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Jewish World Review June 18, 2001/ 28 Sivan 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Navigating the ship of state
through a pool of minnows -- JUST as the last of the sharks has died of hardening of the arteries, George W. draws the task of navigating the ship of state through a pool of minnows.

Minnows canīt actually hurt you, but the nibbling can be annoying.

A lot of the minnows are the usual journalists and pundits, ever eager to paint America as the dirty rotten walking corpse of capitalism, but some of the heads of European states are having their fun, trying to pile on.

Itīs difficult for a little guy to pile on a big guy. Pygmies and dwarfs, for example, have never made it big in either the NBA or the NFL. But that hasnīt stopped some of the little guys of Europe from trying. Their attempts have marked the presidentīs first excellent adventure across that God-ordained moat called the Atlantic Ocean.

Some of the best of the bravado is coming from the tiniest of the little guys, who are feeling buff because the authentic European states are allowing them to play with the grown-ups. The prime minister of the Netherlands, for example, is clearly delighted to get away from Amsterdam, whose chief claims to fame are its euthanasia parlors and the whorehouses, enabling it to challenge Bangkok as the clap capital of the world. He took the first-day lead in challenging George W.īs vision of a missile shield to prevent angry missiles from devastating the western democracies. Or maybe it was George W.īs scorn for the Kyoto Treaty.

Jacques Poos (and Iīm not making up this name) was once the foreign minister of Luxembourg, a country roughly the size of a truck stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and as one of the rotating presidents of the European Union was temporarily allowed to be in charge of EU foreign policy. "The hour of Europe has come!" he famously declared, insisting on the exclamation point, and some of his colleagues have thought so ever since.

Telling the yankee to go home has been a European delight since before John J. Pershing arrived in France to pay the debt to Lafayette, and a few vagrants were out in the cobbled streets of the picturesque Swedish coastal town of Goteburg yesterday, waving their placards and generally contributing to global warming with the hot breath of unimaginative rhetoric, saying rudely what their diplomats have been saying more carefully to George W.

So the president has started to take them at their word, cutting the two annual American-European summits back to one a year. You canīt please some people: some of the Europeans are taking it as insult.

George W. continues to confound his critics, saying nice things in return for barely concealed contempt, acting not as a Texas cowboy eager for an excuse to break up the saloon but as a man cool in what he believes and confident that at the end of the day he and not they will get what he wants. He spent yesterday trying to make light weight of his differences with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson and President Romano Prodi of the European Union Commission.

"We donīt agree on the Kyoto Treaty," Mr. Bush said, "but we do agree that climate change is a serious issue and we must work together." Then, with a bit of a Cheshire-cat smile, he watched Mr. Prodi squirm when a reporter asked why the Europeans, who natter on and on about American skepticism of the Kyoto Treaty, have not ratified the treaty themselves.

"I think thatīs a good question for President Prodi," Mr. Bush replied, turning to his host. "I would be interested in your answer."

Mr. Prodi managed only a terse and unconvincing harruummmph, sliding not so deftly off the point: "There is not one single country that has declared not to ratify it."

The frantic darting back and forth of the minnows threatens to obscure the growing divisions among the big fish.

The German chancellor and the French prime minister, driven by statist and socialist ideology to taunt the Americans, get most of the face time and printers ink, but George W.īs dogged insistence that like it or not the space shield is coming, is winning friends and even influencing some of them. Vaclav Havel, the president of the Czech Republic, has noticed that the Cold War is over, even if some of his colleagues have not. He told a meeting of NATO ministers so on Wednesday. "The new world we are entering cannot be based on mutually assured destruction," he said. "An increasingly important role should be played by defensive systems. We are a defensive alliance."

Just so. Perhaps it takes a playright to cut through the fiction and fantasy dear to European minnows and their big-fish patrons, so eager are they to hold on to their Cold War certitudes.

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

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