EUROPE AND IRAQ….Is NATO dead? Is Europe fatally cutting itself off from America? Did Jacques Chirac personally deliver diplomatic pouches full of plutonium to Saddam Hussein?

Take a deep breath, everyone.

The future of NATO is indeed uncertain, but this is a meme that’s been making the rounds since the fall of the Berlin wall. It hasn’t happened yet, and the U.S. pushed pretty hard to expand NATO just a few years ago, but there’s no question that NATO’s mission is less clear now than it was in 1960. So, sure, it’s possible the alliance might not be around for the long term, but this is not exactly breaking news.

As for French and German reluctance to support war with Iraq, that’s pretty bland stuff too. After all, polls in the U.S. show that even American support for the war is only about one-third unless there’s UN approval, so it should hardly be surprising that support is even lower in most of Europe. And if support for war among the French and German population is around 10-20%, is it really very shocking that French and German leaders would also be skeptical? Hell, even Tony Blair is starting to sound a bit cautious these days.

Let’s face it: the Bush administration says it has proof that Saddam has been collecting WMDs. Fine. Let’s see it. I’d like to see it, and I’m an American. It’s only natural that Europeans are even more dubious, especially since American administrations have a rather long history of making up phony casus bellis for war. But this doesn’t mean Europeans hate America, it means they hate the idea of war with Iraq. Disapproval of war is not the same thing as disapproval of America, no matter how much the warhawks try to claim otherwise.

So, Mr. President, let’s see the proof. Unless, of course, you don’t have any, and you and Tony actually agree with Chirac and Schr?der that the inspectors should be given more time?