27 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 38

Cowboy or sheriff?

From Dr Ti/man Fichter Sir: Fifty years after Hitler and Stalin, 'old Europe' — here Donald Rumsfeld is right — lives again CA sad case of schadenfreude', 13 September). Most of its people (and not only in France and Germany) reject the American-British crusade against the 'axis of evil'. They do so because for George Bush, as the Paris historian and demographer Emmanuel Todd recently put it, war is apparently not the last but the first resort.

Why the Bush administration makes preparations — first in the field of propa

ganda, then strategic and military for preventive wars against countries such as Iraq, Syria or Iran is explained by Robert Kagan in his book Paradise and Power — America and Europe in the New World Order. Kagan recognises that the Europeans regard the Americans as cowboys: he suggests that

America is better seen as an international sheriff, who uses violence to deal with violent criminals and bring a degree of justice and order to an otherwise lawless world. Europe, in Kagan's version of the Wild West analogy, is like a saloon-keeper who sometimes finds the sheriff more threatening than the bandits, especially as the bandits often in the first instance only want to have a drink.

What a crass way of thinking: these selfregarding Wild West fantasies led various American administrations in the 1960s to stumble into a national catastrophe in Vietnam. On this occasion. America's democratic imperialism could throw the whole Arab world into uproar and embroil the Iraqis (above all the Shiites and Sunnis) in a longterm uprising against the invaders.

Tilman Fichter