Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Look. I know it is shooting French in a barrel. But when yet another insufferable penseur -- first Chirac, then de Villepin, now the editor of Le Monde -- starts lecturing Americans on how they ought to conduct themselves in the world, the rules of decorum are suspended.

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Jean-Marie Colombani, who wrote the famous Sept. 12, 2001, Le Monde editorial titled ``We are all Americans,'' gives us the usual more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger lament about America's sins: We loved you on Sept. 11. We were all with you in Afghanistan. But, oh, what have you done in Iraq?

This requires some parsing. We loved you on Sept. 11 means: We like Americans when they are victims, on their knees and bleeding. We just don't like it when they get off the floor -- without checking with us first.

Colombani glories in Europe's post-Sept. 11 ``solidarity'' with America: ``Let us remember here the involvement of French and German soldiers, among other European nationalities, in the operations launched in Afghanistan to ... free the Afghans.''

Come again? The French arrived in Mazar-e Sharif after it fell -- or as military analyst Jay Leno put it, ``to serve as advisers to the Taliban on how to surrender properly.'' Afghanistan was liberated by America acting practically unilaterally, with an even smaller coalition than that in Iraq -- Britain and Australia, with the rest of the world holding America's coat.

But then came Iraq. ``The problem was not so much the war itself, but the fact that it was launched without U.N. approval,'' Colombani explains.

Rubbish. The Kosovo war was launched without U.N. approval and France joined it. Only two wars have ever been launched with U.N. approval: the Korean War (an accident of the Soviets having walked out of the Security Council on another matter) and Gulf War I.

It is touching to hear such legalistic objections to deposing a man who has killed more Muslims than any person on earth -- particularly when the objection is offered from a pose of superior international morality from a country whose commandos once blew up a Greenpeace ship monitoring French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Moreover, Colombani complains, George Bush ``lied about the weapons of mass

destruction -- the official pretext for the war -- as now publicly established by recent investigations.'' More rubbish. The investigations have established that the weapons have not been found and may not exist. The claim that the president knew so at the time, and lied about it as a ``pretext'' for war, is a malicious falsehood.

There is more. Colombani grieves that the Bush administration has taken an ``ax'' to the two great pillars of Western success post-World War II: containment and free trade.

Colombani decries the fact that containment has given way to pre-emptive war. But containment was designed for the Soviet Union, which died 10 years before Bush even took office. Only a fool would advocate containment against the new threat that has arisen in its place: terrorists and terrorist states acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

When dealing with undeterrables (like al Qaeda) or undetectables (like an Iraq or an Iran passing WMDs to terrorists) there is no such thing as containment. There is no deterrence, no address for the retaliation. There are two options -- do nothing and wait for the next attack, or get them before they acquire the capacity to get you. That is called pre-emption.

Warming to the ``ax'' theme, Colombani then decries the Bush administration's ``return of protectionism.'' This (plus pre-emption), ``is why John Kerry is, a priori, perceived with so much sympathy'' in Europe.

Good grief. Only an ignoramus oblivious to what is happening in American politics could prefer Kerry over Bush on grounds of free trade. Has no one told Colombani that the Democrats have made protectionism -- attacking everything from NAFTA to the WTO -- a theme of this campaign, radically reversing the Clinton policies of the 1990s?

It is not John Kerry's fault that he is endorsed by a Frenchman. (Or by Kim Jong Il of North Korea, whose media have been running some of Kerry's speeches verbatim!) But Kerry has made the major -- indeed, only discernible -- theme of his foreign policy ``rejoining the community of nations'' and being liked abroad once again.

Which is why he does not just court foreign support, he boasts about it. ``I've met foreign leaders, who can't go out and say this publicly,'' he told a Hollywood, Fla., fund-raiser, ``but boy they look at you and say, `You gotta win this one, you gotta beat this guy.'''

For the world. For France.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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