Rockwell Schnabel: 'Europeans squirm when we preach the gospel of freedom'

From a speech by the Ambassador of the United States to the European Union, delivered at Chatham House, in London
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The Independent Online

My own "American odyssey" has left a deep imprint on my way of looking at the world. I was born a European, and spent my formative years in the Netherlands. I left for the United States as a young man, eventually settling in California to build a life and business career. I found in America a people in many ways the same as that I had left behind in Holland: committed to democratic ideals, free market principles, and a system based upon the rule of law.

My own "American odyssey" has left a deep imprint on my way of looking at the world. I was born a European, and spent my formative years in the Netherlands. I left for the United States as a young man, eventually settling in California to build a life and business career. I found in America a people in many ways the same as that I had left behind in Holland: committed to democratic ideals, free market principles, and a system based upon the rule of law.

In so many other ways, however, the spirit and dynamism of my adopted homeland was the polar opposite of the Europe I had left behind. For example, Americans want their values to play a lead role in foreign policy. Europeans become uncomfortable when President Bush proclaims his profound faith, his reliance on God's support and guidance, or speaks of an axis of evil. They squirm when Americans preach the gospel of freedom and liberty. But our modern history has reinforced the American view that it is crucial to confront evil head on, whether this be Hitler's Holocaust, Stalin's forced collectivization, Pol Pot's genocide, or Saddam Hussein's brutality and aggression.

Are we likewise ready to adapt our economies to a rapidly changing world? The Lisbon strategy has failed to create the modernizing pressures the "Old Continent" so badly needs. The weaknesses are widely recognized, but the medicine appears too bitter for political leaders to swallow - either individually or collectively.

And are we all, on both sides of the Atlantic, doing as much as we should be to focus on removing the root causes of terrorism?

The 9/11 Commission report recommended a decades-long process to encourage tolerance, the rule of law, political and economic openness, and the extension of greater opportunities to women in these societies.

The United States and Europe should be in the forefront of supporting this process - even as we recognize that the cures must come from within these societies themselves. Yet I continue to detect reluctance in Europe to engage on these issues proactively.

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