Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2005/ 16 Adar I, 5765
A lot of blowing for not very much
You can always count on the French to be the French. This was Lesson No. 1 on George W. Bush's most excellent tour of Europe.
He received moral tutelage from the Germans, whom we had not expected to hear from on the subject of morality for at least the next thousand years.
Jacques Chirac greeted him with the German proposal to scuttle NATO in favor of the European Union, and for good measure made a point of speaking only French, which he speaks well, instead of English, which he speaks passably, at the president's dinner for him.
The president had soft words for Vladimir Putin in public, and gave him a piece of his mind in private about the stifling of democracy in the old Soviet Union, where a hammer and a sickle are still admired as instruments of persuasion.
As he heads for home, George W. should be neither surprised nor discouraged. NATO, he reminded anyone who needs a reminder, remains a "cornerstone" of American policy in Europe, and Tony Blair, the leader of the only ally the United States can ever count on, agreed that NATO is of "fundamental importance." The Germans, who have gone to war twice in living memory to take over Europe, are eager for the European Union, which they expect to dominate, to assume responsibility for European "defense."
It's good even for presidents to get a bracing reminder occasionally of just who among our "friends" are actually friends and who are merely freeloaders and aspiring easy riders.
The president made it clear when he got to Germany that he understands what relying on French and German friends would mean to the security of, first and foremost, the United States and then for the West. He entertains no fantasies about diplomacy dismantling Iran's nuclear-weapons program.
"They were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium," he said at a joint press conference with Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor, in the ancient city of Mainz. "They have breached a contract with the international community. They're the party that needs to be held to account, not any of us."
This is straightforward stuff, easily understood by a Toyota mechanic in Cleveland, the Kansas City milkman (no doubt retired) and a farmer in an Iowa cornfield. But it's the plain talk that sends Europeans in search of smelling salts. Said Herr Schroeder: "There needs to be movement on both sides."
"Let me make this very clear," Mr. Bush said. "The party that caused these discussions to occur in the first place are the Iranians."
The president, being well brought up, understands manners, even the parlor deportment of diplomats. The president has no intention of joining Germany, France and Britain to deliver carrots to Tehran. Europeans make better delivery boys. But he sent his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, out to make nice noises. "The president made clear we support the three-party talks," he told the press claque. "These are talks that need to head to a solution, and that solution needs to involve the permanent cessation of enrichment and forswearing of reprocessing." Who could argue with that? Brushing your teeth at least twice a day is a good idea, too.
The leaders, the president's man said, talked about a mix of carrots and sticks for Iran. The Europeans prescribe an exclusive diet of carrots. If carrots don't work, send more carrots. Said Mr. Hadley: "I think there's kind of a stereotype out there that if you want carrots, you go to the Europeans. If you want sticks, you go to the Americans."
A correspondent for the left-wing London Guardian summed it up with a touch of honest envy: "To watch President George Bush in Brussels this week was to see how far Europe has to go if it wants to be taken seriously in the world. On the one side, you had Caesar. On the other, the prime minister of Luxembourg."
Such a presidential trip is a lot like enduring a heavy head cold. You have to keep blowing your nose, but you know it doesn't accomplish very much.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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