Kiss and Make Up

President Bush spoke in Brussels today of the need for Europe and the United States to get past differences on Iraq. He is realistic in acknowledging the difference that had surfaced, but is pragmatic in emphasizing that they are "past", and is idealistic in his rhetoric when he says, "Now is the time for the established democracies to give tangible political, economic and security assistance to the world's newest democracy."

Reflecting the different specific interests of their readerships, different news agencies reported the event under different headlines:

FOX News: Bush Calls for U.S., European Unity

CNN: Bush calls for 'new era in trans-Atlantic unity'

BBC: Mid-East peace is our goal - Bush

International Herald Tribune: Bush hails transatlantic ties, says Middle East peace "our immediate goal"

Reuters: Bush Pushes Europe to Back Mideast Democracy

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Australian pointedly reminds the Europeans why the fence-mending is essential:

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger once said he would pay attention to Europe when it had a telephone number. By basing himself near EU headquarters in Brussels for this visit, Mr Bush signals he understands Europe now has a voice. In return, EU leaders must get over their unproductive resentment towards Mr Bush. Apart from recent events in the Middle East, what strengthens Mr Bush's legitimacy is his re-election victory and the deeper changes it portends beneath the surface of US political life. If European leaders ever believed they could simply bide their time until the US produced a leader who thinks as they do, that moment has gone. The Bush vision, which is based on an aggressive assault on terrorism and an activist seeding of democracy, is the direct result of what the US learned on 9/11. It will not go away. And when we see the US mounting a full-scale assault on AIDS and hunger in Africa, or following hot on Australia's heels with on-the-ground tsunami relief in Aceh, we are looking at another side of the same vision.
Despite some of the very public acrimony that had gone on between the peoples of Western Europe and the people of the United States, reflecting the very personal disputes and differences between the national leaders, I submit that, pace Robert Kagan's ideas about Power and Weakness, and perhaps even in support of it, the truth is not so much that "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus" in terms of having different objectives, but that they see the same objectives through different prizms. Europeans for the most part have had a half century of collective security guaranteed by the United States Armed Forces. As a result, they have naturally developed a more domestic view of the world, wherein all problems can be managed, rather than decisively dealt with.

Not to make too fine of a point of it, but as Kagan suggests, Europe is from Venus: Their outlook is overwhelmingly that of a traditional housewife, if Western civilization can be spoken of as a family. While the male parent's job is to earn money (America's consumers drive much economic activity around the world) and provide protection, the female parent's job is to provide for welfare and sustenance. And both parents can sometimes be overbearing, in different ways, and when their authority is challenged, can often be perceived as brooking no dissent at all.

In any event, when both parents work together, the family can only prosper. We may not always have the same approach, but perhaps instead of one parent trying to tell the other how to do that other's job, they should do their own jobs better, and try to gain synergy with each other.

President Bush's appeal in Brussels may be seen by the more cynical as an admission that the United States cannot do its job alone. But a wise statesman will see it as a gracious offer to Europe, especially in the wake of the Iraqi elections, to step down from its oppositional stance, and get back to the team effort. A Europe interested only in humiliating the United States is no more than a spiteful wife to a husband trying to make amends, and such a marriage can only end in divorce.

So it's time to kiss and make up.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

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