Scandinavian Neutrality

When I was in college, I had a fateful phone conversation with a relative of mine who will go unidentified. She was just starting high school. I don’t remember the details of what we were discussing, but it had to do with Europe and maybe some homework she had been assigned to do. It became clear after several confusing flubs that she didn’t know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland. I don’t recall exactly how I realized; perhaps she had been going on about Scandinavian neutrality. I have been able to leverage this incident to great effect ever since, sometimes sending her into beet-red paroxysms by bringing it up.

Ron Susskind writes of President Bush in this week's New York Times Magazine:

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

Now read this cogent piece by Mark Helprin on OpinionJournal.com and consider why conservatives who care about our national security might not vote for George W. Bush this November.

Posted by John-Paul Pagano at October 17, 2004 6:31 PM