Home Communication Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations and the Use of Force
The results presented in this chapter are in many ways surprising and worth looking at more closely. In some ways they contradict what some observers would expect to find given the political debates and arguments exchanged on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years. The set of TTS surveys, taken over the 2000s, show that European publics looked at the world in ways that were rather similar to those of many ordinary Americans (including harboring deep reservations about the conduct of certain aspects of US foreign policy). Both sides share fundamental worldviews. Europeans and Americans have comparable perceptions of threats, domestic priorities and comparable perceptions of friends and allies and a strong affinity for each other. They agree upon the relative distribution of power in the world and on the relative importance of economic versus military strength. Most Europeans and Americans are internationalists and Atlanticists. They share a belief in both the necessity and effectiveness of multilateral, common action and international institutions, on moral as well as practical grounds. These views and the similarities across the Atlantic were somehow affected by the divisive realities of the war with Iraq but they did not change significantly over time, and both Europeans and Americans were ready to acknowledge that things had changed with the change in the US administration in 2008.
The only area on which the differences in views seem to be more stable and sturdy is on the suitability and acceptability of the use of military force. In general, Europeans and Americans were in broad agreement in 2002 when it comes to the importance of the war on terrorism and the nature of the Iraqi threat, and Europeans were as willing as Americans in principle to use force in a broad range of circumstances. However, already in 2002, Europeans gave a higher priority to soft tools than Americans and they continued to do so, perhaps even more strongly as they saw the failures in the application of hard power by the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Europeans, the use of force is still truly an ultima ratio to be utilized only when all other sources of power have failed. The Americans, on the other hand, far from being trigger-happy, were and are much less shy of using force if circumstances seem appropriate, in spite of failures on the ground. This is what the adherents of the gap thesis would expect.
How American and European attitudes are differently structured in this connection, and what the political implications of this are, is examined in the next chapter.
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