March 6, 2003 | Commentary on Europe
Foiling Franco-German Folly
According to French President Jacques Chirac, the United States is
little more than a bully on the world stage, determined to
intimidate all who fail to see the need to disarm Saddam Hussein.
But we have nothing on Chirac, who can bully with the best of them
when things don't go his way.
Consider how he's using the pro-American sentiments voiced by
certain European nations as an excuse to oppose their entry into
the European Union. Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia and Albania, among
others, are being "childish" and "dangerous," Chirac has said,
warning that they had "missed a great opportunity to shut up" and
had jeopardized their chances of entering Europe's richest
The result has been a huge backlash across Europe against French
arrogance, and increasing isolation for the position of Paris and
Berlin on the Iraq question. They are being outflanked by the "New
Europe" led by Britain, Italy, Spain and Poland, whose
determination to end decades of French-German domination prompted
them to submit an op-ed to The Wall Street Journal
30, signed by five other European nations, praising U.S. "bravery,
generosity and farsightedness" and warning that the transatlantic
relationship "must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi
regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security."
So far, France and Germany aren't budging. Indeed, they are
expected to present their own long-term plan for Iraqi disarmament
to the U.N. Security Council: triple the number of weapons
inspectors in Iraq, establish a no-fly zone over the whole country,
and deploy thousands of U.N. peacekeepers.
While the United States and Great Britain are certain to reject
this proposal, Baghdad would welcome it with open arms. Iraq knows
full well that a force of European peacekeepers sent into Iraq
while hundreds of thousands of Allied troops mass on its borders
would become the military equivalent of the hapless human shields
currently making their way from London to Baghdad by red
double-decker bus to show "solidarity" with the Iraqi regime.
So why make such a proposal? Perhaps because both France and
Germany would be greatly embarrassed by the contents of the Iraqi
regime's voluminous archives, should they be opened after Iraq's
liberation. More than 80 German companies (which Baghdad named in
its weapons report to the United Nations) helped build Iraq's
weapons program. And French arms sales and military expertise have
played a critical role in developing Iraq's military machine over
the past 20 years.
The prospect of such a revelation may be the reason the
Franco-German proposal is riddled with hypocrisy. For years both
nations have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Northern
and Southern no-fly zones. Yet now they call for these zones to
cover the whole of Iraq. Paris and Berlin have long condemned the
idea of a post-war U.S.-led occupation force in Iraq as an imperial
adventure, yet now call for a neo-colonial French-led
The fact that French and German strategists would even consider
advancing such a proposal reveals the extent to which the leaders
of these two nations have lost touch with reality. Both nations
have shamelessly appeased the Iraqi regime for decades, barely
breathing a whiff of criticism of the medieval barbarity of
To a large extent, their proposal is a knee-jerk reaction to
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's observation that France and
Germany represent "Old Europe." The French and the Germans were
incensed by Rumsfeld's remarks, not so much because they were
insulting, but because they're true. Rumsfeld uttered a simple
fact: Paris and Berlin no longer carry the weight they once did in
international affairs -- that they're fading powers on the world
stage with little real influence.
So France and Germany are reduced to denying the obvious: That the
people of Iraq will be liberated by a large, broad-based
international coalition. The concept of America having to "go it
alone" in Iraq is an illusion conjured by the shrinking number of
opponents to military action. At least 18 European allies will
actively support the United States. The tide is beginning to turn
against "Old Europe," and a new Europe, pro-American in outlook and
led by Great Britain, is starting to emerge.
Paris and Berlin face a stark choice in the weeks ahead. They can
either oppose military action against Iraq, consigning the U.N.
Security Council to a position of total irrelevance on the
international stage, or they can join in what will be one of the
biggest alliances ever assembled to remove a brutal dictatorship
Nile Gardiner is Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American
Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire