The concept of “the West” has served important political purposes both historically and in the present foreign policy context. On the one hand it has been a cultural and philosophical unity achieved through an active historical projection back to the origins of Western civilization, at least to the classical Greeks, while on the other, it has been used as a modernist category, politically speaking, to harness the resources of Enlightenment Europe as a basis for giving assurances about the future of liberal democratic societies and the American way of life. The concept was an implicit but key one assumed in an influential analysis of new world order by Samuel Huntington (2001), who in his The Clash of Civilizations predicted a non-ideological world determined increasingly by the clash among the major civilizations. In Huntington’s analysis “the West” functions as an unquestioned and foundational unity yet the concept and its sense of cultural and historical unity has recently been questioned not only in terms of its historical fabrication but also in terms of its future continuance. Martin Bernal (1991, 2001) in Black Athena and a set of responses to his critics, questions the historical foundations of “the West” demonstrating how the concept is a recent fiction constructed out of the Aryan myth propagated by nineteenth-century historiography. Even more recently, accounts of the so-called “new world order” have emphasized either the dominance of an American hegemonic Empire (Hardt and Negri, 2000) or an emerging EU postmodern state system (Cooper, 2001). These accounts offer competing and influential conceptions of the “new imperialism” based on different visions of world government and proto-world institutions. They give very different accounts of questions of international security, world order and the evolving world system of states.

Michael Hardt and Anthony Negri (2000) use the combined resources of Marx and Deleuze, to chart the emergence of a new form of sovereignty they call Empire. They narrate a history of the passage from imperialism to Empire, that is, from a modernity dominated by the sovereignty of nation-states, and the imperialisms of European powers, to a postmodernity characterised by a single though decentered, new logic of global US rule. They suggest that the passage to Empire, with its processes of globalization, “offer new possibilities to the forces of liberation”, arguing that our political future will be determined by our capacity “not simply to resist these processes but to reorganize them and redirect them toward new ends” (Hardt & Negri, 2000, p. xv). By contrast, Robert Cooper, Deputy Secretary of the Defence and Overseas Secretariat in the British Cabinet Office, posits the development of a postmodern European state system based on transparency, interdependence, and mutual surveillance. He calls for a “new imperialism” – one compatible with human rights and cosmopolitan values – in order to sort out the problems of rogue states and the chaos of pre-modern states. These different and competing accounts proceed without awareness of each other.

Most recently, and under the impact of a set of events tied to the experience of the war prosecuted against Iraq, Robert Kagan (2003) has questioned whether Europeans and Americans still share a common view of the world and charts the divergence of these two perspectives on the question of power – its efficacy, morality and desirability. This essay both reviews and analyses these accounts with a view to gauging just how durable the category of ‘the West’ is in contemporary foreign policy discussions. In this essay, first, I return to the past to pit Bernal against Huntington – deconstruction of the historical fabricated of the concept of “the West” versus its service in the so-called “clash of civilizations”. Second, I revisit contemporary accounts offered by Hardt and Negri (2000) of American Empire comparing it to Robert Cooper’s thesis concerning the emerging European system of postmodern states, teasing out the consequences of accepting either account. I conclude the essay by examining Robert Kagan’s (2003) comparison in Of Paradise and Power of emerging differences between visions of a European Kantian “perpetual peace” and an American Hobbesian anarchic world where defence and security depend on military might.

Deconstructing the West? Bernal Versus Huntington

Samuel Huntington published his article “The Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs in 1993 causing more discussion and debate than any article published since the 1940s. He published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order some four years later. (I shall refer to the 2002 edition). In the book the question mark disappears and Huntington, more assured now of his direction, maintains that the book is “an interpretation of the evolution of global politics after the Cold War” – “a framework, a paradigm, for viewing global politics that will be meaningful to scholars and useful to policymakers” (p. 13).

Huntington argues that a “clash of civilizations” is occurring as Western, Islamic, and Asian cultural systems collide. This civilizational or cultural clash, rather than ideology, will determine future world order. His argument is actually a lot subtler than most critics make out. Certainly, one of his main contentions is that cultural consciousness is growing and that it is getting stronger, not weaker. States and peoples may now band together because of cultural and religious similarities rather than of ideological ones, as in the past. This creates a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, and in this situation Americans must reaffirm their Western identity. Asia and Islam are exploding demographically. Asia, in addition, is expanding militarily and economically. The West, by comparison, may be declining in relative influence. The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not necessarily lead to peoples elsewhere in the world adopting Western values and institutions as their own. The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are universal institutions suitable for everyone will increasingly bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that operate on the basis of different values and will not willingly or slavishly adopt Western values and institutions.

He provides a brief summary of the book in the following terms: “The central theme of this book is that culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilizational identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold War world” and elaborates this main proposition in terms of five corollaries that correspond to the book’s structure:

  1. For the first time in history global politics is both multipolar and multicivilizational; modernization is distinct from Westernization and is producing neither a universal civilization in any meaningful sense nor the Westernization of non-Western societies
  2. The balance of power among civilizations is shifting: the West is declining in relative influence; Asian civilizations are expanding their economic, military, and political strength; Islam is exploding demographically with destabilizing consequences for Muslim countries and their neighbours; and non-Western civilizations generally are reaffirming the value of their own cultures.
  3. A civilization-based world order is emerging: societies sharing cultural affinities cooperate with each other; efforts to shift societies from one civilization to another are unsuccessful; and countries group themselves around the lead or core states of their civilization.
  4. The West’s universalist pretensions increasingly bring it into conflict with other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China; at the local level fault line wars, largely between Muslims and non-Muslims, generate “kin-country rallying”, the threat of broader escalation, and hence efforts by core states to halt these wars.
  5. The survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique not universal and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges from non-Western societies. Avoidance of a global war of civilizations depends on world leaders accepting and cooperating to maintain the multicivilizational character of global politics (Huntington, 2002: 20-21).

The concept of “the West” underlies Huntington’s analysis and even although he pays some attention to the historical development of the concept he does not question its unity or coherence or, indeed, its historical origins. His main point is to drive a wedge between notions of Western civilization and modernization. As he argues: “Western civilization emerged in the eighth and ninth centuries and developed its distinctive characteristics in the following centuries. It did not begin to modernize until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The West was the West long before it was modern” (p. 69). Drawing on the huge literature that has focused on the distinctiveness of the West -- from Weber through Toynbee and Spengler to Braudel, Wallerstein and Fernández-Arnesto -- Huntington marks out the following core essential characteristics of Western civilization: the classical legacy; Catholicism and Protestanism; European languages; separation of spiritual and temporal authority; rule of law; social pluralism; representative bodies; individualism. Huntington does not discuss the extant literature; he merely footnotes it. He provides no explanation of why he asserts that Western civilization emerges in the eight and ninth centuries. Elsewhere he maintains “Western civilization is usually dated as emerging about AD 700 or 800” (p. 46) and he recognises three major components – Europe, North America and Latin America. While he identifies the West with what used to be called Western Christendom and in the modern era as Euroamerica – “North Atlantic civilization” – he also recognises both the white settler societies of Australia and New Zealand, and the historical differences between America and Europe (a theme to be pursued by reference to Kagan). He writes:

The relation between the two major components of the West has, however, changed over time. For much of their history, Americans defined their society in opposition to Europe. America was the land of freedom, equality, opportunity, the future; Europe represented oppression, class conflict, hierarchy, and backwardness. American, it has been argued, was a distinct civilization. This positing of an opposition between America and Europe was, in considerable measure, a result of the fact that at least until the end of the nineteenth century America had only limited contacts with non-Western civilizations. Once the United States moved out on the world scene, however, the sense of a broader identity with Europe developed (p. 46).

One of the consequences we can draw from his brief analysis is that “the West” is a contested and historically dynamic concept, open to revision in terms of both its past and its future. Huntington’s ought to have paid more attention to the concept of “the West” since it is perhaps the underlying concept in his analysis. In related but different ways both Bernal and Kagan provide important revisions to the concept emphasizing its historiographical racist fabrication beginning in the nineteenth-century (Bernal) and America’s neoconservative confident stamping of future national identity that no longer appeals to Enlightenment foundations or so-called “old Europe” (Kagan).

Huntington comments on the classical legacy are revealing:

As a third generation civilization, the West inherited much from previous civilizations, including most notably Classical civilization. The legacies of the West from classical civilization are many, including Greek philosophy and rationalism, Roman law, Latin, and Christianity, Islamic and orthodox civilizations also inherited Classical civilization but nowhere near the same degree as the West did (p. 70).

The instability and contestability of the concept “the West” is bought into prominence when we compare Huntington’s account of civilization and especially his synthesis of an account of “the West” with that of Martin Bernal’s deconstruction of nineteenth century racist Europocentric historiography that views Greece as essentially European or Aryan. Such a comparison, in part, allows us to see how “the West” as a civilizational entity is based upon a historical fabrication that has appropriated the past in racist terms in order to render the present and future in political terms.1

The two volumes of Black Athena, as Martin Bernal (1991) acknowledges, is concerned with two models of Greek history that Bernal calls “Aryan” and “Ancient”. The Aryan model, which developed only during the second half of the nineteenth century, denied the settlements of both the Egyptian and Phoenicians and in its extreme anti-Semitic form that prevailed in the 1890s and again in the 1930s denied even Phoenician cultural influence. By contrast, the Ancient model which was the conventional view of the Greeks in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, saw Greek culture arising as a result as colonisation by Egyptians and Phoenicians around 1500AD and civilising the native inhabitants. Bernal (1991: 2) writes:

If I am right in urging the overthrow of the Aryan Model and its replacement by the Revised Ancient one, it will be necessary not only to rethink the fundamental bases of ‘Western Civilization’ but also to recognize the penetration of racism and ‘continental chauvinism’ into all our historiography, or philosophy of writing history. The Ancient Model had no major ‘internal’ deficiencies, or weaknesses in explanatory power. It was overthrown for external reasons. For 18 th - and 19 th -century Romantics and racists it was simply intolerable for Greece, which was seen not merely as the epitome of Europe but also as its pure childhood, to have been the result of the mixture of native Europeans and colonizing Africans and Semites. Therefore the Ancient Model had to be overthrown and replaced by something more acceptable (italics in original).

Bernal’s thesis demonstrates not only the importance of history and historiography in the formation of questions of identity (personal, national, civilizational) and how easily this formation can be manipulated or skewed, but also the extent to which current models of civilizational identity depends upon readings of he past. The Revised Ancient Model, based on classical sources, accepts the Egyptian and Phoenician colonization of Greece in the first half of the 2 nd millennium BC. Thus, the revised model holds that “Greek civilization is the result of cultural mixtures created by these colonizations and later borrowings from across the East Mediterranean” (Bernal, 1991: 2) while at the same time accepting the hypothesis of the Aryan Model of invasions from the North by Indo-European speakers. Such an analysis might lend support to the assertion that the classical heritage of “the West” begins with a radical cultural and linguistic mixture, miscegenation and hybridisation rather than in any “pure” racial, biological or cultural origin or unity. If anything this analysis lends weight to the idea that “civilization” is as much a retrospective imposition of values on the past – shaping and unifying a culture in terms of a common heritage – as it is a narrative forging of future national identity in terms of “what we can become”.2

Competing Views of the New Imperialism: Hardt and Negri Versus Cooper3

In two influential publications The Postmodern State and the World Order originally written in 1996 and revised in 2000, and “The postmodern state” recently published in a collection entitled Re-ordering the World: The Long-term Implications of September 11 (Leonard, 2002), Robert Cooper has helped shape Tony Blair’s foreign policy outlook. The New Republic describes Cooper as the foremost commentator on strategic issues of our age, and Cooper’s diagnosis of the era we live in has taken on the power of prophecy after the events of September 11. His analysis is terrifyingly simple and I would argue also alarmingly Eurocentric. Cooper argues that the year 1989 marked a turning point in European history. 1989 not only marked the end of the Cold War but, perhaps, more fundamentally a change in the European state system: it marked the end of the balance-of-power system in Europe. What emerged after 1989 is not a re-arrangement of the old system but an entirely new system based on a new form of statehood, which Cooper calls the postmodern state.

With the emergence of the postmodern state, we now live in an international system comprised of three parts: the pre-modern world (of, for example, Somalia, Afghanistan or Liberia) where the state has lost its legitimate monopoly on the use of force and chaos reigns; the modern world where the classical state system remains intact, and; the postmodern world where the state system is collapsing and a new system is being born. The new postmodern system of states is best characterized by the EC. It exhibits the following characteristics:

The postmodern system of states -- the so-called decentered state -- originates in the postmodern world. The old imperialism is dead, at least among Western states. Member states no longer want to go to war against each other to acquire territory or subject populations. The postmodern state is “more pluralist, more complex, less centralised than the bureaucratic modern state”. In this postmodern system that state becomes both less dominating and state interest becomes less determining in foreign policy. With the deconstruction of the state, the media, popular sentiment, public opinion and the interests of particular groups and regions come into play. As the deconstruction of the state proceeds -- a process not yet complete -- so the processes of individualization, regionalisation and privatisation become more important.

Europe is postmodern, on Cooper’s analysis and also possibly Japan and Canada, but what of the US? He writes:

The USA is the more doubtful case since it is not clear that the US government or Congress accepts either the necessity and desirability of interdependence, or its corollaries of openness, mutual surveillance to the same extent as most European governments now do. The United States’ unwillingness to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and its relative reluctance about challenge inspections in the CWC are examples of US caution about postmodern concepts (Cooper, 2000, p. 27).

He characterises the USA in terms of a “defensive modernism”. There is a certain force to his analysis on this point. After September 11, the US created the Office of Home Security, perhaps, the biggest change in government departments in the US since WW II. It is a super-department combining departments of immigration, customs and domestic security with a multi-billion dollar budget, at least equal in funding to what was previously spent on all security. With this new office and the prevailing ethos, the US has turned in upon herself, policing its borders and monitoring the flows of people, information and goods in and out of its territory. As well as greater internal surveillance, the US has shifted its historic policy of containment to one of “pre-emptive first strike” and “regime change” in the name of national security.

What are the implications for security? In the postmodern zone there is a new transparent and interdependent security order. “Our task”, he says “must be to preserve and extend it”. (p.34). Yet dealing with the modern world requires a different approach as evidenced by the Gulf War and wars in former Yugoslavia. In the first case, he suggests the Western response to Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait was exactly what it should have been: “Build the most powerful coalition possible, reverse the aggression, punish the aggressor, deal with the weapons programme” (Cooper, 2000, p.36).

The initial support for the notion of a New World Order, following the Gulf War was based on the hope that the UN was going to function as a world authority policing international law, that is as an organisation of collective-security, but “the Gulf War was fought to protect an old order, not to create a new one” (p. 37).

Thus, for the postmodern system or state, there is a difficulty in dealing with militant, rogue modernist states. Cooper writes:

We need to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of state outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force (Cooper, 2000, p. 39).

In his second essay Cooper (2002) openly advocates a new kind of imperialism. He writes:

What is needed is a new kind of imperialism, one compatible with human rights and cosmopolitan values: an imperialism which aims to bring order and organisation.

Cooper distinguishes between two kinds of “new colonialism” that can “save the world”: the “voluntary” imperialism such as the IMF and the World Bank, which “provide help for states wishing to find their way back on to the global economy”, and the “imperialism of neighbours”, when states intervene to sort out “instability in their neighbourhood”.4

Nothing could be further from Cooper’s conception than the picture Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2001) present in their path-breaking Empire. Empire has been variously hailed as “the first great new theoretical synthesis of the new millennium” by Fredric Jameson and “nothing less than a rewriting of the The Communist Manifesto for our time” by Slavoj Zizek (cited in Kimball, 2001), while at the same time vilified as “the profoundly silly book that has set the academic left aflutter” (Peyser, 2002) and a “new anti-Americanism” by the likes of Roger Kimball (2001).

Writing in the spirit of Marx and in combination with Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Negri (2000) provide the poststructuralist basis for a renewal of materialist thought, charting the emergence of a new form of sovereignty they call Empire. As they indicate in a footnote “Two interdisciplinary texts serve as models for us throughout the writing of this book: Marx’s Capital and Deleuze and Guattari’s . Thousand Plateaus” (fn. 4, p. 415).5 Hardt and Negri (2000) narrate a history of the passage from imperialism to Empire, that is, from a modernity dominated by the sovereignty of nation-states, and the imperialisms of European powers, to a postmodernity characterized by a single though decentered, new logic of global rule. They write: “Our basic hypothesis is that sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule. This new global form of sovereignty is what we call Empire” (p. xii). They use Empire not as a metaphor but as a concept that calls for a theoretical approach:

The concept of Empire is characterized fundamentally by a lack of boundaries: Empire’s rule has no limits. First and foremost, then, the concept of Empire posits a regime that effectively compasses the spatial totality, or really that rules over the entire “civilized” world. No territorial boundaries limit its reign. Second, the concept of Empire presents itself not as a historical regime originating in conquest, but rather as an order that effectively suspends history and thereby fixes the existing state of affairs for eternity … Empire presents its rule not as a transitory moment in the movement of history, but as a regime with no temporal boundaries and in this sense outside history or at the end of history. Third, the rule of empire operates on all registers of the social order extending down to the depths of the social world. Empire not only manages a territory and a population but also creates the very world it inhabits. It not only regulates human interactions but also seeks directly to rule over human nature. The object of its rule is social life in its entirety, and thus Empire presents the paradigmatic form of biopower. Finally, although the practice of Empire is continually bathed in blood, the concept of Empire is always dedicated to peace – a perpetual and universal peace outside history (Hardt and Negri, 2000: xiv-xv).

They go on to suggest that the passage to Empire, with its processes of globalization, “offer new possibilities to the forces of liberation” arguing our political future will be determined by our capacity “not simply to resist these processes but to reorganize them and redirect them toward new ends” (p. xv).

Imperialism, in its heyday, was simply the extension of the sovereignty of European nation-states beyond their own boundaries (p. xii). Imperialism or colonialism in this sense, they seem to agree with Cooper, is now dead. But so are all forms of imperialism insofar as they represent restraints on the homogenising force of the world market. Empire is, thus, both “postcolonial and postimperialist”. Drawing on the deleuzo-guatarian concepts of (de/re)territorialisation6 they argue:

Imperialism is a machine of global striation, channelling, coding, and territorializing the flows of capital, blocking certain flows and facilitation others. The world market, in contrast, requires a smooth space of uncoded and deterritorialized flows….imperialism would have been the death of capital had it not been overcome. The full realization of the world market is necessarily the end of imperialism (p. 333).

Writing before the impending Second Persian Gulf War, Hardt and Negri (2001) argue that the US “does not, indeed no nation-state can today, form the centre of an imperialist project. Imperialism is over. No nation will be world leader in the way modern European nations were” (pp. xiii-xiv). In retrospect it is interesting to focus on their assessment of the US. The Vietnam War, Hardt and Negri suggest “might be seen as the final moment of the imperialist tendency and thus a point of passage to a new regime of the Constitution” (pp. 178-179). This passage to a new global constitutional regime is shown by the Gulf War, during which the US emerged “as the only power able to manage international justice, not as a function of its own national motives but in the name of global right ….The U.S. world police acts not in imperialist interest but in imperial interest [thatis, in the interest of deterritorialized Empire]. In this sense the Gulf War did indeed, as George Bush claimed, announce the birth of a new world order (p. 180). As John Bellamy Foster (2001) puts it:

Empire, the name they give to this new world order, is a product of the struggle over sovereignty and constitutionalism at the global level in an age in which a new global Jefffersonianism–the expansion of the U.S. constitutional form into the global realm—has become possible.

As Forster suggests reading Hardt and Negri, “the struggle now is simply over the form that globalization will take”.7 As Bruce Lindsay (2000) makes clear the new axiom of geopolitical power implies a spatial totality that differs

from the system of nation-states, linked contractually (i.e., by treaty, centered on a form of ‘the people’ (whatever the specific form of regime) and containing a particular odering of space (the internal and the foreign, or ‘outside’). Empire tends to supersede this basis of sovereignty, posing imperial authority as an overarching framework without a centre, embodied in networks of institutions, states, military forces and corporate powers.8

He goes on to clarify:

The imperial model accompanies new productive models and processes—based on information and communication, global networks and flows—and the logic of Empire is to elaborate and extend control across this productive terrain. Empire tends to take the (de)territorializing tendency of capital to its extreme.

Without endorsing Hardt and Negri’s view it is easy to see the connections to the major themes of this conference and particularly to a form of global rule based on the globalization of communications; perhaps, we could say, a form of government rationality that we might refer to as communicative global governmentality, in a strange concept-marriage of Foucault and Habermas. It is a concept-creation that recognises the need for new terms to critically discuss forms of global rule that depend upon spaces of subjectivity more than ever linked to media and other forms of communication. The mouthful communicative global governmentality also refers to the relations between modernist nation-state conceptions of “the people” as a basis for democracy and postmodern forms of subjectivity that may form the basis for alternative conceptions of globalization – a sort of antagonistic or anti-globalization and anti-Empire.9

Hardt and Negri have coined the term “multitude” to refer to the new spaces for subjectivity within globalization and its democratic impulses. In the nation-state the multitude was reduced to “the people”. The first element of a political programme for the global multitude is global citizenship—a political demand “that the juridical status of the population be reformed in step with the real economic transformations of recent years” (p. 400). Hardt and Negri proceed to argue:

This demand can also be configured in a more general and more radical way with respect to the postmodern conditions of Empire. If in the first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in second movement it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radically insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography (p. 400).

In a strong sense Hardt and Negri’s Empire and Cooper’s “new imperialism” are both geopolitical and juridical forms of globalization dependent on emergent forms of global sovereignty, the difference being that the former focus on American Empire as the dominant form while the latter concentrates on an emergent European postmodern state system.

European Kantian “Perpetual Peace” Versus American Hobbesian Anarchy

Robert Kagan is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a columnist for the Washington Post. He served in the US State Department from 1984 to 1988. A neo-conservative himself, Kagan has written on the US foreign policy in Nicaragua and edited a collection with William Kristol on present dangers facing American foreign policy and defense. Of passion and power is an expansion of an essay that original appeared in Policy Review. Kagan’s thesis can be summed up briefly in his own words:

Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Immanuel kant’s “perpetual peace”. Meanwhile, the United States remains mired in history, exercising power in an anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable, and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might (p. 3).

He suggests that this state of affairs is not simply the product of the Bush presidency or change of administration dominated by neo-conservatives but rather that the differences are long-lived and likely to endure. Europe and American no longer share a common “strategic culture”. As he depicts the differences, “Americans generally see the world divided between good and evil, between friends and enemies…” They favour coercion over persuasion, “seek finality in international affairs” (p. 4), tending towards unilateralism. They are less inclined to act through the United Nations or other international institutions and more sceptical of international law.10 By contrast, Europeans “see a more complex picture”. They are both more tolerant of failure and more patient, preferring peaceful solutions, “negotiation, diplomacy, and persuasion to coercion” (p. 5). Kagan admits this caricature tends to oversimplify and obscure differences, especially that between Britain and the rest of Western Europe (principally, France and Germany), which favours the “special relationship” and tends to adopt an “American” view of power. He admits also the country and regional differences -- between France and Germany on the one hand and Eastern and Western Europe, as well as differences between Democrats (who are more “European”) and Republicans. These differences, he argues, should not disguise the essential truth that “The United States and Europe are fundamentally different today.” These differences are the new desideratum of important divergences in “strategic culture”. “Foreign policy intellectuals and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic”, he argues, “have denied the existence of genuine differences or sought to make light of present disagreements …” (p. 7). The differences are contingent ones of recent origin: “an evolution away from a different strategic culture that dominated Europe for hundreds of years”.

He suggests that the American founding generation was not genuinely utopian but rather “well versed in the realities of international power relations” (p. 9). They only emphasised the repulsiveness of power politics and claimed an aversion to war and military power, emphasising the soft power of commerce and international economic competition, because they were far inferior to the great European powers. He argues for a reversal, a diametric shift or opposition of attitudes, on the basis of increased military power:

Two centuries later, Americans and Europeans have traded places—and perspectives. This is partly because in those two hundred years, and especially in recent decades, the power equation has shifted dramatically: When the United States was weak, it practiced the strategies of indirection, the strategies of weakness; now that the United states is powerful, it behaves as powerful nations do. When the European great powers were strong, they believed in strength and martial glory. Now they see the world through the eyes of weaker powers (p. 11).

Kagan qualifies his deterministic thesis on the relation between the growth of military power and corresponding behaviour in foreign affairs somewhat by adding that an ideological gap as well as a power gap has opened up between the two blocs. The ideological gap, he suggests, is based on the unique historical experience of the past century, “culminating in the creation of the European Union” (p. 11), such that Europe and the US have developed different ideals and principles concerning the morality and utility of power. He concludes that the “strategic chasm” is growing because “material and ideological differences reinforce one another” and may be impossible to reverse.

Kagan’s analysis draws on a range of sources (Kissinger, Huntington, Churchill, Wesley K. Clark) both academic and journalistic yet one of main points of reference is Robert Cooper, although he refers only to the piece that appears in The Observer and only twice. It is as though he accepts and his own analysis depends upon Cooper’s analysis of the rise of the EU’s postmodern system of states. He uses it to bolster his analysis and he relies upon it uncritically to strengthened his account of the differences. While Cooper’s analysis pervades Kagan’s 103 page book it only surfaces explicitly on page 53, under the heading “The Postmodern Paradise”. He refers to Cooper as follows:

As senior British diplomat and EU official Robert Cooper has argued, Europe today lives in a ‘postmodern system” that does not rest on a balance of power but on “the rejection of force” and on “self-enforced rules of behaviour”. In the “postmodern world”, writes Cooper, “raison d’état and the amorality of Machiavelli’s theories of statecraft …. Have been replced by a moral consciousness” in international affairs (p. 57).

He embellishes this position with references to quotations from Joschka Fischer (German Foreign Minister), Romano Prodi and Chris Patton, returning to Cooper’s analysis of the security threats to postmodern Europe posed by both modern and pre-modern states, and the need to embrace double standards when dealing with these threats. Thus Kagan quotes Cooper as follows: “Among ourselves, we keep the law, but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle” (cited in Kagan, p. 72). Kagan pictures Tony Blair, against his own Labour Party followers, as one who openly endorses the idea of an international double standard. Blair

Has tried to lead Britain into the rule-based Kantian world of the European Union. Bust as to his solidarity with President Bush on the question of Iraq has shown, Blair has also tried to lead Europe back into the Hobbesian world, where military power remains a key feature of international relations (p. 73).

But, as he remarks, perhaps much too early, Blair’s attempt at bringing Europe with him has been unsuccessful. What Cooper has really described, Kagan suggests, is “not Europe’s future but America’s present” (p.73).

In essence this is Kagan’s analysis. In the course of putting his case and at the end of his analysis he is driven to make a series of dramatic claims concerning the concept of “the West”. He suggests that the need to preserve and strengthen the cohesion and unity of “the West” disappeared after the end of the Cold War. While it was a necessary and convenient strategic, ideological and psychological fiction during the Cold War which “meant something” in relation to Communism, “the very success of the transatlantic project” embodied in NATO and the settlement of a divided Germany and the Balkin conflicts “had the inevitable effect of diminishing the significance of “the West” (p. 80). As he explains further:

With less need to preserve and demonstrate the existence of a cohesive “West”, it was inevitable that the generosity that had characterised American foreign policy for fifty years would diminish after the Cold War ended (p. 81).

“The West” no longer functions as an organising principle of American foreign policy. Clinton could not escape this new reality and the death-knell was sounded when Bush came to office in January 2001. The declining significance of “the West” was evident not only in American foreign policy it was also clear (for all presumably, except Blair) to Europe for which the central issue had become “Europe”. “A European ‘nationalism’ mirrored the American nationalism” (p. 84) and while the Europeans revered the EU and the UN as the West, for the US “Only NATO was ‘the West’, and now Europeans were building an alternative to NATO” (p. 84).

Kagan’s ‘solution’ is to advise Europeans to adjust to American hegemony. As he asserts “it is reasonable to assume that we have only just entered a long era of American hegemony” (p. 88), and as he informs us “If America’s relative power will not diminish, neither are Americans likely to change their views of how that power is to be used” (p. 89). It is a position he puts with some speculative force when he searches for an explanation:

One of the things that most clearly divides Europeans and Americans today is a philosophical, even metaphysical disagreement over where exactly mankind stands on the continuum between the laws of the jungles and the laws of reason. Americans do not believe we are close to the realization of the Kantian dream as do Europeans (p. 91).

There is nothing else to be done than “to readjust to the new reality of American hegemony” (p. 97). Europe might follow Cooper’s advice and build its military but the central problem is that the US “must sometimes play by the rules of a Hobbesian world, even though in doing so it violates Europe’s postmodern norms.” He continues: “It must refuse to abide by certain international conventions that may constrain its ability to fight effectively in Robert Cooper’s jungle” (p. 99).


Kagan’s analysis has caused something of a stir on both sides of the Atlantic. While his analysis indicates a divergence in strategic culture between the US and the EU it may well also prefigure future trade and culture wars, as EU consolidation and expansion continue apace. The expansion of the EU with ten new countries joining the Union in 2004, adding some 200 million people, has the potential to change the dynamics of European identity formation and especially its easy identification with “the West”, particularly as East European countries assert their own cultural identities and national priorities.11 This picture become even more complex with the changing agenda and Russia’s membership of NATO and the prospect of Turkey joining the EU in the years ahead. Turkey’s membership of the EU, postponed until the next membership round, is especially interesting for a future EU not only because of its east/west positioning but also because of its large Muslim population. (What then of Western Christendom?).

The recent standoff between Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac, caused over divergences in foreign policy and Blair’s decision to go to war with the US, against opposition from France, Germany, Belgium and Russia, has caused a temporary split in the Union. Spain and Poland, under US sweet-talking and economic persuasion, have lined up with the UK prompting Rumsfeld to talk disparagingly of “old Europe”. Britain for the meanwhile and on the basis of its five economic tests has held off on adopting the euro. The convention on The Future of Europe headed by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, with a new constitution including a binding charter of Fundamental Human Rights, is currently reshaping the politics of the EU. D’Estaing is trying to calm British fears of federalism and the emergence of a European superstate, suggesting that the draft constitution will help to coordinate policies of individual states without weakening their sovereignty.12 Perhaps, the notion of “the West” will change beyond historical recognition and become increasingly problematic even for Europeans?


Bernal, M. (1991) Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. London: Vintage Books. (Orig. 1987).

Bernal, M. (2001) Black Athena Writes Back: Martin Bernal Responds to His Critics. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Cooper, R. (2000) The Postmodern State and the World Order. London: Demos, The Foreign Policy Centre. (Orig. 1996).

Cooper, R. (2002) “The Postmodern State”. In: Mark Leonard (Ed.) Re-ordering the world: The long-term implications of September 11 th . London: Foreign Policy Centre (,3858,4388912,00.html).

Cooper, R. (2002) “Why We Still Need Empires”, The Observer, Sunday 7 April: (,11581,680117,00.html).

Derrida, J. (2001) On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, London, Routledge.

Dummett, M. (2001) On Immigration and Refugees, New York, Routledge.

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2001) Empire, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2001) “The New Faces In Genoa Want A Different Future”. The New York Times. Reprinted in The International Herald Tribune, Wednesday, July 25, p. 6.

Kagan, R. (2003) Of Passion and Power: American and Europe in the New World Order. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Lefkowitz, M. & Rogers, G. M. (1996) (Eds.) Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina.

Peters, M.A. (2003a) “The Postmodern State, Security And World Order”. A version of this paper was originally given as an invited public lecture given at Beijing Normal University, China, Thursday 10 October, 2002. Globalization,

Peters, M.A. (2003b) “Between Empires: Rethinking Identity And Citizenship In The Context Of Globalisation”. Plenary address to Between Empires: Communication, Globalisation and Identity, School of Communication Studies and the Centre for Communication Research, Auckland University of Technology, 13-15 February, 2003. Forthcoming in New Zealand Sociology.


1. Huntington does not make reference at all to Bernal's work, which predates his own by a good decade.

2. Bernal's thesis has been examined and criticised by a wide range of scholars from a number of disciplines, notably in Black Athena Revisited (Lefkowitz & Rogers, 1996). See also his response to his critics (Bernal, 2001).

3. This section draws on material from Peters (2003a & 2003b).

4. See my criticisms of Cooper's position (Peters, 2003a).

5. See also, Holland (1997) and Peters (2001), especially Chapter 5 "Deleuze's 'Societies of Control': from Disciplinary Pedagogy to Perpetual Training in the Knowledge Economy".

6. For a discussion of these concepts see my "Geophilosophy and the Pedagogy of the Concept" (Peters, 2002a).

7. Forster (2001) champions the "decidedly unfashionable" view of Istvan Meszaros' (2001) new book Socialism or Barbarism.

8. Indeed, Hardt and Negri refer to Samir Amin's (1992) Empire of Chaos as the leading center/periphery alternative view to their own.

9. In this regard, see my "Anti-Globalization and Guattari's The Three Ecologies" (Peters, 2002b).

10. Jagdish Bhagwati, professor of economics at the University of Columbia in New York accused the US of undermining the World Trade Organisation, making it act like a "Mafia protection racket". Jason Nissé The Independent (Sunday, 4 May, 2003, p. 1 Business section) reports that Bhagwati suggests that US policy of striking bilateral deals was undermining the Doha trade negotiations. 200 such deals had already been agreed and they generally impose strict conditions "often to do with changes to intellectual property (IP) law and the liberalisation of financial markets". Nissé eports "The US then used the WTO to police these agreements, while often ignoring the trade rules itself, as it did last year with steel tariffs". He quotes Steve Tibbet, head of campaigns and policy at War on Want, as saying "Negotiations over intellectual property rights, export subsidies and capital flows are the true spoils of war in a global economy".

11. American strategy has already shifted to focus on East Europe and East Asia. In the US National Security Strategy at ( where he articulates the doctrine of "regime change" George W. Bush emphasizes democracy, economic development and free markets are an integral part of the strategy against terrorism. While he also states the way in which the US is committed to "lasting institutions" like the UN, the WTO, the Coalition of American States, and NATO, it is clear that the US has refused to sign world protocols, conventions and agreements, including, most recently, The International Criminal Court. It is evident from events surrounding the Iraqi War that the US is less committed to the UN, than its European counterparts, and perhaps, less committed to any European-inspired proto-world organisations.

12. Peter Hain, the UK Labour Government's representative, has insisted that a common foreign and strategic defence policy would require unanimity.