Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2002/ 2 Adar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Fightin' words from the axis of cheese -- EVERY successful politician is a lucky politician, and nobody has better luck with his enemies than George W. Bush.

Right on cue, the Iranians set out to prove the president's point about the "axis of evil." Awash in a sea of banners and placards, accompanied by the usual "death to America" chants, the "reformist" president of Iran told a rally in Tehran that America is not only weak, bad and cowardly, but got what it had coming on September 11.

"The American people have every right to ask their leaders how long should they pay the price for their faulty policies," cried President Mohammed Khatami. "What policies and what reasons caused the September 11 attacks?"

This followed by just one day the best efforts of two of the most prominent Eurogeeks to portray George W. as the power-mad warmonger and the Iranians as the best hope for peace in the Middle East. Chris Patten, the European Union commissioner for international relations, had delivered a remarkable broadside at George W. and the United States, accompanied by mean-spirited envy and a transparent attempt, carefully coordinated, to make mischief within President Bush's own inner circle. It might have been taken as a declaration of war except that the Europeans, concerned with selling cheese and sausages, have neither the will nor the stamina to make war on anyone more fearsome than the United Republic of Upper Bunga Banga.

Mr. Patten, clearly speaking for the mighty axis of cheese, told London's Guardian, the voice of the exuberantly flaccid British left, that George W. is mostly hot air. In an interview largely unreported in the United States, Mr. Patten, the former Tory chairman who presided over the British retreat from Hong Kong, told the Guardian that the European policy of "constructive engagement" with Iranian and North Korean "moderates" is much more sensible than George W. Bush's efforts, which are "more rhetoric than substance."

Mr. Patten's declaration that Europe must go it alone in making the world safe for cheese - the 15 states of Europe must forge an international front of their own - was accompanied by bellicose paper-rattling by several Patten colleagues in Europe. Said one such: "It is humiliating and demeaning if we feel we have to go and get our homework marked by Dick Cheney and Condi Rice. We've got to stop thinking that the only policy we can have is one that doesn't get vetoed by the United States." Other EU "senior officials" cited Secretary of State Colin Powell as the only reasonable man in Washington. Not a very nice thing to do if the man is really your friend.

The rest of the Bush tough guys, in the Patten view, are a simple-minded lot, eager to play with the technology of war that Europe doesn't have (and dearly wishes it did). The Americans, Mr. Patten says, have a dangerously "absolutist and simplistic" view of the world, and unless the wise men of Europe tutor them properly, the Americans will go into "unilateralist overdrive."

Our friends the French, beloved by all for living by their motto "Others," agreed. Lionel Jospin, the prime minister, warned the United States not to give in to "the strong temptation of unilateralism." Mr. Jospin's remarks were a reminder that the French are, to put it more kindly than they deserve, not always the first to help when America rides to the rescue of nations in need (and they mostly just got in the way when the Americans saved their country twice in the 20th century).

But neither triumphalism nor unilateralism is what curdles the axis of cheese. It's the bitter realization that the Americans can, and cheerfully will, go it alone if we have to. We would all be speaking Urdu, growing beards and sewing burqas and longing for a ham sandwich soon enough if we had to depend on European grit and fortitude to deliver us from evil. The Europeans have a nasty habit of not recognizing evil until it becomes a very expensive proposition for someone else to step in and clean up a bloody mess.

Mr. Patten's pugnacious assertion of passivity was endorsed yesterday by Vladimir Putin, who had a little advice for George W. The old KGB commissar says Mr. Bush should avoid "drawing up blacklists," and wait for "the international community" to decide what to do about terrorists. Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" description offends his delicate sensibilities.

What the rest of the world is learning is that this is a very different kind of White House. The man who lives there understands that his first and foremost responsibility is to the security and survival of the nation he leads, not to the cheese merchants of Europe, and time, as he soberly reminded us all, is not on our side.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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