- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

In one of the stranger efforts at serious journalism, The Washington Post this week headlined its story on President Bushs departure for Europe: "Tax Cut Strategy Goes to Europe." In The Posts lexicon, this is not a compliment. The burden of the article was that just as Mr. Bush had bullied his way to the conservative, partisan tax cut he wanted in Congress, so he intends to place unilateral demands on Europe.
In this reading of events, a rudely trodden upon Europe will play the part of poor, abused Sen. Jim Jeffords. Thus Mr. Bush will rue the day he tries to have his way with Europe on missile defense, the Kyoto treaty, etc. Just as Mr. Bush was paid back by Mr. Jeffords with the loss of the Senate, Mr. Bushs unilateralism in Europe will be bought, writes The Washington Post, "at the cost of international goodwill Bush may need in the future." The analogy is doubly inapt (and inept).
Mr. Jeffords didnt leave the Republican Party because he was not invited over to tea at the White House, but because of some combination of philosophical differences and personal interests. And if the Europeans oppose our policies it will not be due to a lack of "goodwill," but because Europes self-perceived interests, values and the domestic political needs of their governments may contradict our policies.
In fact, U.S.-European relations which is the foundation of the international order and world prosperity have been deteriorating since the end of the Cold War. With the passing of the Soviet threat as the galvanizing cause of our unity, it is past time to begin to seriously understand and deal with this dangerous degrading of the Atlantic alliance. It was formed by shared values and interests, and it is degrading because statesmen (both European and pre-Bush Americans) have been failing to sustain those essential elements of that unprecedentedly valuable partnership.
The beginning of wisdom on this subject can be found in Henry Kissingers just-published masterwork, "Does America Need a Foreign Policy: Towards a Diplomacy for the 21st Century." In the part of the book that analyzes Europe, which should be required reading by journalists, politicians and the publics on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Kissinger lays out with a cool, supervising intelligence the interplay of three evolving forces: Europes image of itself, the impact of European integration on the Atlantic relationship and American attitudes toward those different options for European integration.
He sees Europe increasingly defining itself by challenging the United States. This is leading to a Europe that delivers moral homilies at the United States while concentrating on economic competition (e.g. condemning American capital punishment while banning highly productive American genetically engineered foods). At the same time Europe is constructing a foreign policy that attempts to mediate between the United States and the rest of the world. This facilitates Russias increasing effort to position itself closer to Europe than Europe is to America.
If these policies continue, eventually the United States will be forced to respond much the way 19th-century Britain did to Europe by a balance of power strategy that aligns with the weaker nations of Europe against the stronger. Ironically, as a result, the United States could be forced by Europe into blocking European integration.
Thus, contrary to the suggestion of The Washington Post, it is not Mr. Bushs America that is forcing Europes hand, but Europe which will force our hand in an act of economic and diplomatic self-defense. And, as Mr. Kissinger points out, America is powerfully situated to assert its interests in either a divided or a unified Europe. To a large extent, Europe must decide whether it wants us as an intervening or cooperating force for European integration.
As strongly as he warns Europe not to play the United States as a foil for Europes domestic politics or collective ego gratifications, he warns American critics of Mr. Bushs restrained foreign policy, on both the left and the right, to resist the urge to exploit our dominance particularly by allegedly humanitarian intrusions into other nations sovereignties. From Haiti to Somalia to Bosnia to Kosovo: "No matter how selflessly America perceives its aims … we would gradually unite the world against … A deliberate quest for hegemony is the surest way to destroy the values that made the United States great."
Finally, in his most sobering observation, while recognizing the difficulty for Europe in finding a definition of its political and economic identity that is something other than "an almost congenital opposition to the United States," Mr. Kissinger questions whether a serious strategic dialogue within the U.S.-European alliance is still possible, or whether the now largely left of center governments of Europe "will let such strategic considerations be submerged by their domestic politics." It is not Mr. Bush, but the European leaders who are on trial this week.

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