The economic implications of the current US foreign policy direction make it politically unsustainable. It will have to change direction, either by redefining the war on terrorism in a way that brings allies on board for the long haul and many fronts that it will entail, or by blundering towards an eventual abandonment of the strategy, as happened in Vietnam 30 years ago.
The stakes in this choice are high. If the go-it-alone route is followed, the next decade could witness the rupture of the post-war Western alliance and a renewed downturn in the global economy that could tip it into deflation.
The ultimate responsibility for this choice lies at the door of the American taxpayer. But there are crucial influencing roles to be played by others.
At the policy level, European leaders first need to reaffirm their commitment to the war on terrorism. This is the driving force behind US foreign policy and it should not be a difficult objective for others to support. Unless they embrace it, clearly and unambiguously, the Americans will remain suspicious of their motives and unwilling to let them into their council.
Secondly, Europeans should assert their case for partnership based on the full breadth of the undertaking. As summarised in the Chatham House Study Group on Living with the Megapower, a comprehensive strategy would include (i) punishing the terrorists, (ii) depriving them of refuge, (iii) stopping the financial support and (iv) eradicating the root cause. A moment's reflection on these four elements makes it clear that military might alone cannot succeed.
European countries have strengths in intelligence gathering, detecting money laundering, brokering diplomatic bargains and providing development aid that are complementary to America's strength on the military front. However, I doubt that many Americans currently realise that the EU countries together contribute more than twice as much aid to developing countries as the US does. It is time to recast the old Cold War concepts of "burden sharing" to fit the 21st-century scourge of global terrorism.Reuse content