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David Miller Online: Europe’s Dilemma over Iraq

David Miller Online: Europe’s Dilemma over Iraq

What was Donald Rumsfeld thinking when he labeled France and Germany as representing ‘old Europe’? Already there has been wide spread criticism within both countries over Mr. Rumsfeld’s use of the term and one wonders why he chose to use it in the context he did.

Perhaps it was an off the cuff remark designed to show the doves of the European Union that times have changed around them and that clearly they have not. Or was the comment made in another attempt at reminding the European’s and the rest of the world that as far as the White House is concerned the United States requires neither their assistance nor their support. Either way, Mr. Rumsfeld has certainly added to the divide between the hawks and the doves and he has inadvertently reminded Europe of its dilemma when trying to formulate foreign policy.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s comments come at a time when the US is at pains to remind everyone that it does not possess an infinite amount of patience as far as Iraq is concerned. Colin Powell has also taken aim at the Europeans and reminded them of this very point at the World Economic Forum. Judging from his speech Mr. Powell appeared to be in no mood to make concessions to his European allies and it was interesting to note that he claimed Multi-lateralism would not be used as an excuse to draw the US away from military action. In other words, we do not live in such a world.

Multi-lateralism became a popular term at the beginning of the 1990’s. It was assumed and hoped that after the Cold War and the break down of the East-West divide that the world would move to an era where there are different centres of power. Clearly the US was one of these centres along with the European Union, Russia, Japan and China and that these centres would not necessarily be based on military power. For the past decade it looked as though this scenario might occur although there were some scholars and commentators arguing that the world was in fact comprised of a uni-multi polar system with the US leading the way.

September Eleven was the catalyst for this as it resulted in a more aggressive America emerging from the ruins of the World Trade Centre. The US was suddenly prepared to export its brand of Pax Americana in a way never seen before and the consequence of this was that it stopped asking permission and seeking approval from the international community before it does so. I have always believed that the US has long since stopped regarding the United Nations as being important in its foreign policy agenda and as the world body proves more ineffectual in solving the world’s disputes this contempt has grown.

If this does prove to be the case, then the veto France and Russia have in the Security Council is also deemed irrelevant by the US. If there is substance behind Mr. Powell’s and Mr. Rumsfeld’s views then those states can veto any resolutions they want to it and it will not alter any US war plans. There is no such thing as a multi-lateral or multi-polar system only a uni-polar one and therefore the US can act in any way it wants.

Europe is almost powerless to prevent the US striking at Iraq. As long as individual EU states rally to the US cause or even offer support then Brussels will not be able to formulate at cohesive policy. This might not represent the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe as was so eloquently spoken of by Mr. Rumsfeld but there is a divide nevertheless. The US does not even have to do anything to increase it as Britain’s stance on Iraq and its desire to maintain the Special Relationship does this. In my column a fortnight ago, I wrote of the British agenda and Mr. Blair’s goal to be the great statesman and as the US’ rhetoric increases, so to will British support.

If ever there was an age of Pax Americana then this is it. We now live in an era where the United States not only has unrivalled power but a government prepared to use it no matter the level of opposition or the cost. I cannot help wondering whether this was inevitable and that if it had not taken September Eleven to drive this process then something else would have. No matter what happens the European’s are at a critical junction if they want to be taken seriously on the international stage. I am not sure what action they can take or what influence they can yield. If this is the age of Pax Americana then it is also the age of the European Dilemma.

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