Looking for Allies

Scripps-Howard News Service 10.22.02
Balint Vazsonyi

Hoping against hope, Americans like to think the world consists of other Americans, merely in different stages of development. Sure, some countries toil under bad leadership, others may be misguided, even blinded, by temporary anomalies that cause them to turn hostile. But, by and large, all people are on the path to freedom, self-government, and self-sufficiency. In some cases it may be a matter of time, in others the need is for America to help them on their way.

Given the foregoing, it comes as a shock when we find ourselves at odds with "the international community," former and potential coalition partners and - most upsetting of all - our supposed allies. These days, all sorts of wonderful people right here in America - in Hollywood, at universities, on full-page ads in The New York Times - tell us that ours is the most hated country on the face of the Earth.

We need some clarity here.

What I wouldn't give for an opportunity to ask people, who brandish the term about, what is meant by "the international community"! Do they mean the countries who receive large quantities of money and food from the United States, the ones who depend on the American military when overrun by their neighbors, or the new creations by the United Nations with a history of less than ten years? I think our Secretary of State should consult each and every one of them for his morning briefing, paying special heed to the opinions of leaders who pocket the money meant for their starving subjects.

Of course, when you scratch the surface, it becomes increasingly clear that - with the possible addition of China - people mean Europe. No, not Macedonia or Belarus. Not even Greece or Portugal. And, when the going gets serious, not even Italy or Belgium. (Russia has always been, and still is, an entirely separate matter.)

What people mean is Germany and France, except when they mean France and Germany.

Americans washed France out of its mess not once but twice in the past century. America gave Germany the form of workable government after Germans had tried and failed to do it themselves for - how many centuries? And both are main pillars of Western Civilization, the one we all share with most of Europe, with the rest of the English-speaking world, with Israel. Recent attacks, from New York to Bali, have been directed against Western Civilization. Why can we, apparently, not count on two of its main pillars?

Because Western Civilization is a compendium of many things.

Above all, Western Civilization is the urge to explore, discover, invent, improve. The fruits include the sciences, literature, the arts and - political philosophy.

Ah, there's the rub.

While we share everything else, including the interest in political philosophy, the main proponents have split the moment there were two of them. And so it happened that England and America ended up on one side, France and Germany on the other.

The fundamental differences between the two sides pertain to law, the relationship between the people and government, and economic organization - in that order.

We have citizen juries to deliver the verdict; they trust professional jurists to do the same. We have an evolving body of case law; they follow a rigid code.

We look upon government as the servants of the people; they see government as the institution to control the people.

We recognize free enterprise as the right to pursue happiness; they have the government decide who may engage in what business.

Of course, these are very general, almost simplistic descriptions. But observe the sequence: law is the true foundation, it always comes first. Relations between the people and government and, notably, economic arrangements are consequences of the law. Those on the opposite side, thanks largely to Karl Marx, turned it the wrong way around and would have us believe that economics determine all. Or, as James Carville put it, "it's the economy, stupid."

No, it isn't.

The point is that political philosophy acts as much of a wedge as art, music and literature function in the way of a magnet. When the chips are down, the wedge always proves stronger than the magnet.

The Franco-Germanic way of thinking does not have to reach its extremes (as in National Socialism or Bolshevism) to be the opposite of the Anglo-American. Even in its mildest form, the differences go to the heart of human existence.

Yes, Lafayette came to fight with America's early heroes. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty. For many years, Germany has bent over backwards to extol the strength of our friendship. But now, when deeds need to follow where the words seemed to be leading, the tone has changed. Reality has replaced the slogans.

And if we cannot count on those who appear to be closest to us, how on Earth could we count on peoples whose way of living together is defined entirely by religion, who have never contemplated an independent legal system, who have never experienced freedom as a state of mind?

For that, above all, is what we are proposing to defend. And since we alone realize how unique, how precious that is, we alone will have to make certain it continues to sustain this land and the people fortunate enough to live in it.