George w. Bush's trip to Europe last week offered America's highbrow press something delicious: a big, new foreign policy idea. Europe and the United States, we were told over and over, are drifting apart because of a conflict over values. During the cold war, Europe resented America for what it did; today, Europe resents America for what it believes. Global warming, missile defense, the death penalty, economic policy--each dispute further illustrated this transatlantic cultural gulf. A clash of civilizations! What fun. Too bad it probably isn't true.
In the mid-1980s, as word of the French abortion pill rippled across the world, the new drug was greeted as a thing of awesome powers.
"Here once the embattled farmers stood And fired the shot heard round the world." —Hymn sung at the completion of the Battle Monument, Concord, July 4, 1837 The claim in Emerson's line is expansive. Can it be true that the shot was heard round the world—when there were no satellites, no television, no radio, no telephone? Let us see. It then took from five to six weeks for news to cross the Atlantic.
Barry Goldwater is for it, so is George McGovern. William F. Buckley, Jr. supports it, so does John Kenneth Galbraith. Robert Taft, Jr. likes the idea, so does Allard K. Lowenstein. So, too, in principle, does Richard M. Nixon, as he reiterated in his draft message last week. They all favor an all-volutneer army. Now, backed by the unanimous support of a Presidential Commission headed by former Defense Secretary Thomas S. Gates, the end-the-draft advocates have succeeded in directing the nation’s gaze towards the beguiling goal of what, it is claimed, would be a painless military.
The whole truth about the recent general strike in Great Britain has not yet been told; and perhaps it never will be told until the memoirs of the chief actors in the struggle are published. But we know enough of it already to be sure that when it comes it will be a strange story, smacking more of the fencing school than of the duelling ground, of comic opera than of tragedy. The second of these metaphors is the more pertinent, for certainly this “great struggle” belonged rather to the stage than to the world of reality.