Mr. Chris Patten is the European Union's Commissioner for External Affairs.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Jaw-jaw, not war-war: Military success in Afghanistan has encouraged the US to ignore European doubts about confronting the 'axis of evil'. Chris Patten warns that unilateralism will be self-defeating:
Financial Times; Feb 15, 2002

Winston Churchill has been much quoted in the US since September 11. A wounded nation has drawn comfort from his strength of purpose, his moral certainty and his faith in freedom. At the personal request of President George W. Bush, Churchill's bust sits in the Oval Office.

No one could doubt the strength of Churchill's bond with America; but the relationship was not without its occasional differences. As he surveys the scene today from his plinth in the White House, seven months into the campaign against terrorism, the late prime minister might be inclined to repeat his observation that "in working with allies, it sometimes happens that they develop opinions of their own".

I abhor those who seek to burnish their European credentials by bashing Uncle Sam. There is not one drop of anti-Americanism flowing through my veins. I have loved the US ever since I first got involved in politics as a student there. I know how much Europe owes to the US for its defence of freedom in the past century.

I have profound admiration for the way in which men such as General George Marshall and Dean Acheson worked to rebuild Europe and reshape the world after 1945. They knew that the best way to deter a renewed descent into barbarism in Europe was to build a solid foundation for democracy.

But true friends are not sycophants. Those of us who are concerned at certain trends in US policymaking have a duty to speak up. The unilateralist urge is not new. Nor is it ignoble. To assert that America's first duty must be to protect its own democracy and the rights of its own people is not selfish, any more than it is wrong for American policymakers to be concerned about the extent to which international obligations may come to represent a threat to US sovereignty.

No British politician, scarred by our interminable national psychodrama over Europe, should be insensitive to the arguments. Why should not the world's only superpower assert the right to act in its own name, unencumbered by international entanglements? Has not America a duty to strike out against evil where it sees it, if this helps to secure security for all? What is so wrong or so dangerous about the smack of firm global government by a benevolent, principled demo-cracy? Multilateralism is for wimps.

My answer is not that the unilateralist urge is wicked but that it is ultimately ineffective and self-defeating.

The attacks of September 11, in which citizens of more than 80 countries lost their lives, brought home in a terrifying way the vulnerability of the US and the rest of us to the actions of extremists plotting from safe places in failed states such as Afghanistan.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, it seemed that the US had rediscovered its need for allies to confront this common menace. The stunning and un-expectedly rapid success of the military campaign in Afghanistan was a tribute to American capacity. But it has perhaps reinforced some dangerous instincts: that the projection of military power is the only basis of true security; that the US can rely only on itself; and that allies may be useful as an optional extra but that the US is big and strong enough to manage without them if it must.

I hope those instincts will not prevail, because I believe them to be profoundly misguided. The lesson of September 11 is that we need both American leadership and international co-operation on an unprecedented scale. It is in the world's interest, as it is in the interests of the world's greatest power, that leadership should be exercised in partnership.

Why is that so? Let me offer five reasons.

First, every day makes us more aware of the interconnectedness of the modern world: a world in which America is at the centre of an increasingly integrated web, in which modern technology is corrosive of national boundaries and national jurisdictions. That makes it all the more important to work with those who share your values in order to protect them.

Second, while globalisation - the combination of open trade, capitalism and technology - creates unparalleled opportunities, it also has a dark side. The European Union symbolises the ability of countries to come together to tackle common problems.

Third, the international institutional architecture - from the United Nations to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation - owes more to the genius of American statesmen than to any other source. But these institutions are under threat. Their rulings are challenged with increas ing truculence and impunity. They lack democratic legitimacy, which fuels the muddled movement against globalisation. They need to be nurtured or they will lose their authority - and we shall all be the poorer for it.

Fourth, Europe cannot hope to match US military spending - nor should it even aspire to do so. Like George Robertson, the secretary-general of Nato, I feel strongly that European governments should increase their national military budgets, shouldering more of the burden for their own defence.

But "security" is a wider concept. The EU, with its member states, is a massive provider of development assistance. We provide about 55 per cent of total international assistance and as much as two-thirds of all grant aid. That too is a contribution to international security. No one disputes the need for tough military action to destroy the al-Qaeda network and its bases. But if we are to deny al-Qaeda, and other networks, the territory from which to plan future atrocities, we have to do all we can to bolster weak or failing states and prevent them falling into the clutches of the bin Ladens of this world.

There is a final point. I need hardly say that as well as affection and admiration for America around the world, there is also fear and resentment. As the world's only superpower, the US carries a particular responsibility to maintain moral authority for her leadership. Do your own thing and everything seems clear and purposeful; but there is a cost in terms of legitimacy and long-term effectiveness. That cost accumulates over time.

So where does this leave us? It leaves me, at least, uneasy. I look to America - as I have always looked to America - to engage with a complex and dangerous world. There is much that is evil in that world. But to brand a disparate group of countries as an "axis of evil" did not strike me as the finest phrase ever produced by the president's speechwriters. Of course we must oppose what is evil. But we must also build on what is good - and on what offers hope of a better future.

In Iraq, for example, we must redouble our efforts to get the inspectors back in and to support the opposition to Saddam Hussein. But in Iran? When some in Washington say that European policy in Iran has failed, my immediate reaction is that we need to find new ways to support reform there, not that we should put up the shutters.

In the case of North Korea, the sunshine policy of Kim Dae-jung offers the best prospect in years of bringing real change. In the Middle East, we need dialogue, not isolation and further radicalisation of the Palestinians.

"America's challenge is to transfer its power into moral consensus, promoting its values not by imposition but by their willing acceptance in a world that, for all its seeming resistance, desperately needs enlightening leadership." That sentence is not mine but the final paragraph of a recent book by Henry Kissinger. Is it overly candid of this friend of America's to say that I agree with every word?

The writer is the European Union's commissioner for external affairs, and a former chairman of the Conservative party