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Thursday, February 17

Go ask Alice

"Do you think greater cooperation on dealing with Iran can come out of Bush's trip to Europe?"
[Signed] Tom in Sioux City

Dear Tom:

There can't be cooperation between the US and Europe on how to deal with Iran--or any other non-NATO country. That's because the concept of cooperation implies that distinct entities develop common ground. For more than a half century US defense/foreign has been so dominated by the NATO viewpoint that there has been no distinct US policy.

Europe was in such ruin after World War II that the US had no choice but to remain deeply involved in European defense. Now Europe is not in ruins, and the major military threat to Europe dissolved with the end of the Soviet Union. So now it's past time for relations between the US and Europe to disengage from the familial.

What we've seen since Bush announced the preemption doctrine is a recognition of the need to define America as distinct from Europe and NATO. We still have a way to go before a truly American policy emerges but the Bush presidency has made a good start.

The bad news is that until the US ekes out their own patch of policy ground, the US is in the position of the spouse who's trying to get through a messy divorce by sending mixed signals. One week we make demands. The next week we don't find the word 'demand' in our dictionary. Then we ask why Europe is jumping on us. Of course they're jumpy; you'd be jumpy in their position. They don't know where we stand.

Pundita doesn't like to apply psychology to international relations; however, this situation is the exception. The similarities between the present EU-US relations and a messy divorce are so striking that we should deploy a team of psychologists as interlocutor. And throw in a team of divorce lawyers.

We can have good relations with Europe that will carry us through the war on terror--I emphasize good, not necessarily great. Yet first we need to reestablish the relations in the context of 'foreign' relations rather than family relations. Until that happens, Tehran and Pyongyang and a number of other governments will continue to exploit the confused situation. Examples of confused policy are the present US relations with Russia and China, although those two are at the top a long list.

I add that it doesn't seem to be Bush who's confused. But he can't fire the entire State Department and Pentagon. Nor can he order a blockade of Capitol Hill until everyone in Congress decides on what century this is.

That's not even the hard part. Countless US academic departments and policy institutes were born and raised in the NATO paradigm. So they're looking at Bush's American viewpoint in the way the Red Queen looked at Alice: Clearly it's making no sense, so that must mean it's out to destroy civilization.

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