- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2005

Inasmuch as President Bush’s speech in Brussels yesterday was part of a renewed U.S. effort to mend ties with disaffected Europeans, it was also an unequivocal declaration of U.S. foreign policy. His firmness is welcome. American audiences have heard much of this speech before; however, for Europeans the president’s message is clear, if not new: Advancing freedom in the world is our policy ” take it or leave it.

Critics on both sides of the Atlantic will bemoan the president’s rigidity as diplomatic suicide. When Mr. Bush singled out Iran, Syria and Russia, while adding a few coarse words for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, one could almost hear the unified whine of American and European doves: See, he’s doing it again. Indeed, the very same folks said as much immediately after President Reagan’s meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik in 1986. Once talks with the Soviet leader broke down, the conventional wisdom blamed Mr. Reagan for being uncompromising. Now, however, Reykjavik is regarded as one of Mr. Reagan’s finest hours. We’re not implying that Brussels 2005 is equivalent to Reykjavik 1986; but, when establishing ” or re-establishing as the case may be ” a relationship, a president shouldn’t mince words.

On the other hand, considering the state of U.S.-European relations, we suppose some concessions were in order. One was Mr. Bush’s endorsement of a European superstate. “America supports Europe’s democratic unity for the same reason we support the spread of democracy in the Middle East ” because freedom leads to peace,” he said, referring to the European Union. This is a suspect analogy at best, but it’s clear that the administration isn’t going to waste any breath opposing the bureaucratization of Europe.

Instead, we hope that Mr. Bush holds the line on issues like the EU’s imminent commencement of selling weapons to China in violation of an arms embargo. While padding the bottom line for EU weapons manufacturers, this is just one area where EU leaders, notably Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder and France’s Jacques Chirac, are attempting to create a multipolar world at the expense of U.S. interests. That being the case, Mr. Bush should follow the traditional policy set forth centuries ago by Great Britain. Simply stated, the policy calls for supporting the second-rate European powers, rather than the strongest players. In this scenario, the administration should defend the right of eastern European countries who might oppose European centralization, especially when Germany and France engage in undemocratic tactics.

Also, despite the president’s congratulatory words, we suspect that we will not be satisfied with European efforts to disarm Iran. Mr. Bush did say, however, that “no option can be taken permanently off the table.” As for Syria, demonstrations yesterday in Lebanon underscored the president’s call for reform. How Europe chooses to tackle this burgeoning crisis remains an open question.

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