Suzanne Fields

Americans and Europeans live not on different continents, but on different planets. Robert Kagan, who cites the popular sexual metaphor to explain the fundamental differences between nations in his new book Of Paradise and Power: America vs. Europe in the New World Order [buy book], writes that "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus."

The analogy is clever, perceptive and closer to the mark than the author, whose stock in trade is foreign affairs, not the messier and more complicated affairs between men and women, may realize.

Europe, in this analogy, is the disarming woman who uses a variety of strategies on the battlefields of life. "Strong powers naturally view the world differently than weaker powers," writes Mr. Kagan. "They measure risks and threats differently, they define security differently, and they have different levels of tolerance for insecurity."

Hence, Europe confronts conflict with passive cooperation. Like a woman using her "weaker sex" to strike compromise at the first hint of conflict, Europe is open to strategies of reconciliation and is quick to indulge in wishful thinking at the expense of hard reality. ("Some day my prince will come.") Germany and France in this formulation are "little ladies" who imagine they can get their way by twisting Saddam, primitive hunk that he is, around their little fingers. He has a better nature under all that brutish bluster and all it takes is a wily female to find it. The little ladies can't accept the reality that they're being roughly wooed by an evil monster, not a mere brute.

In their naiveté the little ladies portray George W. as the macho cowboy reveling in the rowdiness of the roundup, quick on the draw, eager to shoot up the saloon, aiming from the hip. They can't bear it that the galoot in the White House actually wears the white hat of the hero. They have no appreciation at all for the possibility that maybe he understands something they don't about the lawlessness of the frontier, in this case the Middle East. They plead with him to play it safe, to run away from responsibility, to sip sarsaparilla from the safety of the family hearth.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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