Thursday, August 26, 2004

Is Bush the Better Peace-With-Europe Candidate?

An American author residing in Europe, John Zvesper is an Adjunct Fellow of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs. Here is an editorial of his:
…the extent to which this anybody-but-Bush syndrome thrives in Europe should not be exaggerated. It is not universal, and Bush can count more statesmen than Tony Blair as friends and allies in Europe. Nor should the older, more generic, less Bush-specific anti-American sentiments of Europeans—though these are strong and durable—be seen as unqualified and unchanging. Just as there are pessimistic, “European”-minded people in America, there are optimistic, “American”-minded people in Europe. Half of the twenty-five governments in the enlarged European Union have been part of the Coalition for Iraqi Freedom. President Chirac of France, who has recently been the source of many anti-American initiatives, is being stalked in his own party by an ambitious young rival for the presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy, who in interviews has been accused of having a soft spot for America. Chirac has also been losing ground in EU politics, where he has failed to get his candidates into high office, and where the French notion of constructing Europe as a "counterweight" or "adversary" to America is rejected as "stupid" by the incoming EU President (the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso, who has lived and worked in the United States).

It is true that a Kerry victory might help get certain European governments—notably France and Germany—out of the hole they have dug themselves into by leading opposition to American policies in Iraq. (They were not, as they often claim, just offering advice to a friend; they were arrogantly insisting that their friend take that advice.) This helps explain the extent to which these countries are hoping that Bush will lose. But this could work the other way around, too: the re-election of Bush, by reaffirming America’s commitment to the policies it has adopted since September 2001, and thus its will to win the war with Islamofascism, could help change the policies and the personnel of these European governments. The Kerry alternative, indulging Europeans’ anti-Americanism by focusing on some of America’s many faults and mistakes, would be neither an effective nor a healthy way to encourage European-American unity.

…European commentators have recognized that such divisions between America and Europe will probably persist whoever wins the presidential election. More than five months ago, The Economist commented that "Mr Kerry might explain American views more tactfully than Mr Bush. He might even do it in French. But transatlantic tensions would endure." Americans should become more aware of this fact, and should not assume that electing Kerry would be a very effective way of easing tensions with Europe. Moreover, as we have seen, if they want to persuade more Europeans and their governments to support American foreign policy—insofar as such persuasion is possible—they should ask themselves whether a re-elected President Bush might be better placed to do that than a new President Kerry.

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