The BBC calls it President Bush's "charm offensive." Off to EUnuch-land for a week of conciliation, the President is doing his best to heal the rifts that divide us from our traditional NATO allies. The problem nations, better known to our readers as the Axis of Weasels, are greeting Mr. Bush with profusions of smiles and hugs while they go about sharpening shivs to stick in his back. Is it really worth the effort for the President to even try? Yes, but not because it will change anything.
Two facts drive the President to Europe. First, the allies we still have there, such as Britain's Tony Blair, are weaker now than they were before the Iraq campaign began in 2003. Blair has often come to America to consult with Mr. Bush, but the President hasn't returned the favor. Had he done so two years ago, the Brits might feel more appreciated, and the anti-Bush feeling there at least prevented from rising to its current heights. Second, the President has some faint hope of convincing the Euros that they are making the world less safe in their dealings with China and Iran, and in trash-talking NATO.
In a speech in Brussels yesterday, the President said we are ready for "a new era of transatlantic unity," and "no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us." He called on the Euros to aid the rise of democratic Iraq, to deal realistically with Iran's nuclear weapons program, and to help confront Russian strongman Vladimir Putin's drive to smother the new Russian democracy. The European political environment cannot produce any of those results. Europe is in a state of self-hypnosis, dealing with its own reality to the exclusion of everything else.
FACTS DON'T MATTER to libs in Europe any more than they do to libs here. Only feelings are important. On Sunday, Spanish voters (only forty or so percent bothered to vote, but the overwhelming majority of those who did) began the dissolution of Spanish sovereignty by approving the new European Union constitution. But, according to the Telegraph newspaper, "despite a widespread government promotional campaign, nine out of 10 people had little or no understanding of the charter they approved." But they felt good about it. How do the Europeans feel about the rest of the world? Just as they usually do: anxious to appease, and to make a buck.
After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, we and the Europeans imposed an arms embargo against Communist China. The only thing that has changed in China since then is that the Chinese appetite for modern weapon systems has grown enormously. Since about 1994, China has spent at least $13 billion buying the most modern ships, submarines and aircraft from Russia. Last week, Big Dog Don Rumsfeld, CIA Director Porter Goss, and Defense Intelligence Agency chief Adm. Lowell Jacoby warned Congress that the Chinese arms buildup is a great and growing danger. The Quadrennial Defense Review -- the periodic recrafting of our defense budgets, strategies, and capabilities that is being done again this year -- is aimed, in part, to deal with the growing Chinese threat. But where we see dangers, the Euros see markets.
The Euros don't want to miss out on the profits to be made by selling to the Chinese, so they are about to lift their arms embargo. President Bush will try to convince them not to, and he will fail. They will sell ships, aircraft, and other weapons to China, and by doing so will place greater burdens on our armed forces and our defense budget. China is building -- and buying -- a "blue water" navy, to be able to threaten Taiwan and every other nation within the reach of a global navy. Threatened India is already well-armed, and will continue to seek its own defenses against China. An Asian arms race is on, and the shopkeepers of Europe will care only for the profits they can make in it. Gerhard Schroeder of Germany said as much on February 14 when he called for a revamping of NATO.
Schroeder, seeking to strengthen his weak hand in a national election slated for next year, called for a panel of experts to recommend changes to the NATO treaty making it more a political forum than a military alliance. Schroeder's vision of a transatlantic version of the U.N. would eliminate the residual value that NATO holds. America and Europe don't need another diplomatic mechanism. President Bush also wants to revamp NATO, to restore its real value as the primary means of mutual defense of the West. Schroeder and the rest will have none of it. Nor will they accept the President's warnings about Iran.
THAT IRAN IS THE central terrorist nation and the greatest immediate threat cannot be restated often enough, even to the deaf ears of Europe. Time after time, in agreement after agreement, the Europeans try to buy Iran's compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with more trade and assurances to the mullahs. And each time they try, they are rebuffed. The mullahs won't trade their heavy-water nuclear plant, which can produce enriched uranium useful for weapons, for a light-water plant that can't. They won't permit international inspections of their suspected nuclear weapons-production sites. Iran is bent upon becoming a nuclear power. The Israelis, who feel the threat most, say that Iran will have the ability to build nuclear weapons by the end of this year. Even if they are exaggerating the threat, Iran is not far from the day when it will be able to produce nukes, and deliver them by missile as far as Europe. This will change the entire geopolitical equation in a way we -- and the Europeans -- should not tolerate. But the Euros will, even if we won't. Facts don't matter to Old Europe, which won't even agree to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
If it could, Europe would replace President George W. Bush with President Elwood P. Dowd. Mr. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart's greatest role) said that he felt he had to choose between being smart and being nice. He chose to be nice, but found his reliable good nature answered in kind only by an imaginary friend. Mr. Bush chooses to be smart, and refuses to temper decisive action with the indecisive diplomacy Old Europe would like. He will return from Europe with his agenda unchanged, and with no new support for it from the EUnuchs. He has as much chance of success with them as he would in trying to replace Jacques Chirac with Harvey. Not that that wouldn't be a vast improvement.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).