Washington — Inquisitive cisatlantic observers are wondering, what gives with this sudden Belgian-French-German entente against the United States and — so it appears — against Turkey? History might remember it as the Entente Non Cordiale. To be sure, the dyspeptic members of this entente feel imposed upon by the advance of the McDonald’s hamburger over their own famously slow cuisine. Then too they fear for their children given the growing presence of Disney’s agents in their weary, aging lands. But what could they possibly have against Turkey? Turkish fast food is unheard of and no threat to the eating habits of Europe. Nor is the Turkish entertainment industry in any way subversive to European morals. In fact most Turks doubt the Belgians, French or Germans have morals. Actually the entente‘s disagreeable members are merely trying to display their capacity for mischief. They do it in a vainglorious way, but that is typical of them.
Old Europe is abundant with pompous poseurs. Unremarked in the current pother over the entente‘s discourtesies towards the United States is the presence in these countries of millions of pro-Americans. In France Jean-François Revel, following the footsteps of his now deceased friend and colleague the philosopher Raymond Aron, has written a fine book, L’Obsession Anti-Americaine, defending the United States and decrying anti-Americanism. It has made him a very busy man as France’s many pro-Americans importune on him to speak out all over Europe. He is not alone. The tradition of the pro-American European is long and strongly rooted, led through the years by such capable harassers of the bovine European intelligentsia as Malcolm Muggeridge and Luigi Barzini.
The establishment European intellectuals have always been superficially anti-American but even their anti-Americanism is rarely very deep unless it is uttered by true leftists, for instance Jean-Paul Sartre. That flabby existentialist was a major spokesman for anti-Americanism in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet remember that during World War II, as historians have now discovered, Sartre and his lady friend Simone de Beauvoir were very comfortable inhabitants of Nazi-occupied Paris. They lolled in the fashionable cafes with Nazi officers and bicycled in the countryside. As the historian Alistair Horne writes, they lived “apparently undisturbed by war or occupiers-while also freely publishing their works.” They were practically collaborators. While a small handful of French writers and artists resisted the Nazis, the cowardly Sartre joined left-wing groups such as the Comité Nationale d’Ecrivains. There, Horne quotes another modern historian as writing, the fashionable left-wingers were “less interested in resistance than in drawing up lists of other writers and journalists whom they would proscribe and silence after the war.”
When it came to sensible defense of peace and freedom in the Twentieth Century there were not many Europeans who were up to the task. Belgium’s place in the Entente Non Cordiale is particularly interesting. At the outset of Europe’s two world wars, Belgium served as the doormat upon which the Germans wiped their feet before hurling their armies upon the French. Both times, if memory serves, the Belgians were neutral, but that did not stop the Hun from marching on them and Belgian neutrality only inspired the French to trust that the Germans would not attack them through neutral territory.
Now we see the same complacency in Germany and Belgium that characterized France in its catastrophic Twentieth Century wars. This time the threats to Europe are not marching armies but terrorist attacks that can take place at any moment. And what is the response of the Entente Non Cordiale? Its leaders will split hairs in an acrimonious debate with the nation that saved them twice, and if one includes the Cold War three times. It is an absurd debate.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has demonstrated Iraq’s menace and its friendliness with terrorists. Every rogue state on earth will think twice about menacing the civilized world once Saddam Hussein is out of the way. That means terrorists will have fewer sanctuaries and less opportunity to murder innocent people. Doubtless most people on this side of the Atlantic and on the other side recognize this fact. My prediction is that hours after the departure of Saddam Hussein the Entente Non Cordiale will suddenly become the Entente Cordiale. It members will still be uneasy about McDonald’s and Disney, but they will be very glad that the more adult nations of the world acted so prudently.