Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Problem with Places Full of Thoroughly Decent People

Roger Cohen discusses how America's "greatest nation" rhetoric alienates many foreigners and how Bush's "sense of God-given mission, especially its military manifestation, has proved maddening to many Europeans".
"Everything divides us: that is what I keep hearing," said Ezra Suleiman, a professor of politics at Princeton now working at the American Academy in Berlin. "Religion, the death penalty, ecology, the use of the military. It is as if people have forgotten all we have in common."

In a recent speech on European values, the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, used the word "peace" several times, with "solidarity" and "equality" not far behind. The war on terror did not figure.

The stuff of the European Dream is not, it seems, the stuff of the current American Dream. As a result, the Bush rhetoric is widely viewed in Europe as "delusional and arrogant," Suleiman said.

The problem, of course, is that the Netherlands and Belgium and Luxembourg, to name three founding members of the European Union, are very nice places full of thoroughly decent people but they are not going to stop Al Qaeda, prevent terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons, oust the Taliban, assuage Central European concerns over Russia, police the Korean Peninsula, watch over Taiwan, disarm Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, or, in general, assume the cost of defending free societies. Nor are France and Germany.

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