The European Leap of Faith


Democrats (and even me!) can agree on at least one foreign policy issue -- we need to repair damage to the transatlantic alliance!

Bill Clinton:

?We live in an interdependent world in which we can?t kill, jail, or occupy all our potential adversaries, so we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists.?

Al Gore:

?Wouldn?t we be better off with a new president who hasn?t burned his bridges to our allies, and who could rebuild respect in the world??

Jimmy Carter:

?Unilateral acts and demands have isolated the United States from the very nations we need to join us in combating terrorism.?

OK. But what if Western Europe is a hypocritical foreign-policy basket case of knee-jerk America-bashers and diplomatic softies who refuse to back rhetoric with concrete money or troops? This question is getting decidedly less play. I just sat through an informative wither-Transatlantia hand-wringer featuring the likes of Joseph Soft Power Nye, various Canadian and French people, and also the Brookings Institute?s Jeremy Shapiro, co-author of Allies At War: America, Europe and the Crisis Over Iraq. The latter put forth the astonishing proposition that Bush?s war in Iraq derailed an emerging consensus between France and the U.S. on how to deal with Saddam Hussein, while noting gravely that Bush has a desultory approval rating in Europe of 12 percent.

And so I asked him: ?Besides playing nice and respecting alliances and not being Republican, what do you propose an American presidency should do to encourage European responsibility and to confront when appropriate the element of anti-Americanism that does animate some European policy??

Shapiro?s answer:

"Well first of all I don?t think that not being a Republican is an essential requirement to [rebuild] the relationship with Europe, (waits a beat for the punchline) but it?s helpful. But I think that many Republican governments and conceivably a Bush government can do more. But specifically at the question, I think that there is a European side to the equation. Any administration is going to need to show results from the European side; they?re going to need to demonstrate that a policy of according respect to European countries and according respect to international institutions actually delivers something in terms of burden-sharing, and actually deliver something in terms of the problems that the United States sees as security issues. And that really is going to mean demonstrating to the European countries that they?re very serious about getting contributions to the problems, and that they really want to hold, for example, the French to the claim that Ambassador Leaf just made that they recognize that Iraq is a common problem, and that common problems require common contributions. I don?t think that that?s possible, but it does require A) holding them to standards that they themselves proclaim, and B) acknowledging the court of public opinion, and cede authority commensurate with the assets that you get, so that people feel as if they do have a stake and a control over security problems. So for example the Bush Administration is very reluctant to do that, it tends to ask for European assistance without granting a sense or semblance of control. I don?t think this something that the States should be afraid of."

There you have it!