Friday, January 24, 2003

Us and Them: Thanks to the fearless Agitator (my favorite anti-warblogger) for pointing out Christopher Caldwell's excellent piece in Time on the Europe-America split over Iraq. Of course, Radley pokes the essay for being "big-government foreign policy," but I suspect that he's intentionally missing the point.
But the heart of the American complaint — again, reversing an old European saw — is that Europeans are naive and provincial. It is easy enough to browbeat Americans about the flimsy coverage the E.U. gets in U.S. dailies. But where does European interest in the world rise above the dilettantish? When has the E.U. come up with a workable plan for Iraq? For the Middle East? For North Korea? After the carnage of two world wars, the European distrust of power politics is something for which we have reason to be grateful. The problem is that postwar Europeans think their strategic differences with America are the product not of a specific historic experience but of a new, higher morality. And that is what George Bernard Shaw was talking about when he defined a barbarian as one who mistakes the customs of his tribe for the laws of nature.
Caldwell's point could be just as easily applied to GM foods, Kyoto, or any number of smaller issues that cause the Europeans to sniff at us from across the puddle. In fact, Caldwell's point is not even so much about war as it is about how an issue divides allies, and how Europe's dismissal of American cowboys, whether leading the way on security, technology, or globalization, is shortsighted rationalization and nothing more. They lack the power to do what we can, so they dismiss it as not worth doing (as grasping or tacky) or dangerous and unwise (rushing headlong into war with Iraq).

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