Home / Articles / The Best of FPRI’s Essays on America and the West, 1993-2015
From its founding in 1955, the Foreign Policy Research Institute has always been deeply interested in the relationship between the United States of America and Europe, the two main constituent parts of the cultural, political, and historical community of the West. Born in the early days of the Cold War, when the Atlantic Alliance both constituted the primary bulwark of Western Civilization and formed the centerpiece of American grand strategy, FPRI has developed many sophisticated analyses of the past, present, and future of this relationship. One of FPRI’s most important early publications, for example, edited by its Founder Robert Strausz-Hupé, along with James Dougherty and William Kintner, was Building the Atlantic World (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), which combined historical/political analysis and policy advocacy to assess the current state of the West. Although FPRI and its affiliated scholars have also produced high-quality work on other regions and topics over the succeeding decades, we have never lost sight of the enduring significance of the West for understanding the modern world and the American role in it.
After the Cold War came to an unexpectedly abrupt and apparently happy conclusion in the tumultuous years of 1989-1991, scholars and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic asked whether the Atlantic Alliance, and the general concept of the West, made sense as either policy priorities or subjects of study in a world increasingly shaped by globalization. The challenges of the post-Cold War world, including the sober realization that the end of the Cold War did not mean the end of History or the advent of a new era of perpetual peace, encouraged FPRI to reassert the importance of the study of the West within its larger global identity, leading to the foundation of the Center for the Study of America and the West in 1997. Since then, the Center has explored the roots and values of the United States, its connection to Europe and role within Western civilization, and the role of Western civilization within modern world history. Through sponsorship of original research, meetings of our Inter-University Study Group, public lectures and symposia, as well as in history institutes for high school teachers, the Center has encouraged critical analysis of the West as both an intellectual community and a political force.
In honor of FPRI’s 60th Anniversary, this essay collection aims to demonstrate the range of topics and approaches sponsored by the Center over the years. Readers will see that while some concerns have remained consistent, the Center’s scholars have offered a wide range of perspectives, reflecting the lively interchange of ideas that is a hallmark of the West.
The essays have been grouped under subject headings to reflect the variety of approaches to the study of the West within the Center, and also to highlight the (sometimes quite pronounced) differences of opinion among our scholars. Within each section, the essays have been organized in roughly chronological order, with introductory information noting both the date of initial publication and the positions held by the authors.
The first section offers insights into some of the basic ideas animating the Center, primarily through analyzing the life and thought of the late Robert Strausz-Hupé, founder of FPRI. An Austrian émigré, scholar, and diplomat, Strausz-Hupé believed firmly in the necessity of Western unity in the face of the totalitarian challenges of the 20th Century, and his spirit still guides both FPRI in general and the Center in particular. In this section, we have collected appreciations of his work from former FPRI President Harvey Sicherman and the Center’s Chair, Professor Walter McDougall, as well as the reflections of a former Chair of the Center’s Study Group, Prof. James Kurth on the mission of FPRI, written in honor of our 50th Anniversary. Following those contributions, we have included one of Strausz-Hupé’s last publications for FPRI, in which he updated some of his classic reflections on “protracted conflict,” a term he initially deployed in analyzing the Cold War. Finally, to reinforce the significance of the concept of the West, this section also includes one of the first essays commissioned by the Center upon its founding, in which Prof. William McNeill, famous for his magisterial work, The Rise of the West, asks the most fundamental question: “What do We Mean by the West?”
Section II offers examples of Center publications that relate the history of the United States to the larger history of the West. Two essays on the meaning of the Fourth of July, by Adam Garfinkle and Walter McDougall, examine the ideas and ideals that shape American identity and its relationship to the wider world. They are followed by McDougall’s consideration of American Grand Strategy (or lack thereof) and James Kurth’s analysis of the rise and apparent fall of American conservatism from the beginning of the modern era to the present. Alongside those essays, readers will also find two documents from the Center’s History Institutes: a summary of a 2004 symposium that placed the American Founding within a larger historical context, and a 1998 Keynote Address from John Lewis Gaddis on “The New Cold War History,” both of which demonstrate how FPRI uses such Institutes to relate the most recent academic scholarship to the work of our nation’s teachers.
The most visible organizational expression of the Atlantic Community has been the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is the subject of the third section. Although NATO members celebrated the end of the Cold War as a success, the loss of a common enemy in the form of the Soviet Union called into question the continued necessity and future role of the alliance. Ultimately, its members chose not only to maintain NATO in the name of maintaining formal ties between Europe and the United States, but also to expand it to include former Warsaw Pact members, in the hope of extending the stability of Western Europe to the East. Along the way, NATO found itself embroiled in its first “out of area” conflict when it took up the cause of Kosovo in 1999, and then again after 9/11 when NATO participated in the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The contributions to this section trace the contours of NATO’s post-Cold War identity crises. Former NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Alexander Haig offers his perspective on the alliance in the 1990s, while Michael Radu and Harvey Sicherman discuss Balkan complexities. Finally, James Kurth analyzes the post-9/11 role of NATO, while Ronald Granieri reflects on the role of alliance politics in bringing about the end of the Cold War.
Alongside NATO, the European Union has also been a crucial feature of the modern West. Strausz-Hupé believed an integrated Europe was “most consistent with the American ideal, American declaratory policy, and American security,” even if the realities of European integration have not always kept pace with either the hopes or the fears of observers. This selection of essays reflects the ongoing debate over the shape, scope, speed, and direction of European integration, from Walter McDougall’s ambivalent celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome to Michael Radu’s reflections on the EU’s relationship to Turkey, from George Weigel’s cultural autopsy of European malaise to the geopolitical critiques of Andrew Glencross, Jakub Grygiel, Ronald Granieri, and Jeremy Black. In each essay, readers will find the mixture of hope and disappointment, skepticism and optimism, which has accompanied the movement for a unified Europe since the end of World War II.
Any discussion of the West begs the question of how the individual parts relate to the whole, and how states across and along the borders of the West construct their relationship to it. The fifth section thus offers examples of national studies, focusing on the crucial states of Britain, Germany, and Russia. Mitchell Orenstein analyzes the European vision of Russia’s Vladimir Putin; Andrew Glencross considers the identity crises of the United Kingdom; and Felix Chang and Adam Garfinkle each offer their perspectives on the past and future role of Germany in an ever-changing Europe.
Finally, our examination of the West concludes with essays that look both to the past and to the future. The high hopes of a New World Order in the 1990s have given way to deeper pessimism about the future of the West as well as the individual futures of its states. These essays offer some of both, examining both the enduring and the contingent factors that have shaped and will continue to shape the West and its relationship to the larger world. Walter McDougall offers a sense of the continuing relevance of Geography, and Adam Garfinkle considers the lessons our children should draw from 9/11, while Paul Rahe reflects on the enduring significance of classical writers such as Herodotus for American society. George Weigel reflects on how an individual such as St. John Paul II transformed international relations, while Alan Kors outlines the challenges facing the West on the eve of the 21st Century as it attempts to understand and build on its intellectual heritage. Finally, Jeremy Black and Ronald Granieri each engage with the contemporary debate on Islam, immigration, and European identity, considering what that debate tells us about the meaning and destiny of the West.
Whether hope or fear will be more appropriate for understanding the West remains to be seen. As these essays demonstrate, however, FPRI and the Center for the Study of America and the West will continue to play their vital role in furthering our understanding of both past and present, to help fellow scholars and the larger public to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
In honor of FPRI’s 60th anniversary, this volume is meant to provide the reader with a taste of the quality analysis we produced from 1993-2015 on a diverse array of topics. If you enjoy what you find here, visit us on the web (/research/west) to read, see, and hear more. Even better, become a member or partner of FPRI, and support the sustained production of quality scholarship and analysis on America and the West.