Even our president doesn’t know just how long the U.S. has been guilty of a “failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role.”
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Europe was not overrun by Russian tanks. So France, under De Gaulle, pulled out of NATO as a gesture of gratitude.
The United States, innocent to the last, hung in. Until, finally, the Berlin Wall came down and we were, truly, not needed any longer. NATO was irrelevant — a mere social club that existed as an excuse to maintain a headquarters and conduct lavish conferences. This point was most emphatically driven home when a genocidal conflict erupted on Europe’s flank, in the very region where the events that had precipitated the world’s stupidest war had occurred. NATO — Europe — couldn’t manage a response. The United States, eventually, did.
“Some damned fool thing in the Balkans,” Bismarck had said when asked what would bring war to Europe. He was right. August, 1914 turned Europeans into cynics and fatalists and maybe with reason. They didn’t have an especially good century and they became bitter, cautious, and touchy. If a nation’s birthrate is a measure of civic optimism, then Europe is populated by pessimists.
Americans don’t see the world that way and don’t really need to apologize for being arrogant, derisive, and dismissive. We’ve groveled enough before the airy sophisticates. Let them keep the headquarters in Brussels for meetings. They can assemble all their combined military might on the parade ground (since the troops certainly won’t be in Afghanistan or anywhere that actual fighting is being done) for a full-dress review after which the ministers and their aides can adjourn for a good luncheon. That’s the sort of thing they are good at.
We, meanwhile, can look north, south, and west where the next opportunities and threats will come from.
And write the last 92 years off as an honest, well-intentioned mistake.