Berlusconi Understood America

Our Michael Ledeen has done it again. In an article just published at PJ Media, he defended the indefensible: Silvio Berlusconi, the new political piñata of Europe's left.

Berlusconi did indeed commit inexcusable crimes in the eyes of the leftists. He broke the bureaucratic monopoly of Italy's state-owned TV by creating vivid private stations -- which, as Ledeen correctly put it, are full of anti-Berlusconi journalists as well. The conservative Berlusconi has also been cherished by a majority of Italians, who made him the longest serving post-WWII prime minister. To top it all, Berlusconi spared no effort to publicize his gratitude to the United States for freeing Italy from Mussolini's clutches, and for transforming that fascist-run, dilapidated country into a prosperous democracy. Berlusconi stated during a 2003 visit to Washington D.C.:

We will never forget that we owe our freedom -- our freedom -- and our wealth to the United States of America. And our democracy. And we also will never forget there have been many American young lives that were lost and sacrificed themselves for us. So, for us the United States is not only our friend, but they are the guarantee of our democracy and our freedom. … Every time I see the U.S. flag, I don’t see the flag only as representative of a country, but I see it as a symbol of democracy and of freedom.

I spent fifty years of my life in Europe, and I know that many people in that Old Continent are, like Berlusconi, deeply grateful to the United States because in 1945, when the war ended, it did not abandon Europe -- as we are now abandoning Iraq. The United States spent seven more years democratizing Western Europe, and opening an unprecedented technological explosion there. That has made Western Europe the true measure of what separates the men from the boys among the nations of the world.

In the 1950s, when I was deputy chief of Romania's Mission in West Germany, I often heard people there say that the “Amis” (the West German nickname for American GIs) made the difference between day and night for them. “Night” meant East Germany, of course, where their former fellow citizens were scraping along under economic privation and Stasi brutality.

A couple of days after September 11, 2001, my wife and I landed in Berlin. We were having lunch with friends at the enormous KaDeWe department store, and I wandered off to get some food for dinner. The manager, noticing the American flag on my lapel, came up to me and asked if I was an American. “Champagne for everyone,” he ordered, when I told him I had just flown over from the U.S. “Without America and the Airlift, we would be speaking Russian now,” he explained.