Reconcilble Differences : US-French Relations in the New Era / Edition 1

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The U.S.-French relationship is unique in mixing elements of rivalry and cooperation. Historical allies and comrades in arms, the United States and France are often fractious and quarrelsome. Their promotion of competing visions for a post-Cold War Europe gives a sharp edge to disputes over security and trade issues. Yet their mutual interests as partners in multiple collective enterprises compel them to find ways to put their relations on a surer footing. Doing so is also the key to meeting the larger challenge of reconciling America's dominance as the global superpower with the aspirations of a strengthening European Union. The authors of this study examine how national identity, political culture, and diplomatic style strain ties between Washington and Paris. They prescribe a set of policy and procedural remedies and lay out a strategy for sustaining more constructive collaboration.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Their book takes a solid shot at explaining the differences in the ways the two countries see themselves... and examines whether their differences can be reconciled." —Reginald Dale, European Affairs, 7/1/2002

"Brenner and Parmentier chart new territory in their analysis.... [A] detailed, nuanced, and innovative work." —Celia Whitaker, Foreign Affairs, 11/1/2002

"'Reconcilable Differences' succinctly summarizes the highs and lows of the recent international interactions between the [U.S. and France] and offers a guarded but insightful relationship projection through the near future.... A welcome and informative contribution to International Studies reading lists and academic reference collections." —Willis M. Buhle, Midwest Book Review, 9/1/2002

"[A] compact but penetrating study.... the French worldview... is depicted here with nuance and insight." —W.R. Smith, Lake Forest College, Choice, 4/1/2003

"It's no wonder that the French translation of the book has won awards (Notably the 2002 France-Amerique prize) and widespread praise...[Gordon and Meunier's] brief book is an outstanding evaluation of French realities, as opposed to French rhetorical flourishes." —Regina Karp, Old Dominion University, Contemporary Security Policy, 8/1/2003

"This timely study by Parmentier and Brenner helps explain the complex and often difficult relations between France and the United States. Whether Europe and America further diverge or come more closely together in the next decade depends on how these countries understand each other. This book should help make for a more constructive future." —John J. Hamre, President and CEO

Foreign Affairs
Despite its title, this book's action occurs largely in Brussels rather than in Washington or Paris. The approach works, since postwar U.S. and French governments have largely engaged each other through their Western alliance rather than through bilateral channels. This history is well established but has not featured as prominently in previous discussions as it does in this volume, and Brenner and Parmentier chart new territory in their analysis of its consequences for the future. Indeed, they make a convincing case that the Washington-Paris-Brussels triangle could prove the ultimate savior of the perennially troubled relations between these two partners. By embedding its interests within a common European position, France carves out greater space for itself to act independently of U.S. influence, creating "disincentives for the United States to attack Paris-based initiatives." In return, however, Paris must use its strong position within Europe to help promote the U.S. interest in having "an EU that is an open, constructive partner." The section on NATO is particularly strong. The authors harshly criticize U.S. and French policymakers (while not absolving their alliance partners) for a string of "missed opportunities" to give the alliance a post-Cold War purpose and structure. Readers may be frustrated, however, with the somewhat confused policy recommendations in the final chapter. The authors contradict themselves by first advocating "a bilateral relationship clear in purpose and consistent in method," and in the next breath arguing that "collaboration on a case-by-case" basis would be preferable to a "routinized partnership." But such a quibble hardly detracts from the value of thisdetailed, nuanced, and innovative work.
Exploring the increasingly fractious diplomatic relations between the United States and France, Brenner (international affairs, U. of Pittsburgh, U.S.) and Parmentier (Institut Francais Internationales, France) address the U.S. foreign policy community in attempting to elucidate the reasons for conflict. Their analysis concentrates on the aspirations and contradictions of French foreign policy and U.S. reaction to it. They suggest that France has a vision of a multi-polar world that is threatened by U.S. tendencies towards unilateralism and that respective views of the purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are often at odds. They also examine economic rivalries and argue that all that is needed to repair relationships is more dialogue. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815712534
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Brenner is professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Guillaume Parmentier is head of the French Center on the United States (CFE) at the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales in Paris and professor at the University of Paris II.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 A Unique Partnership 1
Ch. 2 Single Superpower versus Multipolarity 6
The Power of History 7
The European Vision 10
France's Multipolar Perspective 18
The Globalization Issue 24
The Erratic Partner 29
Ch. 3 NATO: Lost Opportunities 38
A Clash of Two Conservatisms, 1990-95 43
The Chirac Years: An Earnest Attempt to Adapt NATO 48
Mutual Disappointment 52
Combined Joint Task Forces and the European Security and Defense Identity 56
Kosovo: Toward Europeanization 62
Ch. 4 High Tension: The Economic Dimension 69
Head to Head? 71
The Uruguay Round 74
The Boeing Affair 81
U.S. Triumphalism 86
Europe Redux 89
Economic and Monetary Union 92
The Defense Industry 101
Ch. 5 A Rekindled Alliance 116
The American Perspective 117
The French Perspective 120
The Existential Question for France 121
U.S.-French Bilateralism 123
Notes 127
Index 145
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