It's the European self image, and it's all about the warm-fuzzies found in free-riding and feeling good about having all kinds of fine principals that you proceed to ignore. Like human rights, security risks, and doing things that actually are good for the environment, or anything else for that matter.
When Europeans talk about "multilateralism," they typically don't mean agreeing on a common policy to carry out together. They mean defaulting global security to the United Nations, where Russian and Chinese vetoes curtail effective action. At best, multilateralism à la Paris and Berlin is short for European approval for where and how Americans may intervene around the world.
The Continent's free-riding on U.S. security while criticizing the way that security is provided predates the Bush Administration and will outlive it. President Bush has mainly provided Europeans with an excuse for refusing the kind of cooperation they'd rather not provide anyway. Mr. Obama has promised a multilateral surge of troops into the Afghanistan-Pakistan front. He may find, like Mr. Bush, that most of those troops will have to be American.
- from the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal