There is no question that America's credibility has been undermined by the Iraq war, in "Old Europe" as everywhere else. There is no question that America's reputation for competence has been destroyed. But that doesn't mean there are dozens of eager candidates, or even one eager candidate, clamoring to replace us.It's an odd complaint in an odd article. Not only, says Applebaum in many more words, are the European nations generally opposed to America's Wilsonian crusading, but they're also totally unwilling to take up the mantle of our failed Wilsonian crusades!
Europeans are rightfully and understandably rueful of the America-loosed disaster in Iraq. The Middle East, as Applebaum notes, is a lot closer to Europe than to the US, and European nations have so far dealt poorly with the problem of generational Muslim disenfranchisement stemming from post-colonial guest worker programs and decades of failed immigration policy. And if their economies are marginally less petropowered than our own, the operative word remains marginally. An expanding catastrophe au proche-orient is hardly in Brussels' best interest, or in the best interests of Euronext or Deutsche Börse. Nonetheless, the Europeans, as Applebaum dismissively notes, and particularly the Germans, are generally unwilling or unable to support the American mission militarily. Europe is rightfully skeptical of military solutions, and despite long talk of a unified European security force, there's no European constituency pushing for an American-style interventionist military to bestride the globe enforcing some sort of social-democratic-values hegemony. This, of course, is what Applebaum means when she says no one "here" believes that Europe "is going to replace the United States anytime soon." In their failure to take over our failures are they damned.
Then the familiar whine of the not-victors in a guerilla war. Why won't someone help? Or:
Ultimately the only way for the West to deal with the new threats posed by a disintegrating Iraq, a resurgent Iran and a shattered Middle East is through a unified policy--an alliance whose members are not easily played off against one another--and a joint strategy.The West, in this formulation, is as fanciful a political entity as the rightwinger's fearful caliphate (from Borneo to Bilbao and back again!). What possible "unified policy . . . and joint strategy" can emerge? What possible good would a war fought under the NATO banner--that seems to be what Applebaum is really advocating--do that a war fought under the American banner is not doing? What, precisely, is a "resurgent Iran." The last time Iran surged, so to speak, the Safavids were running a pseudo-Sufi empire and the powers of Europe were busy giving smallpox to the native population of North America.
The Europeans are no happier about the state of the Middle East than anyone, and their told-you-sos are really quite restrained. They, after all, gain nothing but a lot of useless credibility, and they still suffer from proximity to the catastrophe that they were powerless to avert. But unlike Applebaum and her Washington clique, they seem basically opposed to throwing good money and still-living lives after bad and already-dead. They'll do their best to weather the storm, but they will not join their American friends in shooting at the rainclouds.
Update:Whoa! Escahtonians and LGMers and UOettes everywhere!