Dr John Hulsman has been in London, and I managed to catch up with him for a cup of coffee. John is an old friend and a great foreign affairs analyst. Having made his name in Washington as the lead European analyst at Heritage, he wrote Ethical Realism (Pantheon, 2006), a best selling critique of US neo-conservatism, and moved to Germany. He is currently advising the Dutch Government on the political fall-out of the Eurozone crisis, as well as the state of trans-Atlantic relations. John was pretty cool about both, and made the point that Germany’s crisis is made more painful because the international community is now asking her to perform a role (pro-actively lead / bully the rest of Europe in a direction they don’t wish to go in) that the EU was founded to prevent happening.
John also suggested Washington was disappointed by Berlin’s failure to help NATO in Libya – another example of changing global expectations / needs coming up against post war Germany’s continued reluctance to engage militarily. Meanwhile, the US don’t think much of the time it took the Brits and the French so long to unseat Gaddafi, and that they had to lean so heavily on US capabilities and intelligence.
Most post war US Presidents retained a cultural reflex towards Europe. Obama is different, and is inclined to look West. Meanwhile Europe’s leaders navel gaze and struggle to influence events inside Europe’s borders, let alone beyond them. Ten years after 9/11, is the trans-Atlantic alliance running out of steam?