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Monday, January 27, 2003

My Kind Of Dinner Party

The Wall Street Journal (registration req'd?) takes us to Davos, site of the World Economic Forum. The mood "was "ugly." A chorus of international complaints about the U.S. march toward war with Iraq was reaching a crescendo at this gathering of some 2,000 corporate executives, politicians and academics."

How ugly? Here is a bit from one dinner party:

On formal panels, in corridors and at normally genteel dinners, tempers flared. At one dinner of poached salmon, Patrick Cox, the president of the European Union parliament, blasted the U.S. for its go-it-alone approach. "The real Europe has real values," he said. "Our imperial days are over, and thank God for that."

Ron Silver, the U.S. actor and political activist, jumped up from a table across the room to retort that if it weren't for the U.S., hundreds of thousands more civilians would have died in the Balkans, while Europe sat idly by. The U.S. had no other interest in that region than humanitarian, he said. "We are not an imperial government, Mr. Cox," he said. "You know that, and everyone here knows that."

Flushed and glaring at Mr. Silver, Mr. Cox -- who is Irish -- said: "Just don't go down that road, my friend. That is a burden that you and your children don't need."

And evidently Joe Biden stood tall, even though he stood alone:

Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, found himself surrounded in one corridor by European and Asian reporters, pummeling him with questions about the U.S. policy toward Iraq. Mr. Biden acknowledged his own misgivings about the Bush approach, but then fired back: "No one in Europe is saying [Mr. Hussein] is a good guy, or that he's keeping the agreement," but "you all went 'bla-bla-bla' " and did "nothing."

I will cautiously characterize both Silver and Biden as "on the Left", but even with those two, European credibility does not seem to be at a high water mark.

UPDATE: And comments from Colin Powell during a Q&A at Davos:

Still, at a meeting marked by relentless antagonism toward Washington, Mr. Powell offered a muscular, unapologetic and at times emotional defense of the nation's exercise of power.

"I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of, or apologize for, with respect to what America has done for the world," he said in response to a question asking why the United States always falls back on the use of "hard power" instead of the "soft power" of diplomacy.

Mr. Powell noted that the United States had sent its soldiers into foreign wars over the last century, most recently in Afghanistan, without having imperial designs on the territories it secured.

"We've put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives," he said, his voice growing hoarse. "We've asked for nothing but enough land to bury them in."

What he did not go on to say:

"Soft" European diplomacy allowed Milosevic to ravage the Balkans for years. After repeated pleas from the European Community, the US used its "hard" power, without any UN resolutions, and ended the disaster in Kosovo. Three hundred miles from where we are gathered in peace and luxury right now, "soft" European diplomacy was useless, and the "hard" power" of Europe was demonstrated to be non-existent.

So, to my many European friends here, I say: Do you want the truth? You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

Oh, how great would that have been? A bit awkward diplomatically....

Post Script: I am sure Powell would have his facts right. However, here is the WaPo on Bosnia, with related links; and here is a piece torn from today's NRO. Yes, the authors include Kopel, yes, he seems to be TAPPED out, but it has lots of casualty reports, so there.

MORE: Go, Big Joe Biden! From the Brit "Globe and Mail":

The Bush administration was also charged repeatedly with fomenting racism by singling out people from Middle Eastern countries or with dark complexions for extra screening at airports and border points as part of its campaign against terrorism.

These kinds of criticisms were too much for Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat who is frequently critical of U.S. President George W. Bush but clearly resented repeated criticism of the United States, especially from Europeans.

"I understand why the resentment exists," he told a forum session on U.S. foreign policy.

But he added: "We are not as bad as you make us out to be and in comparison with your own country we're pretty damn good."

Although he said his own views on civil liberties were diametrically opposed to those of the Bush administration, he lashed out at the French and Germans for thinking they were a model of how Americans should behave.

"Tell me about the acceptance of your French Arab brothers in France," he said sarcastically.

Mr. Biden also said that if the United States had not decided to intervene in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the Europeans would never have stepped in to stop the genocide.

"All I'm asking for is balance," the senator said. "I'm sick and tired of the lectures."

Mr. Biden agreed that the United States had to work on its image abroad and its policies. "But I don't think that anybody likes the big guy on the block, ever."

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