Much of the coverage last week centered on Macron’s and Trump’s bizarre body language and odd friendship, and the ice-cold nature of Merkel’s relationship with the president. But the subtext to both meetings was that the Europeans were trying to somehow coax Trump into behaving like a team player on Iran. Trump’s determination to either fix or pull out of the Iran nuclear deal is seen by Europeans, as well as by most American foreign-policy experts and even many of those who style themselves the “adults” in his administration, as the latest proof that he isn’t fit to lead the free world. Trump’s insistence that the pact must change — in spite of opposition from his European allies, Russia, and China, and the absolute insistence of the Iranians that they will never agree to alter it — is seen as proof of his ignorance, his lack of realism, and his petulance toward an accomplishment of the Obama administration. Macron and Merkel, and all those who have looked to them as the real leaders of the West, believe that the Iran deal is working, and that Trump’s desire to overturn it must be curbed if conflict is to be avoided.
But while Trump may not sound like the leader of the free world, he is the one who is actually defending it, while more sophisticated Europeans and American policy experts advocate walking it into peril with eyes wide open. The Europeans’ arguments against Trump depend on a collection of dubious assumptions about the nuclear pact.