This is my comments for one of our readings. Just sharing =)
I lived in Germany for a year before I come to the US, and I agree with Kagan in many ways.
Europe is "fully formed". People enjoy high quality of life in a highly industrialized and highly organized society. There is room for improvement, but not for fundamental changes.
As Kagan mentioned, Europe is in an established structure or institution. They generally have high level of education, and that education propagates same ideas in different countries. Therefore they can easily push forward carbon emission limits and other transnational regulations.
The reason behind this, I believe, is that Europe has fought their wars already! They have reached the balance of power over time. The stability of their structure is based on hundreds of years of wars and conflicts, centuries of clashes and integration.
At the same time, the high standard of living in Europe is built on hundred of years of exploitation of the rest of the world, tracing back to slave trade. And this kind of exploitation still exist in more subtle forms today, as the Europeans remain at the top of the industrial food chain. That's why they are more established and less troubled than the rest of the world.
In addition to that, the current international rules benefit Europe. In the end, it is the western rules, and Europe either made them, or has already got used to them. In comparison, many other countries are either learning, adopting, struggling, or trying to reshape these rules according to their own interests.
Kagan wrote the essay in 2002. Since then, many things has change. Junior Bush, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, further alienated US' European friends. In Germany, only the older generation remembered that the US air force saved many German lives during Berlin Blockade. But the younger generation only sees increasing German casualty in Afghanistan.
The good news for US is: Obama is here. Europe likes Obama a lot. They even gave him the Nobel Peace Prize to express their adoration. Obama appeals to European value. He loves his family and he is a good husband and good father. He is wise, sophisticated and moderate. He abandoned the unilateralism of Bush.
And now, since the US and EU faces the common threats of terrorism, economic downturn and new rising powers, they are getting closer to each other again. At least physically. Let's see where things go.