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Bush turns Europe's consensus on its head
(Filed: 20/11/2003)

George W Bush's Whitehall address yesterday represented the boldest challenge to the conventional wisdom of the British and European elites since Woodrow Wilson preached the rights of self-determination of smaller nations after the First World War.

A summary of that wisdom would go like this: (a) terrorism cannot be defeated in the long run, its perpetrators sooner or later have to be treated with, and their legitimate demands met in some form or other; (b) the Muslim world, and specifically the Arab portion of it, is culturally unsuited to freedom and democracy; (c) the Arab-Israeli dispute lies at the heart of the ills of the Middle East; (d) Israel is principally at fault in that conflict and must be pressured into making most concessions; (e) it is the EU that has played the lead role in bringing about the peace and prosperity of the Continent since 1945; (f) wongdoers on the international scene should be treated with via multilateral forums such as the UN and associated bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency; (g) endless discussion in such bodies is therapeutic in and of itself, and is invariably preferable to the use of force.

President Bush wants to turn all that on its head. He believes that terrorism and rogue states can be vanquished on the West's terms: unlike the exhausted European empires of the post-war era, which lost almost every insurgency that they fought, America is fighting this battle at the height of its powers. Above all, it is doing so convinced of the rightness of its cause, namely the spread of liberty from which no one should be excluded.

He believes that the misery of many millions in the vast Muslim world cannot mainly be ascribed to the wrongdoings of Israel, but rather to the rottenness of their own rulers. That includes the Palestinian people, whom EU politicians have ill-served by indulging Yasser Arafat's corruption. And, in a fascinating mea culpa for years of Western policy to the region, he made clear that it was no longer enough to turn a blind eye to the depredations of tyrannical ``allies'' for the sake of stability. Such an approach turned out not only to be morally wrong, but also failed to bring geopolitical equilibrium, as evidenced by September 11.

There was thus much in President Bush's very radical analysis, not least on the rights of women, that any serious British progressive - and even some protesters - might support. So far, however, he has not persuaded many of them to change their minds. It confirms our belief that the anti-Westernism of many Left-wingers trumps all other values in which they profess to believe. No matter: if he continues on this course, Mr Bush should create new realities on the ground among the ``wretched of the earth'', as assuredly as Ronald Reagan did when he asserted his belief that the peoples of eastern Europe need not be consigned to despotism for ever.