Since Sept. 11, 2001, when Islamic fanatics, converting American airplanes into giant bombs, killed thousands in New York and Washington, DC, the United States is showing off its power to the world. In a vain effort to avenge its unknown Islamic enemies, now dubbed "terrorists," the US lashed violently at Afghanistan and destroyed the Islamic fundamentalist clerical regime that trained the bombers. Then in September 2002 the US issued a strategy on national security where it declared that unprovoked, "preemptive," war would now become an integral part of America's policy of maintaining its supremacy in world affairs.
Like the Roman Empire in its declining era, in the late fourth century, the US is not about to obey international law when it is inconvenient to its own imperial interests. Having made global hegemony to be equivalent to its national security, and disregarding the UN's refusal to allow a war against Iraq, the US applied to Iraq the explosive medicine it used against Afghanistan. In a quick air bomb campaign during April 2003, the US and Britain reduced the impoverished cities of ancient Mesopotamia to rubbles. In the midst of chaos following the disappearance of the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad, "looters" annihilated the treasures of Iraq's millennial history, thus inflicting a catastrophic blow against the integrity and national consciousness of the people of this ancient land.
England is the only European power that follows the US in its aggressive global policy. But England, France, American-occupied Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Portugal are former colonial masters of large regions of the world. They don't like taking orders from anybody. With the exception of England, they barely go along with the US because, so far, they have had no choice. Now, however, they are grumbling at the hubris of the US peddling them its McDonald culture through its ingenious Americanization project known primarily as "free trade" and "globalization." But they also resent seeing the US becoming the only global policeman, taking more and more the behavior of a colonial and imperial state in charge of the planet.
The US cannot do in Europe in the 21st century what Athens could not do in Greece in the fifth century BCE -- form a political Hellas under Athenian leadership. To persist in telling the Europeans, for example, they have to eat hormone-loaded US beef and bioengineered corn, or that they should have joined the US and Britain in their illegal war against Iraq, is to intensify the image of the ugly American in the European imagination. If need be, the Europeans (without England) will go to Russia and make her their own Sparta. On the other hand, the European Union states (even without Russia and England) may also begin to think about humbling the North American giant. They are already preparing a common defense force outside the obsolete and US-run North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This is an American military instrument against Russia, which also uses Turkey, a Moslem and non-European state, as a potential missile aimed at the heart of Europe. The Europeans of the European Union know that. That's why they refuse to admit Turkey to the European Union.
The European Union states could decide that, sometime in the future, they must fight their own Peloponnesian War against America. Such a war would have nothing to do with atomic bombs, but everything to do with competition, hatred, ideological confrontation and separation -- expelling the US from Europe.
The reasonable alternative to America's illusions of global dominance -- so much a reflection of the "awe and shock" war that devastated Iraq -- would be for the US and Europe (that includes Russia) to create a genuine partnership which would, in addition to rebuilding Iraq, eclipse and replace NATO. Such a move would be proof that civilization matters. The Europeans and North Americans would no longer waste their vast resources to planning the potential slaughter of millions of humans and countless cities. They could put all that treasure to peaceful use, addressing Europe's and America's social and ecological problems, including the unpredictable jihad outbursts of Islamic fanatics against the US and the West.
An ecological and political league based on common values between North America and Europe could start reversing the environmental downturn of the planet that threatens all life on earth.
Such a task would be both daring and demanding because, just like in Greece's golden age, the human effort in the 21st century must be to invent a new science and a new politics to solve human problems, but without destroying the world.
E.G. Vallianatos lives in Alexandria, Va. He is author of Fear in the Countryside, Harvest of Devastation and From Graikos to Hellene.