The United States and Western Europe since 1945: From "Empire" by Invitation to Transatlantic Drift

By Geir Lundestad | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Why another book on the American-Western European relationship? There are three main reasons why I decided to write this book. First, the American-Western European relationship was, and definitely still is, a crucial one. After the Second World War the United States clearly became the leading power in the world. Washington's most important allies were found in Western Europe (in addition to East Asia with Japan). The United States and the countries of Western Europe had many common interests, the most important one being the need to contain Soviet influence. Yet, there were also many divergent interests. With the end of the Cold War, many observers argued that NATO, the core of the American-European relationship, would break up. It did not. Now, however, many signs of tension can be seen in Atlantic relations, and clearly the balance between cooperation and conflict definitely shifted over time. This book tries to evaluate that balance in a crucial relationship during the past, in the present, and, with much less certainty, for the future.

Second, unbelievable as it may sound, there are actually very few research-based surveys of the entire American-Western European relationship since 1945, as opposed to the numerous detailed studies of various aspects of this relationship. The best ones and, depending on the definition of the topic, possibly the only ones, are Alfred Grosser's The Western Alliance: European-American Relations Since 1945 and Richard J. Barnet's The Alliance: America-Europe-Japan. Makers of the Postwar World. Grosser's book was written in 1975. While containing a wealth of useful information, it is dated, and it is in many ways also poorly organized. Barnet's book is from 1983, but, as the subtitle indicates, it includes Japan, and is somewhat journalistic-biographical in its approach. So, there would indeed seem to be not only room, but also a great need for a new survey of the American-European relationship.

Third, in that I have already written many books and articles on various aspects of the American-European relationship, I felt that I had a good basis to write the present overview. My best-known article, “'Empire' by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe, 1945-1952”, presented a theory about the American-European relationship that has received a great deal of attention. Later I extended this theory both in time and scope. This book thus gave me the chance to do many things: draw together a great many relevant books and articles into a larger presentation; revisit my own earlier interpretations, keeping virtually unchanged what I still find useful, modifying the rest; and actually

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