Thursday, September 09, 2004

Fareed Zakaria - The Lonesome Doves of Europe (September 2002)

As Fareed Zakaria pointed out in this 2002 piece, fecklessness, dishonesty, and cynical irresponsiblity in international affairs are hardly restricted to the present US administration. The persistent unwillingness (or inability) of major European governments to take constructive action in response to major world problems, instead of leaving that responsiblity to the US whle complaining about or obstructing whatever the US does, tends to be implicitly driven or even explicitly justified on grounds of narrow and short-term national "self-interest." But is actually quite unwise, short-sighted, and ultimately self-defeating. And the hypocritical attempts to inflate the role of international institutions, including the UN, while in practice cynically using these institutions to promote narrowly selfish agendas, undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of these institutions just as much as the arrogant unilateralism of some elements in the US government--in fact, by discrediting international institutions and rendering them contemptible, this kind of cynical and irresponsible pseudo-realpolitik strengthens the credibility of "unilateralists" in the US and elsewhere.

Former US Presidential candidate Howard Dean said this pointedly in 2004, with respect to Europe's failure to take any significant action to help stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur (Europe should act on Darfur), in an appeal that remains pertinent today:

Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize. [….]
My challenge to the U.N. and Europe is simple: if you don't like American diplomacy under George Bush, then do something to show those of us in opposition here in the U.S. that you can behave in such a way that unilateralism is not necessary.

What makes this situation even worse is that European governments are supported in this short-sighted posture of pseudo-realpolitik and hypocritical moralism by wide sectors of European public opinion, especially educated public opinion. Europe's repeated failures and geopolitical abdications, going back to the debacle of the former Yugoslavia, tend not to promote serious self-reflection, but instead smug reassertions of superior morality and geopolitical sophistication. (There are a few admirable exceptions among European statesmen and public intellectuals--Tony Blair and Bernard Kouchner and even, on the whole, Joschka Fischer come to mind--but the point is that they are isolated and, in Blair's case, increasingly vilified exceptions.)

=> Fareed Zakaria offered similar advice to Europeans, in a more "realist" vein, in September 2002, during the international debate over how to respond to the problem posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq "The Lonesome Doves of Europe").
Blair's speech [to Parliament on Iraq] is important because he speaks not simply as a Briton, but as a European. For many months now Europe has been asking whether the United States would handle Iraq unilaterally or through the United Nations. The ball is now in Europe's court. How will it handle Iraq?

The record is not encouraging. For the past 10 years France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest. They have used multilateralism as a way to further unilateral policies. [....]

Europe's major powers have been insistent that the United States work more often through multilateral institutions for broad goals. In the past the Bush administration has been far too reluctant to do so. But now Europe has to decide whether it truly wants multilateralism to work--or simply be a cover for politics as usual.

If France and Russia seek a world in which nations act purely on the basis of interest and power, they will get it. In it, America will do just fine. [...]
That last sentence has turned out to be incorrect, but otherwise Zakaria's advice remains correct and important. America has not done "just fine"--but neither has the rest of the alleged "world community." Vaclav Havel, like Tony Blair, warned at the time that the problem posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a real problem, and that "Leaving the United States alone in this might be immensely dangerous." Well, yes. Reflections on this international political and diplomatic debacle should occasion some reflection and soul-searching all around, and not only in the US. If developments since 2002 are taken as a vindication of the short-sighted,cynical, irresponsible European policies that played a crucial role in bringing about the debacle in the first place, the long-term results will be unfortunate.

--Jeff Weintraub
=========================
September 30, 2002, U.S. Edition


The Lonesome Doves of Europe
By Fareed Zakaria

Two events have set the course of the Iraq crisis so far: President George W. Bush's speech to the United Nations and Iraq's letter apparently allowing the weapons inspectors back in. The third will take place on Tuesday, when Tony Blair addresses the British Parliament and releases his Iraq dossier. Washington and London have delayed all movement toward a new U.N. resolution until the speech is delivered. They believe it will create new momentum for action just as Bush's speech did two weeks ago.

Blair's speech is important because he speaks not simply as a Briton, but as a European. For many months now Europe has been asking whether the United States would handle Iraq unilaterally or through the United Nations. The ball is now in Europe's court. How will it handle Iraq?

The record is not encouraging. For the past 10 years France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest. They have used multilateralism as a way to further unilateral policies. The dust from the gulf war had not settled when the French government began a quiet but persistent campaign to gut the sanctions against Iraq, turn inspections into a charade and send signals to Saddam Hussein that Paris was ready to do business with him again. "Decades from now, when all the documents are available, someone is going to write an eye-opening book about France's collusion with Saddam Hussein in the 1990s," says Kenneth Pollack, who worked at the CIA and the NSC during those years.

The Russians have also been more interested in cozying up to Iraq than disarming it. There are more than 200 Russian companies in Iraq, doing deals that total at least $4 billion. Moscow has been Iraq's most dependable ally in the Security Council, routinely endorsing its objections about sanctions and inspections. It helped sabotage the most recent efforts to create "smart sanctions," which would have dropped broader economic barriers in favor of targeted ones against Saddam's regime.

Moscow also led the charge against the appointment of Rolf Ekeus as the chief weapons inspector in January 2000, a campaign that is worth recalling. After Russia and France had vetoed about 25 names, Kofi Annan decided to put forward someone whose qualifications he thought were unimpeachable. Ekeus had headed up the original inspections team to Iraq after the gulf war. In that role, he had been patient but clever, finding more Iraqi weapons programs than any expert had imagined. Russia, joined by France and China, vetoed the appointment.

And then there is Germany, which cannot even claim the rationale of national interest for its bizarre actions. Pandering to public opinion, Gerhard Schroder has broken with 50 years of tradition and publicly denounced American foreign policy. He has encouraged an atmosphere of anti-Americanism in his country, which hit its lowest note when his Justice minister compared President Bush to Hitler. Schroder is opposed to an attack on Iraq, even if the United Nations authorizes it. He must think Saddam is harmless, except that his own chief of intelligence, August Hanning, told The New Yorker last year, "It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years." Oh, well, no need to worry about it, then.

Not all of Europe's leaders are this shortsighted. Speaking to a small group of American journalists, Czech President Vaclav Havel warned against making concessions to aggressive dictators, as Britain and France did in the 1930s. "It is necessary to take action against deadly evil, even using force if that is needed," he said. "Leaving the United States alone in this might be immensely dangerous."

Dangerous for Europe more than the United States. Europe's major powers have been insistent that the United States work more often through multilateral institutions for broad goals. In the past the Bush administration has been far too reluctant to do so. But now Europe has to decide whether it truly wants multilateralism to work--or simply be a cover for politics as usual.

If France and Russia seek a world in which nations act purely on the basis of interest and power, they will get it. In it, America will do just fine. As the president's recent national-security-strategy document makes clear, it will remain the "hyperpower." But as France and Russia might have noticed, they're not very powerful anymore. They have seats on the United Nations Security Council only because they won the last great war 50 years ago. (I use the word "won" loosely when speaking of France.) Unless they act responsibly, they are now in danger of losing the next one.

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