by Tressa Steffen Gipe
Oregon Daily Emerald
Last month, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Jimmy Carter for his global advocacy of freedom and democratic governance. While honoring Carter, the committee chairman told reporters that it “must also be seen as criticism of the line the current U.S. administration has taken on Iraq.” As an American — and University alumna — living in Britain, I can testify that the committee’s decision is illustrative of broader European opinions. Like all Americans, Europeans share our basic values of promoting human rights and supporting democracy. Nevertheless, Europeans are deeply concerned with the policies of President Bush’s administration, which they view as problematic, if not counterproductive, to the advancement of these shared values. While many Americans view Bush as an engaging leader who builds international coalitions, Europeans often see Bush as a unilateralist who strong-arms other governments. Many Europeans believe Bush has forced their leaders to elevate American interests over their own global and national priorities. Now, Bush’s “with us or against us” attitude toward war in Iraq is coercing many European leaders to support a military campaign that a majority of their citizens oppose.
I am currently studying politics at Oxford University, where I have had extensive exposure to the opinions of Europeans on U.S. foreign policy. For example, many British citizens I meet in Oxford feel that their role in their country’s foreign policy is being sidelined as decision-making is pulled from London to Washington.
I believe such reactions indicate that Bush’s foreign policy may eventually undermine America’s long-term security by straining relations with our most important allies. As more Europeans feel their voices are undercut by Bush’s antagonistic approach to foreign policy, they have increasingly sought to distance themselves from America in general. The recent election of Gerhard Schroeder in Germany bears witness to Europeans’ growing preference for leaders willing to take a tough stance against American policy.
The consequences to this widening divide with Europe could imperil American security. Bush’s strong advocacy of multilateralism in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 led to unprecedented international cooperation. But as Bush and his advisors have moved toward a more unilateral approach in recent months, these collective ventures have been jeopardized.
With their views constantly dismissed or challenged, Europeans naturally see less incentive to cooperate with the United States. To close the widening distance between America and our European allies and promote stronger international security, it is imperative that we pursue a mature foreign policy of dialogue rather than dominance.
The United States is unquestionably the pre-eminent global power today, which is a profound responsibility indeed. Our president should use his unparalleled prominence to lead by example, using diplomacy and building international coalitions that support U.S. goals. Through such efforts, we can restore America’s rapidly deteriorating image in Europe. Otherwise we might soon witness increasingly assertive and coordinated movements by Europe to thwart American goals.
A few weeks ago, more than 150,000 people marched through central London urging the United States and Britain not to invade Iraq. Before coming to Oxford, I might have failed to see the significance of this massive demonstration of public opinion. I now know better. Our European allies are fighting for the same values we are.