The Germans — OK, one very influential German — are finally getting serious about foreign affairs:

France is an economy-class power always looking for an upgrade. Germany is also experimenting with an expansive role, but its economy keeps sputtering while its army keeps shrinking. Britain will not submit to the dictates of either. Yet all of Europe has learned over the past three years that its ambitions exceed its reach. Europe’s medium powers can stymie Mr. Big; they cannot do without him.

So this is a good time to get down to business. With Rice’s advance team having smoothed the road, the president, as he visits Europe later in the month, can count on allies/adversaries who are desperately seeking to close ranks again.

Take the “Greater Middle East” and imagine Europe and the United States working in tandem rather than vying with each other for influence. Imagine a well-choreographed “good cop, bad cop” tack on Iran, with the United States providing the muscle, lack of which has consistently stultified the Europeans as they tried to sweet-talk Tehran into abandoning the bomb. Or Israel/Palestine. In the past, the United States and France have worked at cross-purposes, with Paris keener on competing than on collaborating with Washington in the Middle East. Together, the European Union and the United States could ensure that this promising post-Arafat moment does not vanish once more in the roar of terrorist bombs.


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