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By Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama is author of ''The End of History and the Last Man.'' It's adapted from a lecture organized by the Sydney-based Center for Independent Studies.

Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and radical Islamism more generally represent ideological challenges to Western liberal democracy that are in certain ways sharper than those offered by communism. But in the long run it is hard to see that Islamism offers much of a realistic alternative as a governing ideology for real-world societies.

Not only does it have limited appeal to non-Muslims, it does not meet the aspirations of the vast majority of Muslims themselves. In the countries that have had recent experience of living under an actual Muslim theocracy -- Iran and Afghanistan -- there is every evidence that it has become extremely unpopular.

While fanatical Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction pose a severe threat in the short run, the longer-term challenge in the battle of ideas is not going to come from this quarter. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States represent a serious detour, but in the end modernization and globalization will remain the central structuring principles of world politics. But another important issue has been raised, namely, whether ''the West'' is really a coherent concept, and whether the United States and its foreign policy might themselves become the central issues in international politics. There was a large spontaneous outpouring of support for the United States and for Americans around the world after Sept. 11, with European governments lining up immediately to help the United States prosecute its ''war on terror.'' But with the demonstration of total American military dominance that came with the successful rousting of Al Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan, new expressions of anti-Americanism began to pour forth.

After the denunciation of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an ''axis of evil'' by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address in January, it was not just European intellectuals but politicians and publics more generally who began to criticize the United States on a wide variety of fronts. What is going on here? The end of history was supposed to be about the victory of Western, not simply American, values and institutions, making liberal democracy and market-oriented economics the only viable choices. The Cold War was fought by alliances based on shared values of freedom and democracy. Yet an enormous gulf has opened up in American and European perceptions about the world, and the sense of shared values is increasingly frayed.

Does the concept of ''the West'' still make sense in the first decade of the 21st century? Is the fracture line over globalization actually a division not between the West and the Rest but between the United States and the Rest? The ostensible issues raised in the U.S.-European disputes since the axis-of-evil speech revolve for the most part around alleged American unilateralism and international law. There is now a familiar list of European complaints about American policy, including but not limited to the Bush administration's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, its failure to ratify the Rio Pact on biodiversity, its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and pursuit of missile defense, its opposition to the ban on land mines, its treatment of Al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, its opposition to new provisions of the biological warfare convention and, most recently, its opposition to the International Criminal Court.

The most serious act of U.S. unilateralism in European eyes concerns the Bush administration's announced intention to bring about regime change in Iraq, if necessary through a go-it-alone invasion.

The axis-of-evil speech did indeed mark a very important change in American foreign policy from deterrence to a policy of active preemption of terrorism. This doctrine was further amplified in Bush's West Point speech in June, in which he declared that ''the war on terror will not be won on the defensive.'' He continued: ''We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action.'' The European view is that Europe seeks to create a genuine rule-based international order suitable to the circumstances of the post-Cold War world. That world, free of sharp ideological conflicts and large-scale military competition, is one that gives substantially more room for consensus, dialogue and negotiation as ways of settling disputes.

Europeans are horrified by the announcement of a virtually open-ended doctrine of preemption against terrorists or states that sponsor terrorists, in which the United States alone decides when and where to use force. There is a deep issue of principle involved that will ensure that transatlantic relations remain neuralgic in the years to come. The disagreement is not over the principles of liberal democracy but over where the ultimate source of liberal democratic legitimacy lies.

Americans tend not to see any source of democratic legitimacy higher than the constitutional democratic nation-state. To the extent that any international organization has legitimacy, it is because duly constituted democratic majorities have handed that legitimacy up to them in a negotiated, contractual process. Such legitimacy can be withdrawn at any time by the contracting parties. International law and organization have no existence independent of this type of voluntary agreement between sovereign nation-states.

Europeans, by contrast, tend to believe that democratic legitimacy flows from the will of an international community much larger than any individual nation-state. This international community is not embodied concretely in a single, global democratic constitutional order. Yet it hands down legitimacy to existing international institutions, which are seen as partially embodying it.
Thus, peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia are not merely ad hoc intergovernmental arrangements, but rather moral expressions of the will and norms of the larger international community.

One might be tempted to say that the stiff-necked defense of national sovereignty of the type practiced by Sen. Jesse Helms is a characteristic only of a certain part of the American right, and that the left is as internationalist as are the Europeans. This would be largely correct in the security/foreign policy arena, but dead wrong with regard to the economic side of liberal internationalism.

That is, the left does not grant the World Trade Organization (WTO) or any other trade-related body any special status with regard to legitimacy. It is very suspicious of the WTO when it overturns an environmental or labor law in the name of free trade. It is are just as jealous of democratic sovereignty on these issues as Helms.

The pattern of U.S. unilateralism and European multilateralism applies primarily to security/foreign policy issues and secondarily to environmental concerns. In the economic sphere, America is enmeshed in multilateral institutions despite its dominance of the global economy. The European Union collectively encompasses a population of 375 million people and has a GDP of nearly $10 trillion, compared with a U.S. population of 280 million and a GDP of $7 trillion. Europe could certainly spend money on defense at a level that would put it on a par with the United States, but it chooses not to. Europe spends barely $130 billion collectively on defense, a sum that has been steadily falling, compared with U.S. defense spending of $300 billion, which is due to rise sharply. The post-Sept. 11 increment in U.S. defense spending requested by Bush is larger than the entire defense budget of Britain. Despite Europe's turn in a more conservative direction in 2002, not one rightist candidate is campaigning on a platform of significantly raising defense spending.

Europe's ability to deploy the power that it possesses is of course greatly weakened by the collective-action problems posed by the current system of EU decision-making. But the failure to create more usable military power is clearly a political issue.

Whether in regard to welfare, crime, regulation, education or foreign policy, there are constant differences separating America from everyone else. It is consistently more anti-statist, individualistic, laissez-faire and egalitarian than other democracies.

Europeans regard the violent history of the first half of the 20th century as the direct outcome of the unbridled exercise of national sovereignty. The EU house that they have been building for themselves since the 1950s was deliberately intended to embed those sovereignties in multiple layers of rules, norms and regulations to prevent those sovereignties from ever spinning out of control again.

While the EU could become a mechanism for aggregating and projecting power beyond Europe's borders, most Europeans see the union's purpose as one rather of transcending power politics. Many Americans think that the world has fundamentally become a more dangerous place since Sept. 11. They believe that once a leader like Saddam Hussein possesses nuclear weapons he will pass them on to terrorists. They believe that this is a threat to Western civilization as a whole. The acuteness of this threat is what then drives the new doctrine of preemption and the greater willingness of America to use force unilaterally around the world.

Many Europeans, by contrast, believe that the attacks of Sept. 11 were a one-off kind of event where Osama bin Laden got lucky and scored big. But the likelihood that Al Qaeda will achieve similar successes in the future is small, given the heightened state of alert and the defensive and preventive measures put into place since Sept. 11.
uropeans believe that the likelihood that Saddam will pass nuclear weapons to terrorists is small, and that he remains deterrable. An invasion of Iraq is therefore not necessary; containment will work as it has since the Gulf War. And finally, they tend to believe that Muslim terrorists do not represent a general threat to the West, but are focused on the United States as a result of American policy in the Middle East and the Gulf region.

The U.S.-European rift that has emerged in 2002 is not just a transitory problem reflecting the style of the Bush administration or the world situation in the wake of Sept. 11. It is a reflection of differing views of the locus of democratic legitimacy within a broader Western civilization.

(c) 2002, Center for Independent Studies. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 8/16/02)