Perpetuating the Rift: Joaquin Roy Reviews Allies at Odds? the United States and the European Union

By Roy, Joaquin | Harvard International Review, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Perpetuating the Rift: Joaquin Roy Reviews Allies at Odds? the United States and the European Union


Roy, Joaquin, Harvard International Review


Why, despite their professed similarity of goals, do the policy preferences of the European Union and the United States diverge on so many multilateral issues? This puzzling central question, posed by David Hannay, a former UK Ambassador to the United Nations, caught the attention of Thomas Mowle. These words became the guiding line for this trendsetting book, brilliantly and objectively written, and extremely well-organized. Allies at Odds? The United States and the European Union will certainly become a milestone and a necessary point of reference for any other venture in the ever expanding bibliography of EU-US relations.

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The fact that the British diplomat's question was issued in March 2001, before the terrorist attacks of September 11, should send a serious warning to observers and scholars. Mowle reminds us that the most scandalously obvious clash between Washington and Brussels happened when the United States lost its seat on the UN Human Rights Commission in May of that year. The gap and the rift (to use some of the words employed since the terrorists attacks) between Europe and the United States had a solid history of precedents, only exacerbated by further disagreements over the handling of the terrorist crisis and the involvement in Iraq.

Mowle meets the expectations of readers looking for bold predictions in a book that is rigorously anchored in objective analysis, and he resists offering policy recommendations. He considers the possibility that the European Union would someday develop "enough unity to act as a single power," at which point the European Union and the United States would "cease to be allies in the way they have been since mid-century--although a new form of cooperation could not be ruled out." However, taking into account that the necessary changes will occur in the international setting and in the EU structure, the European Union and the United States "will remain allied at odds."

This conclusion, backed by a reasonable review of the current situation and recent events, is paradoxical to casual observers and scholars, because an assessment of the historical and contemporary linkage shows that the two leaderships profess to share many of the same values and interests: democracy, human rights, peace, and stability. To arrive at this conclusion, the author studies four primary groupings of conflictive cases and employs three theoretical approaches mapped out in an elucidating second chapter.

Areas where the United States and the European Union show contrasting and cooperating approaches are addressed in chapters dedicated to arms control, the environment, human rights, and military cooperation. Mowle reminds readers that the clash over Iraq was preceded by disagreements over the Kyoto Protocol, the Mine Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court, NATO, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. …

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