Victor Davis Hanson:
Recent books have raved that the European Union is the way of the future. In contrast, a supposedly exhausted, broke and postimperial United States chases the terrorist chimera, running up debts and deficits as it tilts at the autocratic windmills of the Arab World.
That caricature framed the visit of the president to Europe as trans-Atlantic pundits demanded a softer George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Stop the childish bickering and the tiresome neocon preening, we are lectured ad nauseam by Euro and American elites. Don't divide Europe, we hear endlessly. Even though the European press, EU leaders, and their wild public have dealt out far more invective than they have received, American circumspection is the order of the day, the expected magnanimity from the more aggressive (and stronger) partner.
Europe is huffy, but strangely tentative in its new prickliness. Short-term positive indicators--trade surpluses, the strong euro, low inflation and expansion of the EU--are showcased to prove that its statism and pacifism are the preferable Western paradigm. But privately bureaucrats in Brussels are far more worried about different and scarier long-term concomitant signs: high unemployment, static rates of worker productivity, low birthrates, Islamicist minorities, looming unfunded entitlement obligations, and a high-sounding pacifism that is being increasingly seen world-wide as base appeasement by friend and enemy alike.
The adage goes that the European Union counts on a more sophisticated and nuanced "soft power." In reality, that translates to using transnational organizations and its own economic clout to soothe or buy off potential adversaries, while a formidable cultural engine dresses it all up in high sounding platitudes of internationalism and multilateralism. Everything from idly watching Milosevic and the Hutus butcher unchecked to unilateral intervention in the Ivory Coast or no action in Darfur usually finds either the proper humanitarian exegesis or the culpable American bogeyman. Yet contrary to the mythologies of Michael Moore and the high talk of Kyoto, most of the international sins of the recent age--selling a reactor to Saddam, setting up a new arms market in China, whitewashing Hezbollah, or subsidizing Hamas--were the work of European avatars of peace.
We keep assuming that Europeans are like Britain and Japan when in fact long ago they devolved more into a Switzerland and Sweden--friendly neutrals but no longer real allies....