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Two separate worlds......

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  • Two separate worlds......

    Interesting article - Quote:

    Sept. 11 defines relationship with Europe


    Brussels -- It has been a wild ride for U.S.-Europe relations since Sept. 11 -- an eruption of brotherhood giving way to puzzlement and sniping.

    At a conference here, talk turned to the president's "axis of evil" speech, and the shudders it caused across the ocean.

    "You know," a German writer explained, "the concept of 'good and evil' no longer really exists in Europe."

    Any discussion of the trans-Atlantic rift - the sniping over the war on terrorism - veers quickly into psychology and culture. There is an attitude gap between the U.S. and Europe. It's overblown sometimes. It's easy to caricature (they think we're cowboys and crusaders; we think they're snobs and wimps).

    And it's hardly universal. Some Europeans agree with Bush's aggressive posture, and some Americans are frightened by it.

    But the gap is there, and it's most acute among the political classes. Despite bonds of history, blood, religion and culture, many in the U.S. and Europe have felt a need since Sept. 11 to explain themselves to one another.

    You could sense this at the gathering mentioned above, a meeting of journalists and "Eurocrats" that convened just as the diplomatic crossfire peaked. Participants differed over how deep the divisions are.

    A Belgian writer warned darkly of a "dangerous climate of anti-Americanism very much growing in Europe." Some U.S. reporters who have spent years in Europe disagreed, saying anti-American feeling here is far more pronounced in the media than among the public.

    But the premise of a "disconnect" between partners was widely shared.

    It's now a truism that Europeans don't understand how much Sept. 11 changed America, and that Americans don't appreciate the resentment caused by U.S. power and rhetoric.

    "The U.S. and Europe really are looking at the world in a pretty different way," said one American speaker here, conservative commentator Bill Kristol.

    Kristol summed up the European approach to foreign threats as deterrence, containment, aid and arms control - the traditional carrots and sticks. He compared that to the arresting new Bush doctrine of military buildup, regime-change and "pre-emption," the notion of striking first against so-called rogue states that have weapons of mass destruction. America wants to root out terrorism; Europe wants to contain it. President Bush is explicitly on a mission; Europeans view talk of "good against evil" as crude and evangelical.

    Sept. 11 explains a lot about these differences. But history and culture explain more. After centuries of continental war, Europe is engaged in an amazing act of integration, moving from a common market to a common currency to - maybe - a common foreign policy and army. The Europe movement is taming the beast of nationalism, and has pacified one of history's most ruinous rivalries, between France and Germany.

    It's an epic process, and exotic to Americans in at least two ways.

    One, it's not very democratic. These changes are rarely put to voters. Many Europhiles think that if they were, they would take too long, or might never happen. A British financial writer here called the ungainly 15-member European Union, led by a different country every six months, a structure "that is barely comprehended and certainly not loved."

    Two, sovereignty in today's Europe is far less sacred than it is in the U.S. Even as nations cede power to the EU, patriotic nationalism is not a force in mainstream domestic politics. (The British, long tortured about European union, are a partial exception).

    These differences feed the stereotypes that surface in trans-Atlantic spats. There's a popular view in Europe that its approach to world affairs is more grown-up than America's - that we're gunslingers; we see things in black and white; we'd rather fight than talk.

    "The military is the hammer in the toolbox, but not every problem is a nail," says the EU's ambassador in Washington, Guenter Burghardt. Since the "axis of evil" speech, official Europe's message to the U.S. has been: "Calm down. Things aren't so simple. Each bad guy is different. Bombs won't solve everything."

    Sound reasonable? Sure. Condescending? That, too. Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for external affairs, is a Brit who has criticized Bush but regards himself as pro-American. Over lunch with journalists here, he acknowledged this snob element in European attitudes, recounting how in the early '60s, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan "used to describe Europe or Britain as 'Athens to America's Rome.' "

    Said Patten: "I think that President Kennedy must have curled up inside every time he uttered that sort of patronizing crap."

    Then there's the popular American stereotype of Europe, a land of free-riders and appeasers, enjoying the U.S. defense umbrella but unwilling to face up to tyrants or terrorists.

    In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece last week, ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey found his metaphor in the classic Western, "High Noon." Woolsey likened the U.S. to the gutsy marshal played by Gary Cooper and Europe to the timorous town folk ready to cave to the local gang because the saloon might get shot up.

    Europeans express deep annoyance with this view. Patten said he didn't need to be told that the North Korean dictator is "a very wicked chap" and that Saddam Hussein is "an evil dictator" and that reformers in Iran don't have much power.

    "I read the paper. I'm well informed. I know about weapons of mass destruction," he said edgily.

    Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, insists he's sensible to the threats that now consume U.S. policy makers. "We are not crazy," he said.

    So what does the dispute come down to?

    It's fair to say there are two broad strains to Europe's complaints.

    One is more reflexively negative toward American policy and more deeply hostile to U.S. military action in the Islamic world. The other comes from Europeans who might eventually be persuaded to support an attack on Iraq, but are alarmed and irritated because they think U.S. leaders are indifferent to the views of their allies.

    This suggests that the U.S. and Europe will continue to annoy each other, but a serious rupture is more improbable.

    At cross purposes, says Burghardt, "we can do a lot of damage to our global affairs."

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