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Share your milk and cookies, kids

Both Andrew Sullivan and David Bernstein link, disapprovingly, to a story quoting Romano Prodi, the head of the European commission, as saying, " 'It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists,' Prodi said." Both Sullivan and Bernstein are appalled (and rightly so) at the sentiment expressed by Prodi, but my sense is that they're both upset at the idea that Europeans can really believe that force isn't the answer.

But the rest of the message -- and granted that there may be translation issues (the story was published in La Stampa, in Italian) -- is worse, in my opinion. Note that Prodi speaks of "resolving" the "conflict." As if Al Qaeda and the U.S. were disputing responsibility for a fender-bender. How European. Can you imagine Bush -- or even Kerry -- talking about "resolving" the "conflict"? The U.S. goal is to win the conflict (or, rather, the war), not "resolve" it.

In other words, my complaint is less about the European inability to understand that violence is sometimes necessary -- though that's certainly a problem -- and more about the European lack of ambition. One gets the sense that the European attitude is that even if they believed force could defeat Al Qaeda, they would be opposed to employing it. That is, they would rather "resolve" the conflict than win it, even if they believed they could win it. And that, not the European blind spot on the usefulness of force, is the real problem. They want to compromise not because they believe they need to, but because they think compromise itself should be an end, rather than a means to an end.


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