In 1990, as left-wing French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre
Chevnement walked out of the government in protest against the Gulf
War, he declared famously that "a minister shuts his trap, or he
In 1999, the same Mr. Chevnement is Interior Minister in a
Socialist-led French government, and he is not happy about his
country's role in the bombardment of Yugoslavia. But he has "shut
Europe's left-wing parties, which for many years made a fetish
of anti-Americanism and often harbored a strong dose of pacifism,
have remained largely silent or have even been actively supportive
the face of the US-led bombing campaign against Serbian leader
Indeed, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that is
conducting the operation is made up almost completely of countries
led by Social Democratic governments. And they are showing little
compunction about using force to impose a peace settlement giving
autonomy to the Serbian province of Kosovo.
"There is a new generation of leaders in the United States and in
Europe, who were born after World War II, who hail from the
progressive side of politics, but who are prepared to be as firm as
any of our predecessors, right or left, in seeing this thing
through," British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in Newsweek last
"We are fighting not for territory but for values," he added.
"For a new internationalism where the brutal repression of ethnic
groups will not be tolerated."
Mr. Blair's attitude to the war in Kosovo stands in stark contrast
to his stance as a young Labour Party parliamentary candidate during
the 1982 Falklands War, which he opposed, along with most of his
colleagues on the left.
Even more striking is the change of heart that has come over
Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister and leader of the
environmentalist-pacifist oriented Greens. Twenty years ago Mr.
Fischer was a street-fighting revolutionary for whom US imperialism
was one of the world's great evils. Today he is enthusiastic in his
support for the German pilots taking out Serb radar sites so as to
clear the way for American bombers.
Partly, of course, the European left's general backing for the war
stems from the fact that the enemy, Yugoslav President Milosevic, is
widely portrayed today as a fascist, not as the communist he always
considered himself to be.
And while the Gulf War was widely seen in Europe as a bid to
safeguard US oil interests, the current campaign has no economic
undertones. Nor is it hard to feel sympathy for Kosovo Albanian
refugees, which was perhaps not the case for Kuwaiti sheikhs in
But more deeply, European politicians are convinced that
Milosevic's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, and NATO's air
campaign to get the refugees home, is "a question of what kind of
Europe we will have in the 21st century" as Fischer put it recently. …