Colossal events such as the fall of France during World War II or the dismantling of the Berlin Wall create seismic shifts in geopolitics. Alliances are broken or forged. Power and influence are redistributed. According to Timothy Garton Ash, author of Free World: Why a Crisis in the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time
, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war in Iraq have produced such a crisis in the West. French and German opposition to America's war have signaled a severe rift between these one-time staunch allies and have raised questions about European identity, the role of Britain in this struggle, the direction of U.S. foreign policy, and most important, the spread of freedom and democracy to the poor and voiceless millions in the developing world.
France's attempt to become the voice of the European Union and to defy the will of the U.S. marks a departure from an age-old power structure. Or does it? In clear and engaging prose, Ash, an expert on European-American relations, places the crisis in a historical context dating back to the Second World War. Ash maintains that the future of the West depends on the EU's choice between Gaullism (Europe as "not-America"), or Churchill-style Atlanticism (Europe as a partner of the U.S. with England providing the bridge between the two). At the same time, the world's hyperpower, the U.S., must decide if it will continue to pursue unilaterally its foreign policy of self-interest combined with a Wilsonian edict to spread democracy, or embrace the kind of transatlantic interdependence that already exists in the business world. Wisely, Ash cautions against oversimplification and effectively deflates the myth that there is one America or one Europe. He shows that "There are not two separate sets of values, European and American, but several intersecting sets of values." Therefore, he urges cooperation between these two great powers. Only then, says Ash, can the West reverse its potential decline and spread its legacy of democracy and freedom to the "unfree" world. --Silvana Tropea
From Publishers Weekly
A Great Britain caught between America and its Continental neighbors—on Iraq and much else—commences Ash's look at the 21st-century's strains on relations in the West. As the eminent British scholar and journalist (The File
) moves on to the Continent, he echoes several recent critiques of the call for a unified Europe to act as an alternative superpower, citing the "uneven development" of the European Union. He suggests, however, that the European community still has a vital role to play in advocating the spread of freedom around the world, and looks forward to the day when America treats Europeans as "full partners in a common enterprise" in doing so. For Ash, that enterprise is largely economic. He calls for a global "war on want" and urges Western nations to open their borders to trade from developing neighbors; emigrants from undeveloped countries in the Arab world will turn to Europe, he argues, for homes and jobs. He also points to the imminent threat of global warming, which inspires his harshest criticisms of the current American government. The combination of sweeping historical insight with journalistic immediacy, related in Ash's own conversational style, should help this incisive commentary on world affairs stand apart from its competitors.
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