- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

Europeans really ought to admit at least one thing: Americans are the politest people on Earth. Here is a bouquet of West European nations doing their best to cut into the U.S. economy, telling the United States that it must not ever even try to create any nuclear defense except suicide of the whole world and that it must sign an environmental treaty that the United States thinks is loaded against it.
They rejoice in memory of having helped kick the United States off the U.N. Human Rights Commission as they vote a few more fascist clones on, stuff like that.
And there was the U.S. president touring Europe, ever so politely listening to insults, talking politely and only occasionally reminding his hosts that the United States is as sovereign as they ceaselessly remind him they are.
But he could not bring himself to remind them that the United States, vulgar hamburger-eating America, did give Europe enough American blood and power to keep it free from Adolf Hitler and their own local fascists. And European politicians and journalists should please remember all that, and not cheer on the local dummies who carried placards like "Bush-imbecile" or racist-tinged slogans like "Europe rejects a wild Bush-man."
That was in Madrid, where the local prime minister gave the president a little lecture on "overcoming the past of the Cold War." He did not show any sign of realizing that to have a cold war, let alone win it, Hitler had to be defeated first. Maybe he forgot that because any fighting done by Spain in that hot war was on the side of the Nazis.
The press called the president "Toxic Texan" in remembrance of the late Timothy McVeigh. That was a great chance for Mr. Bush to have reminded the Spaniards of the thousands executed every year by the Communist Chinese. No, I guess not. Madrid and Washington both have the fetish of licking Beijings boots to wheedle trade.
As always when presidents go on political tours, the agenda has hidden items. For Mr. Bush, it is walking the line between flexibility and determination. The booby trap for a new president is the first can make him look like a noodle and the second like a stone-head.
Already he has shifted ground on at least two important problems. He said he was not particularly interested in talking nuclear with North Korea. That exquisitely nasty dictatorship uses nuclear weapon negotiations as peep show blackmail so many hundred million dollars to look at North Korean nuclear installments, another so many more to promises to reveal more and promise the donor what strikes the fancy.
He took office saying he did not intend to take part in early Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but already his head of the CIA has worked out steps toward a cease-fire neither side trusts and both say they dont trust.
Not to end the war looking like a stone-headed noodle, he has to show he can deal intelligently and firmly with two major issues on the official agenda. One is the environment, an issue people think about mostly when their air conditioners go dead or regulations turning them off are legislated.
The environment gets more important day by day and vote by vote. Mr. Bush can win this one by paying even more personal and political attention in the United States on a state-by-state basis and by refusing to sign the Kyoto Treaty on environmental conditions because he feels it unfairly would cut into American industrial growth.
More important on his agenda, because dead people do not use air conditioners, are his proposals to add a new defense strategy to prevailing mutual assured destruction, which means if there is an attack everybody dies. Under the Bush missile defense strategy, counterattacking missiles would be launched before attacking missiles reached their targets. The strategy has not been tested, and its components not even made. But the logic exists: If we can stave off attack before the nukes land, we would be stark mad not even to try to test the feasibility and deploy it if it does.
Europe hates the idea, which could mean some of its scientists think it could work, making the United States impregnable and therefore more likely to throw itself around economically and politically as well as militarily. Also, it would not stop nuclear suitcase bombs, if terrorists ever were stupid enough to use them instead of cheap and hard-to-trace bacteriological or chemical bombs.
Some decades from now, terrorism may disappear, maybe, and with it the fear of a rogue nuclear nation like Iran, North Korea or Iraq attacking the United States. When the very idea of nuclear terrorism is a ludicrous joke, we can ask the president of the day to scrap the concept of nuclear defense strategy.

A.M. Rosenthal, former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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