- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

European envy

The Dutch ambassador is a rare diplomat in Washington. He speaks his mind candidly with a touch of humor, even as he criticizes both Europeans and Americans.

Consider his recent luncheon visit to The Washington Times, where he discussed issues from Iraq to China to Europe’s attitudes toward President Bush.

Ambassador Boudewijn J. van Eenennaam said some European critics of Mr. Bush have displayed both hypocrisy and jealousy.

One editor asked him whether — given the successful elections in Iraq and Afghanistan and the apparent democratic mood emerging in the Middle East — Europe would concede that Mr. Bush was right.

“No, no,” Mr. van Eenennaam said, sparking laughter around the lunch table. “But also being open … there is some hypocrisy and a lot of jealousy.”

He said Europeans are envious of Americans’ confidence and enthusiasm, which some critics consider naive and reckless.

The ambassador said there is “jealousy of this can-do spirit you have.”

“The criticism is that this can-do spirit is fine, but we would like to think a little longer, ponder a little longer. We feel you are going too fast,” he said.

As for hypocrisy, he said, “A lot of Europeans and [many] elsewhere in the world are very happy to let you do the things you do, and then it is easy to criticize afterwards.”

Mr. van Eenennaam said Americans and Europeans should discuss their differences openly.

“We are always talking about what we have in common. We should look at what is different. You have ‘can-do.’ We have a lot to offer. Let me be more provocative. There are a lot of things where we are better than you when it comes to reconstruction aid and development cooperation, which, after all, is aimed at regions that are the breeding grounds for terrorism,” he said.

Despite the lingering doubts in some European circles, he said, the second Bush administration is making progress.

“We certainly have a better tone,” he said. “We have to maintain the momentum.”

Mr. van Eenennaam also recalled a conversation with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shortly after he criticized “old Europe” for opposing the war in Iraq in 2003. Mr. Rumsfeld’s zinger was aimed mostly at France and Germany, not at coalition allies like the Netherlands, which already had troops in Afghanistan.

“I told Rumsfeld, ‘You’re wrong. The real old Europe is the Europe of Roman law, of Christianity, of medieval scholasticism, of the Renaissance, of the Enlightenment, and 200 years of separation is pretty relative,’ ” Mr. van Eenennaam said.

“Rumsfeld said, ‘Yes. And how long are you going to stay in Afghanistan with your troops?’ ”

Dramatic change

Even the French recognize a vast improvement in relations between the Bush administration and its European critics.

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that he sees a new attitude in trans-Atlantic relations in President Bush’s second term.

“The style has changed dramatically,” he said in remarks at a forum last week. He added that Mr. Bush has extended a “hand of friendship to France and Germany,” the chief European critics of the Iraq war.

Mr. Levitte said Mr. Bush realized that he could go to war without those traditional allies but needed them for the reconstruction of Iraq, according to an Associated Press account of the forum.

“In his first term, President Bush was convinced he could go to war alone, but he needed allies in Europe for peacemaking,” Mr. Levitte said.

In his assessment, the ambassador did not recognize the many European allies Mr. Bush had in the 2003 invasion. They included Spain, Italy, Poland and many of the other new democracies in Eastern Europe.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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