Mead, as usual, has many astute things to say. He is not too critical of Bush’s dealings with Europe. He notes that no American president has an easy time with France, that FDR and De Gaulle could not get along even while “we were in the midst of physically liberating France from the Nazis.” He notes that the Europeans are sulking because they expected to be taken more seriously as the EU got bigger and they got their own currency. Instead, we have been focusing on “our biggest long-term issue, the future of Asia … .” And I agree strongly with this summation:
You could look at a country like India, which is concerned about the Middle East and about the future of China, and argue that the connections between American and Indian interests are greater than the connection between American and European interests in the future. …This is a tectonic shift. … [T]he structural changes in U.S.-European relations are probably something no administration could control.
Mead faults Bush for salt in wounds and being “unnecessarily provocative” and “rubbing salt in the wounds”. Whatever. I say being sensitive to Chirac and Schroeder is a waste of time. More joint activities with the Indian military, for example, and less pretending that Old Europe is the center of our attention or interest anymore.
On the question of whether the conquest of Iraq was a “distraction” from “hunting down Al Qaeda”, Mead has this to say:
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended up tightening the U.S.-Pakistani relationship and the fundamentalists are much farther from getting hold of Pakistan now, it would seem to me, than they were a couple of years ago. And by the same token, Saddam Hussein’s refusal to disarm in compliance with the 1991 cease-fire meant that the Saudis had to have United States troops on their soil as part of the containment policy. And the presence of those troops was why Osama bin Laden declared war on both the United States and the Saudis. It was a tremendously delegitimizing and destabilizing factor in Saudi politics. With Saddam gone, the troops are gone. And [the] Saudi regime, partly buoyed up by the increase in the price of oil, but also without this albatross of American troops at home, that has actually been able to take a tougher line on terrorism and al Qaeda than it was two years ago. I would say our enemies in the region are strategically in a worse situation than they were when Saddam Hussein was in power.
Typical Mead. Sensible, non-hysterical, realistic. There is much more good stuff where that came from.
(One of these days I’ll get around to commenting on Mead’s most recent book, Power, Terror, Peace and War. In the meantime, this very positive review from National Review might inspire you to buy and read the book. Disregard the rather negative review in the Economist, if you saw that — it was not fair or accurate.)