Joe Conason's Journal

Why Europeans who love America despise Bush.

Published February 19, 2003 8:04PM (EST)

The sorry state we're in
Today's New York Observer fronts a superb essay by Will Hutton, the liberal British political analyst and former editor of that other Observer (the one published on Sundays in London). What he explains -- for the benefit of our neocon pundits and Congressional neo-isolationists -- is why Europeans who love America find Bush so appalling. (And no, it isn't because they lack the virile warrior spirit of the conservative chicken-hawks.) Their real disappointment is that the Bush administration doesn't live up to Europe's traditional expectations of American greatness:

"America has been the victim of a horrendous crime, and the barbarians of radical Islam, we know, will again use terror against the U.S. (and against targets in Europe too, don't forget) if they can. They must be rooted out, and the deep causes of the crime addressed, even as we bring the particular terrorist networks to justice. But this complex task cannot be undertaken if we divide the world into the Manichean simplicities of George W. Bush: Those who are not for America must necessarily be against America. This is not good enough from the leader of the free world -- and it's certainly not good enough before the evil of the threat we face. We need sophistication, wisdom, the widest coalition possible, legitimacy -- and, of course, a willingness to use force if every other avenue has been closed. Instead, we hear the language of pre-emptive war (which was outlawed by the Versailles Treaty of 1919) -- and this from the greatest and most admired democratic republic in the world, a country that has always prided itself on its respect for law, at home and abroad. Europeans expect much, much more from America."

In the same issue, I put in my two centimes on the subject of our French friends. Chirac's outburst against the eastern European nations was arrogant and self-defeating -- but no more so than much of what emerges from the mouth of Donald Rumsfeld.
[12:00 p.m. PST, Feb. 19, 2003]

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