Magazine article The American Conservative

Coalition of the Too Willing

Magazine article The American Conservative

Coalition of the Too Willing

Article excerpt

WHAT HAS HAPPENED to the Europeans? As the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has come and gone, a new attack on Iran seems to loom. President George W. Bush has said that Iran is an issue of "grave national security concern," which is diplomat-speak for "we might attack it." Washington's and Tel Aviv's desire for regime change there is well known, and neither state has ruled out air strikes.

Seymour Hersh and others say that inside the Pentagon everyone admits that secret plans are being drawn up for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. This all comes after a long period in which the Europeans have been trying to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis and to avoid a military one. And yet the reaction from the so-called antiAmerican Europeans to the apparent likelihood of another American war in the Middle East has been deafening silence.

Of course there was never any chance that London would dissent from Washington. Although public opinion in Britain, on both Left and Right, is as febrile in its hostility to George W. Bush as it is in France, Italy, or Greece, the entire British political class is in the grip of a fiercely ideological belief in the absolute inviolability of the Atlantic alliance. It is obvious that Tony Blair will enter history as the prime minister who stamped out what few embers of independence still glowed in the ashes of British diplomacy, but the new opposition Conservative front bench team is trying to be more Blairite than Blair in foreign affairs as well as in domestic.

In a truly hallucinatory act, the Tory shadow foreign secretary made a special pilgrimage to Washington in February to arrange a future meeting between the new leader, David Cameron, and George W. Bush-a man who is held in as much contempt for the Iraq War in Britain as he is in the United States and the rest of the world, now more than ever. It is difficult to think of any act better calculated to make the electorate despise the Tories even more than it already does, and one is reminded of the suicidal loyalty with which tiny bands of fanatics from all over Europe converged on the ruins of Berlin in the spring of 1945 to immolate themselves on the altar of Hitler's Götterdämmerung.

The same goes for Italy, where there is a consensus within the political class on the need to remain friendly with the Americans, even though this is precisely the opposite of the view held by the electorate itself: SiIvio Berlusconi has had to fight public opinion tooth and nail to ensure that Rome continues to support the United States in Iraq and elsewhere.

But what about Paris and Berlin? In 2003, France and Germany famously opposed the attack on Iraq. Paris forged an anti-Washington alliance not only with Berlin but even with Moscow. But although the ancient roots of AngloSaxon Gallophobia were then tapped, as the neocons railed in fury against perfidious France, the greatest surprise was in fact the behavior of the Germans. Facing a difficult election, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroder struck a chord that had not been heard in German politics since the late 1940s when the Social Democrat leader Kurt Schumacher had opposed both European integration and the burgeoning hegemony of the U.S. Schroder's decision to overturn 50 years of German loyalty to the U.S., and his clever articulation of the German public's visceral hostility to the Iraq War, were the catalyst for the explosion of a curiously German fusion of resentment and preachiness: a people that for two generations had been force-fed pacifism and anti-militarism with its mother's milk now reasoned that the fact that it had been so uniquely evil in the past meant that it had a unique right to teach the rest of the world moral lessons about the dangers of war in the future.

However, those heady days have now passed when the Franco-German stance against the war elicited the paranoid front-page splash in National Review in February 2003, "Putsch! How to Defeat the Franco-German Power Grab. …

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