A possible rupture between the US and the EU
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
According to Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy, the seeds of a possible transatlantic rupture between the EU and the US are starting to bud. The cause is rooted in a paradoxically different interpretation between the citizens of the US and the EU regarding how the terrorist threat should be dealt with.
Although, Europeans expressed an overwhelming level of solidarity with the US immediately following the terrorist attacks (most aptly described by the headline in Le Monde stating "we are all Americans"), the tone on European streets, in their living rooms, business circles and parliamentary seats is critical of the US response and more emotionally complex than it was a year ago. In his article published in the Spanish daily El Pais on 13 January 2003, Solana pointed out these facts and characterized European sentiment as being "profoundly exasperated", mainly about US reluctance towards multilateralism and its strategy of military pre-emption. The points he laid out in defense of his argument against unilateralism and pre-emption reflected a great concern (not unique to Europe) that the very values that the so-called "war on terrorism" has been launched to protect -- the rule of law, liberty and democracy -- may end up being the very victims. (Evidence can be seen in the circumvention of international law and the civil liberties of suspected al-Qa'ida operatives/supporters arbitrarily detained by the US government without charge, trial and legal guarantees) .
According to Solana a new series of tensions are starting to appear between both parties across the Atlantic, "nourished by differences in perception, priorities and responses to the terrorist attacks". As he pointed out, the difference in perspective is evident in the choice of language. While the US calls it a "war against terrorism", Europe refers to it as a "struggle against terrorism". In terms of priorities he outlined that, "US politicians view the terrorist threat as the primary challenge to international security and order, excluding almost everything else". Europeans on the other hand, see it as one in a series of threats along with poverty, regional conflicts and climate change. As for the US doctrine of pre-emption, Solana argued that Europeans "genuinely believe that a military response will not, on its own, resolve the problem of terrorism and in reality might even augment the risk of asymmetrical threats" (Solana, El Pais, 13 January).
Judging from Solana's article and numerous policy statements, Europe's approach to security encompasses both state and human aspects and incorporates forms of economic and social violence. The preferred course of action for the EU is clearly multilateral.
Solana maintains that ever since World War II the European Community has been committed to a system of permanent multilateral negotiation requiring patience and mutual concession. In fact, he reminds the US that modern multilateralism was an order devised by the US after 1945. In the absence of such a system, European leaders are convinced that it would be impossible to promote peace, expand shared values and distribute prosperity. "If the weakest and poorest feel that they have no voice", warned Solana, "this will quickly convert into more anger". Ignoring their demands, would only provoke resentment, hostility and have dramatic repercussions on the US and the rest of the world leading to an erosion of the existing international order by promoting chaos and anarchy. What is needed and desired according to him is not US "imperialism" but US "leadership".
Europe's interpretation of the US response to terrorism and its call for US leadership in a multilateral framework is not unique. Japanese also consider terrorism as one in a series of threats along with poverty, regional conflicts and climate change. They are also convinced that there is no military solution to terrorism. According to a report entitled, "Basic Strategies for Japan's Foreign Policy in the 21st Century New Era, New Vision, New Diplomacy" written by the Task Force on Foreign Relations for the Prime Minister and published on 28 November 2002, Japan, like the EU, prefers to deal with threats and conflicts through dialogue and cooperation.
The main conclusions reached in this report were drawn based on the conviction that, "Japan has not seen the external world enough… Japan has to face the reality of the world and to actively engage itself in world affairs." Towards this objective, the task force promoted increased policy coordination with the US, cooperation and coexistence with China, a strategic partnership with South Korea, dialogue with ASEAN in pursuit of an "East Asian community", a common strategy with Canada and Australia, an effective contribution to conflict resolution in South Asia, promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East, closer ties with Russia, economic cooperation with Latin America, democracy and good governance in Africa and "all the cooperation it can to ensure a better future for the United Nations". The preferred course of action for Japan is clearly multilateral.
While this convergence with the EU is obvious, Japanese foreign policy decision-makers and opinion leaders don't seem to recognize it. In the section dealing with Japan's strategy vis-a-vis the EU, the task force seems to have been at a loss. The farthest it goes to suggest is that, "Japan should study how best to cooperate with the EU and its strategy for the EU over the long term". Although the report recognized that the EU is "becoming one of the world's largest quasi-states", there was no clear vision of what Japan should do with the EU. I suggest that it begin by building on the EU-Japan Action Plan (See Europe Reports #3, #4, #5, #6) and work to strengthen multilateral forums to persuade the US, as Solana has attempted to do, against unilateralism. Considering the threats Japan faces today (i.e. stemming from North Korea) and may face in the future (perhaps from China), EU cooperation to persuade the US in favor of dialogue and engagement is essential.
- Javier Solana, "The seeds of a possible rupture between the US and Europe", El Pais, 13 January 2003
- Task Force on Foreign Relations for the Prime Minister, "Basic Strategies for Japan's Foreign Policy in the 21st Century New Era, New Vision, New Diplomacy" 28 November 2002, Government of Japan