Lecture examines relationship between Europe and America

Cuong Nguyen

Robert W. Becker, Stephen Edward Scarff memorial visiting professor, gave a lecture Tuesday, April 21 as part of the “2009 Mojmir Povolny Lectureship in International Studies: What Should Obama Do?” The lecture took place in the Wriston auditorium and was on the subject of the relationship between Europe and America.
The lecture first focused on the relationship between countries in Europe and the U.S. The relationship is a complex matter affected by factors such as security, economics, core values and the nature of leadership. The two sides of the Atlantic have long had a history of cooperation, from military alliance in the two World Wars and the Cold War to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe.
European nations and the U.S. are powerful influences in the modern world. The European Union and America together account for 40 percent of world trade and $1.8 trillion in mutual investment. The military might of NATO countries is undeniable.
However, during the last seven years, European countries and the U.S. have experienced the worst period of their relationship. The Bush administration created bitterness among Europeans with its unilateral foreign policies.
“Europe is strong, and it cannot be pushed around,” said Becker.
One of the reasons for the conflicts between the two sides of the Atlantic is that there are different versions of Europe. Europe is organized by institutions with different memberships and treaties. It is not a single state, said Becker.
According to Becker, Europeans have long looked up to American core values, expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution, and they expect Americans to live up to those values. The Bush administration, with its tough actions and disregard for allies’ and friends’ opinions, made Europeans disappointed with Americans.
In the second part of the lecture, Becker expressed his positive attitude toward President Barack Obama’s European policy. Instead of making demands and creating bitterness among allies as his predecessor did, Obama employs a listen-first principle. He is bringing Europeans back to cooperation through asking for help and appreciating their efforts.
Obama himself represents America’s best trait. His behavior represents America’s core values and his leadership style of leading by example contributes greatly to his ability to bring friends and foes together.
A member of the audience raised a question about Obama being too soft in his approach to foreign relations, quoting former Vice President Dick Cheney’s call for a stronger, tougher approach. Becker said that softness means showing respect for others, not being weak.
Becker has had a long-time involvement with Europe. He lived in Europe for 15 years and held positions in the State Department. He is also the former ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission to Croatia.