The Irrelevance and Decline of France and Germany

“But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

Many Islamic countries have managed to hide their economic and political failures by blaming the more prosperous West, and especially the United States as Satanic. Of course, the supreme irony for these religious zealots is that Allah (within the narrow vision of these zealots) would seem to be economically rewarding these same blasphemous Western cultures. Even resource-wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia are having difficulty maintaining the extravagant lifestyle of the ruling families, so it permits a simmering militant strain of Islam to prosper.

Now Europe follows this sad example. For the last three decades, Europeans have chosen the path of growing government control of the economy. They, are now realizing that despite a greater population, they are being economically outpaced by Americans. The economic dynamism of the United States has resulted in 57 million new jobs here, while collectively the members of the European Union have managed to create an anemic 5 million since 1970.

European politicians sometimes exploit the consequent political unrest by diverting anger to the United States. Last year, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder faced with a plummeting economy and popularity, ran for re-election on a patronizingly anti-American platform. It is easier to feel morally superior to Americans, than it is to come to grips with German economic inadequacy and self-imposed impotence.

Arrogant European condescension manifests itself in other petty little ways. Two years ago, Europeans voted secretly to replace the United States on the United Nations Human Rights Commission with the Sudan. It seems some of the European governments are willing to welcome a country where slavery still persists to a Human Rights Commission so long as it will poke a stick in America’s eye. Under different circumstances, this behavior would be a silly annoyance. We now live in serious times.

After the United States was attacked on September 11, a new sense of urgency to deal with terrorism and its sources has swept the United States, less so in Europe. Despite initial feelings of sympathy for the United States, a recent poll suggests that two-thirds of European elites smugly feel that it is “good for Americans to feel vulnerable.” Americans do not agree.

In a matter of weeks after September 11, the United States, with only 400 soldiers on the ground, managed to end the sanctuary that the Taliban government of Afghanistan was offering Al Qaeda terrorists. The Europeans managed to provide some marginal military aid in this response, but only at the cost of deliberately and demonstrably false accusations that the United States was causing massive civilian casualties and engaged in the wholesale torture of prisoners. In reality, the United States response in Afghanistan liberated the Afghans from a repressive regime and prevented winter starvation.

We now turn our attention to a long festering threat. Since their defeat at the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqis, by everyone’s admission, has been violating the terms of the cease-fire agreement. They are seeking to accumulate weapons of mass destruction, which they are willing to use against their own people. They are in league with the terrorist underworld, as they provide money and other support to the families of homicide bombers that deliberately kill innocents in Israel. These latter efforts are in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which required Iraq “not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory.”

This fall, the United States managed to persuade a reluctant world and Europe that Iraq’s non-compliance with relevant UN resolutions undermined the effectiveness and authority of the UN. This same reluctance to act against Fascism doomed the League of Nations. Last fall the Security Council agree 15-0 that “Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations.”

It now seems that at least France and Germany did not really mean what they said. They now lambaste the United States for not showing more patience with the UN inspectors in Iraq. This argument is particularly disingenuous because were it not for the United States willingness to use military force, there would be no inspectors in Iraq. It was not the appearance of the French Air Force or the German Army on the horizon that compelled Iraq to allow in the beloved inspectors.

It is clear now that the French and the Germans never meant to compel compliance. The UN resolutions were just a delaying tactic to buy time for Iraq in the hopes that American resolve would wither. The French and the Germans are not willing to face their clear obligations under the November resolution. They are willing to live with a rapidly re-arming Iraq, especially since the likely targets will not be Europeans, but Israelis or Americans. Or perhaps, in their jealous pique with Americans, they are willing to weigh in on the side of Isalmo-facists as long as they are anti-American. You might have thought that their collective experience living under Fascist regimes, they would harbor particular antipathy to such regimes.

In the November resolution, the UN agreed that, “false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution … shall constitute further material breach.” Even the softheaded UN inspector Hans Blix has admitted to the Security Council that Iraq has not accounted for 20,000 liters of anthrax, 1.5 tons of VX nerve gas, biological growth media, or Scud missiles Iraq is not allowed to possess.

It now seems likely that the United Nations Security Council under the veto of the French will not authorize the use of force against Iraq to enforce the November resolution. It also seems likely that the US will do so nonetheless. The result will be an ironically strengthened UN with its resolution enforced, but it would weaken France and Germany. They will sink into political irrelevance much as their collective economic importance continues its decades-old decline.

When Theodore Roosevelt delivered the words in the citation above, the American Century was just beginning. Roosevelt’s words reflected the American ethos of vigor and strength. The United States began the century as a modest economic and military power with enormous potential. Mighty European governments spent the century devouring each other, sapping each other of not only economic energy but spiritual vigor and confidence. Unlike its European counterparts save Great Britain, the United States begins this century with the same governmental institutions in began the last century with. This is an important measure of the resilience of these institutions.

The United States begins this new century the dominant economic engine of the world and certainly its strongest military power. It is impossible to know for certain where in the registry of countries the United States will find itself at the end of the century. Perhaps by the sheer size of its population will make the 21st century the Chinese century. Unfortunately, Europe is a dying echo of his previous grandeur, a pleasant land of pleasant, quiet, and irrelevant people. It declines into self-indulgent middle age, comfortably sitting on the sidelines. How sad.

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