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February 23, 2003

There's no explaining Europe

George Will tries to figure out what drives the thinking in Europe these days
[...]The demonstrators must know that Slobodan Milosevic and the Taliban would still be tyrannizing Muslims were it not for U.S. power. But they do not care.

And the demonstrators must know that, if they turn President Bush into "the noble Duke of York" (who "had ten-thousand men, he marched them up to the top of the hill, and he marched them down again"), Hussein will bestride the Middle East, and emulators - and weapons of mass destruction - will proliferate. That the demonstrators do not care is a measure of their monomania - anti-Americanism.

For Europe's elites, anti-Americanism is a sterile response to the galling fact that Europe committed semi-suicide in the 20th century. But many of these elites' economic and defense policies are deepening Europe's self-inflicted anemia.

For example, Germany, which accounts for one-third of the euro zone's economic output, had Europe's worst average annual growth rate over the past decade (1.3 percent, barely better than Japan's 1 percent). BusinessWeek, calling Germany "Japan on the Rhine," reports that the nation that gave the world aspirin was in the 1960s the world's leading producer of pharmaceuticals, but now it does not have a pharmaceutical company among the world's top 15.

The curdled arrogance of some European elites, and especially of those clinging to a status that they sense is eroding, was displayed last Monday in Jacques Chirac's dressing-down of Eastern European leaders who support U.S. policy. Speaking of them with the disdain of a duke deploring bad manners among the servants below stairs, Chirac said that they were guilty of "not well brought up behavior" - something like using the fish fork during the salad course - and that "they missed a good opportunity to keep quiet" because several are still applicants for membership in the European Union.

There is not much to be gained just now from additional attempts to reason with a leader that tone-deaf, or from attempts to soften the monomania of those swarming in the "European street." Perhaps U.S. policy can change European minds by changing facts in Iraq.

Perhaps not. However, America's vital interests are more dependent on those facts than on those minds. [more]