The primary concern of us policy-makers, Democrats and Republicans, since the Second World War has been ‘world leadership’. Where necessary and possible domestic issues have been subordinated to the overarching goal of constructing and sustaining us hegemony over allies, confrontation with adversaries and domination of clients. Various international organizations and treaties were formalized embodying these goals. Military, economic and cultural institutions were created for the purpose of furthering Washington’s strategic advantage following its victories over its capitalist rivals and later its confrontation with the Soviet Union and Third World revolutionaries.

us trade and multinational corporations have flourished under the umbrella of political and military hegemony. The principal arena for us trade and investment, and a strategic ally in sustaining the capitalist world economy, is Western Europe. Washington’s first concern in the aftermath of the Second World War was to defeat indigenous communist or revolutionary nationalist movements and to confront the consolidation of pro-Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe. The formation of ‘regional alliances’ throughout the world was a central element of us strategy.footnote1 Subsequently, the Atlantic Alliance served a multiplicity of purposes beyond its initial ‘security function.’footnote2 The end of the Cold War, the victory of the West and the collapse of communist regimes called into question the original security premises upon which nato had been founded. As a consequence, a major linchpin in the structure of the ‘informal’ empire was much weakened. Thus, amidst severe questioning by European allies, began the search for a justification of nato. Doubts were reinforced by economic actors in Europe seeking to limit us economic influence. By the early 1990s it appeared that nato was on the road to extinction with all the profound repercussions this would have for us aspirations to sustain world leadership and global hegemony.

The reversal of this trend took shape in an unanticipated fashion, staged in a marginal nation of a multi-ethnic state. The disintegration of the Yugoslav confederation and the subsequent emergence of warring ethnic mini-states formed the background for the revitalization of nato and the re-emergence of us hegemony in Europe. At the cost of tens of thousands of lives, the us blocked European peace initiatives in order to safeguard its political ‘leadership’ on the continent via nato. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, us Secretary of State Warren Christopher stated the principle which has guided us policy from the beginning: ‘There will be no peace agreement in Bosnia unless nato and the United States, the United States in particular, take the lead in the implementation of a peace agreement.’footnote3 To understand how the us fomented a human tragedy while capturing the moral high ground in its effort to regain primacy in Europe, it is worthwhile briefly summarizing the new configuration of us-European relations so as to locate the Bosnian issue in its proper historical context.

From the start, nato was designed to allow the shaping of European political and economic policies to fit the larger design of us ambitions.footnote4 nato allowed for the continuance of military bases in Europe and a massive us military presence. This in turn created a historic opportunity to open the door for us trade and the expansion of us multi-national corporations. While the us government paid the bill and European governments collaborated, us corporations targeted Europe as the highest priority area for investment and trade. This ensured vigorous containment policies against the Soviet Union and throughout the world, not only to defend us interests, but to ensure the future health of European capitalism by protecting resources and markets globally from revolutionary regimes.footnote5

Europe is today the largest market for us goods.footnote6 The ec is the most important destination for us direct foreign investment. Affiliates of us multinationals in Europe produce more goods and services and earn more profit in Europe than in any other part of the world.footnote7 It is a crucial market for us computers and office equipment, heavy machinery, electrical equipment and entertainment products.footnote8 Just how crucial the European market is became evident in the late 1980s when the us reduced its trade deficit from $170 billion in 1986 to $66 billion in 1991: trade with the ec accounted for 40 per cent of the reduction.footnote9

By the late 1970s and the early 1980s Europe in general and Germany in particular were successfully competing with the us in world markets. The international position was strengthened by the massive market within Europe; the economy of the fifteen eu members combined is 20 per cent larger than the us economy.footnote10 While this in no way led to a direct challenge to nato, it did strengthen the material foundations for a separate and distinct security system apart from the us.

It was not long before the idea of a purely European security system surfaced in various guises, such as the French and German sponsored Eurocorps or the Western European Union.footnote11 The Maastricht summit strengthened such trends, insisting that European foreign policy would ‘include all questions related to the Security of the European Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence.’footnote12 The official rhetoric on both sides was benign. Europeans assured Washington that nato was crucial to European security, and Washington encouraged Europe to take more responsibility for its own defence. Because of increasing budget deficits and increasingly unfavourable external accounts, the European initiative gained us supporters. us policy-makers were caught in a rhetorical bind of publicly supporting the system while privately seeking to subordinate or limit its role as against that of nato.