Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Slate's Anne Applebaum argues that the US should not be so quick to forsake multilateralism in the war on terror, because it needs European cooperation on the police, financial and propaganda fronts. But such cooperation is not seriously in doubt, given that it is so obviously in Europe's own self-interest. The only real question is how much over-the-top hypocritical griping the US will have to endure in the meantime.

The key transatlantic lesson of the Cold War, lest we forget, is that Europe resembles a tempestuous girlfriend who enjoys flirting with the enemy and getting under America's skin as often as possible--short of actually provoking the US to abandon her to her own devices. US unilateralism is thus, in the end, preferable for everyone; the Americans do what needs to be done, and the Europeans get to whine brazenly about the unrefined American brutishness that keeps them so safe. On the other hand, in those few cases when multilateralism turns out to be necessary, Europe will first work herself into a lather of tortured ambivalence before eventually doing what she knows she must (hosting American intermediate-range missiles, for instance, or rounding up Islamist terrorist cells). And even so, she will never quite forgive America for making her admit that that's what she wanted and needed all along.

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