Assume, for a moment, that the French and the Germans aren’t thwarting us out of pique, but by design, long-term design. Then look at the world again, and see if there’s evidence of such a design.
Like everyone else, the French and the Germans saw that the defeat of the Soviet Empire projected the United States into the rare, almost unique position of a global hyperpower, a country so strong in every measurable element that no other nation could possibly resist its will. The “new Europe” had been designed to carve out a limited autonomy for the old continent, a balance-point between the Americans and the Soviets. But once the Soviets were gone, and the Red Army melted down, the European Union was reduced to a combination theme park and free-trade zone. Some foolish American professors and doltish politicians might say — and even believe — that henceforth “power” would be defined in economic terms, and that military power would no longer count. But cynical Europeans know better.
If you were the French president or the German chancellor, you might well have done the same.
How could it be done? No military operation could possibly defeat the United States, and no direct economic challenge could hope to succeed. That left politics and culture. And here there was a chance to turn America’s vaunted openness at home and toleration abroad against the United States. So the French and the Germans struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we’ll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans.
This required considerable skill, and total cynicism, both of which were in abundant supply in Paris and Berlin. Chancellor Shroeder gained reelection by warning of American warmongering, even though, as usual, America had been attacked first. And both Shroeder and Chirac went to great lengths to support Islamic institutions in their countries, even when — as in the French case — it was in open violation of the national constitution. French law stipulates a total separation of church and state, yet the French Government openly funds Islamic “study” centers, mosques, and welfare organizations. A couple of months ago, Chirac approved the creation of an Islamic political body, a mini-parliament, that would provide Muslims living in France with official stature and enhanced political clout. And both countries have permitted the Saudis to build thousands of radical Wahhabi mosques and schools, where the hatred of the infidels is instilled in generation after generation of young Sunnis. It is perhaps no accident that Chirac went to Algeria last week and promised a cheering crowd that he would not rest until America’s grand design had been defeated.
Both countries have been totally deaf to suggestions that the West take stern measures against the tyrannical terrorist sponsors in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Instead, they do everything in their power to undermine American-sponsored trade embargoes or more limited sanctions, and it is an open secret that they have been supplying Saddam with military technology through the corrupt ports of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s little playground in Dubai, often through Iranian middlemen.
It sounds fanciful, to be sure. But the smartest people I know have been thoroughly astonished at recent French and German behavior. This theory may help understand what’s going on. I now believe that I was wrong to forecast that the French would join the war against Iraq at the last minute, having gained every possible economic advantage in the meantime. I think Chirac will oppose us before, during, and after the war, because he has cast his lot with radical Islam and with the Arab extremists. He isn’t doing it just for the money — although I have no doubt that France is being richly rewarded for defending Saddam against the civilized countries of the world — but for higher stakes. He’s fighting to end the feared American domination before it takes stable shape.
If this is correct, we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe. And there, as in the Middle East, our greatest weapons are political: the demonstrated desire for freedom of the peoples of the countries that oppose us.
Radio Free France, anyone?
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen, Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, can be reached through Benador Associates.