Steven den Beste suggests that the UN, driven by European and Europe-influenced members, has now adopted opposition to America as its purpose. I agree that this is the effect of what’s happening. But I don’t think anti-Americanism is the fundamental principle driving UN actions. I also don’t think that the European conception of the organization’s purpose has suddenly changed.
Rather, I think that Americans and Europeans have always accepted the UN on fundamentally different grounds. I think that for a long time these different principles resulted in the same practical positions, so the differences could be ignored. I think that the new divergence of opinion on the subject of UN legitimacy, and the limits to UN moral relevance, is not really new, but simply exposes a fundamental difference that has been there all along.
This is exactly what I have found. The EU sees itself as the bearers of a new transnational future, and the US seems to them to be an atavistic throwback to a bygone age. Considering the horrors that nationalism brought to Europe in the past few centuries such a view is understandable.
However, the US is not the Europe of the past. Our goal in Iraq is not to colonize and exploit, but to liberate and leave. Conservatives only reluctantly accepted nation building after September 11, and only then as the only way of guaranteeing security. Imperialism is not in the national character of the US, and it never has been. Our actions are no more imperialistic than our actions in the Spanish-American war, and yet America did not suddenly become a imperial police state. Rather we got in, dealt with the problems, and tried to leave the places better than they were. In some cases we largely suceeded (the Phillipines, Puerto Rico) and in others we failed miserably (Cuba).
It is clear that the conflict between the US and Europe is broader and deeper than just Iraq. It is about a fundamental view of the world political situation and how best to manage our increasingly dangerous world. The Europeans want to transcend power while America wants to flex it, and as long as both sides cling to their presumptions, the conflict will continue regardless of what happens in Iraq.