Unilateralism, NATO and Iraq: Alliance at Risk

Washington is vilified for acting alone on a range of issues. Europe is being asked to do more on defence. This peevish debate risks weakening NATO just at the moment it should be agreeing to create a stronger alliance to fight terrorism.

The World Today Published 1 May 2002 Updated 23 October 2020 5 minute READ

Henry R. Nau

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Europe is once again outraged by American unilateralism. Since George Bush entered office early last year, Europeans have carpet-bombed Washington with charges of unilateral action on, among other things, the development of missile defences, global warming, banning landmines, the international criminal court, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the biodiversity treaty, a verification mechanism for controlling biological weapons, the ‘axis of evil’ speech, and, most recently, steel import restrictions.

Psychological infirmity

The North Atlantic allies have been through this battle many times before. One might wonder if the charges and countercharges have more to do with the psychological infirmities of the western allies than the issues that divide them.

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