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.
Washington as the protector of the free world provided the Europeans security and shelter through the Cold War years, allowing them to be the wives who could stay home to cultivate the homely virtues while their menfolk grew stronger in the outside world. Like the nags of the comic strips (think Blondie to Dagwood), Europeans constantly criticize Americans as too confrontational, too militaristic, too aggressive. The little ladies prefer flirtation, not confrontation. (Isn't that just like a woman?)
"Europeans believed they knew better how to deal with the Soviets: through engagement and seduction, through commercial and political ties, through patience and forbearance, " writes Robert Kagan.
When the strategy of the Americans triumphed and the Iron Curtain fell, the little ladies realized that they had reaped the benefits of the cowboy's protection, but at a price. They had abandoned any responsibility for themselves. Resentment and envy began to simmer beneath the surface. Like the feminists who woke up to stand up for themselves in the '60s, the Europeans, in the face of threats from Saddam Hussein, began organizing consciousness-raising sessions and turned on the United States with vengeance and vitriol. In Freudian terms, Europe sees American power and strength, omnipotence buttressed with "war toys," as the phallic symbols of aggression and punishment. (Doesn't that sound just like a radical feminist?)
France and Germany, as the weaker sex against Iraq, employ weapons of manipulation that women know in their hearts might not always work. They frame their weakness with a passive idealism ("make love not war), appealing to conscience instead of might (bombs kill the innocent), preferring hopeful procrastination to bold action (give inspections a chance). The man can change. Like women who marry alcoholics, the little ladies of Europe think they can change Saddam with indulgence. They defy the evidence.
As little ladies, France and Germany can be passive-aggressive - bitchy, in the vernacular - conniving, devious and duplicitous. It's no longer the latest news that Marianne, the heroic distaff symbol of France, sells arms and nuclear technology to Iraq, or that heavy-breathing Brunhilde sells biological and chemical technology to Saddam. The little ladies know that what they've been doing behind the cowboy's back will come to light after a successful conquest of Saddam and they'll be exposed, like the adulterous wife caught in her lover's bed: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"