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Political implications for Transatlantic relations and coalition formation

These data have important political implications for the state of Transatlantic relations. First of all, we can conclude that an American President - irrespective of his political persuasion - has considerable leeway in terms of building public support when it comes to the use of force. One can imagine different coalitions forming, depending on the issue and who is in power at any given time. One would be a coalition between Hawks and Pragmatists; a second might be a narrower foundation based solely on the Pragmatists; and a third could be an alliance between Pragmatists and Doves.

In Europe, the dynamics are likely to be quite different. In most (if not all) of the countries surveyed, the key to building stable and broad public support is a coalition between the two dominant groups: Pragmatists and Doves. The former are concentrated on the center-Right and the latter on the center-Left side. Given the dominant size of these two schools in Europe and the way in which they are reflected in the party landscape, the nature of the public debate and the constraints on the ability of a government to use force is unavoidably different from the United States. The Hawks are too small to be a major or even relevant force in Europe (with the United Kingdom being a possible exception). Nowhere on the continent are they numerous enough to be a major pillar of public support. There may be cases - the Netherlands or Poland, for example - where a coalition of Hawks and Pragmatists could form a slim majority. But such a majority is likely to be narrow and not a viable basis for long-term policy.

What can one deduce from this? The potential pool of public support for (some forms of) the use of force in the United States is much larger than in most European countries. The greater size of these groups clearly influences the options of a US President when it comes to building public support for going to war. Does this gap mean that the US and Europe are somehow incompatible or incapable of acting together on such questions? Clearly, if, for instance, one were to sit an American Hawk across the table from a German Dove, they will not necessarily have much in common. They might even conclude that indeed 'one comes from Mars and the other from Venus'. The same might be true in the United States, however, if one paired a Republican Hawk with a Left-leaning Democrat. If, on the other hand, one were to pair an American Pragmatist with a European Pragmatist they would in all likelihood have few problems in devising a common agenda.

 
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