2/24/2003 12:00:00 AM - George Will
In Europe, anti-Semitism has been called the socialism of fools, which is confusing, because socialism is the socialism of fools. Confusion has been compounded because Europe, nearly six decades after the continent was rendered largely Judenrein, has anti-Semitism without Jews, as when the ambassador to Britain from France -- yes, our moral tutor, France -- calls Israel a "s----y little country."
But some clarity can be achieved by understanding that America has become for many Europeans what Jews were for centuries. From medieval times until 1945, Jews often were considered the embodiment of sinister forces, the focus of discontents, the all-purpose explanation of disappointments. Now America is all those things.
"These were not only young, politicized people," said Romano Prodi, head of the European Commission, speaking of the European demonstrations protesting U.S. policy toward Iraq. "This was the whole society that took part in a spontaneous way."
America approached this endgame with Iraq worrying about the "Arab street" but finds more trouble in the "European street." However, if Prodi's assessment is essentially correct, the broad-based demonstrations could not have been essentially motivated by concern for Iraq's rights.
European demonstrations protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam arose largely from the European left's residual sympathies for communist regimes and insurgencies. And the last time U.S. policy -- actually, it was NATO's policy -- caused large numbers of Europeans to take to the streets was in the early 1980s, when intermediate-range missiles were deployed, at the request of Europe's governments, to counter a Soviet deployment. Those demonstrations drew on the caricature of Ronald Reagan as a reckless "cowboy," on residual sympathy for the Soviet Union and on fear of Europe's becoming a nuclear battlefield.
Today's demonstrators against a war to disarm Iraq can hardly be explained by fear for their safety, or by sympathy for Saddam Hussein's fascism. The London demonstration -- 1 million strong, much the largest in British history -- was not as large as the death toll from the war Saddam Hussein launched against Iran. The demonstrators simultaneously express respect for the United Nations' resolutions and loathing for America, the only nation that can enforce the resolutions. This moral infantilism -- willing an end while opposing the only means to that end -- reveals that the demonstrators believe the means are more objectionable than the end is desirable.
The demonstrators must know that Slobodan Milosevic and the Taliban would still be tyrannizing Muslims were it not for U.S. power. But they do not care.
And the demonstrators must know that if they turn President Bush into "the noble Duke of York" (who "had ten-thousand men, he marched them up to the top of the hill, and he marched them down again"), Hussein will bestride the Middle East, and emulators -- and weapons of mass destruction -- will proliferate. That the demonstrators do not care is a measure of their monomania -- anti-Americanism.
For Europe's elites, anti-Americanism is a sterile response to the galling fact that Europe committed semi-suicide in the 20th century. But many of these elites' economic and defense policies are deepening Europe's self-inflicted anemia.
For example, Germany, which accounts for one-third of the euro zone's economic output, had Europe's worst average annual growth rate over the past decade (1.3 percent, barely better than Japan's 1 percent). BusinessWeek, calling Germany "Japan on the Rhine," reports that the nation that gave the world aspirin was in the 1960s the world's leading producer of pharmaceuticals but now does not have a pharmaceutical company among the world's top 15.
The curdled arrogance of some European elites, and especially of those clinging to a status that they sense is eroding, was displayed last Monday in Jacques Chirac's dressing-down of Eastern European leaders who support U.S. policy. Speaking of them with the disdain of a duke deploring bad manners among the servants below stairs, Chirac said they were guilty of "not well brought-up behavior" -- something like using the fish fork during the salad course -- and that "they missed a good opportunity to keep quiet" because several are still applicants for membership in the European Union.
There is not much to be gained just now from additional attempts to reason with a leader that tone-deaf, or from attempts to soften the monomania of those swarming in the "European street." Perhaps U.S. policy can change European minds by changing facts in Iraq.
Perhaps not. However, America's vital interests are more dependent on those facts than on those minds.