Der Spiegel‘s piece is very interesting, as they make some rather astute comparisons between what Bush has done for freedom in the Middle East and what Reagan did for freedom in Eastern Europe. Both were criticized and accused of being “arrogant cowboys” for their commitment to freedom – yet when the Iraqis waved their purple fingers triumphantly and the Berlin Wall came crashing down, both these “cowboys” turned out to have been vindicated by history. The article makes a very trenchant point:
This, in fact, is likely the largest point of disagreement between Europe and the United States — and one that a President John Kerry likely would not have made smaller: Europeans today — just like the Europeans of 1987 — cannot imagine that the world might change. Maybe we don’t want the world to change, because change can, of course, be dangerous. But in a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. In Mainz today, the stagnant Europeans came face to face with the dynamic Americans. We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.
The European system constantly tries to push for the status quo – dynamism, democracy, and change are all in large part eschewed in European society. The EU is a body that attempts to remove much of the decision-making power from the electorate and place it in a transnational framework that is less likely to be swayed by popular opinion. In countries like the UK and Sweden, popular referenda have set back the Euro integrationists. The EU’s “democracy deficit” is both intentional, and worrying.
Some of these attitudes are understandable. The specter of the Third Reich and the Great War still looms large in European consciousness – it is hard to fully embrace popular rule when popular rule led to the most destructive war in human history. However, the European system with its reflexive anti-Americanism and ossified welfare state continues on the verge of collapse. The concept of tolerance, a concept embraced by Europe, is being undermined from within as radicalized Muslim immigrants threaten the peace from Paris to Amsterdam. The synagogue attacks in France and the murder of Theo Van Gogh were indications of a larger problems that continue to grow in places like the Sarcelles and the Finsbury Park Mosque.
Europe is facing a major case of cognitive dissonance. The European press has constantly and deliberately painted Bush as an utter rube and Iraq as a disastrous attempt to do nothing more to steal oil. Now the party line has been shown to be utterly wrong. How Europe react to this will be telling — while it’s too much to ask for the Europeans to drop their reflexive anti-Americanism, the sort of cooperation on issues like Lebanon that we’ve been seeing in the last few months may increase. If Der Spiegel can ask the unthinkable, one wonders what is going in the minds of European policymakers in Paris, Brussels, and Berlin.