- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

When Italian voters on May 13 replaced their center-left government with one of the center right, they also restored their countrys traditional pro-American foreign policy. In so doing they broke the unanimity of the European Unions strident official anti-Americanism.
During the mid to late 1990s, the left side of the political spectrum took power in all major European countries: Tony Blair in Britain, Lionel Jospin in France, Gerhard Schroeder in Germany, and Prodi in Italy. Only in less weighty Spain and Ireland did conservatives rule. Though the left presented itself as the "Third Way" somehow detached from its socialist and for some communist heritage and though it added new issues, notably environmentalism, it retained the tradition of anti-American foreign policy.
This means that European governments side against America in disputes with any country, especially communist or Third World "progressive" tyrannies. Thus European governments have chided America for insufficient solicitude toward China, Cuba, and even for excessive hostility toward Saddam Hussein. Germany returned to its sometime tradition of being Russias advocate in Western councils, while France redefined European patriotism as opposition to Americas "hyper power." All blamed Americas Jewish lobby for troubling Western relations with the Arab world. All joined in depicting America as the chief rapist of our Mother Earth, and as the incubator of militarism as well as all things reactionary. They vote unanimously to oust America from the U.N. Human Rights Commission. And they termed American missile defense a threat to peace.
The attitudes of European Third Way leaders helped shape Americas own policies because the Clinton administration and much of our own political class shares them. The Clinton administration, for example, did not want to build missile defenses, and was delighted to cite the objections of its European friends. Similarly, the Clinton administration, which wanted to go easier on Saddam and to put more pressure on Israel than American public opinion would allow, which wanted to limit Americas use of fossil fuels more than American opinion was willing to pay for, considered leftist European governments as allies in its American domestic political struggles. If the European left had not existed, the United States left would have invented it.
Since 1995 the Italian government has been a full-fledged member of the European Unions Third Way club. In December 1997 for example, it joined a Russian initiative which sheltered Saddam Husseins termination of weapons inspections under the wing of the U.N. secretary-general. Most recently, Italy joined the other EU countries in voting to prefer Sudan to America as an arbiter of human rights. And of course the Italian government has been as adamant an opponent of U.S. missile defense as anyone in Beijing or Cambridge, Massachusetts. All of this despite the fact that Italian public opinion may be substantially more pro-American than U.S. public opinion.
Throughout the Cold War, despite (some say perhaps because of) the Italian Communist Party, Europes largest, the Italian people identified their interests with Americas. In 1982, when Soviet military and political strength was at its height and Germany and even Margaret Thatchers Britain, never mind France, were wavering on whether to allow American Pershing II and cruise missiles onto their soil to offset Soviet SS 20s; as American diplomats were searching for ways to appease the left wing or the opposition German Social Democrats, Italys Socialist prime minister, Bettino Craxi, led his country out of the ranks of the timid, and invited the Americans to put their missiles into Sicily. The Italian people cheered. The rest of Europe followed. Thus was the last great battle of the Cold War decided.
Fast forward to our time. The Bush administrations first major diplomatic effort was a trip by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to ask our European allies, whose sole protection America is, ever so gently for their forbearance as we Americans defend ourselves against ballistic missiles. Europes Third Way governments stiffed Mr. Wolfowitz. Unanimously.
And then on Sunday, May 13 the Italian people voted. The governments of the EU did all they could to convince Italys voters to retain the left. They even threatened sanctions. German and French authorities, not to mention domestic Italian ones, ridiculed in particular the center-right coalitions favorable attitude toward Americas missile defense plans. But the voters chose the center right, not least because while few Italians think of Brussels as the touchstone of their safety and prosperity, many think of America in those terms.
And so the makers of U.S. foreign policy are about to enjoy a development for which they did not labor and which they may even fear to appreciate: Europes major countries are no longer unanimously lined up against U.S. policy. Italy will soon ask for full partnership in U.S. missile defense. It will offer its strategic location in the Mediterranean. Twenty years ago, the Reagan administration was able to make the best of Italys break with European pusillanimity. Let us see if the Bush team can do the same.

Angelo M. Codevilla is a professor of international relations at Boston College.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide