Western values share the classical legacy of the Greek and Roman civilizations, are based on Christianity and mainly characterised by the prominence given to the individual – that we are all, each and everyone, children of God, this Christian belief stands at the core of Western culture. Democracy, the rule of law, personal freedom, the separation of church and state as well as the conviction that the world can be explained rationally denote Western idea(l)s.
The expressions that these values find in Europe and in North America differ however not inconsiderably – the American readiness to, for instance, exercise power (be it the death penalty or the invasion of another country) seems to indicate a mentality rather different from the ever so reluctant European attitude.
The culture we grow up in shapes the way we see the world. If this culture is one of strength, our view of the world will be one from a position of strength. In the case of America this includes a propensity to use that strength.
Cultures do not clash, humans sometimes do – not so much because of different values (after all: quite some of the behaviour of American soldiers in Iraq would be as offensive back in America) but because of, perhaps, a mix of fear, xenophobia, military training, lack of manners, and youth, a mix that can be found wherever an army (from East or West, North or South) is found fighting.
The debate about a possible clash of civilizations gives a prominence to cultural values that is not deserved – for any closer look will result in realising that what humans have in common by far outweighs their differing opinions – and obscures that the problems between Europe and America, as well as between the West and the rest of the world, is one of power (competing greed, egotism etc. – the character traits that we all share) and not of incompatible values.