Ten years after President Kennedy stood at the Berlin Wall and proclaimed, "Ich bin ein Berliner," his sometime rival Richard Nixon is about to make his own Grand Tour of the Old World. The very notion of a Grand Tour calls up the Jamesian theme of an innocent abroad. One might ask whether President Nixon will discover, as did the Jamesian hero, often to his sorrow, that innocence and goodwill are not enough for such an undertaking; the ability to deal with subtleties and complexities is the necessary virtue in order to apprehend the European experience. But then, President Nixon is not going alone, and, unlike his avowed model, Woodrow Wilson, he is unlikely to abandon his Colonel House after his disembarkation. On the contrary, he will most likely leave it to his European-born adviser, Henry Kissinger, to guide him through the labyrinth of European diplomacy.
Moreover, ten years after President Kennedy's visit, President Nixon will be confronted by a new set of perceptions that the Europeans (and by Europeans, I mean West Europeans) hold of America, and vice versa. The Europeans see America as Raymond Vernon has described her, as a "rogue elephant in the forest" whose economic might is such that she can lash out, despite the recent downturn in her monetary fortunes.1 But she is also a beast wounded in pride, after an Asian war which seemed to the European mind a reckless adventure.
Alastair Buchan, now at Oxford, has written that "the United States has come, for the time being, to be regarded in Europe . . . less as the mainspring of civilization and more as the generator of crude power." Since perceptions are the forces which guide statesmen, our own self-image as a somewhat put-upon, rather benevolent creature, who did not seek an empire and who has emerged chastened and wiser after a debilitating war, may not coincide with what General de Gaulle-expressing what many Europeans often felt-characterized as a people animated by a will to power cloaked
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