Thursday, March 23, 2006

To each other, about each other, or across each other?

This has to be one of the oddest dialogues I”ve heard in a while. The American Interest bills the men in the ring: Bernard-Henri Lévy and American Interest editor Francis Fukuyama. The results are actually a bit more interesting than odd even though they seem to talk past each other. It’s a bit like “My Dinner With André” except that neither of them wants to play Wallace Shawn’s character.

Bernard-Henri Lévy: I, for one, certainly do not long for the time when Europe had leadership and was calling the shots among the nations! I know its failure well, and I also know the terrible assessment of what my friend Jean-Claude Milner called its "criminal inclinations." Consider the Armenian genocide. Consider the rise of fascist movements and the Spanish Civil War. Consider the implementation of the Final Solution of the alleged "Jewish question."

Consider even the next period, the one characterized by the gradual containment of communism and later by the support that had to be provided to the first democratic, anti-totalitarian movements in the countries of captive Europe. On each occasion Europe betrayed. Europe disavowed and made a mockery of its own values. Indeed, on each occasion, Europe was ready to strike the most cynical deals in order to preserve its interests. It's appalling, it's pathetic, but that's the way it is....

Francis Fukuyama: This, it seems to me, is the essential paradox you deal with in American Vertigo: Americans have this incredible energy, they've created a faux paradise in the desert at home and now they want to make deserts bloom in the Middle East. But they go about it in a clumsy and self-defeating way, and they have neither the imperial bloody-mindedness nor the steady judgment to see the project through. Maybe so. But if global leadership were left up to Europeans, they would either acquiesce in whatever exists, or they would make cynical deals to preserve their own narrow interests while talking about universal rights and justice.
Not to be missed. Read it all here.

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