Allies, Friends, Neutrals, or Enemies?

by Victor Davis Hanson

Private Papers

For all the mayhem in the Sunni Triangle, and for all our mishaps at trying to reconstruct a pathological society reeling from 30 years of mass murder, we are now seeing the emergence of new civilized beginnings in Iraq. Sadly our allies are mostly neutral, if not hostile to this radically new world, mostly out of spite, narrow self-interest, and deductive anger and envy of the United States. In the process, they have done the near impossible: lost the good will of the American people, a development that will have radical repercussions in the years ahead.

While a U.S., bloodied after 9-11, takes its greatest gamble in the last half-century to end the pathology of the Middle East, a Spanish government is toppled by a handful of al Qaeda thugs. The new inane socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who once bragged of his appeasement of April, is now worried, and thus scurrying in a pathetic effort to “beef up” the 200-man Spanish contingent in Afghanistan—at least for now until bin Laden’s self-proclaimed armistice with Europe runs out and the next bomb goes off. When that happens, don’t count on a slandered US to come to the aid of Spain, which will have its hands full enough adjudicating the sovereignty of a few rocks off Morocco. The fiery French Defense Minister, after all, is now bragging that France has nukes and can protect Europe all by itself. Promises, promises.

So the Europeans haven’t got a clue what is going on right now in the world. Germany and France ankle-bite about a new proposed role for NATO in Afghanistan while Mr. Karzai accepts the Liberty medal in Philadelphia on July 4th. Go figure. A Chirac and Schroeder pronounce from thrones on Olympus that they cannot sanction the death penalty for Saddam—as if they were asked or anyone cared.

Speaking of executions, at about the same time as Saddam’s court appearance, Berlin and Paris were silent while quasi-government thugs in Qabatiya on the West Bank executed a patient dragged out of his hospital bed to cries of the mob’s “kill him immediately”. Such spooky places are the proper hosts only for French ministers. Indeed, we saw one in Arafat’s bunker—at just the time that his superiors in Paris worried about Saddam’s fate, said “NO!” to forgiving Iraqi debt, and undermined NATO plans in Afghanistan. This is surprising only if you thought France was now a neutral, rather than a de facto enemy of the United States.

The more Kerry & Co. keep hectoring that the Europeans are essential to a successful transition in Iraq, the more the transition somehow lumbers forward without them. Does this Boston Brahman ever understand human nature outside of Beacon Hill? Just as was true in the Balkans, the Europeans never planned to join our efforts until success was already well assured. When there are elections, no violence, oil contracts to bid out, and a booming economy in need of imported goods, then—but only then—will the Germans and French pour into Iraq, claiming that they were supporters of its liberation all along.

While in Istanbul, our President recently lobbied to admit Turkey to the EU and forgave our NATO ally for its 11th hour refusal last spring to host an army division that would have saved American lives in Iraq. That was magnanimous and a fitting thing to do. But as thanks, Foreign Minister Gul praised angry anti-American protestors in the streets for providing televised fides of Turkey’s radicalism, which he claims had convinced the al Qaedists to release Turkish hostages in Iraq. Should we laugh or cry?

What did the silly ministers of Turkey accomplish in all this? Surely, they did not make Americans forget that they were once peddling their support for cash up until a few hours before the war last March. They did not stop reform in Iraq. They did not stymie Kurdish liberty across the border. We won the war without their bases and help.

No, all that the brilliant Turkish Islamicists have done the last few years is to ruin almost all American public support of a half-century for the Turkish people. There is sadly very little now—at a time when a soon-to-be nuclear Iran will sit on Turkey’s border.

We are increasingly associating our once NATO ally not with the legacy of Attaturk, but with triangulating with the new Islamicist menace. Indeed, when President Bush recently lobbied old Europe to admit Turkey into the EU, he left most Americans in a real dilemma: weighing whether it was perhaps right to agree with such unsavory folk like a Chirac and Schroeder who gagged at having such a potentially dangerous partner rammed down their throats.

In a year there is going to be an elected government in a new democratic Iraq. Many of our old allies—other than the British, the Australians, and the Eastern Europeans—were not just against this change, but also vehemently against us who brought it about and thus cost them money and pride, as well as destroying their utopian visions of a world run by somber Eurocrats at the World Court.

Mr. Kerry thinks he can woo these critics back on board. He cannot; but by trying he surely can win the wage of obsequiousness in addition to the present envy and irrational pique. It is banal and monotonous to keep insisting that Kerryesque charm will restore what Texas braggadocio  threw away—and entirely ignorant of the radically changed post-Cold War world.

For now the Europeans are gleeful, assuming that America is in lockstep with Al Gore, Michael Moore, and George Soros. Maybe, maybe not. We will find out in November. But if they are wrong and Mr. Kerry thus loses—then most Americans between New York and Los Angeles will have a long, long memory.

© 2004 Victor Davis Hanson

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