Take the views of many anti-war Europeans that Iraq should not be invaded but "contained." By whom? France? Germany? Belgium? They could not contain the two-bit Serbian tyrant, Slobodan Milosevic. And they have been no help -- indeed, they have been a great hindrance -- in containing Iraq. They want the U.S. to do it, through a costly, draining, long-term commitment of American forces. At the same time, they bash the U.S. for the military pressure and economic sanctions -- "starving Iraqi babies" -- that undergird containment.
The ignorance and hypocrisy of the European free-riders is perhaps best illustrated by their clamoring that Bush is bent on a greed-driven "war for oil." But Bush could get a lot more cheap oil, a lot sooner, by joining the long-standing French-Russian push to lift the sanctions on Iraqi exports than by spending vast sums and betting his presidency on an invasion and occupation of Iraq. No American leader would dream of invading but for Saddam's persistence in seeking weapons of mass destruction. If Bush's goal were to grab an oil-rich colony for his corporate buddies, Venezuela would be a much easier target.
It's true that the vast oil reserves in and near Iraq help drive U.S. policy -- but not in a way that justifies European or Arab sneers. It is oil that brings Saddam enough money to buy and build weapons of mass destruction. And the regional hegemony he seeks would enable him to raise prices to extortionate levels. Every other nation in the world has at least as strong an interest as the United States does in denying Saddam such a stranglehold on the global economy.
The tidal wave of anti-Americanism has multiple wellsprings, of course. Critics are understandably resentful of the Bush administration's arrogant demeanor; its disdain for international institutions, agreements, and diplomatic niceties; and its unqualified support of Israel's Ariel Sharon and his expansionist settlement polices. And they're understandably attached to a U.N.-centered vision of international law that has worked well enough in Western Europe -- ever since America liberated and rebuilt the place -- but is useless against terrorists and rogue regimes with weapons of mass destruction. Mix in German pacifism; Russian insecurity; French ego and cynicism; Arab self-pity, paranoia, and envy; and near-universal resentment of the world's only superpower.
But underlying them all is the implicit calculation that the safest course for European nations (and others) is to obstruct American policies while free riding on American power. This calculation rests on two assumptions that may prove to be catastrophically wrong. The first is that as long as Paris and Berlin appease the Arab world and Europe's own militant Muslims, it will be New York and Washington -- not Paris or Berlin -- that are targeted for destruction by any weapons of mass destruction that jihadists obtain from Iraq or other rogue regimes. The second is that Europe need not share in the costs and risks of keeping rogue regimes in check, because Uncle Sam will do it for them.
Read the whole thing as they say.