Monday, February 21, 2005

Advice to Uncle Sam from Europe: Uncle Sam, Ignore the Advice from Europe

A New York Times op-ed piece on what Europeans want from the United States includes contributions from Elfriede Jelinek, Bono, Robert Skidelsky, Gianni Rota, Constanze Stellenmüller, Tariq Ramadan, and Guillaume Parmentier, but the best piece of advice — the only sensible one, in fact — comes from a East European. Slovakia's Stefan Hrib basically tells Dubya to …ignore what the Europeans want from the United States.
I grew up under communism in the former Czechoslovakia
explains the editor in chief of the Slovak weekly Tyzden
We were taught that Ronald Reagan was a servant of the military-industrial complex, a man who wanted war and scorned ordinary people. Paradoxically, most Europeans shared this view, not just those of us who lived behind the Iron Curtain. Had leaders in Moscow, Prague, Paris and Madrid been asked at the time what Mr. Reagan could do to reinvigorate relations between the United States and Europe, they probably would all have had the same answer: he should abandon his dream of American hegemony and start to consider Europe, including the Soviet Union, as an equal partner.

But Mr. Reagan didn't seek their advice, and communism eventually collapsed. Mr. Reagan reinvigorated relations between the United States and Europe by staying true to his convictions.

Now I live in democratic Slovakia, which is a member of NATO and the European Union. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, almost everything in our lives has changed. Our part of Europe is no longer under occupation; my friends can travel freely; our children can study at Harvard, Oxford and the Sorbonne; the secret police are not almighty; and a market economy has replaced socialism.

But one thing didn't change: the majority of people in Europe still consider the American president a servant of the military-industrial complex who wants war and scorns ordinary people. So to the question of what George Bush can do to reinvigorate relations between the United States and Europe, I offer the same answer that worked for Ronald Reagan 20 years ago: stay true to your convictions and act accordingly. The salons of postmodern Europe will eventually appreciate your wisdom.

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