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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2002 / 3 Adar, 5762

Robert W. Tracinski

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Consumer Reports

Multilateralism's one-way street


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- A FEW weeks ago, many liberals were crowing that the War on Terrorism had forced the Bush administration to abandon "isolationism" and embrace "globalism" by seeking out an international coalition. This is part of an effort to make independent, "unilateral" action by America seem dangerous and disreputable, while making "multilateralism" -- i.e., doing nothing without the permission of an international consensus -- seem like the only responsible approach to foreign policy.

But the past week has shown us that multilateralism is really a one-way street -- a street that consistently runs against American interests.

Consider the spectacle of the Europeans seeking to scramble away from President Bush's "axis of evil" speech. In practice, multilateralism means Euro-lateralism: seeking a consensus from our supposed European allies. Well, the European consensus is that Bush's "axis of evil" doctrine is irresponsible -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismisses it as mid-term electioneering -- and "dangerous."

Dangerous to whom? The Gulf War -- which disabled Saddam Hussein's army in less than two months -- conclusively demonstrated America's irresistible military power. Our easy victory in Afghanistan, where we shattered a 50,000-man army with only a handful of soldiers on the ground, confirmed it. We know that Iran is no stronger than Iraq; the two countries fought a decade-long war that ended in a stalemate. And North Korea? It is one of the poorest, most backward regimes in the world.

No one can doubt that America and Europe would easily win a war against any of these countries.

But the Europeans' hysterical warnings are revealing. Consider, for example, their worry that a wider war in the Middle East would trap America and Europe in a "quagmire."

If I were a European defense minister, I wouldn't start mentioning quagmires right now -- for fear of reminding America of its intervention in the Balkans. When President Clinton first sent troops to Bosnia, he promised they would be there for no more than 18 months. Six years later, they are still policing Bosnia -- and Kosovo -- and Macedonia.

Before we sent troops to Bosnia, the Senate asked a series of senior foreign policy experts why the United States should entangle itself in a purely European conflict. Their reply was that we needed to show our commitment to NATO. After all, we were told, we might need the help of our European allies in the future. Well, now that we need it, where is it?

The Europeans have gotten us bogged down in an unwinnable quagmire in the Balkans, a region where the United States has no substantial interests. But now that we ask them to help fight terrorist states -- a danger that threatens both America and Europe -- they start whining about unwinnable quagmires. We don't have allies in Europe; we have parasites.

A recent news report on the president's budget cites a revealing statistic. Next year's proposed increase in U.S. defense spending, $48 billion, is larger than the total defense budget of any other single nation. The rest of the civilized world sleeps under the protection of a Pax Americana. They are able to avoid massive defense spending or crippling wars thanks to the security provided by our wealth, our military technology, and, most of all, our moral backbone.

(There is one exception. The only U.S. ally with the courage to face its own risks and take responsibility for its own survival is Israel. Observe that Israel is also the object of European indifference and hostility.)

The Europeans want to benefit from our protection, while undermining it. Why? Europe is wracked with guilt; at a U.N. conference a few weeks before Sept. 11, they agreed to apologize to Arab and African countries for the alleged sins of colonialism. At the same time, Europe is paralyzed by subjectivism; a European news agency, Reuters, banished the term "terrorist," for fear that it might imply a moral judgment. All of this combines to form a foreign policy of pacifism in the face of evil.

If a multilateral America has to take these policies into account, waiting for Europe to acquire a backbone before we can act, then we have surrendered our own interests and security. "Multilateralism" means chaining America's self-defense to a continent that has relapsed to the same level of courage the French displayed in 1940, when Marshall Petain responded to a German invasion by declaring that he was "awaiting events."

President Bush has promised that he "will not wait on events while dangers gather." Let us hope that he also refuses to wait on our illusory allies in Europe.



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