A Conversation With Colin Powell

PJ O’Rourke interviews Colin Powell.

Here’s a good sample:

P. J. O’ROURKE: The powers that are on our side, why aren’t they pulling on their oars? I mean, the EU has as big an economy and as big a population as we do.

SECRETARY POWELL: First of all, I do think they’re on our side. I think we had a big hiccup on Iraq, and we lost some of them. But that’ll swing back. The pendulum will come back our way because we do have more common interests than disagreements: terrorism, the world trading system, so many other things. Now, the reason we have to spend so much more is that there is no German navy preserving peace in the Pacific, there are no British troops standing guard in Korea, there is no need for any of our European Union friends to have the ability to project an army in a week or two from wherever they are to a place like Afghanistan.

P. J. O’ROURKE: But, why not?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because they have never felt that that was their destiny or their obligation. The United States entered into partnerships and believes it has these worldwide obligations. Nobody can move things like we can. They have never invested in it. Now, with the EU up to twenty-five nations, they’re looking at whether or not this is where they should be putting their investment. And I think they should. But their domestic constituencies will not permit the kind of spending on defense that our domestic constituency permits. The Germans are dropping their defense spending and reducing the size of their armed forces. Whereas we’ve held steady for some years, and now Congress is passing laws to increase the size of our army.

The American people have always been more willing to shoulder this burden than our European friends, particularly now when the Cold War is over. There is no Iron Curtain, there is no Soviet Union, and the average European citizen looking around sees some of these out-of-the-way places like Afghanistan and the Balkans and Iraq. They’re willing to do a little there, but they’re not willing to put up to three or four percent of their GDP into defense spending the way we are.

P. J. O’ROURKE: I was shocked when I was in the Balkans in the early ’90s that this was going on so close to the EU, essentially the same distance as from here to Jersey City, and they were letting it. They had the power to stop it.

SECRETARY POWELL: They had the power, but they are a union that does not have a predominant leader. NATO had a predominant leader in the United States. The European Union has a lot of pretenders and contenders for that position, but they don’t have it yet, as evidenced by the debates they had over the constitution last week.

But our great strength is the image we still convey to the rest of the world. Notwithstanding all you read about anti-Americanism, people are still standing in line to come here, to get visas and come across our borders.