- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

The dawn of a New Alanticism comes as a welcome surprise. After years of benign neglect, European leaders who are energetic and emancipated Atlanticists in Germany, France and England are ready to shoulder new responsibilities outside their borders. Based on their appraisal of terrorist threats and the Middle East quagmire as immediate danger to world peace and Western civilization, these newly elected politicians are shifting political gears.

Activated by the number of mosques rising on their soils, failing integration policies and the radicalization of young Muslims, leaders in the three major European nations promise, at long last, new geostrategic horizons benefiting partners on both sides of the Atlantic: a New Atlanticism — reviving the spirit of the West.

With Washington engaged in the Middle East for more than four years, trans-Atlantic relations have been relegated to the backburner. Substituting export of democracy for the subtle art of diplomacy, Bush administration foreign relations — rife with bureaucratic turf wars between the State and Defense Departments and a strangely conflicted Central Intelligence Agency — were allowed to drift into isolation.

Europe withdrew, expressed shock over Guantanamo, watched, waited and indulged in introspective debates about the political perils of enlargement, energy security and domestic problems with Muslim minorities.

Congress provided little help. Occupied with re-elections and responses to constituents’ demands, too many lawmakers overlooked the fact that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, foreign affairs had emerged as local politics. Concentrating on grass-roots politics where the votes are, Congress left foreign relations and diplomacy to the professionals helped by “experts”: empowered academics and crafty exile lobbyists with their own agendas. It proudly supported various administrations in their efforts to advance democracy around the world by focusing on American aid, technical assistance and free enterprise. Congress was astonished when the export of democracy resulted in a dramatic backlash against democratic assistance — especially in countries that held their first elections.

Just as the eminent state philosopher Hans J. Morgenthau had warned, there were consequences from “the ever-present risk of conflict between the executive and Congress” and “the conditions under which popular support can be obtained for a foreign policy that may not necessarily be identical with the conditions under which foreign policy can be successfully pursued.”

Overwhelmed by unsettling world events, our lawmakers began to look at foreign affairs through a clouded Iraqi lens. Many were struck by the lack of serious strategic perspectives on the Hill and the conflicted approaches in search of pragmatic solutions. While continuing threats of terrorism, a rising tide of Islamic extremism and a discernible shift in the White House begin to diminish anti-American sentiments nurtured by the great divide over the war in Iraq, the EU is flexing its political muscles. Recognizing the impossibility of single-handedly solving the conflicts and confrontations around the globe, the new EU leadership emerges as a partner in search of a common strategy foreshadowing a turnaround in U.S.-EU relations from bad to better.

What can we do together was the most frequent question of the trans-Atlantic partners during the U.S.-EU summit in May 2007. Taking the initiative, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, a staunch Atlanticist and at the time the rotating EU president, decided to break down the divisive trans-Atlantic economic regulatory walls of a region that generates 60 percent of our world trade. Though ridiculed by bureaucrats, her concept of a barrier-free Trans-Atlantic Economic Zone featuring cuts in costly regulations was easily adopted.

With the founding of the “Trans-Atlantic Economic Council,” Mrs. Merkel paved the way for the first significant step toward a New Atlanticism. Squabbles between Boeing and Airbus aside, all participants welcomed the new Air Transport Agreement liberalizing trans-Atlantic air travel. Expansion of the American Visa Waiver is yet another milestone in strengthening U.S.-EU economic relations, though it gives little comfort to visitors from excluded East European countries.

Acknowledging the reality of a still divided European Union, Poland’s ambassador to the United States found it necessary to remind the Bush administration that though Poland is grateful for America’s role in freeing Europe from communism, the time has come for America to deal equally well with its friends such as Poland that are loyal supporters on matters such as the controversial missile shield.

Europe is reinventing itself. As a dominating figure at the EU summit in Brussels in June 2007, Mrs. Merkel did her best to unify the fractured Union with the transformation of the rejected “Constitutional Treaty,” framed by France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing in 2005, into a “Reform Treaty” streamlined in length but not essentially altered in the content that arouses sovereignty concerns among members.

As expected, the commitment to cover “all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to Union security” raised questions about sovereignty and the issue of national referenda. Opposing provisions granting more power to EU institutions, Ireland immediately opted for a plebiscite. Other countries may follow suit.

Pressure for a national decision by the ballot box comes from prominent pro-Europeans as well as Eurosceptics. In London, a EU referendum campaign has been noisily launched, urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to grant the British people — who are concerned about social security, justice, foreign policy and defense — a voice on carrying out the “Reform Treaty.”

United in its disunity about Turkey’s membership in the EU, the stationing of a missile defense system on East European soil and Muslim immigration policies, Europe, nevertheless, is preparing to act in the global theater. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s road map signals new thinking.

With a bundle of economic and social reforms, the energetic new president intends to speed French economic growth. Showing neighbors that France is back on the world stage, he promptly voiced his opposition to full Turkish membership in the EU, chided Russia for using a “certain brutality” in politically exploiting its energy exports, supported Germany’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, lunched with President Bush and urged the EU to formulate a security strategy under French leadership that would be compatible with NATO. This latter move instantly raised speculations about Mr. Sarkozy’s intentions to rejoin the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that France left in 1966.

Europe is a work in process. Facing myriad threats to Western society, the new trans-Atlantic leadership understands the West must learn to focus more on common interests and mutual efforts. To keep the channels of communication open, a political link is needed. A “Trans-Atlantic Political Council,” patterned after the “Trans-Atlantic Economic Council,” would guarantee a continuous dialogue that would enable the partners to develop major strategic concepts.

Together we are responsible for much that is positive and good in the world. Thus, it becomes imperative that the trans-Atlantic partners begin to work together on resolving vital issues allowing the global community a choice between freedom and the rule of law over absolutism.

Viola Herms Drath is a board member and trustee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and recipient of the William J. Flynn Initiative for Peace Award for her seminal work promoting German reunification.

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