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November 2, 2003
Is this the end of 'the West?'

I don't know what breakfast cereal Thomas Friedman's been eating lately, but the man is on fire, this time asking if Europe has thrown in the towel, "Europe" mostly meaning France and Germany:

At the Madrid conference, Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion in new loans and credits for Iraq — and Germany and France pledged zero new dollars. The bottom line is clear: Saudi Arabia cares more about nurturing democracy in Iraq than Germany and France. Ah, you say, that’s unfair. Germany and France opposed the war, so why should they pay more than their share of the paltry EU contribution? Actually, it’s not unfair, when you remember that before the war France and Germany were obsessed with the lifting of UN sanctions on Saddam’s regime — in the name of easing the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Friedman sheds quite a bit of light on the disconnect between the US and its former primary European partners. We're no longer arguing over the means to an end, Friedman argues persuasively, we no longer agree on the ends themselves. We no longer share a common viewpoint or common problems, or at least that's what Europe thinks:

Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, noted to me in Brussels the other day that for a generation Americans and Europeans shared the same date: 1945. A whole trans-Atlantic alliance flowed from that postwar shared commitment to democratic government, free markets and the necessity of deterring the Soviet Union. ... ‘‘Our defining date is now 1989 and yours is 2001,’’ Bildt said. Every European prime minister wakes up thinking about how to share sovereignty, as Europe takes advantage of the collapse of communism to consolidate economically, politically and militarily. The U.S. president wakes up thinking about where the next terror attack might come from and how to respond — most likely alone.

‘‘While we talk of peace, they talk of security,’’ Bildt said. ‘‘We talk of sharing sovereignty, they talk about exercising sovereign power. ... No longer united primarily by a common threat, we have also failed to develop a common vision for where we want to go on global issues confronting us.’’

From this outlook, we can see why no amount of wrangling in the UN would have produced support for American intervention in Iraq. The Europeans are too busy dividing sovereignty to help us defend it, and the last country they'll be inclined to rescue is the American juggernaut that they perceive as competition for a united Europe. Friedman suggests a summit meeting between France, Germany, and the US, but my feeling is that such a summit would stoke their self-perception as the 400-pound gorillas of the EU. A better course of action would be to bypass these two altogether and continue to develop our relationships with Britain, Spain, and those Eastern European nations that better understand the nature and fragility of freedom. Cut off France and Germany for a decade or so and see how they feel being isolated in the EU that results.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 2, 2003 11:28 PM

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