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Right Intention: William Pfaff

Sunday, February 20, 2005

William Pfaff

William Pfaff is one of the more annoying anti Americans I have read. I generally avoid reading his drivel, but for some reason today I felt masochistic. Here it is:

First is the definition of the crisis. Few Europeans believe either in the global 'war on terror' or the 'war against tyranny', as Washington describes them.

American claims about the threat of terrorism seem grossly exaggerated, and the American reaction disproportionate and even hysterical. Three thousand were killed in the Twin Towers, but most advanced societies have already had, or still have, their own wars with 'terrorism' sustaining losses proportionately as severe: the British with the IRA, Italians and Germans with their Red Brigades, the Spanish with the Basque separatist Eta, and so on. It has been a condition of modern political existence.


Translation: 9/11 was no big deal. What are the Americans bitching about? It's only 3,000 dead. Most important, it didn't happen to Europe, so why should Europe care? This is a far more common opinion in Europe than anyone wants to admit. At least Pfaff says it out loud.

There is one critical difference between the other terrorist movements and what happened on 9/11 that Pfaff either cannot or will not acknowledge. The other examples he cited were all homegrown movements of a sort. We are reacting to an external threat. Therefore we have to act externally to a large extent. Had 9/11 been committed by the Michigan militia, I doubt we'd be in the Middle East trying to transform the region. After all, the US didn't go to war in the Middle East after the Oklahoma City bombing.

The American-led invasion of Iraq is widely regarded in Europe as irrelevant to the reality of terrorism, overwrought in scale and destruction, and perverse in effect, vastly deepening hostility between the Western powers and Muslim society.

Let's leave aside the Left's clinical example of cognitive dissonance with respect to Saddam's well documented ties to terrorism. The terrorists, including OBL, believe Iraq is the central front in the terror war. Therefore, Iraq is the central front in the terror war. It's that simple. No nuance necessary.

It's also interesting how Pfaff chooses to ignore the desperation of the terrorists to prevent democracy from springing up in the region. Here's a news flash, Bill. That means the terrorists find democracy threatening to their existence, which probably means we should help the Middle East achieve it. The Iraqis know who liberated them. The Afghans know who liberated them. It's the US that the Iranian students look up to, not France. And at the end of the day, hostility of the vaunted Muslim street will be towards those who actively tried to prevent democracy, not to those who promoted it. That means your beloved Europe, Bill.

To most Democrats as well as Republicans, 11 September was the defining event of the age, after which 'nothing could be the same'. Their imperviousness to any notion that this might not be so astonishes many abroad. Many European believe it is not the world that has changed, but the United States.

I actually agree with Pfaff on this one. Some things are constant, post 9/11. Some examples are European cravenness in the face of threats; anti Americanism, whose flames are fanned constantly by the likes of Pfaff; and a liberal self loathing so great that it threatens Western Civilization itself. Other things have changed, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and better cooperation on WMD proliferation. What has changed the most is that America is now paying better attention, and is unwilling to stand idly by as threats gather. I'm sorry if our insistence on defending ourselves bothers you, Bill. But we're unwilling to die to satisfy your anti American impulses.

The second cause of transatlantic disagreement is the American claim to global domination, and its hostility to Europe's acquiring political or military power commensurate with European economic power.

Yes, yes, we are quaking in our boots about the unstoppable European economic machine. That would be why the entire European continent revolves around US consumer spending. Here's another news flash, Bill. The US would actually like it if Europe could stimulate domestic demand and not just depend on export driven growth to the US. We are a little tired of being the main engine for world economic growth. If the US doesn't grow, no one does. We actually want Europe to do its fair share. You're big talkers. Do it already.

The same goes for the military. We want Europe to develop real capabilities. We Americans don't want to be the sole global policeman. But that would mean Europe giving up its overly generous socialist programs, the resources for which are made possible by the very American military Europe hates so much, but yet offers free protection to Europe, which allows Europe to forgo guns entirely for butter. Funny how anti Americans don't want to acknowledge this fact.

The third basic disagreement is that the US has repudiated the system of absolute state sovereignty that has governed international society since 1648, and is the basis of modern international law.

This was an early casualty of the Bush administration's National Security Strategy, announced in 2002, which declared that preemptive attack had become an American policy option in the war against terror.


Yes, we Americans have a weird desire to defend ourselves. Pfaff evidently believes we should wait until the nuclear blast hits before we try to do something about it.

The US then renounced, 'de-ratified', or simply abandoned a series of treaty commitments. These included Geneva standards on the treatment of prisoners and the prohibition of torture.

And Kyoto, and the ICC, and the ABM and....

What's tiresome about people like Pfaff is that they are most frustrated that America has a different point of view. America does not want to be bound by the ICC, Kyoto, and whatever else. So that makes America bad in their view. America does take external threats more seriously now and is committed to aggressively defending itself. Europe instinctively is an appeaser so that makes America bad again. We forced Iraq to live up to its UN obligations. One might expect a thank you for trying to make the UN relevant, but apparently people like Pfaff have a different expectation for the UN. So again the US is bad. And in his zeal to criticize all things American; he dumbs down the definition of torture to include naked prisoner piles, all the while ignoring the barbarity of head chopping, disemboweling terrorists.

But throughout history nations and other political forces have been disposed to challenge claims to universal power. This is the source of current tensions. It is the closest thing to a natural law that history can offer. 'Stuff happens', whether intended or not, to use Donald Rumsfeld's language. Uneasy lies the crown, even for republics.

It is undoubtedly a dream of Pfaff's to see the US knocked down a peg or two. I'd love to give people like him a little preview of their lives if that were to ever happen. Let's disengage from Europe. No more free defense. Have fun the next time there is a conflict on the continent. See what it's like to be a grown up and have to handle your own business. Enjoy.

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