Friday, June 1, 2007


Having spent most of my life in Europe, it has been obvious to me for forty years or more that while American governments were complaining that Europeans weren’t spending enough money “on their own defense”, the Europeans were, in fact spending their money on social services that Americans were being told they didn’t need because they were “free”.

Having been “free” to pay for their own medical care and work 50 weeks a year, Americans have watched in dismay as their leaders stomped around the world “freeing” other peoples to emulate us. (Some underdeveloped (now called “developing” countries insisted on emulating the Europeans, and the Soviets were glad to help, thereby stoking the arms race that neither americans nor Russians were “free” to stop.)

When I lived in Italy, Italian workers had six weeks paid vacation a year to the French five: the emulation among Europeans countries was as to who would get the most unemployment compensation, the lowest retirement age and the most vacations. Even under Soviet “domination”, workers in Eastern Europe had a month vacation, and women in Hungary had three years paid maternity leave.

Now, sadly, the governments of Poland and Czechoslovakia, still under the influence of their naively pro-American liberation movements (think Solidarnosc and the philosopher-king Vaclav Havel) have accepted for us to station antiballistic missiles on their soil in anticipation of a possible Iranian attack. Possibly in the back of their minds is the image of the Russian bear, easy to anger. Putin’s response, to test missiles, would seem to confirm their fears, but I believe he is saying that the Iranian threat, like so many of those put forth over the years by the Pentagon, is bogus, and therefore the only country that should be worried about American missiles in Europe is Russia.
Russia’s former satellites have not only, for their and Europe’s benefit, joined the European Union, they’re creating a new European divide between those who defend the European social model as opposed to the American model, equating American missiles with its social model. They see the United States through the same rose-colored glasses that have been blinding Americans for half a century, draining energy away from the real threats, which are not Iran, a rising power, but climate change and third world poverty.

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