I AM IMMENSELY GRATEFUL to the Harkness Foundation. They gave me a scholarship to go to America for the first time in September 1972. I had just spent three months in Vietnam reporting on the war for the Sunday Times.
There I had formed one view of the United States. Living in America gave me quite another. With the backing of the HarkneI got a Congressional Fellowship which meant that I worked in both houses of Congrefor Teddy Kennedy on the Health Subcommittee which he chaired and then for Congressman Les Aspin, who later became Secretary of Defence. And, because my time there coincided with Watergate, I did a lot of writing – I became the New Statesman's Washington correspondent.
I was staggered by the openneof American society and the availability of information and the diversity of views. I made good friends in Virginia, in New York and elsewhere who remain good friends today. From then on I went back and back to America and I have tried since always to write books which have an American content. I have reason for great gratitude to the Harkness Foundation.
We meet tonight in interesting times. Frightening and challenging times.
I want to look at several questions briefly.
The first is President Bush.
The second is his advisers.
The third is the question of Iraq.
The fourth is the question of Europe.
But I would like to talk about all of these things, all of these people in one simple context – that of September 11. You cannot emphasise too often the importance of the attacks upon America. Everything that is happening today happened as a result of 9/11. For Americans it made a new world, if not a new America. Some say America just became more itself.
It is fashionable not just on the left but generally amongst the European intelligentsia to decry George Bush as an idiot.
This is, if I may say so, not very wise.
Cartoons and articles in papers such as the Guardian or the Daily Mirror constantly try and persuade us that this fool should not be taken seriously. Gerald Kaufman MP announced last year that 'Bush, himself the most intellectually backward American president of my political lifetime, is surrounded by advisers whose bellicosity is exceeded only by their political, military and diplomatic illiteracy.'
George Bush may not be obviously eloquent. He may addrehis remarks more frequently to Lubbock Texas than to Islington, but that does not make him stupid. What in fact we have here is not a stupid leader but one of the most radical in recent times. Bush leads a team which really wants to change the world. It is perhaps that which makes Europeans uncomfortable. But not wishing to acknowledge this, they take refuge in the stupidity claim.
He did well to become Governor of Texas, beating Anne Richards the well established Democrat. The Republicans have been sweeping through the South for years. Recently, I talked to Karl Rove, his close political adviser, who said that when he arrived in Texas in the late seventies there were a couple of republicans in the state legislature. Now there are a couple of democrats. The South is being transformed.
Stupid? The British ambassador Christopher Meyer, who visited him in Texas in 1998 found him self-deprecatory, humorous and quick on his feet; he acknowledged he did not know much about the world, apart from Mexico.
After he won the Republican primaries he had planned to come to Europe. He did not, apparently at least in part because of the hostile prehis victory generation. Le Monde referred to 'Le cretinisation' of US policy. This was perhaps beginning of the poison in the bloodstream.
Then he won the presidency, in very controversial circumstances, as you know.
Bush has changed since he came into office.
As governor of Texas, he was seen as a centrist, an incrementalist, even a conciliator. He ran in 2000 as a uniter not a divider. Most people expected Bush to govern from the centre, as Clinton had done. After all, he had squeaked in by the tiniest majority – or not, as the case may be. He had no mandate.
There is no centrism about him now. Now he seems to be an increasingly ideological president – his policies seem much more radical, both at home and abroad.
He is moving very boldly in a direction a lot of people will dislike. It involves levelling taxes, exploiting resources, celebrating wealth and markets. Government entitlements will be replaced by private safety nets – and they will be closer to the ground. The government is to become more efficient, more corporate. The courts are there to protect property and enforce individual responsibility.
From his successful $1.35 trillion tax cut, through the second round of huge tax cuts that he has proposed for this year, his conservative judicial nominations, and his proposals to reform Medicare and Medicaid, Bush's programme now has a distinctly conservative flavour, with little bipartisan appeal.
Bush does not seek just to cut taxes – he has pushed tax cuts with a supply side bias – in other words to stimulate investment rather consumer demand. He has persisted in this policy long after more cautious republicans started worrying more about the deficit. Instead of pre-empting the Democrats by, for example, cutting the payroll tax, which would benefit low-income tax payers, Bush plans to eliminate taxes on dividends.
He is making a radical shift of responsibilities from the government to the private sector and from the federal government to the states. The aim is to try and privatise retirement, through individual investment accounts, education through vouchers and welfare through faith based charities. This is not an overnight revolution but a gradual change – but there is no doubt about the direction in which it is going. Bush has announced plans to outsource thousands of federal jobs. This will help diminish the power of the public employee labour unions which till now have remained one of the strongest labour sectors in the economy.
There are hiccups or diversions.
Last March he slapped punitive tariffs on steel imports and gave similar favours to the farm and textile industries. This protectionism infuriated Europe and also his conservative admirers. White House officials however claim that it was done for short term tactical reasons – to persuade congressmen from those states that Bush should be given the freedom to negotiate trade deals. He got that authority.
And last November he proposed to the WTO that tariffs on all industrial and consumer goods be phased out, reaching zero by 2015. Textile state lawmakers were alarmed.
Also in November Bush infuriated the Teamsters, one of the few Labour unions, he has courted, by allowing Mexican truckers to transport goods anywhere in the USA. There are 20 million people of Mexican descent in America. Handy.
His policies are focussed on next year's elections. He did very well in the midterm elections last year. Jonathan Freedland covered him and wrote very revealingly about what a successful campaigner Bush was. He is determined to energise the Republican base. And it seems to be working.
Many of my friends in America detest a lot of what he is doing. They think he is destroying the domestic social welfare system and the notion of equity. But his approval ratings are higher even than Reagan's among Republicans. The plan is to reinforce his image as a strong decisive leader. Polarisation seems to be an acceptable price to pay for demonstration of resolve and vision. Bush's advisers see his strength as his ability to change the parameters of debate with bold initiatives.
This is what we should realise – Bush constantly defies the predictions of those who think they are smarter than he is.
He is not a dazzling speaker like Bill Clinton who could free associate for an hour on end and convince you that you have just heard the most important thing since Moses handed down the Ten Commandments. But his aides say that he is very good at focussing on an issue and carrying it out clearly and easily.
He likes to be seen as more Reagan Jr than Bush 2. Mike Deaver, the former senior Reagan aide, says 'He's the most Reagan-like politician we have seen, certainly in the White House. His father was supposed to be the third term of the Reagan Presidency but then he wasn't – this guy is.' Bush, like Reagan, believes that Presidents make their own mandates.
The symbol of Reaganism was his famous phrase 'It's morning in America.' Bush has as yet coined no such slogan. He lacks Reagan's facility, his eloquence.
Many people would say he also lacks Reagan's extraordinary public appeal.
Bush does not reach out to people. He does not seek to persuade. Instead he delivers ukases.
But he is a better manager than Reagan, who delegated every decision he could.
He could not bear to sack people. Bush maintains discipline himself. He sets an example for the White House which is rigorously followed.
The Clinton White House was characterised by endlediscussion over endlepizzas, and the postponement of decisions. Pizzas are not called into the Bush White House. Discussion is limited. Decisions are made. People may not like them, but they are made.
There is another very important aspect to Bush.
A few weeks ago Jeremy Paxman interrogated Tony Blair on the war. He asked him 'Do you and President Bush pray together'. Blair looked shocked, as if he regarded this as a pretty offensive question – which it certainly was.
However there is an underlying truth in that Blair and Bush do share their Christianity. They come from very different forms of church. But one senior member of the White House to whom I talked recently said that one of the reasons for the close relationship between Bush and Blair is indeed their shared faith.
In September 2002 Bush invited religious leaders – three Christian, one Jewish, one Muslim, to meet with him in the Oval Office. He talked about the war on terror and he asked them to pray with him. 'You know,' he said, 'I had a drinking problem. Right now I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office. There is only one reason I am in the Oval Office and not a bar. I found faith. I found God. I am here because of the power of prayer.'
Bishops in this country and in the United States may denounce the war as morally wrong, but Bush has no doubts about the rightneof his cause. After September 11 he reminded us that 'Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.'
In his state of the union speech this year, he spoke of the 'power, wonderworking power' of 'the goodneand idealism and faith of the American people'. The words 'wonderworking power' come from a hymn in which they refer to 'the precious blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ'.
After 9/11 people came to churches in droves and many of them then left, having failed to find a larger meaning for what had happened. Bush in some ways has succeeded in framing that meaning. He asserts a world view which is usually dismissed as a heresy – the myth of redemptive violence, which posits a war between good and evil, between God and Satan. For God to win, evil needs to be destroyed by God's faithful followers.
This is alarming to the increasingly secular Europeans. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief recently said that the role of religion in US policy was becoming a difficulty for Europe. 'It is a kind of binary model. It is all or nothing. For us Europeans, it is difficult to deal with because we are secular. We do not see the world in such black and white terms.'
It is commonly said that US foreign policy is now dominated by a small group of neo-conservatives, neo-cons for short. They are called that because their intellectual origins were in the Democratic party, on the left.
One of their fundamental ideas is that the post Cold War world gives the US not just the opportunity but it some cases also the duty to extend liberal democracy around the world through the use of American power. They draw heavily on Wilsonian traditions, except that they distrust international frameworks and collective security. They differ also from conservative realists like Henry Kissinger who espouse balance of power politics and managed international relations. Unlike the Kissingerians, they demand moral clarity in foreign policy.
In the Clinton era – a period which is anathema to the neo-cons – they were centred on several publications like the Weekly Standard edited by William Kristol and owned by Rupert Murdoch, Commentary and the Wall Street Journal. The conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, was the spiritual backer and home for many of them.
One of their most important groupings (in retrospect at least) was the Project for a New American Century founded in 1997 by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. Kagan is the author of the book Paradise and Power which has made a huge stir over recent months. He proposes the thesis that in terms of making foreign policy and war Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.
Its original members included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Elliot Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad.
Back then in the late 90s, they had a specific goal. Saddam. The group wrote to President Clinton that 'the only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of madestruction. In the near term this means a willingneto undertake military actionäIn the long term it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.' Almost all of these men are now senior members of the Bush administration – some of them, as you know, very senior. They are now implementing the policy towards Iraq which they have advocated for at least five years.
I don't want to say that they all believe the same things. They don't, but there are some common threads in their views.
They tend to believe that we live in a special moment of history, one which is characterised above all by America's unparalleled military power and the opportunity to expand the boundaries of democracy around the world. This is the time for a grand strategy to assert Pax Americana. This is the decisive decade in human liberty.
They value strategic thinking and the setting of priorities. They are wary of permanent alliances and are attracted to bold geopolitical moves for the expansion of American values. They are not wedded to stability. Conversely, they are not afraid of challenging the status quo. As we are seeing in Iraq.
They see American values as universal values and believe passionately in the special mission of the United States to bring American style democracy to the rest of the world. That is particularly true since 9/11. They, like President Bush, tend to see the world in very straightforward terms – even in terms of good and evil. They do not believe that evil governments can be reformed. Sovereignty is relative – the more evil the state the lesovereignty to which it is entitled.
They are particularly close to the state of Israel, in some cases to the Likud party, and they see the defence of Israel as a test of America's willingneto defend American values. They believe that Israel will achieve peace not through compromising with her enemies, but through a grand re-ordering of her environment, through overwhelming force, and through daring strategic moves.
Even before the agonising rows over Resolution 1441 and Iraq's lack of disarmament, they had no great regard for the United Nations. They see it as filled with undemocratic or anti American nations which seek to use it to constrain the United States.
They believe that the US:
must maintain its military pre-eminence through increased defence spending and the removal of any constraints on its ability to project its military power around the world.
must act alone if necessary to defend its interest, whether those be acceto oil, preventing the proliferation of WMD or ending global terrorism.
Until September 11, some of them tended to see the emergence of China as a global power as the greatest threat to US goals. Since September 11 of course it is the Muslim world which they see as the most important with which they have to deal. They argue that only the removal of illegitimate regimes in the Middle East and the creation of democratic states in Islamic societies can deal with the threat of Islamic terrorism.
George Bush was not a neo-conservative when he came to office. He appointed Colin Powell as Secretary of State, which was seen as an embrace of realism, but many of his other appointments, from Donald Rumsfeld down, gave great power to the neo-cons within the administration, even before September 11.
As soon as he came into office he infuriated many of his allies by refusing to enforce the Kyoto Treaty on climate change and by withdrawing from the fledgling International Criminal Court.
On the matter of Kyoto, it is worth pointing out that Bill Clinton never fought for it either. He sat on it for three years and never presented it to the Senate, which he knew would never ratify it. The Bush administration's mistake was perhaps to be casually frank about it.
But September 11 is the watershed. The lessons of Vietnam, which had replaced the lessons of Munich and held American policymakers and soldiers in thrall since the mid 1970s, vanished on 12 September. Now the only lessons that mattered were those of 9/11 itself and they were not instantly easy to read.
Three days later in his speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, President Bush stated that the US would not hesitate to act alone and would act pre-emptively to prevent future terrorist threats. Paul Wolfowitz, one of the most subtle of the neo-cons and now Deputy Secretary of Defence, stated that the US would 'end' states which supported terrorism. Wolfowitz had been urging the end of Saddam Hussein for a decade.
The Taliban were given time to hand over Bin Laden; when they refused, they were attacked and driven from power. Western commitment to Afghanistan since has faltered, but the country is nonethelemuch better off than it was under the tyranny of the Taliban.
Since then the US has developed a coherent doctrine to respond to terrorism.
The expansion of US military capacity – up to 25 billion dollars a year. By some estimates, the US military budget will soon be bigger than the military spending of the rest of the world combined.
Prevention – which means the need to take risks and use force to prevent all possible assaults on the US. This means not just targeting terrorist organisations but also radically recreating the Islamic world. Just as US power ensured an open and democratic Europe in the mid and late 20th century, so US power must now ensure the emergence of open and democratic societies in the Middle East. Iraq is a vital part of this plan. Saudi Arabia, the home of so many of the 9/11 terrorists, is often seen as candidate for future attention.
And, most controversially: Pre-emption.
After 9/11 Bush made it his life's mission to see that such an attack on America never happened again. He and other American officials see the threat posed by the dreadful combination of global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of madestruction as completely unacceptable. The US must not be constrained in its ability to act militarily and to launch pre-emptive including surprise attacks against states which are thought to threaten US security.
Hence Bush's 2002 state of the union speech about the axis of evil, the three most recalcitrant states which were also trying to develop WMD – Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
The Bush administration's unashamed recognition of the reality of American pre-eminence and its commitment to pre-emption has caused outrage on the East Coast of America and inside every coast of Europe. It is seen as a complete and radical break from all previous Administrations view of America's place in the world.
But is it?
By the time America entered WW2, if not before, American policy makers were convinced that the US had supplanted Britain as the world's leader. In 1941 James Forrestal said 'America must be the dominant power of the 20th century'. Henry Luce said it was America's duty not just to win the war against Germany and Japan but also to create an 'international moral order' which would spread American principles.
In 1945 Harry Truman declared that the United States had become 'one of the most powerful forces for good on earth' and the task now was 'to keep it so' and 'to lead the world to peace and prosperity.'
In 1947 at the start of the Cold War you find Truman declaring that 'totalitarian regimes imposed on free people, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.'
In 1951, explaining US participation in the Korean war, Truman said, that if the allies had been wiser in the 1930s 'if the free countries had acted together to crush the aggression of the dictators, and if they had acted at the beginning when the aggression was small – there probably would have been no World War Two. If history has taught us anything, it is that aggression anywhere in the world is a threat to peace everywhere in the world.'
The same words could have been used by Bush with regard to Iraq. Actually they could have been spoken by Clinton too; the difference is that unlike Bush, he was reluctant to act upon them.
The notion of pre-emption raises fears as well as hackles. But surely everyone would agree that it would have been better if the US had pre-empted 9/11 by confronting Al Quaida and the Taliban before September 2002? There was ample cause. Bin Laden had destroyed two US embassies in Africa, killing hundreds of people (mostly Africans); he had blown up American barracks in Saudi; he had declared a jihad on the US; he had blown up the UCole killing 18 sailors in Aden harbour. Was this not enough?
If the US had acted before to destroy Bin Laden's bases in Afghanistan, 3,000 people who died on September 11 might still be alive.
And consider Israel's 1981 attack upon the fast breeder nuclear reactor that Prime Minister Chirac had sold to his friend Saddam Hussein. They did it not because the reactor was about to produce a nuclear weapon, but because the nuclear fuel was about to be inserted into the reactor and once that had been done it would have been impossible to destroy the reactor without spreading radioactive material in a populated area.
After long and difficult debate they decided to act THEN, because they could not have done so LATER – and Saddam Hussein had made no secret of his plan to use the reactor to make an Arab atomic weapon. Israel was condemned by the world at the time. I think they did us all a favour. Saddam had to return to Go in his quest for nuclear weapons, a quest from which he has never desisted.
Lets look at the roots of this present crisis.
At the end of the Gulf War I, the first Bush administration decided to leave Saddam in power. The First President Bush and everyone else involved now agree that this was a terrible mistake, even if some of the reasons were understandable at the time. Everyone expected that Saddam would be overthrown as a result of his catastrophic defeat. He was not. And having encouraged the Shiites and Kurds to rise against the man George Bush I called Hitler, we abandoned them and thousands were slaughtered.
We even allowed the Iraqis to use their helicopter gunships to do the job – an inexplicable concession made in the surrender talks by General Schwartzkopf.
This was a truly terrible mistake which is probably the most important reason why Iraqis will not welcome the allies until and unlethey know that Saddam is finished. They fear being betrayed again.
At the end of the Gulf War the allies pledged to protect the region from further assaults by Saddam Hussein, who had invaded two neighbours and already killed at least a million Muslims. He agreed under the surrender terms to give up his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes. But we failed.
Throughout the nineties, we elected to contain rather than confront Saddam. It was a disaster which brought us to the horrible war we are having to fight today.
Seventeen binding UN resolutions demanding that he disarm were passed between 1990 and 2002. Not one of them was obeyed and till now we neglected to enforce one of them.
Was this really wise, was it really moral?
So long as Saddam refused to disarm, UN sanctions were applied which helped impoverish the Iraqi people but which hardly affected him and his nomenklatura. It was all too easy for propagandists to blame his opponents rather than Saddam himself for the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.
US troops had to remain in Saudi Arabia to deter him from further attacks on the region. Osama bin Laden cited these 'armed Christian soldiers' in the sacred land of Saudi Arabia as the ultimate sacrilege which his jihad was to end.
Almost all possibilities of development in the Middle East have been distorted or corrupted by the continued existence of his regime.
Saddam should have been removed in 1991 or on one of many different occasions in the 1990s when he brazenly provoked the UN and the world. 1998, when he in effect expelled the weapons inspectors, was an obvious moment. Unfortunately Clinton was totally preoccupied with his self-inflicted Monica crisis.
The lesson of Iraq is that the longer you delay confronting a problem, the more people suffer and the more difficult the solution.
Paul Wolfowitz, one of the leading neo-cons, recently said 'Often the moral thing to do is also strategically correct.' That is true in Iraq. It was true in Bosnia too.
It is a cliché to say that force should always be the last resort. It is not necessarily true. Force, properly applied, can sometimes be used much earlier in order to alleviate suffering and remove intolerable threats before they grow worse.
Now, the first aim in Iraq is to remove the threat of weapons of madestruction in the hands of a psychopath such as Saddam. The war seems terrible at the moment. But I still believe that it is better than the alternative – a Saddam with nuclear weapons.
And biological weapons would be bad enough. In 2001 the John Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefence Strategies played a war game called Dark Winter.
It posed a scenario in which 3,000 people were infected with smallpox – an ounce of the weaponised virus was enough. In its worst case scenario, three million people were infected and a million died. But long before it got to that civil liberties had been suspended and the economy had collapsed. America as we know it had ended.
When the inspectors were forced out of Iraq in 1998 they reported that Iraq had not accounted for the materials to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax or 1.5 tons of VX gas. They said that a warhead with just 140 litres of VX could kill one million people.
When Hans Blix and the other UN weapons inspectors were finally allowed to return to Iraq in November, the Iraqis still refused to surrender these weapons or to prove that they had been destroyed.
No wonder then that since 9/11 the United States considers that Saddam Hussein, with his record of mamurder, hostility to America, his involvement in the 1993 attempt to blow up the World Trade Center, and his proven decades-long attempt to acquire biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, is no longer a tolerable threat? US intelligence shows that America's enemies think they can kill millions of Americans and seek to do so. That is why Bush spoke of an axis of evil. Iraq, Iran and North Koreas are the three dictatorships, answerable to no one, most determined to produce weapons of madestruction.
But the American (or the neo-con) dream in this instance is much wider than removing the threat of WMD from Iraq.
It is that, after regime change in Iraq, the entire Middle East can be reformed to better protect American interests and those of Israel. The hope is that spreading the removal of this one particularly noxious tyrant will help spread democracy through the region and will make the Palestinians more amenable to a deal with Israel. And give Israel the confidence to be more amenable to Palestinian needs.
President Bush recently said that a 'liberated' Iraq could 'show the power of freedom and transform that vital region'. It wouldn't be easy, he said, 'But there was a time when many people said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable' of moving from dictatorship to democracy.
Of course it could go the other way – if the war doesn't go well the influence of the radicals could grow, suffused by anger at America's assault against the Arab nation. There are those who think that this war, particularly if it lasts long, will merely create more bin Ladens.
But Fouad Ajami, Professor Middle of Eastern Studies at John Hopkins, says that the US must expect 'Arab road rage' as it liberates Iraq, and not be diverted by that. It should now be bent on helping the Arab world modernise itself.
One thing is certain, there would be no movement from any government in Israel so long as Saddam Hussein, the man who pays the families of each Palestinian suicide bomber $25,000 remains in power encouraging and financing the intifada. The United State cannot realistically put pressure on Israel until threats such as Iraq and Hizbollah are removed.
Remember it was Saddam's defeat in 1991 that led to the Madrid Peace Conference and the Oslo Peace Process. As then, the defeat of Saddam will give Washington the opportunity to show that Arab aspirations can be best met with the help of the United States.
The road to peace for the Israelis and Palestinians lies through Baghdad.
I recently listened to Bernard Lewis, the grand old man of Islamic scholarship and someone to whom the Bush administration listens. He favoured getting rid of Saddam. But he was gloomy about the challenge to the West posed by two conflicts – the lesser one being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The greater was the attempt by the true followers of Islam since the 14th century to bring enlightenment to the world.
Lewis believed that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute could be settled by compromise, though he was scathing about the European Union's support for Yasser Arafat which he thought delayed rather than hastened an agreement.
But not the Greater dispute.
He compared the influence of the Wahhabi cult in Saudi Arabia, whence many of the 9/11 Terrorists came, to that of the Klu Klux Klan. Imagine, he said, if the Klan had taken over Texas and all its schools and had missionaries throughout the world teaching the perverted Christianity of the Klan.
That's what the Wahhabis have done to Saudi Arabia. There are Wahhabi teachers indoctrinating the young in many countries, particularly in former Soviet republics and in Germany. Lewis was not sanguine about solving that problem. With people like Bin Laden no compromise is possible. Their struggle, they believe, can only end in the victory of God's word over the United States, the house of war, the house of unbelievers.
EUROPE, NEW AND OLD
I heard a neo-con joke recently.
A Frenchman, a German and an American were all facing a firing squad in Africa and each was given a final wish.
The Frenchman asked to sing the Marseillaise, the German asked to give a lecture on the use of force and international law. The American said 'Please, please shoot me first. I don't want to have to hear that lecture – or that song.'
The split between the US and some important European nations that has developed over Iraq threatens the authority of the Security Council and the Atlantic Alliance, one of the most successful in history. It is very serious, and as Tony Blair said a couple of days ago, there will have to be a reckoning.
It will be very, very difficult to put Humpty together again. Some in this room will blame the United States. Washington has made mistakes. But I blame above all France and Germany. President Chirac has a relationship with Saddam stretching back to 1974. Germany, governed by probably its worst leader since 1945, goes along.
France's behaviour in particular has been driven by both Anti-Americanism and by cupidity. By announcing that it would veto any Security Council resolution which endorsed 1441, of which the French co-wrote every single word, Chirac deliberately derailed Anglo-British diplomatic efforts in the Council earlier this month.
He knew perfectly well that this would make war more not lelikely. Since the war began France has done everything to encourage the Iraqis to continue fighting. It is a terrible thing to say but Chirac now has the blood of American and British soldiers on his hands. His foreign minister Dominique de Villepin was in London today – he was asked whether France wanted Saddam or the coalition to win this war. He refused to answer. This is contemptible.
But perhaps this was a disaster waiting to happen.
During the Cold War America and Europe had a common project – the containment of the USSR. It was a long and exhausting war but it succeeded and the Soviet Union collapsed. Then the US instantly emerged as infinitely the strongest power in the world, no longer constrained by the USSR, and benefiting from huge technological advances.
Inevitably the perception gap between Europe and America grew and added to the pent up demand by many Europeans to exprethemselves in ways which had not been possible during the Cold War itself.
Then when the EU and the US split over how to deal with the fall of Yugoslavia and the consequent conflicts in the Balkans this seemed to threaten NATO. One European Union dignitary declared that the Hour of Europe had come, but it went – without Europe distinguishing itself.
Maastricht was supposed to bring about a new Europe. It created instead a new bureaucracy and new pretensions which it failed to realise.
Look at Rwanda in 1994. When the appalling genocide began, the Belgians rushed their UN peacekeepers out as fast as you could say Godiva chocolates.
The French, who now claim to be the moral conscience of the world, were colluding with the genocidaires way beyond the moment of decency.
America neglected to take the lead or to show adequate concern over the Rwanda genocide in 1994 – no one else could stop it.
800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda. 800,000! And does Europe look to its conscience over that Not much.
In the Balkans, all Europe could do was introduce UN peacekeepers, who did indeed save lives but could do nothing to save the situation.
I have great admiration for the present UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. But he is the first to admit that there are some tasks that the UN simply cannot fulfil. He is also aware that member states are often all too happy to dump problems on the UN – and that they then fail to give it the resources to deal with them.
The UN peacekeepers' deployment reached its nadir in summer 1995 when Dutch peacekeepers watched as the Serbs murdered some 7,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica.
At that point, the US acted, as only the US could. The conflicts were ended when finally the Clinton administration did come in and apply force.
Then came Kosovo, the first time NATO as such had ever undertaken military action. It was done without a Security Council resolution and it succeeded in driving the Serbs from Kosovo, but the venture exposed serious problems in the alliance. The US flew the overwhelming majority of all the missions, and dropped almost all the precision guided American made munitions, and most of the targets were generated by American intelligence.
There was just no other way – the Europeans had none of those resources.
The NATO commander, General Wesley Clark, insisted on fighting the war his way, which was intended to be much decisive than Europe's preferred gradualist approach. It made for a planning nightmare. No one liked the compromises that ensued. And the French were accused of betraying targets to the Serbs. But Clark was determined to keep NATO together.
In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe's watch. It was America that stopped that.
In 2001, it was only America that could liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban.
The results in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those countries are better off than they were, and only America could make those changes.
These and other examples show that American participation is essential to the world. American power is often the only thing that stands between civility and genocide, order and mayhem.
And yet by the beginning of the new millennium it was quite clear that Europe had a problem with America. It predated George Bush and, at least at first, was to do with power not personalities.
The US has power and is, not surprisingly, inclined to use it.
European states now have very little power. Their inability to act seems to have led to an abhorrence of action.
Many European politicians now prefer a system of internationally agreed rules which treat all nations as more or leequal. That is predictable and understandable enough. Europeans have no alternative. We are weak and we do not wish to make the sacrifices to be stronger. And in truth whatever sacrifices we made, we could never, even united, match the power of the United States.
European countries have spent the last two decades deliberating shedding sovereignty. That is an idea that is completely alien to America, particularly since 9/11.
Europe is developing a collectivist outlook which Americans will not share.
But none of these differences justify the European Union's rejection of the long tried and indeed vital partnership with America. Europe depended totally on the American security guarantee through World War Two and the Cold War – some sixty years! America has carried that and other responsibilities.
As a result it is America that is the principal target of the world's rogue states and recalcitrant ideologues. Many European governments would like to keep it that way.
European leaders like Chris Patten talk of the EU now being a 'counterweight' to the United States. Javier Solana says 'I do not despair. Some of us profoundly disagree with Bush. But it may push the European Union to become much more of an actor in the world. We have an obligation to do so.' Tell that to the marines – outside Basra and Baghdad.
Anti-Americanism is the new rock and roll. Or rather, since anti-Americanism is hardly new, its an old tune revived. It makes people feel good. Europe's attitude is a mixture of hypocrisy, delusion and disgrace.
A few weeks ago I talked in Washington with one of the leading neo-cons. His argued rather persuasively that it is the EU not the US which is isolationist.
They don't care about the rest of the world so long as they get the contracts and get some respite from threats of terrorist attack. French policy on Iraq, which has been particularly destructive since the start of this year is governed by two rationales – cupidity and the desire to hobble the United States.
Just a couple of examples. The French together with the Russians had the largest oil for food contracts from the Saddam Hussein government – because they, unlike others, had been prepared to end or even waive UN sanctions as the Saddam regime demanded. TotalFinaElf, the French oil company, has one of the largest oil contracts in history with the Saddam government.
Don't expect it to be automatically honoured by a government brought to power by US and British blood.
Secure in the knowledge that America is there, France wants to marginalise the US in Europe.
But things are changing with the arrival in the European Union of all those new countries which used to be part of the Soviet bloc. Not for nothing did Donald Rumsfeld distinguish between New and Old Europe. The 'new Europeans' understand the real importance of the USA and its role in their liberation. As Tony Blair said in Parliament this week, if you include those members the majority of the new EU is in favour of this difficult venture in Iraq.
It is that knowledge which so worries the French. On February 17 Chirac rounded upon new EU members and aspirants such as Rumania and Bulgaria for their support of the Anglo-American position. They were 'infantile' he said. 'They have not been very well behaved and rather reckleof the danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position. They missed a great opportunity to keep quiet'.
A Czech minister commented that this was just the sort of the attitude the East Europeans had suffered over decades from Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders.
They had not expected it from the European Union. Well, now they know.
This crisis is very real. Tony Blair has, I think, played a blinder throughout. He too understands the danger posed by the proliferation of weapons of madestruction. Last month he explained in the House of Commons, 'When people say to me: Why are you risking everythingäon this issue? I say I do not want to be the prime minister at whom people point a finger back in history and say: 'He knew perfectly well that these threats were there and he did not do anything about it.' '
But neither the war in Iraq nor the repercussions for the UN, for NATO and for the EU are over yet. Blair has talked of a day of reckoning for the Atlantic alliance.
I do not want to pretend that everything that the United States has done has been right. The manner and methods of this administration sometimes are counter-productive. But that is not grounds for the all out attack upon America and its dilemmas launched by Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder.
Joschka Fischer this week said that Germany would flatly oppose a new world order in which America can act unilaterally in its own interests. 'In the end the same rules must apply for the big, middle sized and small countries.'
That's pretty rich coming from the foreign minister of Germany, a country which depended above all on the United States for its liberation from tyranny and, more recently, for its reunification. It is, to be kind, frivolous.
I quoted Fouad Ajami in support of this war in Iraq. He says also, 'It is the fate of great powers that provide order to do so against the background of a world that takes the protection while it bemoans the heavy hand of the protector. The new expedition to Mesopotamia (is) no exception that that rule.'
You don't have accept the neo-conservative doctrine. You don't have to love President Bush. But the point is that the US has always been and remains today the only country has the capability to defend and expand the liberal democratic world. Thus it is a vital force for progress, in the Islamic world as much as anywhere else.
Europe can never replace it. And if it tries to hobble it, Europe will undermine if not destroy its own security.
I have spoken enough.
After, and in good part as a result of my wonderful Harkneexperience in America, I wrote a book called Sideshow which was about Cambodia and was very critical of Henry Kissinger. His aide Peter Rodman later tried to take the book apart and concluded by saying that if I had had my way and the power of the United States had been limited, I would have grown up speaking German.
It was a fair point, I thought. And if we had hobbled the United States in the Cold War period, who knows, we might now be speaking Russian.