Europe (finally!) gets the War on Terror

Two headline-grabbing signals came from Europe this week, one from Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, and the other from Nicolas Sarkozy, the presidential front-runner in France. Both show a new desire to heal the Atlantic alliance, which has been badly strained in the last several years.

The media on both continents naturally blame the Bush Administration for the breach; but there is no doubt that ex-Chancellor Schroeder and outgoing President Jacques Chirac exploited and worsened policy differences for their own political gain. Their aim was to separate Europe from America, in order to build up their own power by way of the European Union. Chirac was scheming to become the first full-term  president of the EU. Schroeder kept his office by scapegoating the Bush Administration. The EU Constitution was supposed to carry it all over the top, and the European Union was supposed to sail into everlasting paradise. Breaking away from America was the key.

Well, it didn't happen that way.

One signal of new realism in Europe is a public call by the German news magazine Der Spiegel to tone down the over-the-top anti-American cat-calling that has obsessed the German press in recent years. That was followed by two major puff-pieces for Chancellor Merkel's effort to reconnect with America.

In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has started what he hopes to be his final sprint to the Presidency by criticizing the "1968 generation," which includes all the recent leaders of the EuroLeft. "1968" refers to the year of student rebellion that brought people like Schroeder and Joschka Fischer to power, just as in the United States the Sixties Left launched Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Both Merkel and Sarkozy are "welfare-state conservatives" rather than ideologically pure socialists. They can see clearly the suicidal limits of the multiculti Left, particularly its support for uncontrollable millions of anti-Western migrants, fresh dependent voters for the welfare state. They also see the looming fiscal limits of the social welfare state, as the Euro Boomer generation retires while a host of poorer nations are joining the European Union. Those nations cannot get the massive handouts that were routinely channeled to France. The money isn't there. The word "cynical" and "immoral" were used by Sarkozy recently to describe the Boomer Left. Europe's vacation from reality is reaching its natural limits, and public opinion is sobering up fast.

Most important, Europe can no longer deny the Islamist threat. The War on Terror isn't just George W. Bush's private phantasmagoria any more. Nicolas Sarkozy as French Minister of Interior has had to deal with two years of nightly riots by thousands of ethnic Muslim adolescents. The rioters are French citizens and cannot be expelled. They are not devout Muslims, but rather classically alienated young males who are easy prey for jihadist propaganda --- just as alienated young men were natural recruits for absolutist ideologies in previous generations. 

Islam, Communism and fascism provide much the same kind of gratification. Islamists view women as either family chattel or whores to be preyed on; there are no free, respectable women in their eyes. So they are imbued with very different values from their middle-class European peers. Smaller versions of the French riots have erupted in the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. Germans fear a spread of anarchy to their own Muslim population.

The link between terror and nuclear threats is now undeniable. Nobody doubts what Ahmadinejad wants --- since he repeats it in public at every opportunity London newspapers have reported "dirty nuke" terror plots that were stopped in time. But it is not a comforting bit of news. Even the UK Guardian is beginning to see the writing on the wall.

Europeans are aware of the spread of nuclear technology from Pakistan and North Korea to  Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Today Paris is only fifteen minutes away from an Iranian ICBM attack. That threat will not materialize until Iran obtains nukes, but that may be only a matter of time

So the Europeans might not say it out loud, but they finally "get" the War on Terror --- six contentious years after the Twin Towers fell. They still hope that a Democrat will be elected in 2008, because they are more comfortable with a European-style socialist in the White House. But given the common threat to civilized countries, they are prepared to work with the US either way. Hillary as president may declare the end of the words "War on Terror" --- for PR purposes --- but in truth, everybody knows that the anti-jihad struggle must be either won or lost, and the West cannot afford to lose.

Angela Merkel was visibly shocked by Ahmadinejad's open threats of a nuclear Holocaust against Israel last year.  She has signaled very clearly that Germany takes the Iranian threat very seriously While Jacques Chirac still believed that France could buy off Middle East tyrants, Nicolas  Sarkozy seems to be more grounded in reality. Europe, in blissful pursuit of the fantasy of eternal peace and prosperity without having to even pay for its own defenses, may return to realism in Paris and Berlin.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin is happy to sell nuclear power plants to Iran, but he cannot tolerate the rise of a nuclear martyr regime at his southern border. Putin will publicly resist US anti-missile defenses against Iran, but privately he hopes to pressure the West to allow Russia to join missile defenses.  Every advanced nation will need such defenses in the coming decades, and Russia lacks the expensive technological edge to make effective anti-missile systems on its own.

While the Russians are making angry noises about US anti-missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, in fact they cannot believe that the West is a real threat to them. NATO never dreamed of invading Russia during its greatest period of weakness, and there is no reason to suppose it would do so today. As Condi Rice just said, the very idea is ludicrous. So Putin wants to bluster and threaten for the best deal he can get. In the end, he sees far greater danger from nuclear jihad than from NATO.

The US would be wise to attempt to bring Russia into the Western defense perimeter, while continuing to pressure Putin to act more responsibly at home and abroad. It will not be easy, but a shared anti-missile defense agreement would be a powerful incentive for better Russian behavior. Russia has always been torn between the West and its long history of Asiatic autocracy. It should be possible to encourage Russian Westernization against a common threat.

Bottom line: We are beginning to see a reconstruction of the Western alliance after a decade of unprecedented propaganda attacks from the European Left. That does not mean that Europe will be subservient to the US as it was in the 1950s and 60s. Europe will try to stay neutral in any nuclear standoff between the US and Iran, even though it also wants to be protected against Iranian blackmail. Ideally, Europe wishes to control America as its own foreign legion; but Americans would be fools not to demand commensurate contributions from the 450 million people of Europe. Today Europe pays less than half of what we do for defense, but they still expect to be protected by us. That is an exploitive and one-sided arrangement. France and Germany must do much more for the common defense.

Chancellor Merkel has signalled her intention to continue pursuing EU unification

The British military are being radically cut back, with the aim of reinvesting UK budgets in a EU-centered military. So the EU will try to continue its massive bureaucratic expansion in the coming decades.

Nevertheless, the fact is that Europeans do not trust themselves to exercise a muscular foreign policy in the Middle East. If German fighter jets bombed Iran or Iraq, ancient European fears of a revived Prussianism or Hitlerism would arise automatically, justified or not. The US can simply do things Germany will not be able to do for the foreseeable future. And nobody trusts the French not to be cynically self-serving. In spite of anti-American rage, therefore, in military affairs Europe reluctantly trusts the US and Britain more than it does itself.

But it does not want to repeat the helpless experience of being caught between two nuclear superpowers, as it was during the Cold War. This is understandable. But technology now seems to promise a solution. The greatest difference from the Cold War is the growing availability of effective strategic defenses. The offensive edge in nuclear warfare is slowly being whittled away. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is therefore likely to be superseded by a more normal balance between offense and defense.  Effective defenses make life a lot safer. But it will take adequate expenditures and a lot of realism spread defenses to all of Europe, and the continent must be told to carry its part of that financial and military burden.

The next US Administration will make a great public to-do about reconciliation with the sadly offended Europeans. A Giuliani or a Hillary administration would be wise to engage in a public peace dance with the continent. But we must not be fooled into believing that Europe does not serve itself first. Over the longer term the EU still aims to emerge as an autonomous superpower, in competition with the United States. The European Left is extremely powerful, and it has indoctrinated four successive generations into wanting a United States of Europe. Such ambitions can be carried out in a rational and civilized way, but Europe's anti-American hysteria should not be indulged. The US has a tendency to overlook verbal slander by our nominal allies. But over the longer term, such "allies" are ambivalent at best, and should not be treated as friends. We should not reward sabotage.

It seems that Europe's peace-now-and-forever fantasies will be postponed in the coming decades, as the West engages in a more cohesive struggle for survival against nuclear Islamist threats. There is no alternative.

In retrospect, the Bush Administration may look much like the Truman Administration, which first confronted the Stalin challenge in the Cold War. George W. Bush is a conviction politician just as Harry S Truman was. He has taken his stand, and it will have historic impact, just as Truman's did.

The early years of the War on Terror have been a watershed. Nations around the world have been forced to open their eyes and make their choices. They are doing so now, not because they have been talked into it by George W. Bush, but because they have come to see the same reality he does. Nobody said leadership was going to be easy.

That does not mean that present US policy is going to work without course adjustments.  The Iraq War may turn out to be much like the Korean War, a test of American resolve, and also of the limits of American commitment to an important but remote war. At the end of the Korean War, American forces withdrew from North Korea but not from the South.  Because of that American willingness to hold firm, South Korea grew into a formidable bulwark against Asian Communist expansion, as it remains to this day. China's new prosperity can be attributed to the democratic capitalist successes of South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, all of them dependent upon American support. We cannot predict the outcome in Iraq, but somewhere in the Middle East a defensible line will emerge against jihadist Iran, and perhaps against newer threats.

Europe imports far too much oil from the Gulf to evade the obvious: A vital need for a renewed alliance with the United States against totalitarian aggressors with strategic weapons.

Call it Cold War Two --- if we are lucky and keep our wits. But we must expect continental Europe to play a more active and constructive role for its own defense than it did in the last sixty years.

James Lewis blogs at
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