. . . the George W. Bush who in his first term snubbed international organizations and pursued a war in Iraq,(I don't think that's an accurate portrayal of someone who begged Hussein to obey the UN, then begged the UN to follow through on their threats) but now he was spending most of a week in Europe, smiling widely and listening.
The German daily Die Welt had its own way of characterizing the visit: "The Empire Smiles Back."
But Mr. Bush came with more than just open ears. He also came with a message, with the good news of democracy and its liberating power - a message Bush discovered in the days after the Iraq war, and which he made the hallmark of his second inaugural address. It was this message - and its accompanying invitation to Europeans to join America in spreading democracy around the globe - that made Bush's interlocutors, his "partners in shared values," a bit uncomfortable.
There are several reasons for this discomfort - all of which reared their head along the president's stops in Brussels; Mainz, Germany; and Bratislava, Slovakia, and all of which will influence Europe's cooperation with America as issues from the Middle East to the former Soviet republics move forward.
Most simply, America's traditional allies that are now are grouped in the European Union feel they have been doing a version of the democracy development that Bush is touting for a long time. One EU official pointed out that Europe has been working with the Palestinians for a decade now on building institutions and a civil society - hinting that perhaps it was that long, slow work that was now bearing fruit in the form of a new Palestinian mentality.
And who was it who went into Europe after World War II and built it up to make the EU possible in the first place? Who sent money and food and people to put the UK, Germany, Italy, and France back on their feet after they were brought to their knees because of a few brutal dictators who subjugated them in pursuit of world domination?
The Palestinian problem, by the way, is looking better because Arafat died. The little bit of work the EU has done may have helped in a small way, but the United States has been working along those lines as well -- and for longer than a decade.
I'm just a little tired of the Europeans snubbing our President. I remember the difference the Marshall Plan made (and the Brits, bless their hearts, do too -- at least their leadership does). I remember the Berlin air lift. I saw the mountain in Berlin that is the rubble from the bombings and wondered that they could ever recover from such devastation. They would still be at it if it weren't for the US.
It's not that we want thanks. Not at all. Just a little respect, please, for our President and none of this sarcastic "Emporer Smiles" stuff from Die Welt.
We have ALL been trying to help the Israelis and the Palestinians work out a co-habitation deal that pleases everyone. We need to work together to help them; not stick our noses in the air and snub each other.
Then, of course, we have the widely non-reported Putin put-down of our President, accusing the government of firing Dan Rather. Hey, Vladimir -- the President didn't fire him, the people did. Bloggers, who held his feet to the fire until he almost told the truth.
Europe has a small memory. They would all be in the tank (and we probably would, too) if it wasn't for American lives and initiative -- and for more than a decade.
Hey, Europe -- CHILL.