U.S.-EU Ties: How sad it is to see President Bush greeted by protests every time he sets down in Europe. Sad, because he and America are Europe's last, best hope to avoid irrelevance in the 21st century.
It isn't hard these days to find evidence of European scorn and even hatred for all things American. A recent Pew poll found that, on average, favorable opinion of the U.S. has plunged to 45% from 68% since 2000.
Britain, France, Spain and Russia now think the U.S. presence in Iraq is a greater danger to world peace than Iran's drive to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Bush's arrival in Vienna, Austria, on Wednesday for a summit with EU leaders revealed how strained U.S.-EU ties have become. Throngs of Austrian protesters took to the streets, which is nothing new. But their display of arrogance and ignorance was reflected in the comments of EU leaders.
"America is moving in our direction, and this is positive," the summit's host, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, told the Financial Times.
America moving in the direction of officially neutral Austria? Toward appeasement and isolationism? Not likely, Herr Schuessel.
Then there was this, from an unnamed EU official: "We have nothing to learn from the U.S. in promoting democracy. We have been doing it for a lot longer."
Such bombast, increasingly common from the EU, would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. This is the continent that in the 20th century alone gave us Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain and, more recently, Slobodan Milosevic in the Balkans. "Nothing to learn?"
Yes, the U.S. wants and needs Europe's help in dealing with global problems ranging from free trade to national security. And yes, we are grateful that the assembled EU leaders offered their support in dealing with the nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea. It's at least a start.
But behind the talk at this summit of a "newly confident" Europe lurk some disturbing issues.
One is that EU leaders, who boast of their generosity and devotion to democracy, have paid just $3.5 billion of the $13.5 billion they pledged to help rebuild Iraq.
Another — and this is a big reason the U.S. is in such bad odor — is that the EU is in slow-motion crisis from which it desperately needs America's help to emerge.
Let's face it: Europe is weak and irresolute; the U.S. is strong and decisive. The EU knows that, if attacked or bullied, it still depends on us. It found that out in the mid-1990s, when European troops deployed in the Balkans couldn't halt the genocide that was taking place. It took U.S. air power to do it, and the humiliation, though forgotten by us, still stings.
But patience is called for. Europe has lots of problems. Its economy seems perpetually stagnant. Russia looms as a threat. Iran might soon have nuclear weapons. Great European cities have become terrorist targets. But it would be worse if the U.S. hadn't gotten rid of Saddam and the Taliban.
Moreover, a fast-growing Islamic population — now 5% to 10% of Europe's total, but rising fast— means Europe, as a distinct civilization with a Judeo-Christian heritage, might cease to exist in the next century.
The unnamed EU official we quoted earlier has it dead wrong. The EU has a lot to learn from us — and better do so fast. Europe's post-modern, post-Marxist culture has become so steeped in moral relativism that its leaders can barely make a positive case for why European civilization should exist.
As such, maybe it's appropriate the summit is in Vienna — the place where, in 1683, Europe rolled back the challenge from an expansionist Ottoman Empire and kept its civilization intact.
Maybe it also doesn't matter what happens at this summit. The fact that we still care about Europe — Bush is the first president to visit Vienna in 27 years — should speak volumes to the Europeans. But are they listening?