By Alberto R. Coll, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Over the past decade it has become fashionable to write off Europe and downgrade its importance to American interests. The arguments are familiar. Supposedly, Europe is an economically declining and politically dysfunctional entity of increasing strategic irrelevance in a world where the likes of China, India, and Brazil should be accorded a much higher priority. The implication is that the United States should pay less attention to Europe and reduce the diplomatic and political resources it allocates to our transatlantic relationships, including NATO, even as we look for closer alliances with the new rising states. Europe’s current economic woes have only reinforced this view. The post-1945 vision in which Europe was America’s vital ally—and in which the United States actively encouraged closer European integration—has given way to a mixture of indifference, skepticism, and outright bipartisan condescension toward Europe and its apparent inability to get its act together. . . .
As President Obama has grappled with the question of how to deal with an Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, no bloc of nations has been more supportive of American strategy than the European Union. Whether in tightening oil sanctions against Iran, cutting off Iranian financial institutions from the vital Europe-based SWIFT financial network, or increasing the pressure on Iran at the UN Security Council, Europe has been more valuable to the United States than anyone else. Indeed, on issues of grand strategy and global governance, Europe is closer to the United States in its outlook and long-term interests than anyone else in the world. . . .
In a world of seven billion people and vastly different cultures and civilizations, the nations and people of Europe are closest to us in their values, their preferred rules for global governance, and their willingness to work with us on behalf of our substantial common strategic interests.
In spite of its limitations, Europe remains our single most useful and most important ally. To ignore this is the grandest form of strategic self-delusion.
Alberto R. Coll is Professor of International Law, DePaul College of Law. Dr. Coll was chairman of the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College, where he also served for five years as dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies. He served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. (photo: EPA/BGNES)