The Foreign Service Journal - April 2017
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APRIL 2017



strated that American and European security is indivisible. The

United States cannot pivot away from Europe any more than a

tree can pivot away from the soil in which it is rooted. We are

constituent parts of one another in ways that we are not with

any other part of the world.

Writing in 1943, during the depth of World War II, Walter

Lippmann suggested in

American Foreign Policy, Shield of the


that an Atlantic alliance would be the best founda-

tion for postwar governance:

“The original geographic and

historic connections across

the Atlantic have persisted.

The Atlantic Ocean is not the

frontier between Europe and

the Americas. It is the inland

sea of a community of nations

allied with one another by

geography, history and vital

necessity. . . . There is a great

community on this earth from

which no member can be

excluded and none can resign.

This community has it geo-

graphical center in the great

basin of the Atlantic.”

In a sense, Lipmann was

only elaborating on something

Alexis de Tocqueville had writ-

ten more than a century earlier in

Democracy in America

. There

de Tocqueville argued that Europe and America “can never be

independent of each other, so numerous are the natural ties

which exist between their wants, their ideas, their habits and

their manners.”

A Pointer to the Future

So what does this all mean for the future? It means that

Europe and North America have already joined into one com-

munity, dubbed “Transatlantica” by German management

guru Hermann Simon. We may often disagree, but we will never

break up. Only this time, the task will not be rebuilding Atlantic

security, but rather to define a new sort of “global Atlantic” that

can help ensure that Western principles guide the new era of

digitalization—a task as fundamental to our future prosperity as

was the recovery following World War II.

During the past 20 years the world has slipped rapidly, almost

without notice, into a new digital and globalized era. The world

of formal structures, the world of hierarchical methods of man-

agement, the world of nonporous national borders has disap-

peared, without most of us even knowing what was happening.

The existing treaty-based world order is being turned on end

faster than any dictator could have done in the past.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council’s 2004 Global Trends

Report, “Mapping the Global Future,” described globalization—a

growing interconnectedness reflected in the expanded flows of

information, technology, capi-

tal, goods, services and people

throughout the world—as

“an overarching ‘mega-trend,’

a force so ubiquitous that it

will substantially shape all

the other major trends in the

world of 2020.”

Western values now domi-

nate the software of this system,

but those values also unnerve

leaders in countries such as

Russia and China. Freedom of

information and civil society

challenge the influence of

authoritarian regimes as no

military alliance could ever do.

They are already fighting back,

as we learned during our recent

election campaign.

So unless “Transatlantica” finds a new sense of common

purpose as a “global Atlantic” to manage the challenges of

globalization, we may not be able to ensure that Western values

of openness, freedom and tolerance will continue to define the

operating system of the digitalized world.

The unprecedented challenges brought about by globaliza-

tion and digitalization make almost irrelevant our demands that

Europe pay a bigger share for the defense of the West, or that

new bilateral trade agreements replace multilateral efforts such

as TTIP. Digitalization is extending the battlefield to a new glob-

ally integrated domain where national interests and projection

of power will be defined more by dynamics within networks than

by the behavior of individual actors.

Mastering these challenges will be as complex and impor-

tant to the survival of democracy as was winning the Cold War.

Europe cannot manage this new industrial revolution without

America, and America should not want to manage it without



Unless “Transatlantica” finds

a new sense of common

purpose to manage the

challenges of globalization, we

may not be able to ensure that

Western values of openness,

freedom and tolerance

will continue to define the

operating system of the

digitalized world.