Perspective on United States Security Policy

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The recent American election will undoubtedly inspire concern in Europe in that it appears to have endorsed security policies featuring the assertive use of force and the explicit disregard for established provisions of international legal restraint. Such policies have been pursued by the Bush administration against the judgment of European allies, many of whom fear that actions derived from those policies have done more to stimulate violence than to contain it. I personally share those concerns and acknowledge their validity. I want to provide some mitigating perspective, however. The outcome of the American election was determined primarily by domestic social issues, and the electorate does not endorse a belligerent foreign policy. President Bush"s margin of victory was significantly less than statistical expectations for an incumbent candidate under prevailing economic conditions, and can be attributed largely to religious conservatives expressing their opposition to gay marriage and abortion practices. The war in Iraq diminished political support for the president, draining away much of the extraordinary surge he enjoyed as a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The underlying attitudes of the American electorate are well aligned with those in Europe on the fundamental issues of security policy, as are the inherent interests of our respective societies. Moreover, there are very powerful circumstances that will predictably drive us into yet more intimate collaboration for purposes of mutual protection. John Steinbruner is the director of the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland.


Presentation before Conference on the United States and Europe: Partners or Rivals Clingendael Institute, the Hague