There are a lot of people in America, mainly on the left, who have a great love of international institutions, coalitions, and who crave approval from the rest of the world for every action our nation takes. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with cooperating with other nations or taking help from countries that share our interests.
But notice that I said “nations that share our interests.” Here’s the problem with getting everyone else in the world to go along with us…are you ready for it?
Not every nation shares our values, interests, & goals.
France is one of the best examples in Western Europe. On the whole, the French are not serious about fighting terrorism, they’re hostile towards Israel, they resent America’s power, many Frenchmen don’t believe Democracy can work in Iraq and would therefore prefer a dictator in power, and they greatly prefer appeasement to war. Any American who insists that it’s crucial to have France’s support in general, and in the war on terrorism in particular, is for all intents and purposes resigning himself to accomplishing nothing.
Now a lot of these differences between the United States, France, and the rest of Western Europe were masked for the last half a century because of the Cold War, but that’s no longer the case. Now that there’s no “bear in the woods” that Western Europe needs protection from, they don’t feel compelled to cooperate with us as they did in those days. That’s hardly surprising if you think about it. Any country would be willing to make some sacrifices to have a super power on their side if they’re being threatened by another super power. But once the danger passes, human nature takes over. Individuals may be loyal & trustworthy, but the gratitude of nations is fleeting and “interests” tend to have much more of an impact on the fickle opinions of the public than any sort of past relationship between two countries.
As long as we recognize those truths & accept that our bond with Western Europe isn’t going to be as strong as it was during the Cold War anytime soon, if ever, then we can deal with reality as it is and adjust our policies.
On the other hand, if we refuse to accept that the relationship between the United States and Western Europe has fundamentally changed in the last decade, we may make efforts to placate Western European nations that can’t possibly succeed. Accepting the Kyoto protocol, signing up for the ICC, giving the UN power in Iraq, etc, etc, are not going to make us truly popular in countries like France, Germany, & Belgium.
That’s because their general dislike of America isn’t based on whether we engage in one particular policy or another, it’s based on fear and resentment of our economic, military, & cultural power. In fact, as a general rule, Western Europe (w/ the exception of Britain) can be counted on to support any position or policy that reduces American power unless they risk gravely offending the United States or have something significant to gain by doing otherwise.
Some people believe the war on terrorism caused the growing rift between America and Europe. But in actuality, the aftermath of 9/11 was the first real test of whether the Cold War world order could outlast the conflict that spawned it. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Moreover, things are probably going to get worse. It’s quite likely that much of Western Europe and the US will drift further apart and develop a more adversarial relationship as the decade goes on. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also quite probably unstoppable without fundamental changes in the attitudes of either Americans or Europeans. That may not be what we Americans wish to hear, but we must deal with reality as we find it, not as we wish it to be.