The Madrid bombings have made Europeans feel the scourge of terrorism in their bones. March 11 is now Europe's version of September 11 in America. Yet America and Europe often do not seem to see the world through the same glasses: Spain's response to the terrorist attacks - a threat common to all democracies - was to vote in a government promising an end to pro-US policy on Iraq. Does this mean that Europe and the US have dramatically different visions?
Part of the seeming disconnect on foreign policy emerges from a misunderstanding about what "Europe" is about. The European project is a realist's response to globalization and its challenges. It was initiated to create "solidarités de fait," promote political stability, and consolidate democracy and Europe's social model. Having achieved these goals, Europe now wants to make a positive contribution to world developments.
This is not nostalgia for past glory. An unprecedented degree of solidarity now exists across Europe, as was apparent in the collective mourning and outpouring of sympathy towards Spain; we must build on that huge potential to create a logic of solidarity in the world.
The US, also victim of a horrendous attack, feels drawn to the world but not to promote a similar model of cooperation. Rather, in defending their values and security, Americans strive to defend the world, especially the Western world, from dark new threats. The messianic idealism that liberated Europe from Nazism and protected Western Europe from communism is now directed at other enemies.