determine the external environment,
as developments since 1985 confirm (Daalder and Goldgeier, 2001, p.
Since September 11, there have been indications of a possible shift
in the White House's attitude towards Moscow. President Putin gave the
Americans his moral support and condemned the terrorist groups responsible
for the attack. He even offered to cooperate with Washington in its
response. In October 2001, at the Asia-Pacific Forum in Shanghai, Presidents
Putin and Bush came to a meeting of the minds on disarmament. Some observers
believe that the October 17 announcement of the withdrawal of Russian
forces from Cuba and American support for Russia's admission to the
WTO indicate more than a thaw in American-Russian relations. According
to Sergei Markov (2001), "the tragedy of September 11 opened the
eyes of Western politicians: they saw that Russia was definitely their
ally." However, it would be premature at this stage to say that
the US administration has had a fundamental change of heart and shed
its long-ingrained reflexes in dealing with Russia.
These tensions would appear to contradict Michael Howard's (1997, p.
3) contention that Americans and Europeans share the same values. When
it comes to the future of Europe, Americans and Europeans differ on
key issues. The differences seem to point toward three fundamental values
which underpin the Bush administration's image of Europe. The first
is unilateralism, of which the missile shield is a particularly telling
example. The American position flies in the face of the European approach,
which is based on ABM talks and multilateralism. An opposition is taking
shape here between the leading European capitals, which want to deal
with the matter by judicial means, and the Americans, who want to push
ahead and create a fait accompli (Pfaff, 2001, pp.5-6).
The second value is classicism. It is evident in the US preference for
NATO institutions, seen as the guarantor of peace and stability in Europe.
Since it took office, the Bush administration has repeatedly reaffirmed
the vital and lasting nature of the Alliance, regardless of any changes
in the strategic environment (Daalder and Goldgeier, 2001, p. 81). Its
unequivocal support for NATO is based on the Alliance's original defensive
mission and critically important role since 1945. In Washington's eyes,
NATO remains the backbone of European security (Nye, 2000, p. 53).
The third and last value consists in a sort of residual paternalism,
which has been a constant of US policy since Wilson. Nothing can be
accomplished in Europe without the Americans. The 20th century was one
of the bloodiest in history, and it was so because of political turmoil
in Europe. Twice, the US had to intervene, and it paid a heavy price.
That price seems still to be present in the memory of Americans and
may explain, to some extent, the fact that preventing new conflicts
in Europe is a priority for US foreign policy.
September 11: A Rupture in the Image?
September 11, 2001 is destined to be a symbolic date in
the collective memory of Americans and in the history of international
relations. While it is too early to assess their impact on the strategic
practices of States and other players, or whether they constitute a
watershed in the history of international systems, there can be no question
that the attacks in New York City and Washington are among the most
important episodes since the end of the Cold War. They are an event
in the full sense of the term, by virtue of their uniqueness; they raise
the possibility of a break with the past (Arendt, 1961, preface), particularly
when it comes to the inviolability of the territory of the world's most
powerful nation, one which has been likened to a new Middle Empire (Mélandri
and Vaïsse, 2001). The point here is not to attempt a preliminary
interpretation of the event, which possesses a rare emotional force.
Our purpose here is only to consider the image of Europe in the wake
of the tragedy and to identify any shifts in perception. Like any crisis,
the period that is now beginning provides an opportunity to glimpse
latent representations that are rarely visible at other times.
There are two sides to the Bush administration's image of Europe since
September 11. The first is the symbolic and cultural facet, based on
a strong link between the US and Europe. The planes that crashed into
the American landmarks were targeting not only the United States but
also the Europeans: they were instruments in a war on Western values
as such. So the Europeans are viewed not only as allies but as friends
whose support for the US expresses their attachment to the same cultural
identity, rooted in liberty. Naturally, the US and Europe have many
cultural differences, but their common roots constitute a shared heritage
which links leaders from both sides of the Atlantic in times of crisis.
Under the impact of an event of this type, the "values gap"
that some analysts have discussed tends to narrow (Blinken, 2001b, p.
This image of Europe as a "friend" is consistent with the
American desire to strengthen the transatlantic security system against
terrorist threats. [The event and the image could promote a process
of cultural transformation in transatlantic relations and prompt a shift
from a Lockian culture to a state of Kantian anarchy, to use Alexander
Wendt's (1999, p. 279, pp. 297 ff) categories.] It is reflected in various
US actions and positions in favour of closing ranks against terrorism.
On September 20, 2001, the President of the Council of Europe was in
Washington to sign a Euro-American undertaking to fight terrorism: "Our
resolve is a reflection of the strength of the US-EU relationship, our
shared values, and our determination to address together the new challenges
we face" (Department of State, 2001). The agreement provided for
increased information sharing and closer cooperation. At a joint press
conference, Colin Powell stressed the "solidarity" and "resolve"
displayed by the European Union and the United States (Powell, 2001d).
As early as September 12, NATO decided that if tangible evidence were
produced that the attack on the United States was directed from abroad,
it would be considered an act covered by Article 5 of the Washington
Treaty. The principle of collective defense would be strictly applied
for the first time and various forms of assistance deemed appropriate
by the allies would be provided (NATO, 2001; Robertson, 2001).
However, this image of Europe as a group of States that constitute the
United States' closest allies and friends is mitigated by other considerations.
First of all, the European Union is only one of the organizations involved
in managing the terrorism crisis. It is no more important than others,
such as the G7/G8 (Bush, 2001). Furthermore, while George Bush has stressed
the United States' strong ties with European States in this fight, he
has also established a certain hierarchy of nations. He has called Tony
Blair a "friend" on numerous occasions, while referring to
other European heads of government as "allies." Europe is
not, therefore, seen as a monolithic entity but rather as a region made
up of States with which the US has bilateral relations of varying degrees
of importance. Finally, while the European Union, NATO and European
States are viewed as allies with which the US has closer links since
September 11, the Bush administration's crisis management style has
borne a strong unilateralist stamp. The European allies appear to have
played a fairly consistent role in averting an overly emotional and
excessive reaction by the US, but they have not been viewed as equal
partners and have remained largely in the shadow of American strategic
So September 11 does not seem to have had a significant impact on the
Bush administration's image of Europe. Rather, the attack appears to
confirm the relatively rigid nature of that image over time. We shall
now consider the factors that may account for this.
On the Continuity of an Image through the Decades: Sources of Rigidity
Writing in the 1960s, Ole R. Holsti (1967, pp. 39 ff)
was one of the first experts on international relations to consider
the influence of cognitive structures on the making of foreign policy.
His chief contribution was a study of the speeches delivered by Secretary
of State Dulles between 1953 and 1959. One of Holsti's main conclusions
was that fear of the Soviet enemy, seen as the embodiment of atheism
and materialism, conditioned Dulles' image of Europe and his desire
to see Europe form a federal union in the near future: Dulles believed
that Europe must federate or perish (Dulles, 1981, pp. 155-164). He
wanted Europe, as part of the West, to become a magnet for the East:
Western Europe's role in breaking down the Iron Curtain would be to
attract the East to its values (Dulles, 1948, p. 12).
Security against the Soviet enemy was a permanent dimension of this
image: the US remained the sole guarantor of Western security and the
possibility of an "independent" European defense was brushed
aside. The refusal to contemplate autonomous European security arrangements
was in fact a leitmotif in Washington's discourse: the US always preferred
integrated security structures. In this respect, the Bush administration's
image of Europe rests on a rigid structure which has proven resistant
to change despite post-Cold War strategic developments (Smith, 1988,
p. 19). American discourse tends to exclude any information that could
undermine the vision of Europe as a secondary player that lies at the
core of the image.
Image is a dependant variable and the continuity we have described stems
from a combination of factors. In our view, three main factors are in
play: the United States' self-image and role as the only remaining superpower
after the end of the Cold War (the most significant factor), its political
and institutional agenda, and the persistence of a perceived opposition
between the Old and New Worlds.
Self-Image and Role as Superpower
The image of the Other in political discourse reflects
a self-image (Neumann, 1996, pp. 139-174). Indeed, image analysis generally
tells us more about the subject than the object of the image. The American
image of Europe is no exception. It is strongly conditioned by the United
States' perception of itself as a superpower (Holsti, 1987, pp. 7 ff).
Here, neo-realist precepts intersect with cognitive analysis (Walker,
1987, pp. 78 ff). The notion that the US must play a decisive, leading
role in Europe stems from its world leadership position coupled with
its glowing self-image. Some facets may vary over time but the central
core around which the image is constructed remains the "role performance"
of a State with a status superior to other actors because it holds the
various attributes of power, from military capabilities to ideas and
values (i.e. soft power). [This analysis fits in with Alexander Wendt's
constructivist approach, which holds that role definitions in interactions
among States constitute the essence of international structures, which
are based in the first instance on cultural elements. On the importance
of culture and role conceptions in international structures see Alexander
Wendt (1999, p. 251 ff).]
This US self-definition as the leader of the world has been reaffirmed
by the current administration (Rice, 2000b, pp. 45-62), with at least
one major consequence (Kagan, 2001, pp. 7-16) : the US is a superpower
whose foreign policy remains directed towards keeping secondary States,
particularly the European States, dependent (Galtung, 1973, pp. 11-12).
This means maintaining the gap in defense technology. Washington's unswerving
commitment to the NATO option reflects its desire to maintain the asymmetric
relationship. While there are hints of openness to greater European
autonomy in defense capabilities, the Bush team's image of Europe remains
bounded by a classical - not to say hard-line - approach to European
security. It is comparable to some extent to the "hard-line image"
defined by Glenn H. Snyder and Paul Diesing (1977, pp. 297-299), a vision
focused on the anarchic and threatening nature of international relations.
Hence the US pursues a strategic option based on containment, in Europe
and elsewhere. This approach is opposed to the European Union's policy
of engagement. If both sides maintain their stance, a sharp strategic
divergence may well arise between Washington and European capitals (Blinken,
The Impact of the Agenda on Strategic Perceptions
According to Robert Jervis (1976), an image results from
a variety of factors, one of which is the political agenda. Leaders
interpret the information they receive according to their concerns and
priorities: "People perceive incoming information in terms of problems
they are dealing with and what is on their minds when the information
is received" (Jervis, 1976, p. 215). The image disseminated by
government officials is influenced by this agenda, which in the case
of the US is conditioned by an institutional quirk: the very short time-span
between the Presidential elections and the mid-term Congressional elections.
This system makes it unlikely that Americans will develop a revolutionary
conception of European security; instead, they stick to an immediate
and short-term representation of the issues. Their short-term vision
determines their priorities - rebuilding the Balkans, ensuring the security
of the Baltic States, and managing Russia - whereas the Europeans think
in terms of the process of regional integration (Walker, 2001, p. 40).
In short, the divergent concerns of the Americans and the Europeans
reflect different time horizons: the Americans are fixated on short-term
goals while the Europeans keep pondering their progress towards political
union since the end of the Second World War. The former seek to solve
specific problems by traditional means, while the latter are engaged
in an unprecedented endeavour to reshape relations between national
entities, political structures and external relations. Thus, strategic
logic is tied to political constraints and time horizons.
Transatlantic Divide and Sense of Identity
A third factor explains the rigidity of the American image
of Europe: it is the persistence through the decades of a gap between
the two continents' perceptions of each other. Since the fight for independence,
Americans have sought to differentiate themselves from Europe. While
they have built on the European heritage, they have always been wary
of meshing their identity with that of the Old World (Boorstin, 1969,
pp. 19-39; Strout, 1963a; Strout, 1963b). This distinction is particularly
sharp in defense matters. Holding to an image of Europe as a secondary
international player makes it possible to assign certain specific roles
to the European Union, as conflict resolution in the Balkans illustrates.
The Europeans were given responsibility for humanitarian and economic
assistance, while the Americans took charge of military operations (Ramel,
1999, p. 90).
Thus, the United States continues to define itself through a certain
differentiation from European societies and their leaders. Its sense
of identity assumes an American "exception," based on a semi-latent
critique of European collective forms of organization. American exceptionalism
is one of the advantages the US cultivates in order to ground its global
supremacy. The increasingly triumphant liberal ideology which the US
champions is seen as the sole wellspring of political destiny (Wacquant,
2001, p. 86). The transatlantic divide therefore serves an identity
differentiation function which keeps European States and the European
Union at the second rank, by means of diplomatic pressure and one-sided
Conclusion: the Return of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?
The Bush administration's image of Europe is deeply ambivalent
but also quite rigid, despite strategic developments and September 11.
The US is prepared to accept a beefed-up European defense, but strictly
within traditional alliances and, above all, on the basis of the continuation
of NATO (Wallace, 2001, p. 17). Thus, the mental map of European security
is organized entirely around the Cold War-era alliance (Walker, 2001,
p. 466). The Bush administration's image of Europe consists basically
of a broad Europe, extending virtually to the Caucasus and the Middle
East; a fuzzy Europe, which will not develop overly integrated structures
that could overshadow classical institutions such as NATO; and finally
a Europe confined to a secondary role in relation to American might,
which alone is capable of adequate and effective military action.
John S. Duffield (2001, pp. 93-115) discusses transatlantic relations
through the lens of three schools of thought: realism, liberalism and
transformational (or constructivist) analysis. From the realist point
of view, the disappearance of a common enemy should erode the need for
NATO (balance of power theory) or the need for the US to ensure the
survival of the transatlantic alliance (hegemonic stability theory).
The liberal approach focuses on the intensification of institutional
cooperation within the Atlantic framework. While adjustments might be
made, they would not place in question the existence of NATO in particular
(Keohane and Martin, 1995, pp. 39-51). This school looks to the peaceful
reputation of democracies as the structuring principle of transatlantic
relations: democracies do not wage war against each other and have a
moral and ideological obligation to come to agreement on strategic issues.
Transformational analysis concludes that the trend is for European structures
such as the European Union to gain greater autonomy through various
strategic practices that promote the expression of cultural distinctness
(Duffield, 2001, pp. 100-101).
Which of these models comes closest to empirical reality when it comes
to the Bush administration's image of Europe? Our analysis does not
confirm any one of the above paradigms; rather, it points towards a
combination of the processes identified by the realist and liberal schools.
[Since international relations are resistant to scientific "laws,"
any model is difficult to verify empirically. On this epistemological
question see Hoffmann (1977, p. 52) and Goldmann (1996, p. 402). John
S. Duffield (2001, pp. 107-108) himself acknowledges the epistemological
point when he observes that these three approaches cannot exhaust the
reality of transatlantic relations.]
The US image of Europe is strongly informed by the liberal model, but
it is modified by the aggressive American claim to a hegemonic stabilizing
role which is grounded in a more realist view of US-Europe relations.
The White House relies heavily on NATO-type structures to strengthen
transatlantic cooperation, confirming the liberal approach (Duffield,
2001, pp. 110-111). Within this framework, however, Europe is not an
equal partner but more a zone of influence that the US seeks to preserve;
the US wants to keep Europe from becoming a full-fledged rival.
The American administrations of the past dozen years or so have been
keenly aware that Europe has become a formidable economic competitor.
One of the goals of US foreign policy has been to block any extension
of this competition to the defense sphere and hence the emergence of
a European rival. [This would create a Lockian system, to use Alexander
Wendt's (1999, pp. 279-285) terms. The US is therefore trying to delay
or entirely prevent the appearance of such a rivalry-based system, which
would substantially undermine its own pre-eminent role.]
In November 1999 John Bolton, former Assistant Secretary of State in
the Bush administration, told Congress that "the aim to align the
foreign and defense policies of the EU's members into one shared and
uniform policy is at times motivated either by a desire to distance
themselves from US influence, or in some cases, by openly anti-American
intentions" (Walker, 2001, p. 42). The last comment demonstrates
one of David Campbell's (1992) central arguments: that all foreign policy
is based on the identification of a threat or an enemy. To be sure,
European construction and the strengthening of European institutions
is creating not an enemy but a potential rival to American influence
in Europe and perhaps beyond. This image of the rival largely conditions
US views of security on the other side of the Atlantic. [This situation
departs from the "ally" ideal type, as defined by Richard
K. Herrmann, for though the US does indeed have an opportunity for institutionalized
cooperation, it defines itself as superior, militarily and culturally,
to the Europeans. On ideal types, see Hermann and Fischerkeller (1995,
Finally, the Bush administration's image of Europe is consistent with
what might be called the "yes, but" model: yes to the strengthening
of European defense capabilities but only as part of the consolidation
of NATO and, most importantly, under permanent American oversight. Thus,
Europeanization is acceptable only if it puts US interests first (Rice,
2000b, p. 54). Jolyon Howorth (2000, p. 69) aptly sums up this vision;
in effect, the Bush administration is telling the Europeans "Go
ahead with the CESDP, which is in the interest of all, but since we
have limited confidence in your ability to achieve your objectives,
we must define specific orientations and conditions to keep you from
failing or making things worse." [Howorth is paraphrasing P. Gordon's
(2000, pp. 12-17) argument.]
Martin Walker (2001, p. 53) compares the US and Europe to Don Quixote
and Sancho Panza. He suggests that if the European Union develops its
institutional framework and builds up a truly effective defense, it
could, like Sancho Panza, eventually take its distance from the hero,
in this case the US, and claim its own story. For now, the White House
continues to view Europe as Sancho Panza to the American Don Quixote.
So this image of Europe reveals American self-representations: keeping
Europe confined within NATO and resisting European autonomy means the
US defines itself as the guarantor of European security and stability.
One question remains: how long will this image survive and what external
or internal factors might alter it? The malleability of the image depends
on interactions among the actors involved and their strategic practices.
The close economic and commercial interdependence between the two sides
of the Atlantic, the process of homogenization, and the acceptance of
a shared destiny in the face of terrorism could accelerate the development
of a new strategic culture embracing the US and the European States,
and promote the emergence of a new system of roles in which the European
Union enjoys greater autonomy. The image will remain rigid and will
continue to reproduce itself as long as the United States' self-image
is driven by its desire to remain a superpower (i.e. a hegemonic actor
disseminating its own vision of security and of the world). If the Bush
administration were to renounce this conception of the international
order, it would risk losing some of its own power as the helmsman of
the last remaining superpower. [On the close relationship between major
powers and the idea of order, see Raymond Aron (1953, p. 91).] Despite
the events of September 11, 2001, which struck at the heart of US economic
and military might and showed the vulnerability of American power, Washington's
self-image as a hegemonic player seems to be remarkably resilient.
1. A certain internal plurality exists within the administration.
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world in terms of historic and emerging threats and seems to enjoy the
support of Vice President Dick Cheney. But while differences may arise
on specific points, the general image of Europe seems to be generally
shared. On the difference between the leading elite's image and a particular
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