Tom Friedman has a great angle on European weapons sales to China:

There is an obvious compromise that Mr. Bush could put on the table that would defuse this whole issue. Mr. Bush should simply say to France, Germany and their E.U. partners that America has absolutely no objection to Europeans’ selling arms to China – on one condition: that they sell arms to themselves first. That’s right, the U.S. should support the export to China of any defense system that the Europeans buy for their own armies first. Buy one, sell one.

I got so excited reading that, my keyboard appeared to levitate. Of course, Friedman’s point is a moot one. We don’t (never did, never will) have that kind of sway with Europe, so Friedman’s formulation is much more cute than it is practical.

He continues:

I am not part of the bash-China lobby. I believe that the U.S. needs to engage China, not isolate it, and work with it so that it takes its rightful place on the world stage. I believe China is largely a force for stability in Asia, not instability. But one reason for that is that the U.S. has countered any other impulses from Beijing by maintaining a stable balance of power among China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan – a balance that has helped the entire region prosper. The sale of advanced European weapons to China can only weaken that balance.

I fully agree. There’s just one little problem. A policy of engagement is clearly the most desirable policy for us. But as Europe insists on doing the bad things Friedman describes, engagement become less and less practical, and containment (or worse) becomes more and more necessary.

Europeans chide us for not relying enough on diplomatic means, while doing their damnedest to pull the rug out from under our diplomats.

Friedman didn’t spell that out for you, because it wasn’t in the scope of his column (generous take), or because he doesn’t see the dichotomy (less generous take), or because he still wants you to think Europe is right and we’re wrong (which some might say, but I won’t – not after reading this column).

But filling in the blanks is one thing the blogosphere does and does well.