The Reflexive Sneer at George W. Bush

Article excerpt

George W. Bush is well on his way to disarming his critics in Washington.

Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle finally conceded yesterday that he's a legitimate president, although not entirely without equivocation. Others can measure how grudging their concessions were. But at least they said the words.

The president-elect may have harder work ahead of him in Europe, where the French, as usual, are stirring up toil and trouble.

The French, whose contribution to modern warfare is the art of the surrender, are terminally envious of the United States (and the special relationship between the United States and Britain), and they're determined to join in the creation of a European army to rival NATO. The British - or at least Tony Blair - seem determined to tag along in a French orbit. But the British prime minister has had to insist, in the wake of that not very nice European summit in Nice where the French and Germans pushed their scheme of a European army, that NATO would continue to be "the linchpin" of European security. Some linchpin. The United States would continue to do the heavy lifting, the Germans would get fancy uniforms and brass bands and the French would get to drink the champagne. NATO would shrivel.

Mr. Blair, gambling that the dying Clinton administration would keep quiet about it, tried to soothe concerns raised by the Tories that American skepticism of a European army could lead to American withdrawal from Europe. Such a prospect frightens a lot of Britons, who don't particularly relish the idea of an army inevitably led by Germans with French lieutenants. The British have been there and done that. Mr. Blair and his men, eager to get on with dismantling Britain but nervous about being found out, called their critics "fundamentally dishonest," insisting that the Americans wouldn't mind.

Lame duck or not, William Cohen, the departing secretary of defense, pointedly refused to endorse the deal, and warned that a European army could relegate NATO to "a relic." Then Tony Blair, taking seriously the media mush in London that George W. couldn't figure out what was going on and wouldn't care if he could, got a rude shock Sunday night when John Bolton, expected in London to be a top deputy to Colin Powell, warned that the rising Bush administration is likely to regard the European army scheme as "a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO."

If that happens, Mr. …