Union Tribune

November 28, 2002 

Despite Bush rainbow, clouds remain


BUCHAREST, Romania For hours, the rain had been drenching
the hardy Romanians standing in the Revolutionary Plaza
waiting for President Bush to show up. Finally, the 34-car
motorcade pulled to a halt and Bush hopped out of his

As if on cue, a brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky and the rain
halted so Bush's speech could begin.

That's the way things have been going for Bush a diplomatic
victory at the United Nations and a big election win at home.
And now, in a continent that once openly derided him as both a
dunce and a trigger-happy cowboy a rainbow.

This good fortune has enhanced respect here for Bush. But it has
done little to bridge significant geopolitical gaps between the Old
and the New worlds with many of Bush's policies remaining
deeply unpopular in Europe.

And, as his just-concluded four-country European swing
demonstrated, there are still clouds above when it comes to
foreign perceptions of this president.

"He still is not well-liked at all," said John Hulsman, a Europe
analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "But he is not
running for student body president. He is leader of the free

If there was any doubt that some foreigners have remained
immune to Bush's charms, it came last week in Prague, during
the NATO summit when a senior Canadian government official
called Bush "a moron."

Embarrassed, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
immediately apologized but won no friends at the White House
with the way he worded it. 

"He is a friend of mine; he is not a moron at all," said Chretien of

The Canadian official resigned Tuesday.

In Europe, where U.S. war plans for Iraq are deeply unpopular,
the elites and opinion-makers continue to distrust Bush and
yearn for his predecessor, Bill Clinton. But the open mocking
that was so widespread when Bush took his first trip overseas in
2001 has been replaced with a grudging respect born of his twin
victories at the United Nations on Iraq weapons inspections and
with the U.S. electorate in the congressional midterm vote.

"The Europeans have delighted in portraying George Bush as a
dimwit who didn't really win the last (presidential) election," said
Helle Dale, director of the Davis Institute for International

"But I think there absolutely is a realization by European
governments and among the European press that the recent
election victory was not just significant politically but also was
orchestrated brilliantly and was not the act of a dumb cowboy,
which was the European stereotype of George Bush," she said.

Nile Gardiner, a one-time aide to former British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher, said Bush "in the view of most Europeans has
emerged as a world leader. He may not be greatly liked in
Europe, but increasingly he is respected."

Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, said she
thinks Europeans are more comfortable with Bush than they
were during his first trip simply because they have watched him
make tough decisions, particularly since Sept. 11, 2001.

"They now know this president in ways that they did not know in
the first trip," she said. "They know that he is a thoughtful,
resourceful, tough-minded colleague and ally who has strong
views and strong principles."

James Steinberg, deputy national security adviser to Clinton and
now director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings
Institution, called Bush's trip "quite a triumphant visit."

But he noted Bush's itinerary did not take him to Western
Europe, where opposition to U.S. policies on Iraq is the

"The level of concern about Iraq . . . is enormously high in
Europe and there would be significant protests in the streets," he

The two sides are also divided by far more than an ocean on
their approaches to the use of military force. And this is a policy
difference far more important than their jibes about Bush's

The fundamental differences begin with the reaction to the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks.

"Something happened on 9/11 that has put a lot of stress on the
relationship between the United States and our European allies,"
said Jeffrey Simon of the Woodrow Wilson Center. "The United
States actually is at war psychologically in the way it operates.
And I think it is fair to say that many of our European allies are
not psychologically in that same frame."

This "disconnect," he said, "is putting some stress and tension on
the relationship."

Ivo Daalder, a member of the National Security Council under
Clinton, said this is exacerbated by what he calls "a strategy gap"
between the United States and its allies.

"We look at the world in very different ways. We look at how we
use those military forces that we have in very different ways," he
said, with Europeans fixated on economic and political cohesion
on their continent while the United States is looking more at Asia
and the Middle East because of the war against terrorism.

Finally, said Daalder, even when they agree on when to use
force, they fundamentally disagree "about how to use force." The
Pentagon relies heavily on high-technology and on strategic
bombing aimed at destroying the leadership of the enemy.
Europeans prefer to go after the troops on the ground actually
doing the killing.

On these geostrategic and geopolitical matters, analysts agree, it
will take more than a rainbow to calm the storms roiling the
trans-Atlantic alliance.