FLORENCE, Italy — President Bush, by trying to get America's allies to share the burden in the Persian Gulf, has raised the most basic issue of Atlantic relations.
I agree with him: We should be sharing the burden--and wholesale, not just retail. He is putting us to a test of our worth.
But he is also putting America to a test of its own principles. There can be no burden-sharing without power-sharing--no taxation without representation. Is the United States willing to share the power of making the decisions, or does it just want its allies to pay for whatever it may happen to decide?
For us simply to put up the cash for American policies is for us to bear the burden--not share the burden. Sharing burdens means sharing responsibilities--we should unite our political capabilities, not just our financial resources.
"No taxation without representation" was not just a slogan that American forefathers found convenient for mobilizing the masses--it was the basic principle of burden-sharing. People resent and resist taxes imposed by external authorities. But let them work out their government projects together, through democratic procedures, and they will feel responsibility for the joint project and pay their share.
What is needed is a joint voting-and-legislation process through which our entire societies can decide together what is to be done together. This is the only way to reach conclusions for which all of our societies feel responsible.
The U.S. Constitution provides a model for successful burden-sharing among federated states. We wish you would use its lessons for the problems of today's world.
In Europe we remember fondly the spirit of enlightened self-interest that America showed after World War II. Applying the wisdom of your Constitution, you encouraged us to form a federation. You took the load in forming the beginnings of the Atlantic Alliance. The results have served you well for 40 years.
But in recent years, we have too often seen you giving vent to imperial jealousy and frustration. Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) has even proposed that your government impose a tax on us ungrateful Europeans, to help fund your defense budget. Shades of taxation without representation: This is the voice of temptation, of imperial arrogance, of the self-destruction of alliances.
The current crisis is showing America at its best and at its worst. We are seeing the America that tries to do what is necessary while others are finding excuses for doing as little as possible.
But we are also seeing a demanding America--an America that neglects to find the real obstacles behind the excuses and keeps beating angrily on the wrong door.
President Bush, I agree that we should be sharing the burdens; do you agree that we should be sharing the power? Will you stand up for the fundamental right of every free people to a full share in making the great decisions that determine their fate? I hope you will support decision-making in NATO by voting, not just by cajoling.