Academic journal article Policy Review

Mars and Venus, Ten Years Later: Essays on the United States and Europe

Academic journal article Policy Review

Mars and Venus, Ten Years Later: Essays on the United States and Europe

Article excerpt

Editor's note: In our June/July 2002 edition, Policy Review published Robert Kagan's "Power and Weakness," an assessment of the structural underpinnings of transatlantic relations. "On major strategic and international questions today," Kagan famously wrote, "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus." As the article began to circulate in European capitals and in foreign policy circles worldwide, it created a sensation, quickly becoming the touchstone for a decade of discussion about the state of transatlantic relations. (1.)

Kagan's observations formed a double argument: First, that the relative power of the United States and the relative weakness of Europe frame the way Americans and Europeans approach international politics. The United States is inclined to assert its formidable power in pursuit of its objectives and to decide for itself when to do so, whereas European countries (individually or collectively, as the European Union) lack such power and prefer rule-based, multilateral international arrangements. The United States acts as strong powers do; Europe acts like a weaker power (a reversal of their 19th century positions). The second element of the Kagan argument was that ideas about the efficacy of power also shape the extent to which one pursues and uses it: Europeans promote a Kantian vision of peaceful resolution of international disputes, whereas the United States is inclined to a more Hobbesian view of a world in which some kinds of disagreement can only be settled by force.

Ten years later, how much has changed? What Timothy Garton Ash wryly dubbed "a decade without a name" was hardly uneventful. …

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