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AU REVOIR, MARIANNE…AUF WIEDERSEHEN, LILI MARLEEN The End of America's European Romance
By Ralph Peters
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 15, 2003
The societies of "Old Europe" remind Americans of the Arab Street. Preferring comforting delusions to challenging realities, Europeans talk a great deal, do very little, and blame the United States for home-grown ills.
The recent chants in the boulevards of Berlin were almost indistinguishable from those heard-until recently--in downtown Baghdad. Europe's culture of complaint, its enthusiasm for accusing America of every wickedness while assigning every virtue to itself, and its stunning lack of self-examination leave Americans bewildered.
We thought you were adults, but, from across the Atlantic, you look like spoiled children. And your recent tantrums have convinced Big Daddy America to deposit you on the steps of the strategic orphanage.
The damage done by the recent confrontation between The United States and those nations whose vocabularies collapsed to the single words "Nein!" or "Non!" will be repaired-on the surface. We shall continue to cooperate on matters of mutual interest. But, on a deeper level, the exuberantly dishonest attacks on America heard from France and Germany (Belgium simply doesn't count), along with the shameless grandstanding of Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Chirac, appear to even the most pragmatic Americans as grounds for divorce from our long marriage of convenience.
The divorce is long overdue. Ignoring "Old Europe" on questions of grand strategy will liberate the United States, freeing us at last from the failed European model of diplomacy that has given the world so many hideous wars, dysfunctional borders and undisturbed dictators. The recent mischief wrought in Paris and Berlin has enabled Washington to escape a long thrall of enchantment, a slumber of sorts during which America allowed Europe's ghost to haunt its decisions.
Now you have awakened us, and we see that Europe's influence was nothing but a legacy of nightmares. We shall no longer subscribe to your bloodsoaked, corrupt rules for the international system, but will forge our own.
You will not like many of our new rules. But to paraphrase Frederick the Great's remark about Maria Theresia, you will cry, but take your share of any available spoils.
As a result of a series of remarkable strategic miscalculations, France and Germany have lost their international footing-not only with the USA, but with the world. You had your moment in the anti-American sun. High noon revealed you as powerless and inept.
For Germany, this divorce will offer some advantages. American combat forces soon will begin to leave German soil permanently, followed in good time by our logistics facilities, which are simply more difficult to shift. This will be to Germany's benefit practically and psychologically--and very much to the benefit of America's armed forces, which have become nothing but a cash cow for greedy organizations ranging from your railways to your labor unions.
NATO will survive, of course. Along with the European Union, it's an indispensable employment agency for Europe's excess bureaucrats. But other bilateral and multilateral military arrangements will take precedence in Washington's strategic calculations.
On the negative side, Germany will lose almost all of its diplomatic influence beyond continental Europe-and Berlin never had much, at least since 1945. The world will take your Euros, but will not take you seriously.
You have asserted your independence from America. Now you have it. Good luck.
We won our war, easily, despite your protests and without your help. And do not flatter yourself with rhetoric about refusing to be America's vassals. No one in the United States questioned Germany's right to decide for itself whether or not to support our efforts to depose Saddam Hussein. Germany had every right to decline to participate.
But it was the way you did it that infuriated us.
Bundeskanzler Schroeder astonished us. We long had recognized him as a political charlatan, but the extent of his demagogy and his amateurish inability to foresee the consequences of his ranting still came as a surprise to us. We see Mr. Schroeder as a man utterly without convictions-a man without qualities--a political animal so debased that he resembles no one so much as he does European caricatures of small-time American politicians. His opportunistic anti-Americanism seemed all for effect, without substance or genuine belief.
Yet, in other respects, Schroeder proved quintessentially European: He criticized, but failed to offer meaningful solutions of his own. He chose slogans over ideas, convenience over ethics, and portrayed small-minded selfishness as political heroism. What qualities might better describe 21st century Europe?
Germany has come a long way downhill from Adenauer and Schmidt to Gerhard Schroeder.
Most difficult of all for us to stomach were remarks from members of the German government comparing President Bush to Hitler. Now, does anyone reading this newspaper believe that's an honest comparison? And was it fitting coming from a German official?
One thinks not. Americans heard the echo of Joseph Goebbels.
Then there were all the demonstrators waving signs equating the United States to the Nazi regime, as tasteless a display as Germany has managed since the last crematorium went cold.
Once our tempers cooled, we realized that all these Nazi comparisons weren't really about us. It was all about you, your guilt and your evasions.
Perhaps the most revealing incident of the war came during a television interview with a young protester in Berlin after Baghdad had fallen. The reporter asked him what he thought of the images of Iraqis cheering U.S. Marines and toppling Saddam's statue. The young German said the scenes "annoyed" him.
Doubtless. Reality is annoying, indeed.
Oh, we know how you see us. You never cease telling us. We are uncultured, because we cannot recall the date of the first performance of Das Rheingold. We are heartless, since our society favors opportunity over security. We are naïve, since we do not share your prejudices. We are warmongers, because we still believe some things are worth defending. And now we are Nazis, because we moved to depose a dictator who had slaughtered his own people as well as his neighbors, while harboring terrorists and pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, you continue to buy our cultural products. Your brightest young people come to our shores to work. We Americans have moved beyond the racism that blights Germany and France (we look forward to meeting a German Colin Powell of Turkish ancestry in Berlin or an ethnic-Senegalese Condoleeza Rice in Paris), so we certainly do not share your prejudices. And after the events of September 11th, 2001, we will not wait to be attacked, but will strike pre-emptively wherever we believe it to be necessary-and we shall do so without ever again asking Europe's permission. So we are, indeed, warmongers by European standards.
But what about the charge that Americans are the new Nazis?
I think I understand the sickness that afflicts you. I received my first insight as a young Army sergeant in a not-yet-reunified Germany a quarter-century ago. Although the event was ten years past, young Germans unfailingly brought up the My Lai massacre in Vietnam during our conversations. My Lai was one of two documented American atrocities in that war. Almost two hundred villagers were murdered. It was inexcusable, and we did not try to excuse it. But those young Germans grasped at the My Lai massacre with an alacrity that astonished me. To them, the two-hundred dead at My Lai canceled Auschwitz and Treblinka, six million murdered Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and dissenters. The message was, "See! You Americans are just as bad as we Germans were-maybe worse."
I did not find the comparison convincing.
Now, with Germany's Jews long since slaughtered or driven out (to America's great benefit, thank you), you attack Israel at every opportunity, hanging on every Palestinian claim, no matter how absurd, and inventing Israeli atrocities. Americans see Israelis as fighting for their existence against those who want to exterminate them. You view Israelis as a reproach to your past deeds, and you lash out at them. Clausewitz is no longer a guide to your national behavior. Today, we need to consult Sigmund Freud. A Jew, of course.
The Israelis, too, have been called Nazis by your elected politicians-indeed, "Nazi" seems to be your favorite insult. At times it sounds to us as though everyone who isn't a German is now a Nazi. Unless, of course, we are talking of Arabs who murder Jews, in which case a good German speaks of freedom fighters.
Here in America, Holocaust survivors live among us, as do those aging G.I.s who opened the gates to Dachau. They have been our fathers, our teachers and our neighbors. Is it any wonder that we find your rhetoric repulsive? Hitler, at least, was honest about his bigotry.
And now we must endure the ludicrous schizophrenia of your present society, in which you alternate between insisting that German guilt must have an end and indulging in revisionist history that equates the allied bombing campaign against your cities or the sinking of ships ferrying submarine crews with Nazi evils.
Your attempts to excuse the inexcusable merely remind us that Germany deserved every bomb dropped upon its soil. Bush the equivalent of Hitler? Show us the American death camps, please.
As a lifelong admirer of German culture, you leave me in despair. Your chancellor has transformed the worthy old maxim "Be more than you appear to be" into "Appear to be more than you are." Goethe's timeless query, "Germany…but where is it?" has been answered with "Between France and Russia, duped by Chirac and cooly manipulated by Putin." And Faust has been outed as Professor Unrat.
Auf wiedersehen, Lili Marleen. It was great while it lasted.
And Marianne? Since no one took Germany seriously to begin with, Berlin had less to lose in l'affaire Iraq than Paris. France gambled with Dostoevskian abandon in the strategic casino and ended up bankrupt in the morning light.
President Chirac and his sorcerer's apprentice, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, emerged as one of the most incompetent combinations in diplomatic history, two drunkards behind the steering wheel of policy. It astonishes us that the French actually believed that Paris could dictate terms to Washington.
Sorry. Gaul does not give orders to Rome.
We understood that Chirac was playing to the Arab world as well as to his domestic electorate. But the succession of French refusals to negotiate seriously or even to consider compromises at the United Nations, climaxed by France's announcement, in advance, that it would veto any further resolutions introduced by the United States or Britain, seemed suicidal to us.
And it was suicidal. The legacy of Charles de Gaulle perished in the Security Council. The tradition of permitting France a greater voice in trans-Atlantic decision-making than its place, power or contributions merited is over, as dead as Jean-Paul Sartre or his idol, Josef Stalin. The Gallic cock crowed so loudly it fell off the fence and broke its neck.
Washington will no longer entertain the views of Paris on vital international issues. Nor will we risk another French veto on a matter we view as critical to our national security. And we will feed the United Nations the crumbs of strategy.
Far from expanding its influence, France has forced its collapse. A quick round of applause in Algeria is hardly worth the loss of America's ear. Briefly the champion of all the anti-American forces in the world, from Libya to North Korea, France is left unable to resolve the civil strife in Ivory Coast. And Paris will not be given a significant role in rebuilding Iraq.
France long has seemed to Americans to be the apotheosis of European hypocrisy. While defending Saddam Hussein from "American aggression," Mr. Chirac hosted Robert Mugabe in Paris in a pathetic attempt to expand French influence into Anglophone Africa. But I was in Zimbabwe when the visit occurred and the degree of fury the people of that country felt toward France for hosting Mugabe-whom they have nicknamed "Robodan Mugabevich"-guaranteed that the French will never be welcome between the Zambezi and the Limpopo.
France seems to us an aging whore desperate to attract even the most diseased customers.
But, above all, it is French naivete that leaves us shaking our heads. How could they so misjudge the situation? Aren't the French supposed to be terribly clever and devious? How could they be so clumsy, and on such a grand scale?
The short answer is that, like Arabs, they believed their own fantasies. In addition to the forlorn illusion that France is still a great power, Mr. Chirac and Mr. de Villepin utterly misjudged George Bush. They had called him a cowboy for so long that they came to believe there was nothing to the man. And they were wrong.
I did not vote for President Bush. But, after 9/11/01, I was glad he was our president. Had Al Gore been in the White House, we would have done the European thing and formed a committee to ask how we had brought disaster upon ourselves. President Bush led a galvanized nation into a series of deliberate, carefully-considered actions that have broken the back of one terrorist organization after another while removing a brutal, backward theocracy from one country and a blood-encrusted dictatorship from another.
And America is not finished. We will no longer subscribe to the European system in which dictators may do as they wish with impunity within their own borders-your insistence on respect for national sovereignty simply means that Hitler would have been perfectly acceptable had he only killed German Jews. And we will not follow the traditions of kings and kaisers in which heads of state are exempt from personal punishment, no matter their crimes. We will go after the truly guilty, not the masses. And no amount of insults hurled from beneath the Brandenburg Gate or from the Place de la Concorde will deter us.
We are finished with your delight in weeping over past holocausts while you remain unwilling to act to prevent or interrupt new holocausts. Srebrenica is the European model. Baghdad is ours.
President Bush is a Texan, as Europeans never fail to remind us. But the intelligence services of France and Germany seem to have failed to understand the character of Texans. They don't speak artfully, but they act resolutely. They aren't relativists. Texans believe there is a difference between right and wrong. And when you insult a Texan to his face while betraying his trust, he is not going to take it kindly. Confronting a Texan in public is always ill-advised, unless you intend to fight it out to the end-and have the means to do so. Texans don't even care where Europe is on the map.
We Americans are all Texans now. You have left us no choice.
Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and the author of sixteen books, including novels, collections of essays and works on strategy. His most recent book is Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World.
Submitted by our pal Paul S.