The Future of our Alliance with Europe

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," January 31, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The Iraqi people themselves made this election a resounding success. Great patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteers as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: President Bush congratulating Iraqis (search) on the election, but the European reaction has been less enthusiastic. America and Europe have been drifting apart since the Cold War ended. The war in Iraq has put a spotlight on the rift now.

Joining me is American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow David Frum. And David, today's big question: so what is the future of our alliance with Europe right now?

DAVID FRUM, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, RESIDENT FELLOW: Well, I know this is a special interest of yours, John. It's a problem, but it's a problem with some countries more than other countries.

Look, France and Germany, France especially, has had an idea that they could build Europe into an independent superpower more distant from the United States. The smaller countries of Europe do not want to be left alone in the room with those selfish giants. And many of them are good, potential friends for the United States.

So, let's not just take this as fate. Let's say there may be some opportunities here for the United States to say, "We're going to stop thinking of Europe as one thing, stop thinking of a united Europe as a simple good, just because it's good for Federal Express doesn't mean it's necessarily good for America." And maybe work with smaller companies against the selfish giants.

GIBSON: All right. Let me show people and show you some a roundup of sort of, opinion. This is from AFP, the French news service, quoting Le Figaro. And it says, "Ignorant of the world and blinded by their power, the Americans often only arrive at the right solution after having exhausted all the alternatives." They're paraphrasing Winston Churchill, of course.

The German newspaper observed that the atmosphere surrounding Sunday's election alternated between a dance of joy and a dance with death. "The corpses will be counted before the votes are counted."

Then Le Monde, the French paper writes, "In Baghdad and Basra, attacks and skirmishes in many parts of the country; democracy was under heavy fire."

The Belgians wrote that — it's coming up on the screen here now — Belgium's De Standaard was among the papers that deemed the election a success for taking place at all. "It looked like an impossible gamble" they said.

And then finally, the last one from the Swiss. They were kind of rough on us. The Swiss paper took a similar view. "Certainly the elections do not spell the end of the problems, nor do they provide a justification after the fact for what was a vile war."

So, all of this suggests, David, that when the President goes to Europe in a week or two, he's not going to get as friendly a reception as you might think, considering how well things went yesterday.

FRUM: Well, there'll probably be some spectacular incidents.

But look, I think we need to do more than simply shrug our shoulders and say, "Oh well, there's this problem." It is true, Europe has been drifting way from the United States. Many individuals in Europe have seen the end of the Cold War as an opportunity to build a new kind of European state hostile to the United States.

In fact, they've got to mobilize anti-Americanism in order to persuade a lot of recalcitrant Europeans to do what the French and Germans have told them. A lot of Europeans have shed their blood over a lot of centuries not to be told what to do by the French, first, and then the Germans later.

But look, there are things the United States can do: it can work with smaller countries. I had a piece in the Financial Times this morning that began with an anecdote about a German diplomat talking about Germany wanting a seat on the Security Council.

There were a lot of Americans in the room and they said, "Oh, why not? Germany's important." The Europeans in the room looked as if they'd had a block of cement dropped on their foot. They did not trust the Germans to speak for them. They trust the United States a little more.

GIBSON: But isn't this that thing that they were complaining about during the war that America will sort of, cherry pick members of a coalition? "The coalition of the bribed and browbeaten?" Isn't what you're suggesting that we just forget the big boys and go after the little ones and make do?

FRUM: Well, the reason the selfish giants complain so much about that is precisely because they understood the power of this. The treatment of the smaller countries of Europe by the big ones has been pretty shameful, to the point where, just before the Iraq war, a number of newly democratic countries in Europe issued a statement of support for the United States. Jacques Chirac told them they missed a good moment to keep quiet.

People saw how the United States manages its alliance with a great deal of respect. Compare that to Chirac's high handedness, it's not very attractive. So, yes, I think the European Union is going to be there; it's a useful economic arrangement. But we should not acquiesce if it tries to turn itself into a state.

This is an important issue for the United States. And the mere fact that a lot of what Europe does is incredibly boring should not disguise from us the fact that a lot of it is also incredibly sinister.

GIBSON: Yes, I know.

David Frum. Thanks. But we always keep an eye on them here, you know.

FRUM: Good for you.

GIBSON: You never can tell.

All right, David, thanks a lot.

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