Old Europe: left behind

    With tensions and tempers flaring in Europe and the United States over the fate of Saddam Hussein, his oppressive regime and the innocent civilians of Iraq, people are rapidly polarizing. The many who shout “”No war for oil!”” and truly believe that this entire situation revolves solely around U.S. monetary greed are not only ignorant of the facts, strategies and politics involved, but are the pawns of the politicians in the vast international political game that is reaching a tumultuous climax. The biggest impact this crisis will have is on a new era of European-American relations. France and Germany are not opposing the war due to morals and ethics, but rather to increase their own countries’ power.

    Pat Leung
    Guardian

    Upon investigating the different aspects and sides to the crisis, Iraq fades into the background and two major players emerge. On one side is the United States. As a country, we stand on the brink of two future reputations: liberators and defenders of freedom or bullies and warmongers. The opponent is the French and German alliance against the United States. They also face two future reputations: the enlightened, diplomatic defenders of the innocent civilians or weak, jealous countries incapable of defending themselves against threatening enemies.

    In the traditional spirit of protesting, many anti-war proponents remain idealistic, saying the death and war is no way to topple Hussein. While they say that it would be good to depose the dictator, our motives and methods are unjust, so military action should be eliminated as an option. If this is a valid viewpoint, it is still a huge mistake to believe that France and Germany are opposed to war merely because they care for the innocent Iraqis. France and Germany are attacking the United States-led policy for political reasons, as much as the United States may be accused of the same.

    If France really believes that it is against war merely because it is unjust, it is a hypocrite. Although France has ceased to embrace imperialism like it once so destructively did, its work is still seen, if not as often in the mainstream media. Most recently, in the Ivory Coast, French troops have been “”peace-keeping,”” even though France has officially left the country to its own. In the raging protests against the violence, signs were being waved that read “”U.S. Come Help Us!”” France still holds grips on many of its former territories and is willing to take military action in those places, regardless of the justifiability. However, it will not take action against Iraq.

    As recently as 1987, France supplied Iraq with at least 133 Mirage F1 fighters, which which make up most of the Iraqi air force. Forty percent of the entire Iraqi armed forces, including attack helicopters, artillery and other combat vehicles, were sent from France to Iraq. It is believed that much of the nuclear capability that Iraq could have obtained would have come from French suppliers as well. It is a mistake to believe that France truly wants peace.

    France’s political maneuvering may be clearly seen through recent French diplomacy. French President Jacques Chirac has invited Robert Mugabe, an infamous violator of human rights and an outspoken racist, to a French African summit, despite the image the summit will be given because of Mugabe’s presence. This makes sense, considering Tony Blair and the British government, the close U.S. allies, insisted that Mugabe be refused admittance. This was a political slap in the face to Britain and an assertion that France will not take orders so easily.

    As for Germany, the only reason that Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder was reelected was because he made last-minute pleas to the anti-war movement, which largely swung over to his side. Even then, his victory was the most narrow of any German election. Undoubtedly, this was a key political move. As Shroeder has recently moved back across the spectrum, drifting toward a compromise, his popularity has fallen sharply, and his political party lost numerous seats in the midterm elections. As expected, in the last few weeks, Shroeder has hardened his stance again in an attempt to gain back those who doubted his resolve.

    This power struggle has been revealed vividly within the last few weeks. Validly assuming that unilateral action by the United States is a disastrous option, the Bush administration’s goal has been swaying the “”new”” Europe against the “”old”” Europe. When Donald Rumsfeld, talking in his usual unapologetic, undiplomatic style, labeled France and Germany obsolete, he touched on the most volatile reason for the intensity of this international game. France and Germany desperately do not want to give the United States the superpower status it has commanded for the last 50 years, and understandably so. Politically, it is suicide to be powerless to stop your rival, whether diplomatically or militarily. If France and Germany spend too much time mindlessly agreeing with the United States, the international community will assume that they have no power to stop them.

    By playing the anti-war card, France and Germany obtained an enormous amount of symbolic power in Europe. Britain is routinely being attacked as the United States’ lapdog, and the international community has begun to wonder if the United Kingdom has any power to sway U.S. foreign policy. France and Germany are becoming the alliance that has said “”no”” to the only superpower.

    This alliance was dealt a serious blow by Rumsfeld’s comments and the subsequent letter from eight “”new”” European countries pledging to a United States-led coalition. Suddenly, France and Germany were not the noble dissenters of the oppressive United States, but a pair of weak, obsolete countries grasping desperately for any power they could. Shroeder’s popularity decreased further and Chirac has shown sides of wavering on his staunch anti-war platform.

    The United States has also suffered defeat with the new crisis in the NATO alliance, since Germany, France and Belgium have vetoed a ceremonial decree calling for the defense of Turkey. This attack to U.S. policy has possibly reestablished Germany and France’s ability to counteract U.S. plans. And so the game goes on while the United States continues to vie for international cooperation and France and Germany continue to establish their own power base.

    The game will be won by the eventual attitude of the masses who buy into rhetoric alone. If the United States becomes the brutal but effective defender of democracy, then France and Germany will have lost. The United States will have undisputed and unstoppable power in world affairs. With war probable and the odds of it being a short, successful war high, this is definitely a possible outcome. Only by harnessing the growing anti-war movement are France and Germany maintaining their power structure. At this stage, it is working, and the United States’ villainous reputation is growing. The next few weeks will tell who will win this diplomatic struggle. It is clear, however, that Saddam Hussein definitely plays a decisive, but minor role in the reforging of U.S. and European relations.

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