Thursday, February 10, 2005

US and Europe, Closer Together

James K. Glassman disputes the assertion recently made by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the U.S. and Europe are as far apart as ever. Rather, Glassman believes we are coming closer together, but not because of any change in U.S. policy. Here are five of his reasons:
  • First, Europeans are realists. They have finally come to understand that, with his re-election, Bush is here to stay. He's not changing his mind about the Kyoto Protocol or the International Criminal Court. John Kerry won't ride to the rescue.

  • Second, the elections in Iraq have had a profound effect. Le Monde, the left-leaning newspaper of France's intelligentsia, headlined Tuesday: 'Franco-American Rapprochement After Iraq Elections.' My dictionary says a rapprochement is 'an agreement between two opposing groups.'

  • Friedman wrote his piece on Jan. 27, before the vote, but it's a different Europe today. No, the French and Germans aren't sending troops to Iraq just now, but they are getting actively involved in security and reconstruction. The election gives them a rationale: It's the Iraqis who seek their assistance, not the Americans. Of course, the effect is the same. Europe now sees the same path to success in Iraq as we do.

  • Third, the president has formulated his foreign policy with more clarity, especially in his inaugural speech. It's a combination of principle and prudence, which, rather than being a destabilizing break with the past, is actually a continuation of American tradition.

  • Woodrow Wilson wanted to make the world safe for democracy. Bush wants democracy to make the world safe.

  • This clearer, more powerful formulation of policy would have been welcome before the Iraq war (instead, the United States emphasized legalisms in an effort to get U.N. approval), but it's better late than never, and it is being treated with respect among Europeans who previously saw U.S. policy as simply naive and cynical.

  • Fourth, the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is seen, unlike her predecessor, as speaking for the president. While the message she's bringing Europe in her visit this week is a continuation of policy she helped set in the first term, her tone is friendly. The very fact that she and the president are focusing so much attention on Europe in the first few weeks of the new term (in the first term it was Mexico) is viewed as a significant change.

  • Fifth, the European Union itself is different, with the accession last year of 10 new countries, mainly from Eastern Europe. Members of the European parliament from such countries recognize the role the United States played in freeing them from Soviet domination. Ronald Reagan is their hero.

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