Attitudes toward the use of force

As the survey data shown so far testify, most Europeans and Americans continue to like one another, to think similarly (in relative terms) about the main international threats to their security and well-being and prefer to keep a close Transatlantic relationship and an active role of both in the world. At the same time they do also sometimes - and sometimes considerably - differ about the central question of what to do about these threats either in general or in specific cases, as we shall see below. The general orientations toward the use of force constitute the fourth dimension along which we can explore the alleged Transatlantic gap (Finnemore, 2006).

Put very briefly, before we delve more deeply into this question, Americans are more likely to believe in the effectiveness of military force to deal with security threats in general. Europeans are not averse in principle to the use of force, but are much less prone to see the appropriate conditions for using it in the present international circumstances. In general, Europeans are also quite willing to use force in a broad range of circumstances, but they give higher priority to soft tools. Where the promotion of international law, humanitarian concerns and justice are at stake, Europeans even surpass Americans in their support for the use of force. Whether this difference springs from fundamentally different worldviews, related to specific historical experiences, or rather from a different cost-benefit calculation of the appropriateness of different instruments is hard to settle definitively with the available data.

To start to explore this issue, which will entertain us for most of this book, in this chapter we will proceed in three steps. First, we will explore general attitudes toward the use of force. We will then examine how attitudes change in connection with hypothetical situations. Lastly, we will move to explore support for the use of force in concrete, historical cases of the last decade. We can thus compare attitudes toward hypothetical questions related to war with attitudes toward actual historical occurrences of the use of force.

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