Here’s a gloomy thought for you: America is going to be lonely for a very long time. After reading the October issue of The American Enterprise, “Red America, Blue Europe,” that’s the only conclusion one can draw.
There is a grand myth that the world, particularly Europe, loved America before George W. Bush came into office. The reality is that it only dislikes us a bit more than it used to.
Anti-American books tore up the best-seller list in France throughout the Clinton presidency. The staged anti-globalization riots during the 1990s were not love letters to America or the Democratic party. In 1999, Bill Clinton needed 10,000 policemen to protect him from Greek activists who aimed to firebomb him. Protesters in Athens continually pulled down a statue of Harry Truman. Despite the relentless jackassery of people like Michael Moore and others who attributed 9/11 to Bush’s policies–including our failure to sign the Kyoto Treaty (stop laughing)–al-Qaeda got its operation up and running throughout the sunny days of Bill Clinton and the dotcom bubble.
In the 1980s, anti-Americanism was also a big problem, but fortunately the elites of Europe generally understood–with some lamentable exceptions–it was better to have America as a friend than the Soviet Union as a ruler.
But now that the Cold War is over, European elites have been liberated from the need to play well with the United States. Elections in Germany and France have largely been won in recent years by running against America. The U.S. is the only superpower and European elites don’t think anyone but them should be superpowers. The Chinese have a similar attitude, of course, and pretty much every foreign policy article and expert I can find says we’re going to be playing Cold War-style games with China for the next 50 years.
In other words, we are facing at minimum two enormous problems that will far, far outlast the Bush presidency, and, unlike in the past, it’s not entirely clear we can rely on our friends to stand with us. This is a broad generalization, which means that it’s open to contradiction by a great many facts while still, I think, remaining true. We do have some real friends, most notably Britain, Japan and Australia.
But much of Europe seems lost to us. There are many reasons for this, but two stick out. First, they’re free riders. They know that America is the only country left with the means and the will to maintain international order. Our economy keeps their economy afloat. We keep the sea lanes open. Our scientific innovation gives them medical breakthroughs they buy on the cheap.
Second, because we’re behind the wheel, they can indulge their vanity by playing backseat drivers. They reject the basic assumptions of American strategic imperatives. So they toy with selling weapons to the Chinese. They play games about whether or not Islamic radicalism is even really a problem. They are always willing to credit the worst possible explanation of American actions.
A columnist for the British Sun wrote this week, “America may have given the world the space shuttle and, er, condensed milk, but behind the veneer of civilization most Americans barely have the brains to walk on their back legs.” Then he got offensive, writing that the people of New Orleans were “finding themselves being blown to pieces by a helicopter gunship.”
A third of Germans under 30 think America ordered the 9/11 attacks. The “theory” that the Pentagon attack was self-inflicted stagecraft is in wide circulation in France, and the subject of a best-selling book. Throughout Europe, it’s easy to find commentators who take it at face value that Bush’s failure to sign Kyoto led to Katrina. (It’s worth noting: Clinton refused to sign it, too. And rightly so.)
There is a third reason Europe has become unreliable. The mass influx of Muslim immigrants. The political consequences of the Islamification of much of Europe will outlast George Bush for decades.
Tony Blair, a stalwart ally in Iraq, has recently been caving to Islamic radicals for domestic political considerations. He’s decided to seek advice from a new “task force” on extremism that hosts a rogues’ gallery of anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and apologists for bin Laden and jihadism (one “adviser” calls bin Laden a “freedom fighter”). This hardly bodes well for Britain to stay the course in the battle against Islamic fundamentalism.
What bodes even worse is that Britain is the only country in Europe with a military capable of projecting significant military force abroad for a sustained period of time. Even if the next president, or the one after that, succeeded in winning European friends where Bush has failed, it seems unlikely those friendships will be of enormous use. Economically and militarily, Europe is increasingly second-rate.
We are in for some lonely days.
–(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services