The Cowboy and the Saloon Keeper
In light of the current geopolitical situation, if the United States is the world’s sheriff — does Europe keep the saloon?
August 14, 2002
Americans are "cowboys," Europeans love to say. And there is truth in this. The United States does act as an international sheriff, self-appointed perhaps but widely welcomed nevertheless, trying to enforce some peace and justice in what Americans see as a lawless world where outlaws need to be deterred or destroyed, and often through the muzzle of a gun.
Europe, by this Old West analogy, is more like a saloonkeeper. Outlaws shoot sheriffs, not saloonkeepers.
In fact, from the saloonkeeper's point of view, the sheriff trying to impose order by force can sometimes be more threatening than the outlaws who, at least for the time being, may just want a drink.
Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Robert Kagan is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He also writes a column on world affairs for the Washington Post, and is a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and the New Republic. He served in the U.S. State Department from 1984 to […]