Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The Prince of Darkness wooing the Euros:

Perle truly is a contrarian, and what was surprising about his appearance here was that his tone was relatively restrained: Rather than pushing to open new fault lines with the Europeans, he seemed to be seeking ways to put things back together -- on American terms, to be sure. Perle was speaking at a gathering sponsored by Deutsche Bank on the theme "Desperately Seeking Europe." That dire message was printed on the wrappings of chocolates handed out to conference participants. Perle observed that Europe itself was like the confections: It was beautifully packaged and enticing, but it would make you fat and prove unsafe in the long run.

It was lines such as that one that led a European leftist to call Perle's remarks "possibly the most dangerous speech I have ever heard." But I'm not sure she got his message.

The underlying topic of the conference was the collapse of the transatlantic alliance. The breakup was mentioned by so many different speakers that it seemed almost to assume the force of fact. One of the few who seemed unconvinced was Perle himself.

He said Europeans needed to understand that after 9/11, Americans felt themselves facing an existential threat. Just as America had stood by Europe during the long crisis of the Cold War, Europe now needed to "wake up" and come to America's help.

When pressed, Perle conceded that the Bush administration could do a better job of maintaining dialogue with European leaders, as America had during the Cold War. And when asked to critique America's Iraq policy, Perle said he wished the Bush administration could have been successful in gathering more international support before going to war. As for what will come next after Iraq, Perle made some hawkish statements without recommending hawkish policies. His line seemed similar to that of a fellow neoconservative, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who has suggested that America needs to finish its war in Iraq before attacking Damascus or Tehran.