July 29, 2008


'The Hour of Europe' (ANNE APPLEBAUM, July 29, 2008, The Washington Post)

In a very real sense, 2009, not 1992, truly will be the "hour of Europe." By that, I mean that if the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Britain, and the president of France — backed by their counterparts in southern Europe, eastern Europe, and Scandinavia — were to walk into the White House on January 21 and propose serious, realistic, new contributions to, say, the war in Afghanistan, the reconstruction of Iraq, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and perhaps even climate change, the White House would listen.

Or perhaps I should put it more strongly: Not only would the White House listen, either new administration, Democratic or Republican, would immediately offer the Europeans the "leadership" and "partnership" they so often say they desire.

Between the sinking housing market and the soaring price of food, the high price of fuel and low growth, the new president is going to have so much on his plate that a group of Europeans who appear from across the Atlantic announcing, say, a plan to fix southern Afghanistan, would be welcomed with open arms.

In fact, I'll wager I could find a dozen future members of either administration who would roll out the red carpet and greet them like envoys of a fellow superpower if they so desired.

Yet at the same time, I'd also wager that I could not find a dozen current members of any European government who have even thought about coming up with any ideas at all. This is the hour of Europe — but do the Europeans even know it?

Judging by the press and the popular reactions to Mr. Obama's visit there last week, they don't. Just about every account of the speech noted the dearth of applause for its single line encouraging European participation in world events: "America cannot do this alone ... the Afghan people need our troops and your troops" was not a crowd-pleaser. Neither was, "We can join in a new and global partnership" to fight terrorism.

Meanwhile, Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke tartly of "the limits" of Germany's contributions to the Afghan cause, making it clear she didn't favor such upbeat talk, while another senior German worried that his colleagues "will have trouble meeting [Mr. Obama's] demand to assume more common responsibility."

...even a historically ignorant lightweight like Barrack Obama wouldn't entrust Europe with any meaningful task.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 29, 2008 8:45 AM

I admire Anne's work overall, but I don't see a hint here of the reality that exactly what she is talking about has already occured. Hello, do the words "This (awful) administration has been 'outsourcing American diplomacy'.... " ring a bell? That bizarre Democratic charge (par for the course) came about prcecisely because the Bush admin turned Iran over to the Europeans whole cloth. A literal "You're so damn smart with that oh-so-moral soft power and all, YOU do the heavy lifting here. Get that UN deppity on board and show us your stuff!"

Big accomplishments there. Europe's a bunch of sanctimonious moral blowhards that literally take pride in their own weakness as a sign of moral superiority??

There's a new thought.

Posted by: Andrew X at July 29, 2008 9:17 AM

I think that what she's saying is that this it the Europe whose diplomatic prowess and unerring sense of real-politic brought you Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo.

So the US had really better listen to them.

Um, hold on...

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 29, 2008 9:34 AM

Mr. Meislin;

No, she's actually slamming the European leadership for claiming to want to be players but not doing anything to accomplish that. Her theme is "here is a perfect opportunity to get what they want, but they'll do nothing, thereby showing they're posers".

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 29, 2008 10:05 AM

... greet them like envoys of a fellow superpower ... >/i> affirmative action for countries who can't get there on their own. Just what we need more "let's pretend."

Posted by: erp at July 29, 2008 11:18 AM

If Europe walked into the White House and did all that, the President wouldn't just listen, he'd let out a whoop and say "Do it again! Betcha I can spot the trick this time!"

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at July 29, 2008 1:40 PM
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