Academic journal article Global Governance

Painful Partnership: The United States, the European Union, and Global Governance

Academic journal article Global Governance

Painful Partnership: The United States, the European Union, and Global Governance

Article excerpt

With new worldwide threats, post-Iraq war tensions, and the United Nations under siege, democracies should take the lead in forming a new coalition united behind a common global security agenda--as hinted by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (HLP) in its December 2004 report. (1) The vital question after President George W. Bush's reelection is whether there will be more of the same from Washington, or whether unilateralism will make room for collective responses to the challenges of the twenty-first century.

The relationship between the United States and the European Union (EU) will be decisive in any global arrangement. Iraq, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), terrorism, and world poverty loom large, and ongoing trans-Atlantic differences will not go away. Washington's policies have raised hackles in Europe over, inter alia, the Kyoto protocol on climate change; the landmine treaty; the approach to child-soldiers; the HIV/AIDS epidemic; the death penalty; biological weapons; global efforts to curb illicit sales of small arms and light weapons; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty; America's miserly percentage of overseas development assistance (ODA); and the International Criminal Court (ICC). As if these were not enough, U.S. attitudes toward the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, steel exports, farm and airline subsidies, alleged tax evasion, new definitions of torture and "enemy combatants," and the new national security doctrine of preemptive strikes have also raised alarm.

If we fast reverse, the June 2001 communique from the EU-U.S. summit in Goteborg, Sweden, seems like ancient history:

   Today, we, the leaders of the European Union and the United States,
   reaffirm our historic partnership.... Experience has taught us that,
   when the EU and U.S. work hand-in-hand, either bilaterally or
   multilaterally, we can be an engine for positive global change,
   nurturing the development of democratic regimes, opening trade and
   investment, working to reduce poverty, and protecting the
   environment. (2)

When President Bush met his EU counterparts for the first time, the mood was angry among the 15,000 protesters outside but positive in the meeting hall. The mood deteriorated after September 11. His address to the General Assembly on 10 November 2001 focused almost entirely on terrorism, and many of us in the audience grew uncomfortable. Secretary of State Colin Powell was assigned the UN's "pre-9/11 agenda," and in December 2001, he spoke about the need to combat terrorism through programs for democratization, conflict prevention, poverty alleviation, health, and education. He also spoke about the "humiliation" caused by the unsolved problem of a Palestinian state, which provided a breeding ground for terrorism. Now, even this rhetoric, along with Powell, is gone.

It is worth remembering how quickly Washington squandered almost universal goodwill. For instance, Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 1373, both adopted in September 2001, were straightforward: the tragic attacks on U.S. soil were a threat to international peace and security, and a specific reference was made to the legal right of self-defense. When the United States lashed out against Al-Qaida and toppled the Taliban regime, the UN and people all over the world supported it.

After the fall of the Taliban, however, President Bush declared a worldwide "war on terrorism." In a characterization reminiscent of Ernesto Che Guevara's 1968 battle cry of "creating two, three Vietnams," Bush dubbed Iraq, Iran, and North Korea "the axis of evil."

The war on Iraq began in March 2003 without a UN mandate--indeed, in the face of an overwhelmingly negative world opinion--and was a heavy blow to global governance and the principles of international law. It was, however, not a defeat for the UN but for the countries that sought a Security Council declaration of war, failed, and then proceeded anyway without UN legitimation. …

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