On Bush's Excellent European Adventure
I’m pretty tired, so I’m just going to round up some commentary and jot down a few of my thoughts on the President’s Europe trip. Perhaps I’ll flesh them out later. I'm too tired to edit this much, so please forgive the occasional typo or error. Readers are, of course, invited to discuss and embellish in the comments.
Marc Shulman over at the indispensable American Future
has a fantastic roundup of coverage from all angles of the European scene. There's lots to think about there and, as usual, reading Marc's posts makes me wonder why I even bother blogging, since he's usually covered everything in such detail.
Fellow pinstriper New Sisyphus
has a long, detailed post
about the trip which, while marred by the lack of D&D references is nonetheless a worthwhile read (for those of you with a few hours to kill).
The saintly Mrs. Smiley is happy. This is because I actually stopped yelling at BBC world for a while, so nearly non-biased and almost factual was their coverage of the Bush visit. I didn't think that was possible. Even the beeb couldn't help but notice that anti-Bush protesters came out in relatively small numbers.
My impression from all of this is that for all their bluster, all the mass protests, all the wayward opinion polls, Europeans really do worry about what America thinks of them. They want to be liked just as much as we do. They might look down their noses at Americans, and Europe's welfare-intellectual caste may not cease in deploying its tired, faux-ironic Sorbonne narrative that still attempts to find clever ways of relating, in terms both as trite as they are ignorant, that America is the source of much of the world's suffering. But the average European, and therefore the average European politician, nonetheless wants, to some extent, the approval of America, or at least to be valued by her.
I get the sense that while many on the American side of the pond would prefer to have good relations with Europe, and that the apparent easing of tensions brings about some relief, the average European at this time is letting out an audible sigh of relief, as if to paraphrase Sally Field: "you like me, you really do. "
The US without Europe would not be better off, in my opinion, but would survive and adapt -- that is the great strength of American society. On the other hand, Europe without the US, despite the indignance of the aforementioned black-turtleneck intellectuals, would be much worse off. Imagine a Europe that must suddenly pay for both its defense and its lavish welfare system while it nears retirement without enough young laborers to subsidize the welfare system. It is therefore comforting for the average European to know that, the bluster of Messrs Chirac and Schroeder notwithstanding, Uncle Sam will still pick up the tab for Europe's defense. Because of this, despite the insistence of both men that Europe is "an equal" to the US (look it up at American Future), Europe is still a junior partner in the Alliance.
Most Europeans seemed almost eager (although being careful not to show it too much) to be courted by Bush. Which is why, as New Sisyphus pointed out, Bush could get away with saying pretty much the same things he's been saying all along.
There are some in the pundit class, however, who seem to think they are being clever by pointing out that many issues remain, and that there are still cracks in the relationship, etc. This is true, but implicit in this logic is the assumption that things were rosy before the Iraq war, which is anything but the case. There were differences then, as well: US opposition to the International Criminal Court, American ambivalence about Kyoto, a bevy of trade disputes about things as mundane as bananas.
Had the US not invaded Iraq, these differences could well have simmered for a long time, ignored by all but the policy wonks and the occasional savvy pundit (and trust me, savvy pundits occur at most occasionally). It is entirely possible that eventually, the Atlantic Alliance would have atrophied, the passion gone, the two parties behaving just like that old couple at the restaurant who eat an entire meal without speaking or making eye contact.
I believe that the shake up caused by the war in Iraq can ultimately be a good thing, as it clears the dead wood in the Atlantic relationship. The cold war is over, and the US and Europe need to find out if there is any more to the relationship than opposition to the Soviet Union. Just like Dr. Who regenerating, it is time for the Atlantic relationship to develop a new incarnation. Only without the long scarf. I don't think Manolo would approve of that.