Kagan's thesis is that the differences Europe and the U.S. have with each other are primarily due to the huge gap in power between the two. A strong U.S. believes in exercising military power, while a weak Europe wants to negotiate.
It is true that combative European countries have decided to work together, previously mortal enemies are now friends and a European Union stressing cooperation, negotiation and diplomacy is rapidly building.
But, Kagan says, this European "paradise" would not be possible without the exercise of military power by the U.S. Because U.S. is so powerful it is up to it to use this power to maintain a sane world. In the process it attracts more threats than any other country. But this is the price U.S. must pay for leadership.
In general, what Kagan says is true. However, military power is not the sole form of power, nor is it as useful today as it has been in the past. How do you use military power to retaliate against a suicide attack? How do you use military power to stop terrorism? In addition to Iraq, are you going to attack Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, North Korea? No doubt there are other suspect countries. Where will you stop?
There is another source of power: cooperative power. Instead of exchanging arms we can exchange intelligence, intelligence other countries are eager to help us with if we would treat them not as powerless pawns, but as people worthy of respect. Instead of relying on troops we can rely on humanitarians, doctors, engineers and other experts. Instead of insisting on having our own way all the time we in the U.S. can participate in give-and-take relationships, not only with Europe, but with as many countries as possible.
The strongest possible source of cooperative power could be the UN, whose purpose it is to have all countries cooperating for the common good of the world. A tremendously worthwhile goal, wouldn't you say?
We all know, though, the the UN has failed in many ways. Why? Not enough cooperation. Why? The big powers - U.S. and others - have not led the way. Why? They have been concentrating on competition, on power, on building arms, on war.
If the U.S. would apply a fraction of the money it spends on the Defense Department with its worldwide military operations to a new Peace Department working hand-in-glove with the UN, it could transform the UN into a powerful force for peace.
Kagan believes in the power of competition and of the military. I believe in the greater power of cooperation and helpfulness.