France has long established itself as the guardian of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its disarmament mandates. A republic capable of much cynicism, France has nonetheless defended the integrity of the treaty and protected its much battered norms. This was the case last week in Geneva when France resisted an agreement with Iran that it deemed insufficiently robust. For now, Washington has conceded to Paris, provoking a chorus of criticism from those who seek an accord at any price. Contrary to the critics' claims, the United States' greatest diplomatic successes have come about when it proved sensitive to the concerns of its allies and not just the imperatives of its adversaries.
Among America's most important historic achievements was its steady hand in unifying postwar Germany. The German question was at the heart of Europe's struggles, from the nation's division in the aftermath of World War II to its unification in 1990. When the Berlin Wall came down, President George H.W Bush faced the daunting challenge of creating a Europe whole and free after 45 years of harsh division. Not only did the Soviet Union need to be reconciled to German unification, our closest allies — Britain and France — harbored understandable misgivings.Bush and Secretary of State James Baker created a mechanism and momentum that helped overcome the objections of French President Francois Mitterrand, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. Through a process of almost constant consultation and real-time adjustment, Washington reconciled its allies and its adversary's conflicting positions.