We are rapidly closing the book on centuries of European conflict and opening a new, more hopeful chapter in which Europe is whole, free and at peace for the first time in its history. Next year, 10 European nations will join the European Union; seven will join Nato. Russia is our partner. Lingering conflicts, such as those in the Balkans, are being put to rest.
This confluence of common interests and common values creates a historic opportunity to break the destructive pattern of great-power rivalry that has bedevilled the world since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century. This is, in fact, more than an opportunity. It is an obligation. Instead of repeating the pattern in which great-power rivalry exacerbates local conflicts, co-operation can now solve conflicts.
Some have questioned whether this is possible - or even desirable. Some argue that Europe and America are more divided by differing world views than united by common values. More troubling, some have spoken admiringly - almost nostalgically - of "multi-polarity", as if it were a good thing, to be desired for its own sake.
The reality is that "multi- polarity" was never a unifying idea, or a vision. It was a necessary evil that sustained the absence of war but it did not promote the triumph of peace. Multi-polarity is a theory of rivalry; of competing interests - and at worst - competing values.
We have tried this before. It led to the Great War - which cascaded into the Good War, which gave way to the Cold War. Today this theory of rivalry threatens to divert us from meeting the great tasks before us.
Why would anyone who shares the values of freedom seek to put a check on those values? Democratic institutions themselves are a check on the excesses of power. Why should we seek to divide our capacities for good, when they can be so much more effective united? Only the enemies of freedom would cheer this division.
Power in the service of freedom is to be welcomed, and powers that share a commitment to freedom can - and must - make common cause against freedom's enemies.
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