Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Will Americans be once again able to enjoy properly-named French Fries?

No, but they're a little bit closer.

Germany had earned nearly as much enmity in the White House as had French President Jacques Chirac for stoutly opposing war with Iraq. But Mr. Schröeder has taken a lower profile on the matter since the war and seems now to be working to mend fences.

"We have had differences," Mr. Bush later said he had told Mr. Schröeder, "and they are over and were going to work together."

"We very much feel that the differences that have been, have been left behind and put aside for now," the German leader said. He added: "We have both agreed that we want to look into the future together, and so I would like to reiterate the point that Germany has a very strong — in fact a vested interest — in a very democratic Iraq."

Mr. Schröder said the two leaders did not confine their talks to international matters, but also talked about trade matters, saying the two countries' economies are "closely intertwined."
Despite the problems with Bush's "we did right, you did wrong, now come help us clean up" attitude, it looks like there will be common cause made on Iraq. This will be a good thing all around- it'll allow for some international involvement, it'll perhaps speed reconstruction, and (although it'll be like pulling teeth to get many Americans to admit this) it'll reinforce the importance and necessity of the U.N. as a mechanism by which disputes can be aired out and, perhaps, settled- even disputes between countries that have spent enormous time and effort vilifying each other.

It's this role that is the reason why the arguments I keep hearing about "how dare the evil Syrians/Egyptians/Whatever (strangely enough, rarely the Chinese) have a role to play in the U.N." are fundamentally unsound. The point of the U.N. is not to be a social club for countries that get along and agree on everything, including human rights and, yes, the importance of not arbitrarily killing people. The point is precisely the opposite... to keep the lines of debate and communication open through some sort of multilateral and multinational body so that states don't become dangerously isolated and paranoid.

(Bilateral communications aren't enough... an alliance can descend into xenophobia and paranoia as easily as a single country, and without open diplomatic discussions, leaders can end up making backroom deals that fall apart in the face of unpredicted public and diplomatic opposition.)

Still, these are just early steps, and there's no doubt that any further U.S. adventurism will split the Atlantic alliance wide open again. That the steps are being taken, though, is a welcome sign.

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