The Atlantic Alliance as a risk community and the implications for transatlantic security cooperation
Since the end of the Cold War observers have noted that the United States and Europe
have slowly drifted apart. While a number of issues have divided the close allies -
from trade to environmental concerns - of particular interest is the changing calculus
of transatlantic security cooperation. Realists predicted the demise of transatlantic
security cooperation, constructivists and institutions theorized that it would carry on.
While initially it seemed that the latter were correct, since the late 1990s realist
predications would seem to be born out. Closer observation, however, reveals that
while the US and Europe are not seeing eye-to-eye, the North Atlantic area is not
returning to balance of power politics either. This thesis hypothesizes that the best
explanation for the rift in transatlantic relations is embodied in the sociological theory
of the Risk Society.
As the West moves from modernity to late modernity, societies become increasingly
obsessed with risks. At the international level this obsession is evident as well.
During the 1990s, NATO classified its greatest 'threat' as "security challenges and
risks." This dissertation reviews the literature on the transatlantic community to
identify the weak points in current explanations of the conflict. It draws upon the
most cutting edge work in IR related to the Risk Society thesis and uses this literature
as the basis to further develop the concept of risk and a new model of security
cooperation in the Risk Society. The second half of the thesis examines three cases of
Western military intervention - Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq - to assess if the West
acted in accord with a security paradigm articulated upon risk and, if so, what are the
implications for transatlantic security cooperation.