Europe on Trial

Article excerpt

In one of the stranger efforts at serious journalism, The Washington Post this week headlined its story on President Bush's departure for Europe: "Tax Cut Strategy Goes to Europe." In The Post's lexicon, this is not a compliment. The burden of the article was that just as Mr. Bush had bullied his way to the conservative, partisan tax cut he wanted in Congress, so he intends to place unilateral demands on Europe.

In this reading of events, a rudely trodden upon Europe will play the part of poor, abused Sen. Jim Jeffords. Thus Mr. Bush will rue the day he tries to have his way with Europe on missile defense, the Kyoto treaty, etc. Just as Mr. Bush was paid back by Mr. Jeffords with the loss of the Senate, Mr. Bush's unilateralism in Europe will be bought, writes The Washington Post, "at the cost of international goodwill Bush may need in the future." The analogy is doubly inapt (and inept).

Mr. Jeffords didn't leave the Republican Party because he was not invited over to tea at the White House, but because of some combination of philosophical differences and personal interests. And if the Europeans oppose our policies it will not be due to a lack of "goodwill," but because Europe's self-perceived interests, values and the domestic political needs of their governments may contradict our policies.

In fact, U.S.-European relations - which is the foundation of the international order and world prosperity - have been deteriorating since the end of the Cold War. With the passing of the Soviet threat as the galvanizing cause of our unity, it is past time to begin to seriously understand and deal with this dangerous degrading of the Atlantic alliance. It was formed by shared values and interests, and it is degrading because statesmen (both European and pre-Bush Americans) have been failing to sustain those essential elements of that unprecedentedly valuable partnership.

The beginning of wisdom on this subject can be found in Henry Kissinger's just-published masterwork, "Does America Need a Foreign Policy: Towards a Diplomacy for the 21st Century." In the part of the book that analyzes Europe, which should be required reading by journalists, politicians and the publics on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Kissinger lays out with a cool, supervising intelligence the interplay of three evolving forces: Europe's image of itself, the impact of European integration on the Atlantic relationship and American attitudes toward those different options for European integration.

He sees Europe increasingly defining itself by challenging the United States. …