Is Europe Lost?

Posted: February 13, 2006 in International, Politics

A continent awakens to a threat.

By Emanuele Ottolenghi

Enter the European Foundation for Democracy, a Brussels-based nonprofit organization. EFD has just released a poll, taken during the run-up to the IAEA vote on Iran’s nuclear program, of European attitudes to Iran and its nuclear ambitions. The poll was taken in four countries — Austria, the current holder of the EU presidency and host to the IAEA in Vienna, France, Germany, and Great Britain, the members of the EU-3 team that negotiated with Iran over its nuclear program.

Some remarkable data emerge from the surveys. Most respondents are “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about Iran’s program: 51 percent in the U.K., 67 percent in Germany, 73 percent in Austria, and 83 percent in France. Most Europeans believe Iran’s intentions are not peaceful: 54 percent among French respondents say that Iran’s nuclear program aims at nuclear weapons as well as nuclear energy, with a further 24 percent assuming its main goal to be just nuclear weapons. In Germany the breakdown is 62 percent and 20 percent, in Austria it’s 71 percent and 14 percent, and in the U.K. it’s 43 percent and 9 percent. Even in Great Britain, home of the Guardian and the BBC, more than half of the public understands what the Iranians really want. The public feels that the Iranians’ goals should be “strongly prevented” or “somewhat prevented”: if one adds up the two categories, 76 percent of Austrians, 74 percent of Germans and French, and 56 percent of Britons wish the Iranian plans to be thwarted.

The knee-jerk European reaction to pursue such goals through diplomacy remains dominant, of course. Support for limited military strikes against Iran is in the single digit figures in all four countries, with overwhelming preference for continued diplomacy and only limited support for sanctions, or even for helping Iran’s opposition groups. But here’s the catch: in all four countries, if it emerges that Iran is on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon, more Europeans are ready to support limited NATO military strikes than those who wish to oppose strikes no matter what. Again, the data show a split in Germany (46 percent in favor, 45 percent against), but in the U.K., France, and Austria the public is clearly persuaded: 45 percent to 26 percent in the U.K., 51 percent to 40 percent in Austria, and 74 percent to 20 percent in France.

This is not a mandate for military strikes — not yet at least. The experience of the Iraq war teaches a lesson in caution for Europe. If military strikes become a distinct possibility, there will be a concerted effort by the usual suspects to question intelligence and call into doubt whether Iran is so close to the bomb after all. Europeans have little appetite for military action, and under violent pressure, their governments have not shown signs of resolve and commitment.

But the data are nevertheless encouraging: It is becoming clear is that there is a European constituency for a blunter, more self-assured foreign policy that believes in Western values and refuses to cave in to pressure and blackmail; and there is an awareness — even in the country of Jack Straw — that some of the threats that come from the East are real, not the sinister concoctions of the “neo-cons.”

I think Ottolenghi is far too optimistic. Europe is a lost cause; they lost any semblance of backbone on the banks of the Marne, in 1914. Europe has no stomach for war. As understandable as this fear of theirs might be, It has been 92 years since 1914, and any person who has not gotten over the traumas of their youth by the time they are old is not going to get over those traumas.

Continuing with that analogy, sometimes one must intervene with a dotty old relative to save their lives. Europe might wake up to their danger, sometime, but it is bound to be too late, and Europe is bound to be ineffective in their response. Too often we have deferred to Europe. The balance of power has changed, and Europe must accept that they cannot control their future. They need help and intervention.

They have accepted into their midst the seeds of their destruction, the Moslem fanatics who are worming into their foundations and undermining their underpinnings. They have to be made to realize this, and to do something about it. The first step in rehabilitation is admitting you have a problem. Europe has not yet realized they have a problem.


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