Europeans invariably challenge President Bush by saying reflexively the president doesn’t listen. According to the European critique, the United States should not have gone into Iraq, should not remain in Iraq, should use diplomatic instruments rather than military strength, should concern itself with “real” problems like global warming rather than the fixation on terrorism and should repair its alliance with European nations by listening instead of brow-beating.
While Europeans usually say “we love Americans” that comment is quickly modified by the assertion “we hate President Bush.” It doesn’t occur to them that George Bush was elected by the American people. Yet one European observer after another noted in recent conversations that we would be cheering in the streets if a Democrat is elected president in 2008.
Remarkably the European charge against President Bush appears to me as a classic case of projection. It is the Europeans who do not listen; all they hear is their own echo.
Whatever one believes, the United States went into Iraq because it is a nation that exhibited imperial ambitions, is located in a region that spawns terrorists, had terrorist camps on its soil and Saddam Hussein had every intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. These matters are indisputable, despite European claims to the contrary.
A precipitous departure from Iraq, according to almost every commentator on the issue, would foster a regional war and embolden jihadists who would regard this American departure as a victory.
Notwithstanding understandable reluctance, the United States is engaged in direct negotiations with Iran that insists the U.S. leave Iraq and call its invasion a failure. While Europeans claim this negotiation is the right move, they also declare it came “too late.”
At the recent G-8 meeting in Germany, President Bush called global warming a problem and insisted on voluntary national steps to control the warming trend. Yet almost every European editorial criticized him for not adopting the Merkel plan which insists on national carbon limits and a required global cooling condition, even though India and China, the two most populous nations, reject the imposition of limits.
If the president’s global warming speech is any indication, he is listening to the Europeans but they aren’t listening to Bush. They have dug in their heels and refuse to consider the American position.
Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of Decade of Denial (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001).
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