TCS Daily


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By Nick Schulz - February 5, 2003 12:00 AM

Much ado will be made this week about French president Jacques Chirac's continued insistence - despite British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts Tuesday - that he will not join an American-backed coalition to take military action against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. President Chirac is joined by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany in his unwillingness to participate.

President Chirac may be acting in what he perceives French interests, particularly its oil interests and the desires of France's large Muslim and pacifist voting blocs. As much as such economic and political calculations are understandable, what's less clear is why some in the media - or, more important, the United States government - should care all that much.

The reason for such attention may rest upon some important numbers. After all, France and Germany's populations are large:

Population (in millions)  
France 59.5
Germany 82.4
Total "Old" Europe 141.9

In addition, France and Germany have large economies (given their populations) and have played important roles in Europe's history. Thus, the American media and U.S. government rightly give these facts considerable weight when considering French and German official opinion.

But what about the rest of Europe? Aren't they significant, too? Consider just the populations of those countries whose heads of state last week signed an impassioned letter of solidarity with the United States, one that celebrates the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Population (in millions)  
Britain 60.2
Czech Republic 10.3
Denmark 5.4
Hungary 10.1
Italy 58.1
Poland 38.6
Portugal 10.4
Spain 41.3
Total "New" Europe 234.4

This list doesn't include Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia and Latvia (among others) - with a total population of more than 20 million - that also support collective action with the United States.

Obviously, total population doesn't count for everything. But as population expert Ben Wattenberg is fond of saying, "Demography is destiny." So, neither should such numbers be overlooked.

The fact remains that 100 million more Europeans, speaking through their elected representatives, stand with the United States than stand opposed to the United States. The difference represents twice the population of France and is a quarter more than the population of Germany. It is France and Germany that are not only in a minority but are in a relatively small minority.

So let's not understate how significant a showing of support - indeed, we can justifiably call it multilateral "European support" - the United States and its current Iraq policies enjoy.
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