February 4, 2005

CONDISCENDING (via Charlie Herzog):

Not Much Kinder and Gentler (STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, 2/03/05, NY Times)

AS Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves today for a fence-mending swing through Europe, many Europeans have seized on her experience working for President Bush's father as a reason to hope that she will revive a pragmatic, nonideological, less unilateral foreign policy.

They forget what the diplomacy of the first Bush administration was really like. In dealing with the biggest European security issue raised by the end of the cold war - German unification - the United States opposed the major European powers (other than Germany, of course), ignored their views, got its way, and gave them almost nothing in return.

In "Germany Unified and Europe Transformed," her much-praised history of this period, Dr. Rice made clear that American policy was not based on consensus-building and respectful give-and-take. Her experience, she said, taught her the importance of pursuing "optimal goals even if they seem at the time politically infeasible." She considered single-mindedness as the key to diplomatic success: a government that "knows what it wants" can usually get it.

Is this just memoir braggadocio? Not at all. When the Berlin Wall fell, European leaders hated the idea of German unity. Fran├žois Mitterrand told President Bush it would lead to war. Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev proposed a peculiar scheme to keep a united Germany in both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. But the bloody historical experiences behind such views didn't sway Mr. Bush. If others didn't trust the Germans, that was their problem, not his.

You'd like to think that Bush the elder recognized that unification would destroy Germany once and for all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 4, 2005 5:39 PM

"Fence mending.."? They wish.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 4, 2005 6:42 PM

That's giving Bush I waaaaaay too much credit.

Posted by: Amos at February 4, 2005 6:54 PM

"You'd like to think that Bush the elder recognized that unification would destroy Germany once and for all."

The last stage in the implementation of the Morgenthau Plan.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 5, 2005 4:58 PM