Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bush Goes To Europe - A Failure Before He Arrives?

President Bush has gone to Europe, and cynics everywhere are already pronouncing the trip a failure. Typical of such cynics is an article by William Pfaff this morning, titled straightforwardly enough: Why Bush will fail in Europe (found via RCP)

But let's examine some of the premises said failure is built upon.

The first is that the Europeans don't believe in the War of Terror:

American claims about the threat of terrorism seem grossly exaggerated, and the American reaction disproportionate and even hysterical. Three thousand were killed in the Twin Towers, but most advanced societies have already had, or still have, their own wars with 'terrorism' sustaining losses proportionately as severe: the British with the IRA, Italians and Germans with their Red Brigades, the Spanish with the Basque separatist Eta, and so on. It has been a condition of modern political existence.
Did you get that? Airplanes crashing into buildings. Get used to it. Europeans would. A moment later we get this telling statement:

To most Democrats as well as Republicans, 11 September was the defining event of the age, after which 'nothing could be the same'. Their imperviousness to any notion that this might not be so astonishes many abroad. Many European believe it is not the world that has changed, but the United States.
Um... hard to know what to say about this. Coupled with the confession above of European impotence in the face of similar events, this is hardly a flattering portrait of the modern European state of mind. If we're different here, I'm hardly persuaded it is the U. S. which needs to change its attitude.

The second cause of transatlantic disagreement is the American claim to global domination, and its hostility to Europe's acquiring political or military power commensurate with European economic power.
Now we're off in pure fantasy-land. American hostility to Europe's attempt to acquire military power is a European fantasy paralleling the wild consipracy theories among Arab nations blaming Israel for their every problem. Want a military? Go ahead and build one. No one is stopping you.

But please don't default on your already meager NATO treaty commitments because you're pretending you have this terrific new military just around the corner. It simply isn't true.

The obvious problem is that Europe can't afford to build a credible military while maintaining their welfare states. The very capable military of the United Kingdom is the last of its kind among EU nations which grew complacent about their own defense under an umbrella of U. S. protection.

Without a credible military, aspirations for U. S. level political power are always going to fall short of European aspirations.

Reading Pfaff's analysis is like listening to a delusional Hitler in the bunker, directing the movements of divisions which no longer exist. He cites Condoleeza Rice:

Speaking in Paris last week, the Secretary of State asked, 'why should we seek to divide our capacities for good, when they can be much more effective united? Only the enemies of freedom would cheer this division.' The alternative she proposes is an American-led international system that replaces Nato's principle of equality and collegiality with hierarchy.


We've been very patient with European insistence that we treat them like equals, despite the fact that they have refused to meet the obligations of an equal in any meaningful way. They don't equally contribute economically, or militarily to NATO, yet insist we must humble ourselves before them due to that alliance.

Well, no. Rice is the realist here. What she's saying is that Europe has two choices: help, or get out of the way. We'd prefer the former. If you ever get around to resolving that impotent military problem, give us a call and we'll talk about letting you share the lead. Until that time, stop living in the past and accept the situation as it really is.

The third basic disagreement is that the US has repudiated the system of absolute state sovereignty that has governed international society since 1648, and is the basis of modern international law.

Pure and utter fantasy. Would Mr. Pfaff care to explain how all the European wars of aggression, defense, and/or conquest differ in kind from the current war in Iraq? He doesn't even attempt it, preferring to assert the preposterous fantasy that no one other than the U. S. has ever crossed this bright and shining line respected by all nations since 1648.

More fantasy follows:

The US then renounced, 'de-ratified', or simply abandoned a series of treaty commitments. These included Geneva standards on the treatment of prisoners and the prohibition of torture. The US has deliberately chosen to place itself outside the regime of international law, to which all of the European Union nations are committed.
State the case one at a time, prosecutor. The Geneva allegations are absurd, and uniformly ignore Geneva's clear distinction between enemy combatants acting in a way that entitles them to Geneva protection, and illegal combatants which the Geneva convention specifically states are not provided protection. This is no small distinction. Geneva was written this way for the protection of non-military civilians.

As for the rest of the "abandoned treaty commitments," I am aware of abandoning the Cold War treaty against building a missile defense system. But the nation we signed that treaty with no longer exists, and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction makes no sense at all anymore. Treaties are not suicide pacts - something Europe possibly has a hard time grasping.

This American role is avowedly benevolent, and in the eyes of many Americans, certainly including President Bush, it is of divine origin (Woodrow Wilson also believed this). Within the present administration, there are those who believe cosmic forces are in play and responsible for America's emergence as the sole superpower. The American belief in a divine commission goes back to its religious origins in the 17th century, and is not open to logical refutation.
Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

I really wish the shriveled offspring of the continent that brought Christianity to America spent a little more time studying it. Thomas Aquinas explained long ago how it was possible to square Christian faith simultaneously with belief in objective reality. Yet Europeans have convinced themselves that all of us God-talkers are clearly impervious to reason, generally refusing to examine evidence to the contrary. The irony would be funny, if its effects weren't so serious.

The American challenge is to the fundamental claim of other nations to sovereign autonomy. In the immediate future this is likely to be managed rather than solved.

No, it's really not. Americans want little more from Europe than to behave like adult nations. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that Europe is intent on producing comfortable fantasies rather than playing a constructive role in the world. Tony Blair might spare Britain from this fate, though he faces a public sentiment little different than that on the rest of the continent.

On Bush's trip to Europe, one hopes he'll discover some who don't share Pfaff's perspective. If he fails in that mission, the failure is not that of President Bush, The failure belongs to Europe itself.


Blogger Todd said...

Everyone should read Brooks. They should then lather, rinse, and repeat.

4:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home