TCS Daily


Profiles in European Courage: The Surviving and Thriving Euro-atlanticists

By Olivier Guitta - April 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar writes in his new book, Portraits and Profiles, from Fraga to Bush, about French President Jacques Chirac. "He is not a pro-Atlanticist," Aznar says. "If he can start alliances to weaken the American position, he will do it...This reaction is a sign of a globalization-shy country, protectionist in the economic and cultural sphere." There you have the two opposed visions of Europe in a nutshell: Aznar a staunch US supporter and Chirac a thinly disguised enemy.

During the run up to the Iraq war, pro-US Europeans were a rare species. Since that time, however, their numbers are growing and more European realists are coming on board the Atlanticist train. Indeed, after being hit by a major terrorist attack in Madrid last year, and the successes of President Bush's policies in the Middle East, including the Iraqi elections, some in Europe are waking up.

For instance, in a recent column entitled, "Bush and Sharon superstars?" in the French daily Le Figaro, the noted intellectual Jean D'Ormesson explained this change of heart. "About US presidents, French people are used to getting it wrong," he wrote. "It is an old tradition very dear to their hearts. The entire world called Bush Jr a jerk and the French were particularly active in that massacre game." He added: "It is not impossible that we got it all wrong on Sharon and Bush. All seemed lost for Sharon and Bush. And here they are back at the forefront of history."

Also, some European politicians are making a forceful case for a much closer EU-US alliance. One of them is ex-French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, who wrote at length about this in his new book, La fin de l'illusion jacobine. Here is an excerpt from his chapter on the European-American alliance:

"Scores of Europeans want to build a political and military Union to be a counterweight to US power inside the Atlantic Alliance. Strange ambition! The interest of Europe is not to build a counterweight to the Alliance but to make it stronger. The US is not among Europe's enemies and will not be in the future either. It is high time to realize this! On which allies can the Union durably count? Not China, not Japan, not India, not any Middle East countries, not Russia. Its only credible, efficient and stable ally is the US."

He adds:

"Without the US, Europe is only an ensemble with a declining population, a shaky economy... Europe has no advantages in systematically opposing the US. Their fundamental interests are closely linked."

Interestingly enough, Balladur is also very convinced that we are at war, which is unfortunately not obvious for many Europeans.

Indeed, what's most worrisome about Europe is the general appeasement policy it has in place. In light of this, Matthias Doepfner, the German CEO of Axel Springer, one of the largest publishing companies in the world, wrote a forceful editorial for Die Welt entitled "Europe, Thy name is Cowardice". In it, he denounced the appeasement prevalent in Europe since the 1930s, which cost millions of lives during World War II, legitimized Communism in the Soviet Union, ignored genocide in Kosovo, sided with fundamentalist Palestinians instead of protecting the only democracy (at that time) in the Middle East, Israel, ignored the 300,000 victims of Saddam Hussein and criticized president Bush. Doepfner added that Reagan and George W. Bush were the only recent US presidents who had the courage to follow an anti-appeasement policy.

Finally, he wrote about the war we are in right now, saying,

"It is a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by tolerance and accommodation but is actually spurred on by such gestures, which have proven to be, and will always be taken by the Islamists for signs of weakness."

Regarding appeasement and Europe's diplomacy in general, I had a chance to talk last week with Ana Palacio, the former Spanish foreign minister and one of the staunchest US allies since way before the Iraq war. Commenting on Spain's current prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Palacio cited the example of his recent meeting with the Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez. Zapatero expressed the view that dialogue was the only approach, very much sounding like a hardcore appeaser.

Palacio argued that Zapatero is a poster child for socialism of the 1930s. Indeed she added that "Zapatero sees Europe as a counterweight to the US" and is very close to Chirac's stance of siding with the non-aligned nations. For Palacio, it is stupid to pretend that "you have to choose between Europe and America... If we build a European identity just to be a counterweight to the US, then Europe may end up being Eurabia."

Indeed with around 20 million Muslims living in Europe and having trouble integrating, Europeans are facing a crisis of identity. Like Holland just realized, after the murder of Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist on November 2, 2004, multiculturalism has been a blatant failure. "We have to defend our common Western values," Palacio says. "We cannot compromise on these values." She then cited the example of equal rights for men and women: "I am sorry, the Sharia may say whatever the Sharia may say but in Europe equal rights mean equal rights and this principle can not be declined according to culture."

It is refreshing to see that some Europeans dare to be courageous and clear on these thorny issues.

Even though most European political leaders in power are not allies of the US and do not want to realize that they are at war, a group of vocal opponents to these views is emerging. Recently acknowledging the Iraqi elections success, the French government and the EU had the nerve to declare that it was a victory of the "international community". As if France and Germany were part of the Coalition that removed Saddam from power and gave the Iraqis freedom! Keep in mind that Europeans of bad faith, like Chirac, are never going to sway to our side. But we can only hope that Europeans of good will are going to join the ranks of the Balladurs and Palacios of the world.

Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specializing in the Middle East and Europe.


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