European leaders, increasingly disturbed by U.S. policy and actions abroad, feel they are headed for a moment of truth. After years of mutual resentment and tension, there is a sudden recognition that the real interests of America and its allies are diverging sharply and that the trans-atlantic relationship itself has changed, possibly irreversibly. Europe sees the United States as high-handed, unilateralist, and unnecessarily belligerent; the United States sees Europe as spent, unserious, and weak. The anger and mistrust on both sides are hardening into incomprehension. Tracing the widely differing histories of Europe and America since the end of World War II, Kagan makes clear how for one the need to escape a bloody past has led to a new set of transnational beliefs about power and threat, while the other has perforce evolved into the guarantor of that "postmodern paradise" by dint of its might and global reach.
ROBERT KAGAN is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In addition to a column in the Washington Post, he is the author of A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Kagan served in the State Department from 1984 to 1998.