- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

There’s no sign that George W. Bush is about to “go wobbly on us,” in Margaret Thatcher’s memorable warning to George the Elder a decade ago, but there’s something bracing in the cold November drizzle in Old Blighty that the president ought to bottle and bring home with him. (Just in case.)

Maybe it’s the brisk, fresh air, or the rain, but more likely it’s the phantoms that hover always close in London, the ghost of Churchill bucking up his country’s courage when all he had to offer was blood, sweat and tears; the apparitions of the happy few, that band of brothers, of “gentlemen in England now abed [who] shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

Something it was on the president’s trip, the adventure dismissed early in the week as a bad idea that seemed a good idea at the time, that stirred the blood of both host and guest. “George W. Bush’s Whitehall address,” observed London’s Daily Telegraph, the voice of the remaining virile elements of the British establishment, “represented the boldest challenge to the conventional wisdom of the British and European elites since Woodrow Wilson preached the rights of self-determination of smaller nations after the First World War.”

It’s just that conventional wisdom — the notion that Western civilization is exhausted and Britain and Old Europe have to cut the best deal they can and resign themselves to living under the domination of resurgent radical and oppressive Islam — that President Bush wants to demolish and discard. The president believes that the West need not succumb to the tyranny of despots steeped in the ignorance and intolerance of the 12th century; terrorism and rogue states can be vanquished on the West’s terms. Unlike Europe, which has lost all its postwar struggles with insurgencies, “America is fighting this battle at the height of its powers.”

The president at Whitehall scorned the old formula of indulging the corruption and criminality of supposed “allies” in Arabia. “We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East,” the president said. “Your nation and mine in the past have been willing to make a bargain to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Long-standing ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region.”

He couldn’t bring himself to say who these dear friends may be, but everyone knew he was talking about Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This kind of talk frightens Old Europe and the easily frightened friends of Old Europe in certain well-known American ZIP codes. Old Europe is always easily frightened, always eager to buy a few more minutes of freedom at the price of a despot’s brutality. Fascism and communism, the evil twins of the ideology of the bloody century now just past, were born in Old Europe, nurtured in Old Europe and prospered in Old Europe until confronted and finally conquered by what the French call, with spite, envy and the disdain of the curled Gallic lip, “the Anglo-Saxons.” Just as it was the determination of FDR and Churchill that sealed the destruction of the Nazis, so it was the determination of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that sealed the doom of the evil empire rooted in Moscow. “The Anglo-Saxons,” to use Jacques Chirac’s intended insult, always summon the courage to confront evil. Old Europe seeks accommodation at any price.

The latest carnage in Turkey, which took the lives of the British consul-general among the dozens of dead, underscores the size of the new threat to civilized men. “Once again we are reminded of the evil these terrorists pose to people everywhere and to our way of life,” Tony Blair, with George W. at his side, said last night in London. “There must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace.”

This is the spirit of the moment that George W. Bush must bring home with him. The times call for the true grit of that earlier war that bound Britain and America together against a wicked orthodoxy. The usual good manners of prim, proper Republicans, eager to make nice with compromise and compliments for the religion of peace, won’t cut it. George W. must come home fortified by strong medicine.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.


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