Friday, December 15, 2006

Blame Europe

In a commentary written by Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier in today’s online edition of Financial Times, it has finally been decided who is to blame for the US’s failure to win the war on terror. In the beginning, the culprits were the “liberal press” and the godless lefties. Recently the blame has fallen on the shoulders of just about the entire American public. It has now broadened to include Europe, thus leaving approximately 25 people in the entire world without blame.

In “US and Europe must learn about alliances”, a complaint about Europe’s refusal to turn their soldiers into cannon fodder for the sake of NATO, the authors have managed to produce an opinion piece that ought to win a Whine award.

In recent months George W. Bush has rediscovered the virtues of having allies and working within alliances.

In every big challenge confronting the US – from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Iran to North Korea – he has sought to enlist the help of America’s traditional allies. But in many cases the very allies who bitterly complained about the US president’s unilateralism only a short time ago have been reluctant to do their part in helping multilateralism succeed.

I too am deeply unhappy about Europe’s unwillingness to participate in Afghanistan on a more militarily relevant level, but Ivo Daalder shouldn’t be the least bit surprised – he predicted this reaction from Europe

Like it or not, George W. Bush has launched a revolution in American foreign policy. He has redefined how America engages the world, shedding the constraints that friends, allies, and international institutions once imposed on its freedom of action. In America Unbound, Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay caution that the Bush revolution comes with serious risks–and, at some point, we may find that America’s friends and allies will refuse to follow his lead, leaving the U.S. unable to achieve its goals.
And an extraordinarily accurate prediction at that.

Nowhere is this more true than in Europe. Last month’s Nato summit should have been the time for a rousing call for the alliance to act effectively and transform itself into an organisation that would establish partnerships around the world to address common threats. But progress was minimal, because the Europeans were unable to seize the opportunity presented by an America that has realised it cannot solve these problems alone. Even on current multilateral efforts, key Europeans are falling short.

For years, the Bush administration told the world to go to hell. It will do whatever it wants and everyone can just suck it up. After creating an unholy mess of everything, it realizes it needs help to clean it up. And they’re surprised and dismayed that Europe failed to seize this “opportunity”? Many of the US’s traditional European allies no longer believe they are or ever will be true partners with the US in any Bush-driven international venture. There is no confidence that the US is willing to listen to anyone. In fact, Europe may be viewing itself as a necessary restraint factor in Bush’s “bull-in-the-china-shop” foreign policy.

Or take Iran. Eighteen months ago Washington bought into the European Union-led approach of trying to negotiate an end to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The US offered economic incentives and later declared its willingness to talk directly with Tehran if a deal proved possible. In return, Britain, France and Germany agreed to consider sanctions if Iran refused to negotiate seriously.

Yet, although it became clear that Tehran was not prepared to take even the first step of suspending its uranium enrichment programme, efforts to impose real sanctions have so far been opposed by the Europeans

Sanctions against Iran were discussed and no one was able to figure out how to enforce them adequately. The biggest sanction, of course, would be placing an oil embargo on Iran and limiting exports to Iran. Ignoring for the moment the economic problems associated with cutting off oil supplies from the world’s fourth largest oil exporting country, enforcing the embargo raises some serious questions. Monitoring the embargo would require a military presence in the area (presumably American led) and would also require the cooperation of the countries bordering Iran (an unlikely scenario). Blaming Europe for the lack of sanctions against Iran is really stretching the point.

Europeans must show they can act when action is needed.

Guess who gets to decide exactly when and what action is needed?

But there is no need for them to take up these burdens alone. Only by beginning to develop Nato as a global institution of democracies will the allies be capable of not just talking the multilateral talk, but actually walking the multilateral walk.
NATO as a global institution of democracies? NATO is a US-dominated military alliance. This proposal sounds like the authors want a new United Nations without those pesky brown people…and undoubtedly, US-dominated.

Under the current Bush administration, I hold out little to no hope that the US will engage in a true spririt of international co-operation. I fear it will take more than a humiliating and devasting loss in Iraq to steer Bush and cronies from their US-centric attitudes. "American exceptionalism" will remain the overriding principle...and the rest of the world knows it.

Europe isn't to blame...the Bush administration is.

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