Bush's binary world

A really snappy OP-ED piece from a, er, Frenchie, was jumping off the page in Sunday's NYTimes. Régis Debray asks when will Washington learn to count to three.

["Old Europe"] now knows that the planet is too complex, too definitively plural to suffer insertion into a monotheistic binary logic: white or black, good or evil, friend or enemy.
Debray warns that a U.S. which misunderstands its real interests will, like all empires, coast, from military victory to military victory, to its final decline.
"Old Europe," the Europe of Crusades and expeditionary forces, which long sought by sword and gun to subjugate Jerusalem, Algiers, Timbuktu and Beijing, has learned to distinguish between politics and religion. In 1965, one of its old champions, de Gaulle, loyally warned his American friends that their B-52's would not be able to do anything against Vietnamese nationalism — and that to devastate a country is not the same as winning hearts and minds. Europe no longer takes its civilization for civilization itself, no doubt because it is better acquainted with foreign cultures, notably Islam. Our suburbs, after all, pray to Allah.

Europe has learned modesty. A civilization that believes itself capable of making do without other civilizations tends to be headed toward its doom. To be sure, in defending its interests a great nation may end up promoting freedom. Such was the situation with the concentration camps. It will not be the case for the $15 barrel of crude.

The stakes are spiritual. Europe defends a secular vision of the world. It does not separate matters of urgency from long-term considerations. The United States compensates for its shortsightedness, its tendency to improvise, with an altogether biblical self-assurance in its transcendent destiny. Puritan America is hostage to a sacred morality; it regards itself as the predestined repository of Good, with a mission to strike down Evil. Trusting in Providence, it pursues a politics that is at bottom theological and as old as Pope Gregory VII [11th century].

Europe no longer possesses that euphoric arrogance. It is done mourning the Absolute and conducts its politics . . . politically. It is past the age of ultimatums, protectorates at the other end of the planet, and the white man's burden. Is that the age America is intent on entering? One can only wish it good luck.