Zeitung Heute : Towards a Global Atlantic14.09.2012 00:00 Uhr
Rarely has an election campaign in the United States been as confrontational as the race for the Presidency in 2012. One needs to go back as far as the late 1960s to recall an election so filled with anger and personal attacks as the vote to be held on November 6.
And there is good reason for this. As is the case today, the 1968 campaign fell in the midst of a deep social and political confrontation. Foreign policy played only a secondary role in the debate. But tempers were raised because of the war in Vietnam.
Forty-four years later, the United States is again experiencing generational conflict and is burdened by the legacy of terrible wars.
Only this time it is the older generation which is revolting against the perceived failures of leaders a generation younger than they are. Again, foreign policy plays a secondary role, but as in 1968, the reaction against foreign commitments is strong.
Such a situation is confusing and perhaps unnerving for America's allies and those who wish for American leadership. But the experience of the last round of internal conflict and foreign entrenchment does not give reason for despair. In fact, American self-confidence recovered relatively fast as the 1970s wore on. By the time of the Reagan Administration in 1981, things had progressed to the point where fear of American strength had replaced worries over its weakness.
If history is going to be of any assistance this time, it will be important to remember the foundations of American influence in those years and to compare them with the tools at our disposal this time around.
First, it is important to remember that neither economic strength nor military readiness were the reasons for the recovery of American influence. The economic problems of the 1970s were if anything greater than the difficulties of today. Germany was a pillar of stability in the 1970s and a weakened America looked to it, unsuccessfully, for support. Despite several military challenges, American military strength really did not recover until the mid-1980s. There was no confidence in our ability to take on new challenges. But it was America and not Germany which led the road into the future.
The rebirth of American influence came through the uncanny ability of American society to find creative solutions to new problems. It was the products of American society that led to a growing global role, not the strength of our diplomacy or military forces.
Despite his weak reputation today, Jimmy Carter was in the forefront of exploring the issues that would be important in the future. Human rights, values, relations among ethnic communities, and care for the developing world were all themes he added to the foreign policy agenda.
Carter's proposals for limits on sales of conventional arms are just beginning to find acceptance 35 years later. Carter also pushed establishment of the Helsinki Final Act as a charter for relations among nations. He pushed for acceptance of the principle that a country's treatment of its citizens within its borders was a legitimate matter of international concern. These principles serve us well to this day.
It is also forgotten that it was Carter who pushed through the dual-track decision on intermediate-range missiles that drew the Soviets into the last big military confrontation of the Cold War period. Without American and German firmness on this issue, there would have been no reunification.
Remembering Carter is useful, because he demonstrates how even so-called weak presidents can innovate by using the strengths of American society. American society produces a sort of spontaneous combustion that arises from within its national life. Through a unique mixture of American hard and soft power, both friends and opponents of America are drawn together almost randomly and subjected to American influence.
The unique mixture of peoples and cultures that defines the American narrative somehow repeatedly stakes out new directions. The most recent example? Barack Hussein Obama.
If this is the case, where should we look for those special American recipes for the future? Here is a short list of areas where I think America will again show its capacity to lead:
-- Global America: As in the past, the United States remains the magnet for talent from all over the world. America is a breeding ground for ideas. By 2040, our population will no longer have a European majority. We are drawing people from the new, dynamic regions as fast as we can.
-- Military America: In contrast to the 1970s, America's military forces are stronger than ever and more powerful than those of the rest of the world put together. Size, of course, does not mean wisdom. But the strength to keep order will be there.
-- Innovative America: In 1980, experts were bemoaning the decline of American economic strength in the face of Japanese central planning just as they are comparing us poorly with the Chinese today. But just as Apple becomes the most valuable company of all time, and as biotech research migrates from Europe to the United States, and as green-technology companies are returning to America from China, we can see that the special mixture of stability and freedom that characterizes American society has not ceased to function. The successors of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are undoubtedly already at work.
-- Leadership America: Who can forget Barack Obama's stirring speech in Berlin four years ago? There is something in American society that focuses on tasks and getting the job done. Winston Churchill once said that Americans have the self-confidence to try many solutions to a problem before finding one that works. This talent has not been lost.
But there are many new challenges to American leadership today that did not exist in 1980. What should Allies do to make sure this leadership serves their purposes as well?
Let's get down to basics: The Atlantic Alliance provides a world-class economic power such as Germany with global protection at an affordable price, which cannot be found elsewhere. With Europe becoming increasingly fragmented, only a strengthened transatlantic community can offer Germany the means both to meet competition from emerging industrial powers and to deal with the dangers of regional conflicts.
Europe's great advantage over other parts of the world is its role as the home of Western values. In the multi-polar, networked world of the future, only the open, flexible Western system of social organization will be able to manage the complex new structures which will emerge. But these skills can only be utilized together with America and not in opposition, which has been the case so often in the past.
As global networks expand, Europe's central geographic position, highly developed infrastructure, and commercial skills should enable it to help lead the Atlantic world to growing influence across the globe.
First on the agenda should be building such a global Atlantic. The eminent German management consultant Hermann Simon has defined this new sort of community: "Transatlantica."
Building Transatlantica rather than deepening the European Union is the real mission for Europeans in the 21st century. It can be the foundation for global political as well as economic influence. Above all, it can help ensure that Western values form the operating system of the vast new high-speed networks which are being expanded every day.
The author is a former US ambassador to Germany and a trustee of the American Academy in Berlin