Too Big To Fail?: The Transatlantic Relationship from Bush to Obama




On September 11 2011 the world commemorated the tenth anniversary of one of the great tipping points in recent international affairs: the successful attacks launched by Al-Qaeda on the USA. In this article, I reflect on only one aspect of the global fallout: the impact which the ensuing ‘war on terror’ had on the transatlantic relationship. Here scholars have divided into broadly two camps, one of which insists that the ‘war’ did very little to shake the foundations of what remains a remarkably stable relationship, and another which argues that the first decade of the 21st century effectively witnessed the death of the West. Both views – as I will argue – are exaggerated. Yet, as I will also show, the relationship was clearly weakened by the fallout from 9/11. This in large part explains why Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was greeted with such enthusiasm in European capitals. Yet even his election has not dispelled worries about the long-term health of the relationship. Indeed, with the rise of China and the USA’s apparent tilt towards an economically more dynamic Asia, Europe – it seems – has become less important to the USA and the USA seemingly less interested in Europe. The relationship thus still faces some very real challenges in the years ahead – challenges that will test the intelligence and capacities of policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Policy Implications

  •  The transatlantic relationship has remained central to world order and it is critically important that policy-makers in Europe and the United States continue to recognize this.
  •  Policy elites should draw the right lessons from the transatlantic crisis caused by the Iraq war in 2003 and try to ensure that such a rift does not occur again.
  •  US policy-makers in their efforts to build new relationships with emerging powers in Asia should be careful not to convey the impression to their European allies that their new interest in Asia and China is the same thing as indifference towards Europe.

In historical terms the relationship between the USA and Europe constitutes one of the most intimate in modern times. Indeed, if the USA, in Irving Howe’s view (1979, p. 243) began life as a distinctly European project, Europe’s very own and very bloody thirty years war between 1914 and 1945 brought about a major role reversal. This left the western powers on the continent less masters of their own house and more dependant on an all-powerful, liberal, hegemon situated three thousand miles away across the Atlantic. There was no inevitability about any of this. But as one of the more perspicacious international relations theorists noted as early as 1920, if one global war had already tilted the balance of power towards the USA another – which he thought was inevitable – would almost certainly finish the job completely. Trotsky did not live to see one of his more brilliant (and this time more accurate) forecasts come true. Nor can we be sure that he would have been altogether happy with this prospect, given the role the USA then went on to play after World War II (Trotsky, 1984). But as the dust began to settle after 1945, one thing must have been patently clear to all: the continent that in 1900 could claim the title of ‘world hegemon’ was hegemonic no more. To all intents and purposes, ‘The European age was at last over’ (Roberts, 2002, pp. 789, 945).

In terms of the axis of world power the international system after 1945 was a very differently constructed entity from that which had existed before. In strictly formal terms the USA and its European allies formed part of a voluntary association entered into by self-determining, equal, sovereign states. In effect, the relationship was to be shaped by two realities: a massive imbalance in power and strategic dependency by the Europeans on their American protectors from across the ocean. This was not something that brought much joy to the hearts of all Europeans; even less did it please those who for a short time after World War II believed it would be possible to build a third European pole between the superpowers. But the brute facts of the matter meant that the Europeans had little choice but to invite the Americans to become their benign imperial protectors (Ikenberry, 2001; Lundestad, 2008). Even that strategic and political irritant known as de Gaulle accepted that France remained part of something defined as the ‘West’. Integration into the military command structure of NATO may have been a step too far for the General. But in the larger international system it was perfectly clear that its protestations of independence, notwithstanding France, was locked into a world underwritten by American power and shaped in the image of the USA (Bozo, 2007).

The end of the Cold War was bound to have an enormous impact on the relationship and, not surprisingly, much has been written since about the ways in which the transatlantic relationship has changed since the unexpected collapse of the Soviet system of power. I will not repeat here what has been discussed at greater length elsewhere (Lundestad, 2003). Rather, I will focus on two critical challenges to the relationship. The first was the attack of 9/11. As I will show, US policymakers responded in many quite contradictory ways to 9/11. But one, quite clearly, was to think of the war on terror as if it were some kind of new Cold War that would help restore certainty to American foreign policy and in the process repair the damage to the idea of a West (Cox, 2011; Macdonald, 2004). The question I then go on to ask, and seek to answer, is how successful was this new narrative in constructing a new ideological point of reference around which a new transatlantic order could be struck. My answer is straightforward: it was not. Indeed, if anything, the war on terror – unlike the Cold War – probably did more to divide the West than unite it (Cox, 2005).

The second part of the article looks at the relationship since Obama took over in the White House. There is little doubt that the election of a quite new US president in 2008 did an enormous amount of good for the transatlantic relationship. Indeed, one might even argue that his election was greeted with as much enthusiasm in Europe as it was in the USA itself. However, in spite of the Obama ‘bounce’, the relationship – as I will show – continued to face challenges that were every bit as significant as the ones it confronted during the early Bush years. This time, though, the cause was not the unilateral foreign policy of a particular kind of conservative administration but the belief that a tilt was now taking place in the international economic order. As I have suggested elsewhere, I am not sure we should define this economic tilt as a true power shift (Cox 2011). What I do argue, however, is that in a fast-changing world, where the future now seems to lie in the East, it follows that the transatlantic relationship is bound to be affected. This will not render the relationship irrelevant. The ties that bind the European and the Americans together will remain. However, the relationship will not be the intimate one it was for the greater part of the post-World War II period. It is, as the title of this article notes, ‘too big to fail’. Yet, even if failure is not an option, neither is success guaranteed. Difficult days lie ahead (Cox and Stokes, 2012).

The war on terror as a new Cold War?

If 1989 represented the formal closure on one era, then so too – in many American eyes – did the attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001 and, as the dust began to clear from the streets of downtown Manhattan, a raft of born-again, mainly conservative, pundits emerged from under the rumble to declare the bloody end to a decade of ‘drift and lethargy’. Each crisis in history produces its own particular version of the immediate past–and so it did once again in the days and months immediately following 9/11 when official after official declared the post-Cold War era had ended and an entirely new phase in the history of US foreign policy had begun. Still, every crisis is also an opportunity and 9/11 represented such a moment. The tragedy was real. But there was no doubting that it had the potential to be exploited. As Dr. Condolezza Rice, a senior member of the Bush foreign policy team, was reportedly said to declare a few days after the attack, the USA in 2001 (like the USA a half century earlier) was once again ‘present at the creation’ of a new international order.

There has been a vast body of literature describing the response by the Bush administration to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the bulk of it highly critical of that response.1 But what has often been left out of the discussion is how much the Bush administration, faced with what it regarded as a quite novel historical conjuncture, constantly returned to history in order to make sense of what it was doing.2 No doubt because it was the first attack on the American homeland since the beginning of the 19th century, something (though not much) was made of the war between Britain and the USA when the former had the temerity to burn down the White House (Cox, 2002). Much more was made of Pearl Harbour, a surprise attack if ever there was one, carrying the important message that when ruthless men did unspeakable things to the USA they had better beware the consequences.3 But it was the Cold War, more than any other historical experience, that was compelled to do most of the heavy lifting, so much so that in a relatively short space of time a number of pundits began to talk of the war on terror as representing something akin to a new Cold War: some because it was the conflict they remembered best (Lieven, 2001); a few because most of Bush’s key advisers were old Cold War warriors themselves (Mann, 2004) and a good number because national security was now back at the top of the policy agenda (Lieven and Hulsman, 2006). For all these reasons, and no doubt a few more, it was not at all unreasonable for writers to think of this new and uncertain present in terms of a known past.

Within the Bush team, however, the purpose of such analogical thinking was less to reflect seriously about the past and more to establish frameworks within which it could legitimize policy decisions. In the process, it did what all administrations had done since the end of the World War II: derive the lessons it wanted to draw and ignore those that complicated the telling of a particular tale. That said, the tale it narrated had its own appeal. It began with the end of the Cold War itself. Here the Bush administration was anything but subtle. The defeat of Soviet communism, it repeated, represented a massive victory for the USA and the West. However, it had had the unfortunate consequence of leaving the USA without a purpose. As one well-known American historian close to the Bush White House pointed out at the time, the USA might have won the Cold War but, in the process, had become a nation lacking a grand strategy (Gaddis, 2002). Now, at a stroke, the vacuum had been filled by the challenge posed by global jihad – the perfect antidote to Western sloth and what some around Bush viewed as an America grown decadent and flabby in an era personified by Clinton. Some were more explicit still. Without a clear and present danger – they proclaimed – the USA was more likely to decline than to lead. True, the USA may have possessed a preponderance of military power after 1991 (Krauthammer, 1991), and it might have confronted no serious rivals worthy of the name (Ikenberry, 2002). But there was very little the USA seemed to be able to do with all this spare capacity. To all intents and purposes, the USA had turned into a superpower – perhaps even an empire – without a mission. Now, because of 9/11, the USA appeared to have been presented with a mission (Cox, 1995).

If 9/11 provided what looked like a solution to what some regarded as The USA’s strategic vacuum, the Cold War also offered the Bush White House a ready-made supply of easy arguments about what to do next (Buzan, 2006). Naturally, Bush himself was highly selective in terms of what he chose to learn and from whom. However, the fact that he felt compelled to learn anything at all says a lot about the power of the past and the hold it had on a president of even his limited intellectual powers (Shapiro, 2007). Unsurprisingly, the Cold War president whom Bush clearly tried to learn from most was Ronald Reagan – republican hero, enemy of the original evil empire (it was no coincidence, of course, that Bush himself later talked of an ‘axis of evil’) and ultimate reason (at least according to many on the US right) as to why the Soviet Union had finally been consigned into the dustbin of history. Reagan seemed to be the perfect role model. Like Bush, he fervently believed in the promise of the USA. Like Reagan, Bush also assumed that one only did business with others from a clearly defined position of strength. Moreover, he entered office (much like Reagan) after what many saw as being a period of foreign policy drift (Reagan often talked of the 1970s as a decade of neglect). There were also many around Reagan who were anything but realist in international outlook. Indeed, one of the more obvious similarities between these two very different presidents was that both sought to challenge the status quo: one by trying to move beyond containment and the other by questioning the USA’s traditional reliance on authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

The cold war warrior Reagan, and indeed the Cold War more generally, thus served as a significant point of reference for the Bush team in a period of heightened threat. Yet, as many inside the Bush administration readily conceded, having a clear threat was not without its advantages. It would remind Americans that the world remained a very dangerous place. It would permit a very rapid build up of US military power. It would justify a more assertive foreign policy. And, as a bonus, it might even help revive that battered ideological edifice known colloquially as the ‘West’. Islamic terrorism was not exactly the same thing as communism. But in its own way it might serve a similar purpose.4 Indeed, when a day after 9/11 NATO invoked Article 5, insisting that the attack on the USA had been an attack on all, it very much looked as if the West had never been so united. Even different publics on both sides of the Atlantic at first seemed to be moving closer together. In fact, for a while it really did seem as if those much divided Europeans and Americans were looking at the world in rather similar ways.5

Still, even in the midst of all this hand-shaking solidarity, cracks began to appear; and as time went by and the war against al Qaeda segued into a wider war against those states that formed part of what Bush termed the ‘axis of evil’, relations began to fracture badly. Indeed, by 2003 and 2004, even some of the more sober voices in the foreign policy debate were arguing that this was by far the most serious crisis in the long history of the transatlantic relationship. A few even predicted divorce between the USA and its European allies (Cox, 2005). Of course, this simplistic analysis obscured as much as it illuminated. After all, many European countries did in the end support the war against Iraq. Moreover, in the USA itself there was a powerful current of academic opinion that attacked the Bush administration on the distinctly European grounds that Bush was fast destroying the legal and institutional foundations of international society by going to war without UN support. Still, there was no doubting the divide. Indeed, at least one influential American closely associated with the new Bush doctrine of pre-emption even penned what turned out to be an influential essay in 2002 discussing the underlying causes of the division (Cox, 2003). As Robert Kagan went on to explain, the divide was not about personalities or policies; rather it was about the different kinds of international entities the USA and Europe (the EU in particular) had become since the end of World War II. The USA, he noted, was the only superpower with global reach, international responsibilities and a military capacity to match its commitments. Europe, on the other hand, was primarily concerned with making peace and building a new kind of Europe. In his own much-quoted words, Americans as result had become Martians – willing and able to deploy hard power – and Europeans Kantians – constitutionally incapable of using force when necessary to address serious international issues (Kagan, 2002).

The discussion about the sources of what was now assumed by many to be a profound breach in the transatlantic relationship continued unabated through most of the Bush presidency, with many Americans now accusing Europeans of being almost genetically anti-American, and many Europeans (notably on the left) attacking the USA for its arrogance, the result – they concluded – of a profound imperial desire to make and remake the world in its own image. But another, equally profound difference, began to emerge too. However, this had less to do with power and more with the very different ways in which Europeans and Americans seemed to construct the threat itself. Terrorism, it was agreed, was a massive problem. But when Bush began to talk of a global war against terror, critical European voices started to be raised. As Michael Howard (2002) pointed out in an early but highly influential critique, the idea of a war on terror was a dubious one. Not only did it lend legitimacy to al Qaeda; it also presupposed an extended conflict that might continue ad infinitum. The notion was also strategically incoherent. No state or group of states could declare war on a method and nor should they try to do so. Even the Bush team at times seemed unsure of how to frame the problem. Indeed, at one point his administration even replaced the notion of a global war against terror with the apparently less offensive idea of a long war.6 At one level, such rhetorical framing mattered not one jot. However, it did point to (at best) a lack of strategic clarity and (at worst) to a lack of confidence in what the USA and its allies were supposed to be uniting against (Cox, 2002).

This in turn raises a second – more theoretical – issue about whether or not it is possible to sustain any kind of strategic alliance against something as nebulous as terror. Here the way alliances have been forged in the past and the way this new alliance was being put together bear serious comparison. As different writers have shown, alliances may be formed for many different reasons, but one of these has to do with the existence of a credible threat (Walt, 1987). Herein lay a problem for the war on terror. As Barry Buzan (2006, p. 112) has observed, ‘while serious, the terrorist threat’ simply lacked the ‘depth of the Soviet/communist one’–and the key reason it lacked such depth was that that it had no tangible reference point in the shape of a well-defined state with serious power capabilities (Snyder, 1997). Not only that. In different countries at different times the threat was perceived in very different ways. Thus, immediately after the London bombings of 2005, British opinion was decidedly hawkish. However, it became a good deal less hawkish once the dust had settled (Transatlantic Trends, 2006, p. 4). Meanwhile, in other countries in Europe where no such attacks had occurred (with the exception of Spain), views tended to range from the complacent to the war-weary.

To complicate matters even further, there was (until Obama’s election) a growing belief on one side of the Atlantic at least, that the Bush administration was manipulating tensions created by the security situation either to build a new US empire (a most popular term in Europe between 2001 and 2008) or to further his own political ambitions. The fact that the war on terror helped get the republicans re-elected in 2004 hardly helped to generate consistent, across-the-board support for US goals, especially in Europe (Jenkins, 2007). Scandals such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo did not help either. Indeed, it was not just the decision to go to war against Iraq that caused such consternation in Europe. It was also what looked to most European as being Bush’s abandonment of the core values closely associated in their minds with the idea, and indeed the ideal, of the West (Wilkinson, 2005, pp. 17–18; 24–25). Threat perception is a delicate thing and if ordinary citizens – not to mention influential opinion-makers – feel they are being sold something dubious, it makes waging any kind of war much more difficult.

This brings us then to the question of Islam itself and the problematic ideological source of jihad. Here again, the global war on terror involving the wider Atlantic community faced significant, perhaps insurmountable, obstacles in creating anything like a consensus. There were at least three reasons why.

Firstly, radical Islam, unlike communism, had and has only limited ideological appeal. It is not, in other words, a universal threat. Consequently it was much less likely to have the same uniting and mobilizing capacity as communism. Secondly, most Muslims (unlike most communists during the Cold War) did and do not seek the overthrow of the various states in which they happened to be living. Indeed, as opinion polls in the West have shown, while ordinary Muslims may not approve of Western interventions in the Middle East, only a very small minority is prepared to translate that criticism into militant action. Thirdly, though Islam may be defined by some in the West as ‘the problem’, policymakers themselves understood that if jihad was to be successfully contained, the West had to seek some understanding with those states that were themselves Islamic in character. Even the USA was forced by the logic of its war to seek alliances with at least two countries – Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – whose elites have either displayed some sympathy with the terrorists or have been willing to use them for their own political purposes (on the former, see Zahab and Roy, 2004; on the latter, Wright, 2006).

Finally, the war on terror was launched into an international system that was altogether more complex in character than the somewhat simpler world that had been left behind in 1989. As Fred Halliday (1984) reminded us some time ago, the great success of the Cold War in forging accord between potentially fractious and competitive states was not because the USSR was more powerful than the USA. Rather, it was because the USA as the leader of the West was able to construct the world in such a way that other critical issues were either seen as being secondary to it or could be folded into the larger East–West competition. This nesting of issues was to prove altogether more difficult in the first decade of the 21st century (Garton Ash, 2004). Indeed, if polls were to be believed, until 2008 as many people in Europe (if not in the USA) viewed global warming to be just as much a threat to world order as terrorism. Then, with the onset of the economic crisis in 2008, the focus shifted again, but not towards terrorism but instead towards the profound uncertainties facing ordinary people as they began to come to terms with the biggest material challenge to their lives since the end of World War II.

Obama and the future

The failed attempt to construct a new foreign policy paradigm that would unite allies and mobilize support on both sides of the Atlantic led to what can only be described as a profound political crisis, most obviously in Europe where political elites continued to confront a tide of anti-Americanism that was doing much to undermine the ideological foundations of the transatlantic relationship, as well as in the USA itself, where many in the foreign policy establishment were becoming only too aware of how much soft power support the USA was beginning to lose in Europe. To be fair, Bush made several attempts during his second term to repair the damage but to little avail (Quinn and Cox, 2008). It would in the end require a very different kind of US leader to make good the damage.

It is difficult to recall a time when the election of a new US President excited as much enthusiasm in Europe as did the election of Barack Obama in November 2008. Indeed, whereas Bush had found it increasingly difficult to visit Europe without a massive police presence to protect him from often violent anti-war activists, Obama on his many early visits across the Atlantic was greeted with quite extraordinary enthusiasm. Even in France, where anti-Americanism had become an integral part of French identity, Obama appeared to be able to do no wrong. In Germany, too, the mood swung back from sullen opposition to US foreign policy to a recognition that someone very different, espousing what many felt was an acceptable world view, was now in charge. Nor did the rapprochement end there. Indeed, a year after his election, a new and influential book appeared suggesting that, far from being Martians and Venutians with competing world views and different attitudes to the uses of power, Americans and Europeans were in fact remarkably similar in outlook. Some may have liked to stress how different the two were. But they did so not because the differences were especially great but because they were, in fact, fairly minor. As it turned out Americans and Europeans were more like each other than anybody else, and much more like each other than some conservative Americans and certain leftish Europeans would ever dare to admit! (Baldwin, 2009)

Obama’s efforts in the early months of his administration to revitalize the transatlantic partnership both in word and in deed – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued in January 2009 that the USA had no closer allies than the Europeans (Clinton, 2009) – could not, however, paper over all the cracks. Even Obama himself, with his own very special kind of background – an African father and a radical white mother – never quite sounded like a natural Atlanticist. Nor did his own world view admit of too much sentimentality when it came to thinking about Europe. Indeed, as he began to think more seriously about the world, not only did he conclude that the USA had to think in fresh ways that did not make it constantly hostage to events in the Middle East but that the world more generally was fast evolving –and that in this new world in formation some very new partners would have to be found. Moreover, these partners (note they were not thought of as allies in the traditional sense) were more likely to be found in rising and prosperous Asia than in declining Europe, where profound economic problems were rendering the countries there more of a problem than a solution when it came to restoring health to the world economy. Nor was Obama sentimental when it came to thinking about the role the USA’s European allies were playing, or rather not playing, in NATO. Indeed, when his own Secretary of Defence stepped down from office in June 2011, he expressed quite openly what Obama must have been thinking privately: that NATO had, in effect, become a two-tiered alliance poorly equipped and too divided to deal with the challenges facing the world in the 21st century.

The sense that Europe was becoming less useful as an ally and thus beginning to matter less to the USA was made clear in a widely publicized opinion poll published in the USA 2 years into the Obama presidency. The results were very worrying for those concerned about the health of the transatlantic relationship. The problem was not just that Europeans were not doing enough militarily (that was bad enough); it was that Europe as a whole was fast losing its privileged importance in the eyes of most Americans. Indeed, according to Pew, whereas 44 per cent of Americans in 2001 regarded Europe as being of the greatest importance to the USA, 10 years on it was now Asia that was viewed as being more central (Pew, 2011). Moreover, within the state system as a whole, it was now China and not, say, more traditional allies such as the UK or Germany, that was increasingly seen as being more crucial to the USA’s long-term national interests.

Nor was this new interest in Asia and China confined to the American public. In the academic world, book after book and article after article began to be written about the supposed power transition now underway in Asia. Meanwhile, in the popular press the number one story was fast becoming China’s rapid economic rise and what this was going to mean for the USA: economic opportunity, strategic threat or perhaps even a combination of the two? Either way, there was no getting away from the fact that in the US views about the world were changing, and changing in ways that were starting to generate some nervousness on the other side of the Atlantic.

But it was what American policymakers began to say and do that set alarm bells ringing most and, in particular, it was their repeated reference to a new ‘Asia pivot’ in what some were predicting would become a new Asian century, that started to concern Europeans most. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton could not have been more explicit. The USA, she argued, had been for too long preoccupied with threats arising from within the wider Middle East. Now it would be turning its attention more and more towards Asia – in part because this is where the future lay, in part because it was in Asia where real growth was to be found, and in part because Asia was home to two of the world’s rising superpowers – India and China. Clinton also made it clear that she was breaking from tradition (presumably one that hitherto had led Americans always to think of Europe first) and would now be making Asia her top priority. She even emphasized how many trips she had already made to Asia by late 2011 (seven in all) before going on to outline in some detail why America had always been, and presumably would always remain, an ‘Asian power’. Clinton’s bold vision certainly made for exciting reading. However, it had the presumably unintended consequence of upsetting two very distinct audiences: the one in Beijing that saw it as nothing less than a manifesto of containment directed against China; and the other one in Europe that felt that Europe had become invisible. Where, they asked, did Europe fit into this brand new order of rapidly shifting partnerships? It was not at all clear. Moreover, if the world was going to be defined by what transpired in Asia, as Clinton most clearly suggested, then what exactly was the purpose of the transatlantic relationship? No answers were provided but the implication was clear: in a new international order where alliances were, in her words, being updated to cope with the challenge posed by China, more established relationships would almost certainly become increasingly marginal. A new world beckoned (Clinton, 2011).


In this brief essay I have looked at two great moments in the history of the transatlantic relationship since the end of the Cold War in 1989: one that divided allies badly because one of those allies – the USA under President Bush – chose to respond to terrorism in ways that many Europeans were unable to accept; and another that has led the same ally to conclude that in a world where economic power is shifting eastwards towards Asia, the transatlantic relationship is bound (at worst) to become irrelevant, or likely (at best) to become far less important. What has also contributed to this feeling in the USA has been the apparently unending economic crisis in Europe itself. It is bad enough, Americans argue, that Europeans fail to deliver anything like enough when it comes to international security. It is almost unforgiveable, they continue, when Europe then fails to do what it could at least claim to have been doing from 1945 onwards: delivering prosperity to its own people while helping engineer growth in the larger world economy.

But how seriously should Europeans be taking all this? After all, in spite of their separate economic woes, the economic relationship between Europe and the USA still remains crucially important (Quinlan and Hamilton, 2012). Europe meanwhile shares a whole raft of values with the USA. And for all its weaknesses and inadequacies, the NATO alliance continues to be the only serious multilateral, military alliance in the world today – one from which the USA, as much as the Europeans, still derive enormous benefit. Still, it would be foolish to ignore the warning signs by hiding behind the old transatlantic mantra that in a world of uncertainty the democratic West needs to stay united. Indeed, as we have seen, the West has done anything but over the past 10 years. Nor is there much comfort to be drawn from the current foreign policy debate in the USA itself. Obama may sound acceptable to European ears but he remains a quintessential American president who obviously does not look at the world in traditional ‘Atlanticist’ ways. Nor, increasingly, do other Americans. In fact, when his political opponents on the right attack him not just for being not American enough, but for being much too like a European, Europeans should sit up and take note. The old certainties, and in part the old diplomacy, that held the western alliance together no longer pertain and the sooner Europeans recognize this, the sooner they will be able to forge a new role for themselves in a fast-changing world.


  • 1

    Paper presented to the 2011 Dahrendorf Symposium, Berlin, Germany, 9–10 November 2011, Panel: GLOBAL EUROPE.See in particular Bob Woodward’s four best-selling books on the Bush administration, why it decided to liberate Iraq and how then it became defined – some would argue undermined – by that decision. Bush at War (2002) describes the path to war with Afghanistan following September 11.

  • 2

    For the use of analogy in the run up to the war in Iraq, see Record (2007).

  • 3

    ‘The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today’, Bush noted in his diary on the night of 11 September 2001. Cited in Woodward (2002, 37).

  • 4

    ‘Fifty six per cent of Americans and Europeans do not feel that the values of Islam are compatible with the values of democracy’, (Transatlantic Trends, 2006, 4). Washington DC.

  • 5

    ‘Large numbers of Americans and Europeans agree on the importance of global threats with the largest increase over the year in those who see Islamic fundamentalism as an ‘extremely important’ threat…’ (Transatlantic Trends, 2006, 4, pp. 7–8).

  • 6

    See ‘Abizaid credited with popularizing the term ‘long war’ (Washington Post, 3 February 2006). President Bush also sought to place the enemy in the camp of fascism, hence his brief use of the term ‘Islamo-Fascism’ to describe jihadists of all shapes and sizes.

Author Information

Professor Michael Cox is a Founding Director of IDEAS, a foreign policy Think Tank at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a member of the Department of International Relations.