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Don’t Call it a European Comeback Because it Never Left

By Griffin W. Huschke, Mayme and Herb Frank Research Fellow


Although its been out for a while, the latest edition of the bi-monthly Foreign Affairs features an interesting article by Stewart Patrick, a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and possibly a thinly veiled penname for the Captain of theEnterprise.  His article is called “Irresponsible Stakeholders: The Difficulty of Integrating Rising Powers”, and details what the U.S. needs to do as its power declines.  Patrick concludes that the U.S. will need to ally with developing counties to pursue its national interest.   According to Patrick, things are going to get downright Hobbsian in the coming decades, and the U.S. needs to buddy up with countries of “convenience” to ride out the coming international storm.

Patrick is emblematic of a wave of international relations scholars who aren’t looking at Europe in the face of waning U.S. hegemony.  Increasingly the discourse in international relations circles has shifted away from emphasizing the transatlantic relationship in favor of ad hoc alliances or hitching a wagon to rising BRIC countries.  Practitioners have adopted this thinking as well—President Obama has yet to afford the time he spent developing ties to India to his European counterparts.  Hillary Clinton defied tradition and spent her first overseas trip in Asia instead of Europe.

Stewart Patrick’s piece, like many that sound the alarm over declining U.S. power and the need for alliances with developing countries, simply make no mention of the transatlantic alliance.  It seems more reasonable the U.S. will call on its historic alliances—where there is a battle-proven alliance structure in place—than rising powers in times of trouble.  Many international relations scholars predicted the Rise of the Rest in the beginning of the last decade, but Washington didn’t rely on Brasilia and New Delhi to do the heavy lifting in Afghanistan.  And when the EU needed the Balkan fire in their backyard put out, they didn’t ask for help from South Africa.

Even though its boring for International Relations scholars to keep saying it and practitioners take it for granted, there still isn’t country, political bloc, or alliance system that rivals that of the Atlantic Community.  The GDP of the US and the EU alone would equal almost $30 billion–three times the GDP of China.   The military might of such a bloc would equal fuhgeddaboutit to a degree that only irrational states (even North Korea and Iran are rational by most metrics) would dare provoke it.  Until there’s convincing evidence that disproves the U.S. will be less secure by focusing on the transatlantic relationship, scholars and practitioners should be less hesitant to forget about their European friends.


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