Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Few Words Between Friends

The Washington Post:
On Saturday German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's speech was the opening event of the Munich Conference on Security Policy,an annual gathering of U.S. and European defense and foreign policy bigwigs. Schroeder touched on many of the same subjects that Bush did: Middle East peace, terrorism, 21st-century threats and 21st-century defenses. Here's how many times Schroeder used the word "freedom": zero. ...

By contrast he cited "stability" or "instability" or "stabilization" or "stabilizing" eight times.

Today's officially sanctioned theme of U.S.-European relations is repair and restoration. ...

But how real is the warming? Politeness between allies is better than rudeness, and Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.), who with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) led a congressional delegation to the Munich conference, said that Rice and Bush are right to be reaching out after their scratchy first term. But after meeting with a series of German officials, McCain also said: "They haven't budged one inch that I could see. Not on Iran, not on Iraq, not on arms sales to China. . . . I didn't see one iota of willingness to help us in Iraq."

Publicly, Germans dispute that picture, citing debt relief they've agreed to and a small number of Iraqis they've trained outside Iraq. Privately, they and other "old Europeans" say it's not realistic to expect a charm offensive of one or two weeks to undo years of insult. And they, too, ask where's the beef; they want to know whether Euro-friendly Bush will consult more or whether he'll dine in Brussels and then go back to his old ways.

But the word count is a clue that a lot more separates Bush from old Europe than their pique at his arrogance. Where Bush champions democracy, the Europeans want development. Where he cites universal values, they preach cross-cultural understanding. Where he demands change, they urge caution.

So, on Iraq, they would prefer brokered power-sharing to ballot-box unpredictability. On Iran, they chide Bush for expressing solidarity with advocates of democracy, arguing that his rhetoric will only make the mullahs nervous and less willing to deal away their nuclear weapons program. ...

But by neglecting other people's aspirations for liberty, the Europeans often end up sounding more cynical than sophisticated.
It doesn't mean that Germany and the United States can't cooperate, as they do now with great success in Afghanistan. But with the unifying Cold War over, McCain said, he was hearing a return to the "century-old clash between Wilsonian principles and European realpolitik." Even two meals in Brussels won't meld those visions.