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Europe: Axis of Arrogance By: Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 14, 2002

ONCE MORE European politicians and pundits are carping at the U.S., this time over President Bush's identification of Iraq, North Korea, and Iran as an "axis of evil." The protest has nothing to do with the statement's obvious accuracy, but rather with the wounded pride of once-great nations that are now, as the Secretary General of NATO himself put it, "military pygmies."

Yet despite their unwillingness to finance militaries commensurate with their inflated self-image and global pretensions, the Europeans still demand from the U.S. a "multilateralism" and "consultative process" that imply an alliance of equals. And why shouldn't they? For years they have depended on the military muscle of the United States to keep them free and to take the lead in cleaning up various post-colonial and post-Cold War messes, all the while criticizing America, indulging a sentimental Third-Worldism, and doing business with thug states like Iraq, Iran, and Libya.

Given that the security of the U.S. does not depend much on Europe, why do we put up with it? As Western cultures sharing a common descent from Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem, America and Europe do have cultural and historical ties. But as the world changes these become less significant than the growing differences between us.

For example, we are a multiracial society less animated by nationalistic mysticism than are many European countries, where beneath a veneer of cosmopolitanism xenophobia festers. Consider the resurgence of anti-Semitism not just among German skinheads, but in the salons of English grandees. We Americans, on the other hand, have a long history of dealing with the so-called "other" that frightens many in France and Germany as they view the dark-skinned immigrants crowding their borders.

Another important difference comes from the lingering aristocratic sensibility lying at the root of the European elite's values. This deference to social hierarchies is alien to the raucous egalitarianism of the U.S. that is enshrined in the American popular culture the European masses prefer. It doesn't make the Europeans feel any better to recognize that for now at least, the future lies with multiracial democracy rather than with a socially stratified nationalism, with a brash and vulgar popular culture rather than with a pretentious recycling of ancient cultural glory.

Yet despite these differences, we continue to defer to Europe's opinion and obsess over its criticism, partly because of the elitist pretensions of our own political and intellectual class. Like naïve Yankee ingénues in a Henry James novel, they have always looked longingly to Europe as the cultural arbiter superior to the grubby vulgarity of their fellow Americans, thus mistaking moral exhaustion for sophistication, and snobbery for good taste.

This Europhilia dominates many in the cultural elite. You see it in the film critic gushing over sentimental tripe like Chocolate,  in the English professor groveling before the stale ideas of a third-rate windbag like Michel Foucault, or in the pundit advising us to shed our repressive Puritanism and embrace the sexual laissez-faire of the French, as we were repeatedly advised to do during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

Deferring to Europeans, then, at best reflects nostalgia for an increasingly irrelevant cultural bond; at worst the affectations and status-hunger of our own intellectuals, not any genuine wisdom or moral superiority residing in Brussels or Paris.

Certainly there's no historical basis for the European assumption that they have the moral credentials for schooling America on its foreign policy sins. After all, America never had a colonial empire and has shed a fraction of the Third-World blood spilled by Europeans. Most of our interventions abroad took place during the Cold War when, whether carried out rightly or wrongly, they were seen as necessary for containing the Soviet appetite for expansion. After all, it wasn't the specter of the French army that kept the Soviets out of West Berlin.

For the average American taxpayer, then, it's hard to see what concrete benefits the U.S. gets for deferring to the condescending advice of Eurocrats, or for even participating in NATO. Now that the Soviet Union has been dumped in the trashcan of history, what threats exist that the United States can't meet alone or with ad hoc alliances? The war in Afghanistan has shown the remarkable power of the U.S. military to project lethal force anywhere in the world. We are held back only by our own democratic values and principles, which are greater guarantees of restraint and justice than is the hypocritical carping of Europe.

At this critical juncture, when it appears we have recovered our nerve and are willing to punish the evil that threatens our security and interests, we should look to the future rather than to the past. Strengthening Mexico's democracy and economy, for example, serves our interests much more than does soothing the fragile self-esteem of European politicians. The Europeans have created a common currency; let them create and finance a common defensive alliance for which they foot the bill.

Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Book}. He is 2009-2010 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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