Term Paper: European Security and Defense Policy

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[. . .] Possessing the most advanced technology was tantamount to being the lead nation. According to this line of thought, the United States of America controlled NATO, and played a leading role in European affairs by virtue of her technological preeminence. This technological preeminence was something that had to be preserved at all costs, for without it, America would be forced to give way. In the "alliance of equals," that was NATO during the Cold War; no nation could be permitted to hold a rank as "equal" as that of the United States. A classic example of this mindset is to be found in the following anecdote, from the pen of an eyewitness:

prime example of [this] behavior in my personal experience was U.S. reluctance to tell our NATO allies what we knew from satellite reconnaissance about Soviet deployments of missiles aimed at European targets -- when they were bound to learn about them sooner or later. A wave of common sense inundated that policy when in 1966 Robert McNamara, as Secretary of Defense, handed to allied defense ministers, in the top-secret precincts of the Joint Chiefs' War Room, the satellite photos we had been withholding until then.... I can still vividly recall the shocked expressions on the faces of the security men lining the walls as McNamara dove into his briefcase and tossed onto the table for international inspection the prize examples of our space-based photography. After that it became routine to share with our NATO allies what our declared adversaries already knew.

Thus, as the United States was building up its own technology and economy as it "defended the free world," it was also building up quite a store of resentment. Being number one - and even worse, throwing it in everyone's face that you are number one - is bound to have repercussions. Western Europe had submitted to American domination because it had had to. Once the Cold War was over, on the other hand, things would be different... very different.

After the Cold War: A New Europe vs. The Same Old United States

The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War left Western Europe suddenly free of a major burden. Nations and peoples could now evolve without the threat of instant annihilation. But the democratic states of Europe had been moving in new directions all along, ever since the end of the Second World War. A patchwork of fiercely competitive independent nation-states was gradually being superseded by an increasingly close-knit "European Union." What had begun as economic cooperation was rapidly progressing toward cooperation in all fields. Simply put, the European dream was the elimination of boundaries, and the creation of a United Europe; a United Europe that could hold its own against other great powers such as the United States. This united Europe would be strong enough to manage its own affairs, wealthy enough to pursue its own research and development, clever enough to form its own alliances, and powerful enough to provide for its own defense - a scary thought for that large nation "across the pond." Exercised over a period of more than two generations, America's hegemony had come to seem a part of the national character - a role that the United States was destined to fill. American military might, American economic strength, American diplomatic prowess, and above all, American virtue had made this new world possible. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and communism, had fallen because America had caused them to fall. America was the brilliant exception:

America's canonical commitments to liberty, equality, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire somehow exempt it from the historical forces that have led to the corruption of other societies.... The concept flows through the rhetoric of nearly every American President, from Washington's Farewell Speech, to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to Reagan's image of a shining city on the hill, to nearly every post-September 11 speech of George W. Bush.

Yet Europe had its own ideas about the lessons of history. The extreme devastation and dislocation of the Second World War had produced a situation that was unique in Modern Times. Europe's three great powers from before the War - the United Kingdom, France, and Germany - had emerged from the War very different nations. The world empires of Britain and France were moribund. Britain would lose India by 1947, and the remainder of the colonies, both British and French, would fall away during the twenty-odd years that would mark the height of the Cold War. In 1945, Germany was a ruined land, the photographs and films of a bombed out Berlin - with hardly a building left standing - testaments to an evil polity, and to an arrogant nation humbled by the catastrophic consequences of the myths of its own invincibility. Europe had acceded to the continued, large-scale American presence on its own soil, only as a result of the anomalous conditions prevailing at the end of the Second World War. Stalin's armies were vast, and his behavior at Yalta, coupled with his real-life grab at half of Europe proved the immanence of the Communist Threat. Europe could not defend itself, so America would take upon itself the burden of defending "the free world." What the United States failed to recognize, however, was that the Post-World War situation was not a permanent condition. The states of Western Europe had been leading economic and military powers prior to the start of the war, and given their highly-educated populace, and considerable resources, they would one day be so again.

America's view of the international system betrayed an ignorance and misunderstanding of the requirements for the maintenance of an effective international order. Because of our own relatively short historical experience as a nation-state and our even shorter active participation in world affairs, we did not have the perspective to assess the very unusual features of the post-1945 world. Lacking that perspective, we were encouraged to overstress its bipolarity. What was not appreciated was the degree to which bipolarity itself was the temporary reflection of a postwar aberration, that it deviated from the norm of international relations experience, and that it could not and would not last.

Europe's first break from the American military camp was Charles de Gaulle's France. By withdrawing from the military arm of NATO, de Gaulle was responding to France's strong nationalist tradition. He was also proving that a modern European nation was fully capable of the kinds of technological and military achievements that, for a brief moment in time, had seemed to be exclusively American. The creation of a nuclear force de frappe by France under de Gaulle, could serve greater purposes than simply the protection of France and of France's own national interests.

A force de frappe indirectly served European defense. Since France, unlike the United States, was a part of the continent, its national defense was indistinguishable from that of Western Europe; it was no island unto itself. In creating an independent national force, France kept Europe's political future open. "By defending our own independence," Prime Minister Georges Pompidou maintained before the National Assembly in 1966, "we are defending most of Europe to which we belong, and we are the real Europeans. www.questia.com/PM.qst?action=getPage&docId=9121083&keywords=%22withdrawal%20from%20Nato%22" Under French leadership, in possession of nuclear strike "forces, a new European security equilibrium would supposedly arise that would break the superpower control over Europe and would rest on the solid footing of preceding accord among the European states."

Such thinking would pave the way for a more independent European policy after the Cold War.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought about other changes as well. Germany, which had been divided into two nations ever since the end of the Second World War, was now pushing for reunification. Furthermore, the new Russia released its hold on Eastern Europe, setting at liberty the numerous nations that had been imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. Desperately poor and backward like Russia herself, these smaller states raised the specter of the "failed state," and of a Europe haunted by the political, social, and economic consequences of failed Communists policies. The disaffection and dissatisfaction of the Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Hungarians, East Germans, and others, could spill over into the more economically secure, more highly developed lands of the West. If "Free Europe" were to survive and flourish, it must help its less fortunate brethren, or be sucked down by them. The only answer to the problem was greater European unity, greater unity not only among the extant members of the European Union, but a unity that would embrace all of Europe - or at least as much of it as could be drawn into the Western orbit. A united Europe could now provide for itself, not only economically, but also socially, and militarily.

The end of the cold war... dramatically altered the European security environment and generated new pressures for foreign and defense policy cooperation. To begin with, the collapse… [END OF PREVIEW]

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European Security and Defense Policy.  (2004, August 2).  Retrieved March 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/european-security-defense-policy/7700996

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"European Security and Defense Policy."  Essaytown.com.  August 2, 2004.  Accessed March 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/european-security-defense-policy/7700996.