The French disconnection

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Despite John Kerry’s efforts to ingratiate himself with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Paris and Berlin avail themselves of every opportunity to disabuse the Massachusetts Democrat of his No. 1 foreign policy fantasy: that, if he is elected president, they will significantly increase their assistance to Iraq and enable the United States to reduce its presence there.

Last week, Mr. Kerry declared that the United States “must make Iraq the world’s responsibility” and “I will lead our allies to share the burden.” Mr. Schroeder promptly punctured Mr. Kerry’s balloon: “We won’t send any German soldiers to Iraq, and that’s where it’s going to remain.” French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said his government had no plans to send troops “either now or later.”

Mr. Kerry’s ideological soulmates in Europe welcome the fact that he is harshly critical of President Bush’s conduct of the war and denounces him for being insufficiently deferential to France and Germany. But they have no intention of putting troops on the ground to help the war effort. Mr. Kerry’s suggestions that Europe might be willing to share the military burden in Iraq “seemed enough to make Kerry’s continental friends cringe,” the International Herald Tribune reported yesterday.

For months, Mr. Kerry and his advisers have clung to the notion that France and Germany might ride to the rescue in Iraq — despite the near-total absence of evidence that this could happen. A participant in discussions, held in Berlin in June between Kerry adviser Richard Holbrooke and Mr. Schroeder, said that the German leader “asked Holbrooke what Kerry would do if he were elected. Holbrooke replied that one of the first things would be to get on the phone and invite him and President Jacques Chirac to the White House. The chancellor laughed out loud. Then he said, ‘That’s what I’m afraid off,’” the newspaper reported.

NATO has agreed to set up a training academy for 300 Iraqi soldiers. But, led by France and Germany, the alliance has remained firm in rejecting all American requests for troops on the ground — whether the request was made by Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush.

In the end, Mr. Kerry is left with this: He says he wants to start pulling American troops out of Iraq by next summer, with a goal of withdrawing all of them by the end of his first term. His European “friends” have essentially told him to go jump in a lake, making it clear that they have no intention of doing anything to help him. The reasons for this are not terribly difficult to understand. Under M. Chirac, France forged an intricate web of political, economic and military ties with Saddam; it remains angry and embittered by his demise. As for Mr. Schroeder, he would not have been re-elected two years ago if he had not run a demagogic anti-Bush campaign focusing on Iraq. Mr. Kerry’s fantasies aside, no matter who is elected president, don’t look for substantial help from Europe.

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