European and American relations today is one of the most intricate partnerships present in the international arena. However, not many know that this partnership almost did not exist in the early ages of imperialism and American formation. Both nations have feared one another in the early 18th century and thus tried to subdue the other. Why did the Europeans fear the Americans? Was it because of America’s slowly growing influence or was it because of the capacity of the country to grow? Did America have the same sentiments as that of Europe? What was their image of the European region? Unlike the Europeans, who deemed the nation as a dangerous rival, Americans were distrustful of the Europeans after the Revolutionary War. It is only after the First. Second and Cold Wars did they warm up to the Europeans and created a partnership with them.
According to Schmidt, Shelley and Bardes (2008), the Europeans, mostly the English government, sent a group to the New World and establish their own trading post. Jamestown, or now known as Jamestown, Virginia, became known as the first English colony founded in America. The English colonies did not just end in Virginia as it moved towards the Massachusetts, Rhode Island up to Georgia. The American colonies did not take this lightly as the British government imposed taxes on these colonies. This eventually led to the Revolutionary War in 1760s. Each of the proposals raised by the British government were not followed by the Americans and even created a Congress that would define the position these colonies would make. However, the Articles of Confederation created by the Congress had some lapses as to their power to impose their decisions and create a military arm that would subdue any army that may attack the nation. The War then escalated into new heights as the English troops slowly invaded the American colonies. The American troops were led by George Washington and used their knowledge of the terrain to drive out the English troops.
The war eventually left the country in disarray as the national government was powerless enough to prove its incapacity to enact its foreign and domestic policies. However, aside from this fact, the Founding Fathers became weary of another war and the continuous looming threat of the Europeans. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson vehemently announced and stated that the country will not join in any alliances especially with the Europeans. The Europeans left the nation with a weak national government and thousands of casualties. The Founders blamed the Europeans for this weakness and with the peace they have received after the war, they are no longer taking any chances with any nations. The Founders also noted that entering an alliance with anyone, especially the Europeans, will just put the peace they achieved in jeopardy. Many citizens have also been traumatized by the war and hoped the national government do something to stray away from the European threat. As a result, the American government and the Founding Founders placed the country in a state of isolationism to protect them from European influence and threat .
Through the isolationist stance of the United States according to Dautrich and Yalof (2011), the country was able to escape the European influence for almost a century. However, like its former European colonists, Americans were slowly moving to the expansionism ideals especially through the use of the Monroe Doctrine. The Doctrine was a two-sided blade as it enabled the country to stop any colonization effort in the Atlantic Region and at the same time, mirrored England’s previous actions once the Americans felt the threat of European imperialism looming in the midst. The Doctrine became America’s card to take action and go into war against the Europeans under American soil in terms of controlling some boundaries of the nation up to the state of affairs in the country. Aside from Britain, America also had a vendetta against the Spaniards especially in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Despite the Doctrine in place, it can be concluded that the Americans were weary that the Europeans may use these nations and areas they are trying to include in their imperial nation to usurp them next .
Oskamp and Schultz (2005) noted that by the time of the First World War, the Americans were still a little scared of involving themselves with the state of affairs of the Europeans. They feared that the European conflict may reach their shores and eventually take the peace the country has strived to protect for over a century. They only stepped in in 1917 when Germany was already abusing its capacity to sink ships that were headed to Britain. However, the cost of the war only brought America back to its isolationist policy due to the massive hit the economy had acquired from the war and it was almost unable to strive back up from it. The polls from the Gallup Poll of 1937 indicated that the American public did not like the war at all and noted that they will not side in any European nation should attack one another. The Congress also believed that England and France could stand on its own without their help and thus passed legislation that would restrict the nation from selling military equipment to any nation, in fear it may be thrown on them instead. The nation only allowed Britain to borrow and least the equipment once the Americans saw Hitler’s almost victory over the British arm. However, the public was already accepting the fact that their involvement will not hit the country badly like the Revolutionary War centuries ago and uphold peace once Hitler took over Holland, Belgium and France by 1940. They saw that Europe was slowly experiencing what happened to them in the Revolutionary War and as the saying goes, it was up to them to also help the region to find peace like they found after the War .
In recent years, America became the knight in shining armour for the Europeans since some of the nations saw America as the interventionist between the disputes happening in the region. According to Cameron (2004), America saw itself as the role model for the Europeans, but it varied per administration. Despite the decline of popularity due to the numerous military interventions of the country in several disputes, George Bush Sr re-immortalized the country’s goal and saw Europe as an important factor in the new world order. He paved the way for the two nations to become transatlantic partners and even gained the support of the Europeans for his plans. Once Clinton came into office, he supported Bush Sr’s plan to create a relationship with Europe since Europe was an important factor in his life. George W. Bush, on the other hand, saw the Europeans as a hindrance and competitor on the US dominance and rejected treaties that would have benefited Europeans. His administration also saw little importance over the European Union’s goal to integrate each European nation, thinking that it was not going to work. America should be the one the other nations will follow. Not the other way around. Despite this change of leadership and style, most Americans saw Europe as its ally in the war of Terrorism .
It may be just coincidence that both the US and the European nations saw each other as potential rivals against one another before the Great Wars arose. Europe feared the increasing awareness of the Americans while the Americans feared the Europeans for their increasing influence in the region, especially upon the 1700s. Throughout the years however, the American slowly realized that there is more to Europe that means the eye as Europe also had to face threat from its own neighbouring countries. However, many politicians saw Europe as a key rival to the United States as seen by Roosevelt and other contemporary leaders. Nevertheless, both nations agree that without the other, the other may not be able to properly maintain the balance of power and peace throughout the world.
Cameron, F. (2004). How Europe Views America. European Policy Center Issue Paper, 15, 1-15.
Dautrich, K., & Yalof, D. (2011). American Government: Historical, Popular, and Global Perspectives. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Harper, J. (2004). American Views of Europe and the World. Transatlantic Tensions. From Conflicts of Interest to Conflict of Values? Colloquium (pp. 1-6). New York: CERI Sciences.
Oskamp, S., & Schultz, P. W. (2005). Attitudes and opinions. New Jersey: Routledge.
Schmidt, S., Shelley, M., & Bardes, B. (2008). American Government and Politics Today. Belmont: Cengage Learning.