Dealing with those out of step

Mark Steyn:

...

...In victory, magnanimity – and right now Bush can afford to be magnanimous, even if Europe isn't yet ready to acknowledge his victory. On Thursday, in a discussion of "the greater Middle East", the President remarked that Syria was "out of step". And, amazingly, he's right. Not so long ago, Syria was perfectly in step with the Middle East – it was the archetypal squalid stable Arab dictatorship. Two years on, Syria hasn't changed, but Iraq has, and, to varying degrees, the momentum in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon (where the Syrians have overplayed their hand) is also in the Bush direction. Boy Assad finds himself in the position of the unfortunate soldier in Irving Berlin's First World War marching song, "They Were All Out Of Step But Jim".

The EU isn't the Arab League, though for much of the past three years it's been hard to tell the difference. But it, too, is out of step. The question is whether the Europeans are smart enough, like the savvier Sunnis in Iraq, to realise it. The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt compared the President's inaugural speech with Gerhard Schröder's keynote address to the Munich Conference on Security Policy last week and observed that, while both men talked about the Middle East, terrorism and 21st-century security threats, Mr Bush used the word "freedom" 27 times while Herr Schröder uttered it not once; he preferred to emphasise, as if it were still March 2003 and he were Arab League Secretary-General, "stability" – the old realpolitik fetish the Administration has explicitly disavowed. It's not just that the two sides aren't speaking the same language, but that the key phrases of Mr Bush's vocabulary don't seem to exist in Chirac's or Schröder's.

The differences between America and Europe in the 21st century are nothing to do with insensitive swaggering Texas cowboys. Indeed, they're nothing to do with Iraq, Iran, Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, or any other particular issue. They're not tactical differences, they're conceptual.

So what is their concept?

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