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March 18, 2004

European Alliance

In the Washington Post, Robert Kagan argues that it's "Time to Save an Alliance". Kagan opines:

In the coming days and weeks, Europeans will close ranks with Spain and express common European solidarity against al Qaeda terrorism. But there is a real danger that many Europeans will not extend the solidarity across the Atlantic. Some may argue, at least implicitly, that separation from the United States is one effective, nonviolent defense against future terrorist attacks.
Needless to say, that would be a disaster for the United States. The Bush administration needs to recognize it has a crisis on its hands and start making up for lost time in mending transatlantic ties, and not just with chosen favorites. The comforting idea of a "New Europe" always rested on the shifting sands of a public opinion, in Spain and elsewhere, that was never as favorable to American policy as to the governments. The American task now is to address both governments and publics, in Old and New Europe, to move past disagreements over the Iraq war, and to seek transatlantic solidarity against al Qaeda.

Thus the old canard is resurrected once again: somehow the fact that Europe refuses to rise to meet the threat of terrorism is the fault of the Bush administration. This theory conveniently ignores the lessons of history: Europe ignored Hitler as he rolled into Poland, standing to meet him only when his troops were literally knocking at the door. Winston Churchill's prescient warnings were greeted with derision and alarm - they were no more effective than George Bush's attempts to stir the UN into enforcing its own unanimous resolution on Iraq.

More recently, with Muslims being slaughtered right in their backyard in Bosnia, Europe turned to the United States and demanded that we "do something" instead of uniting to clean up the mess in their own neighborhood. What rational basis is there for concluding that agreement is likely, given such a history?

Alliances are based on mutual interest and mutual ideology. That we share a mutual interest with Europe in eliminating terrorists and the states that sponsor them is indisputable. Kagan is vague about just how we are supposed to "move past" our disagreements over the Iraq war and "seek transatlantic solidarity against al Qaeda". Our disagreements are not trivial; they are fundamental and immutable in nature. On the one hand, there is the attitude of pre-WWII Europe, embodied by European Commission Chief Romano Prodi when he said, "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists." This is laughable in the face of statements like the recent one from al Qaeda in a threat to France. It said, in effect: we are not interested in negotiating with you - we just want to destroy you. France did not participate in the Iraq invasion, yet its recent banning of headscarves in schools was enough to bring threats of a massive terrorist bombing campaign. There is no safe hiding place.

Contrast this attitude with the stance taken by leaders like Bush, Blair, and (lately) Aznar. They see terrorism as a global threat that can only be defeated by vigorous opposition from determined allies. Looking beyond their own narrow borders, they are willing to take the fight to the enemy; expending both political and human capital if necessary to win a fight they see as vital to the security of the free world. They have made painful but courageous choices in the service of what they believe is right. The tragedy is that the leaders of Europe know what is right - they simply lack the will to act. And no American administration can force them to do so - as in World War II, it very likely take a large-scale attack on their own ground to rouse them from their cynical complacency.

- Cassandra

March 18, 2004 at 11:00 AM | Permalink


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It doesn't sound like Europeans are going to close ranks and express common solidarity against al Qaeda terrorism, it sounds more like they're going to express solidarity WITH them. They deserve whatever they get.

Posted by: Mike M at Mar 18, 2004 2:24:51 PM

We don't need Europe for any reason other than it is easier with allies than without them. I hope we can bridge the gap, but Cassandra's analysis, per usual except when I disagree ;=), is right on.

Posted by: KJ at Mar 19, 2004 3:24:23 PM