Europeans are increasingly bewildered if not a little anxious. They cannot reduce Obama, a man of the Left, to a caricatured Texan who often misunderstands the world, because Obama is an Ivy Leaguer who has never yet understood it.
They cannot whine about American ubiquity, because Obama agrees with their rhetoric that the U.S. should recede from the world stage. They cannot out-left America, because Obama is to the left of almost all the European leaders. And they cannot offer any more sermons about being patient with the world’s aggressors, because Obama is not so much patient as uninterested. Without an engaged U.S., Bashar Assad, Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Communists, Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych, the unhinged North Koreans, and radical Islamists could not care less about what the E.U. thinks or about the consequences of its much-hyped soft power.
In sum, Europe cannot play Athens when there is no longer a Rome to back it up. The result is a sort of sad update of Stalin’s thuggish but instructive rhetorical question to French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval when the latter in 1935 suggested that the Soviets reach out to the Catholic hierarchy in order to thwart Hitler: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”