Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 11, 2003
WAR: McCain's Clarity
Read John McCain's masterful speech to a European audience on the recent shenanigans of France and Germany. McCain warms 'em up with the kind of stuff an audience of European intellectuals wants to hear: quotes from Hegel and paens to multilateralism. But then he goes in for the kill, attacking "Obstacles of prejudice, ethnic stereotype, and bureaucratic gamesmanship that block Turkey's path to Europe." He reminds the audience that the former Soviet Republics in Europe include a dangerous tyranny (Belarus) and a state in great crisis (Ukraine):
Sixty million people in Belarus and Ukraine press against six EU and NATO allies and demarcate a new, hard border across Europe stretching from Odessa to Kaliningrad. Soviet-style dictatorship in Belarus and weak institutions in Ukraine raise the prospect of millions of political and economic refugees on the borders of the European Union should these states collapse or Russia seek their integration.
Next, he accuses the French and Germans of "sneering" and "calulated self-interest," and diagnoses the choice at hand:
Western civilization in the modern era, cannot have a future worthy of its past if such threats are seen as things to be managed with an eye to process rather than confronted with a determination to meet evil at its source; and if Alliance decision-making on matters of war and peace is determined more by narrow calculations of domestic and European politics than by transcendent security interests of trans-Atlantic partners.
This warms up to the guts of the speech:
Those who deign to speak for Europe, notwithstanding the objections of elected governments across Europe, confuse consensus with effectiveness and appear to give priority to achieving a lowest-common-denominator result that preserves the illusion of unity at the expense of action to protect our security. Many Americans who support the historic project of European integration worry that rather than enhancing Europe's power in the world, the rush to integrate, and a cynical desire to define differences with America rather than meet common challenges together, reduces Europe's influence by turning the attention of European leaders inward, away from grave challenges to European security itself, and channeling their hostility toward the United States rather than our common enemies.
Foreign Minister Fischer recently warned against "primitive anti-Americanism." I thank and commend him for his statement. But I am concerned, we should all be concerned, not only with the "primitive" anti-Americanism of the street that resents America's successes, exults in our misfortunes, and ascribes to us motives that one must be a fool or delusional to believe. We should also be concerned with the "sophisticated" anti-Americanism, or perhaps more aptly, the "cynical" anti-Americanism of political leaders who exploit for their own ends the disinformed, "primitive" hostility to America voiced in some quarters of their societies; to further their ambitions to govern or to inflate perceptions of their international influence.
Just as some Arab governments fuel anti-American sentiment among their people to divert them from problems at home, so a distinct minority of Western European leaders appears to engage in America-bashing to rally their people and other European elites to the call of European unity. Some European politicians speak of pressure from their "street" for peaceful solutions to international conflict and for resisting American power regardless of its purpose. But statements emanating from Europe that seem to endorse pacifism in the face of evil, and anti-Semitic recidivism in some quarters, provoke an equal and opposite reaction in America.
There is an American "street," too, and it strongly supports disarming Iraq, accepts the necessity of an expansive American role in the world to ensure we never wake up to another September 11th, is perplexed that nations with whom we have long enjoyed common cause do not share our urgency and sense of threat in time of war, and that considers reflexive hostility toward Israel as the root of all problems in the Middle East as irrational as it is morally offensive.
I loved the stuff about the 'American street', and his comparison of the French & Germans to Arab dictators. I voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries; I wouldn't today, because he's really left the conservative movement entirely. But on foreign affairs, he's still a powerful voice. McCain, today, is in many ways the true heir to the party of Truman and JFK, a guy who believes that the federal government of the United States can do noble things at home and abroad. It's more a sad comment on the Democrats' longstanding aversion to serious foreign policy than an indictment of McCain that he's still a Republican.