George W. Bush recently paid a brief visit to various European countries with wide-brimmed hat in hand in an attempt to pay for his and our future. It was officially billed as a “fence mending” expedition, but reviews are mixed, and it’s possible most of the broken separation devices remain inert and in pieces on the ground. This is a bad sign, particularly with baseball season on the way.
While touring the continent, Bush visited several medieval castles (once thought to be the cat’s pajamas as far as military defense goes) to rattle every available antique saber he could find. About the only country that didn’t get smacked with a Bushian threat to mull over was Paraguay. Right after the trip Canada announced that it didn’t want any part of our current attempt to build castles called anti-ballistic missiles. Canadian bacon futures took an immediate hit.
This is the way it is when you are the “only remaining super power.” It’s hard keeping all the milk cows in the feed pen. And you look to build lots and lots of castles.
Bush’s former “soul brother” Vladimir Putin, current president of Russia, suggested in a parting shot filled with diabolical forebodings of things to come that getting lectured to was not his idea of a good time, and that there might be more than one way to skin a skinny democratic cat. Bush offered to trade three George Washington cards to Putin for two Ivan the Terrible cards as a means of better teaching the lessons of democracy, but Putin insisted that Bush throw in a free Caribbean cruise and dinner with Britney Spears, and that’s where things fell apart.
Bush also made a point of visiting (and being the first U.S president to do so) Slovakia, since that country is one of the remaining members of the “coalition of the willing,” but at first he couldn’t find it. He spent several hours in the Czech Republic thanking the people there for their support before he realized his mistake.
There’s little need in describing how much of a turn around in policy this trip was for Bush. Suddenly, there is a rest of the world whose assistance we need to proceed any further in our plan to drag the many recalcitrant nations out there into our legion of democracy, freedom, liberty, and unlimited access to rides at Disney World. Millions of Americans made a lot of uneatable hay dissing these same foreigners (particularly the French) for refusing to go along with our hot plans for invading Iraq. The most notorious of our collective insults to the very people we are now actively courting was the renaming of French fries as “freedom fries.” This always seemed an odd attempt at a trans-Atlantic slam because most French people I know never understood why those little deep-fried heart stoppers were named “French” in the first place. They don’t eat them. Taking away naming rights to something they didn’t want was a pretty cagey way to retaliate. It was sort of like putting an embargo on snow skis headed for Saudi Arabia. The sheiks will be inconsolable.
It just never seemed to dawn on anyone here that maybe a lot of Europeans just don’t have a taste for war any more like they used to and we still do. They did spend about 1500 years after the fall of Rome engaging in almost continuous warfare, and if you look at the result, you’d have to say that little was accomplished. In fact, Europe almost fought itself into complete oblivion and certainly deposed itself as the dominant power on the planet. For better or worse, we have picked up that fallen flak jacket. We still possess a jingoistic approach to war because we have never measured ours with names like the Hundred Years War, but we are slowly learning. Since our war losses have never been very significant by comparison with the rest of the world, we still suffer under the delusion that it is a practical method of accomplishing our national goals.
But everything wanders on blithely with regard to the Iraq war. More money will be spent. More people will die. We are no closer to an end than when we started it. A few more countries have expressed an interested in “training” Iraqis to defend themselves. Heck, I’ll train a couple. These Iraqis are soon going to be the most trained people on the planet. Will all this training eventually pay off? Are you putting money on it? Is that money your own?