Our What?

Scripps-Howard News Service 9.04.02
Balint Vazsonyi

No sooner have calls demanding "Fairness to Saddam Hussein!" died down than venerable veterans of American politics raised their voices demanding justice for our allies.

Now, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker III and Lawrence Eagleburger may argue that their concern is about the danger they perceive, should the United States go it alone in Iraq, and that persuading our allies of the justness of our cause is something we owe to ourselves.

You be the judge.

Tim Russert of NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" invited the honorable Lawrence Eagleburger opposite Senator Fred Thompson to discuss "Iraq - yes or no?" this past Sunday. After strenuous assurances that neither former president George H. W. Bush nor opinion-mates Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III had participated in any formulation of a joint approach, it was time to address the matter at hand.

First on the agenda was the frightening issue of reaction in neighboring countries. Mr. Russert chose to bring up Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. "There will be repercussions, of course," Mr. Eagleburger warned us, but the conversation quickly shifted to SCUD missiles Saddam Hussein, once attacked, was certain to lob into Israel.

So we were left to guess what Mr. Eagleburger had in mind. In the case of Egypt there is, of course, the ever-present danger that some of the billions of dollars we send as annual aid will be returned to teach us a lesson. What do we do then?

Jordan is particularly sensitive. On the occasion of the last royal visit from that land, Katie Couric of NBC-TV's "Today" introduced their highnesses as the rulers of a country "America needs desperately." I have had the nagging suspicion we were desperate, just could not figure out the remedy. It seems Ms. Couric had done just that. She knew exactly where help must be found and if we mess up, we can't blame her.

That leaves Saudi Arabia. Here we might be in real trouble. It is hard to imagine where all the highjackers of 9/11 could have come from if the Saudis, generous as they are to a fault, would not have provided 75% of the actual manpower and, probably, close to 100% of the cash. All that might be lost in the future, should we fail to heed Mr. Eagleburger's warning.

And thus, the question of our allies acquired exceptional importance in the discussion.

Russia, China, the Europeans, we were told, all needed to be considered. "But isn't it true," countered Tim Russert, "that the Russians are supplying arms to Iraq, and the Chinese are sending booster rockets along with all sorts of technology?"

"Well, really, I mean the British, the French, the Germans," explained Mr. Eagleburger. "Actually, the British are not the problem," he corrected himself, "it's really the French and the Germans."

"...and even the Italians," Mr. Eagleburger added as an afterthought.

Thank goodness, we have thus narrowed the field.

Let's see now.

Moving from back to front, I would not wish to contemplate life without the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. And being deprived of at least the theoretical possibility of revisiting Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples would amount to capital punishment for the eyes. And the Amalfi Coast - ah, the Amalfi Coast!

Yet, as regards military matters...

Legend has it that Hermann Goering burst into Adolf Hitler's study one day. "Fuhrer," he exclaimed breathlessly, "the Italians have entered the war." "Send thirty divisions," replied Hitler without looking up from his papers. "But Fuhrer," protested Goering, "they entered on our side!" Hitler considered. "In that case send fifty."

One down, two to go.

As a pianist, I simply wouldn't know what to do without the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms. And I would not wish to contemplate our bookshelves if Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Thomas Mann were absent.

Yet somehow the descendants of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States standing by to await the verdict of the country that gave us the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf isn't what the endless thousands of American military graves lining Europe's Atlantic coast were all about.

That leaves France where, to be sure, most of those graves may be found.

Mr. Eagleburger started out with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, and "our European allies." Now, even he might agree, we were down to France.

The sizable wall map in our kitchen, depicting the various wine-growing areas of France is indicative of the frequency with which my wife and I contemplate our next visit to that magical land. While relishing the ravishing light, the green, mirror-like rivers, the culinary delights, we try not to think of the irreparable mess France has made of Europe after World War I; the way they abandoned the British Expeditionary Force to their certain destruction in World War II; the manner in which they told NATO to get lost in the middle of the Cold War; the openly anti-American direction of the European Union under Franco-German leadership.

No, my wife and I perhaps can afford not to think about all that while we savor our Crepe Suzette.

What I don't quite comprehend is how Messrs. Scowcroft, Baker and Eagleburger can afford not to think about all that before they engage in charting a course for our president, and for the American people.