If US policymakers had any doubts about how enthusiastically
their European allies would line up for the war against terrorism,
the past few weeks have put their fears to rest.
Indeed, the divisions among Western countries in the coalition
have appeared not between Europe and the United States, but between
the big European nations which have military forces to offer and
their smaller neighbors who feel left behind.
At their summit in Belgium on Friday, European Union leaders
expressed their "total solidarity with the United States" and
stated "unequivocally" their "full support for the action being
taken against terrorism in all its aspects."
And although some voices have been raised in Europe against the
bombing campaign in Afghanistan - mainly by "green" parties and
left-wing groups - they remain marginal for the time being.
On the military front, Britain has led the way as the only
European nation so far to have directly participated in the missile
strikes against Taliban targets and Osama Bin Laden's camps in
But France too is eager to join in, probably using its highly
trained special forces.
"It is possible that French special forces will be associated
with certain actions," French Defense Minister Alain Richard said
last week. "We are in the planning phase with our American partner,
and there will be successive phases. There are no prior limitations
to our participation."
The Italian government offered troops when Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi met President Bush in Washington last week, but appears
to have been rebuffed. Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero
told an Italian weekly on Friday that his country would play "a
strategically meaningful role in the so-called phase three" of
operations in Afghanistan, "after the air raids and ground attacks,
when Afghanistan must be pacified."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, meanwhile, has announced that
Berlin was ready to provide anti-chemical and anti-biological
warfare forces, as well as medical teams, to support US operations
That offer to commit combat-ready troops to a troublespot far
beyond Europe's borders marks a qualitative leap in German
readiness to take on military responsibilities in world affairs.
Ten years ago, during the Gulf War, a more timid German
government offered money to pay for the coalition deployment, but
no men. Still hobbled by its history, "nobody would have expected
from us that Germany would participate in international efforts to
secure freedom, justice, and stability other than with secondary
efforts," Mr. Schroder told parliament recently. "That era of
German post-war policy has irrevocably passed."
If the war against terrorism has given Schroder an opportunity to
claim a place for Germany at the top table of international
affairs, he has carried his people with him.
Though some leaders of the Greens party - a junior coalition
partner in government - have expressed reservations about US raids
on Afghanistan, polls show that 65 percent of Germans support their
country's participation in military missions. …