07.13.06

How Bush won the war in Iraq

Posted in Society at 9:45 by RjZ

The fighting isn’t over and causalities continue to rise, but in at least one way, President Bush has already won the war in Iraq.

Just after 9-11 and after the United States invaded Afghanistan, I received a visit from a friend from Europe. Like many of us, he was upset that the United States appeared to be acting unilaterally in its run-up to war with Iraq. “You can’t do that!” he demanded. “You can’t just attack another country because you feel like it.” I was sympathetic with his complaints but I disagreed. “You may not like it, but what you say is not true. We can do anything we want.” I said, severely. He was outraged. “It’s not that we we necessarily should,” I continued, “but that doesn’t mean that we can’t and it’s a waste of time for you to suggest otherwise.”

Doing as it wishes, is a cornerstone in the Bush admininstration doctrine. However, the only reason we can attack anyone whom the Bush administration decides, with or without evidence, is dangerous, is because there are no consequences outside of our own economic costs and human casualties, neither of which, amazingly, seem to greatly concern our policy makers.

The United States sees itself as police for the whole world in part because they can, and in part because they must. European investment in NATO troops and machinery pales in comparison to U.S. investment, even though the primary role of the NATO forces is to defend Europe (and the U.S.). While Europeans fretted about conflict in Serbia, in their own backyard, but wouldn’t commit troops to NATO action, the United States, under Clinton, stepped in. It can be argued that Europe was waiting, still seeking a diplomatic solution, and the U.S. forced its hand, but here too, Europe and NATO did little if anything to oppose the situation.

Is Europe so powerless that anything and everything that the U.S. says goes unchallenged? That’s certainly how it appeared in the run-up to Iraq. Germany, France and Russia were essentially ignored when they criticized Bush and stated that they would not support the war. But what if, instead of complaining, Europe moved from words to action?

I asked my friend from Europe why, if the U.S. “can’t” just attack countries isn’t he doing anything about it? “What can we do? The U.S. is bigger and more powerful than we are. We can’t engage the U.S. in a war!” He’s right, of course. Europe is so comfortable with the U.S. role as world police that they continue to downsize their spending and reduce military investment, content that the U.S. economy can afford an armed forces bigger than all of NATO combined in order to defend them. “I would like nothing better than for Europe to actually start investing some of its citizens’ tax dollars in defense and stopped depending on the U.S. for it.”

We agreed, of course, that military action is hardly a solution to curbing U.S. bullying. “How about,” I asked, “if you stopped eating at McDonald’s and stopped buying Levi’s Jeans. How about if you stopped watching Hollywood movies and stopped listening to Brittany Spears?” After Canada, a combined Europe (Alone the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands) is the biggest trading partner with the U.S. If Europeans had the will to forego the economic benefit for the sake of their principals, they might be able to add some teeth to their grumbling.

It would be painful, indeed, for Europe to boycott U.S. products. Its effectiveness would be limited by the millions of links between the regions, but the message could be made clear: the United States will be held accountable for its actions.

Instead European leaders protested about U.S. actions like children grousing about injustices from bigger siblings, but later asking if they can borrow their toys. Unable to unify their objections, individual boycotts resulted in little else besides U.S. citizens changing the name of French fries to freedom fries.

George Bush arrogantly claimed that the U.S. may do as it wishes in order to defend itself and must not consult with other nations. He went against his father’s precedent to build a coalition that would be credible to the international community. He has lead the U.S. further in the role of a bully who may impress his will whenever and where ever he sees fit. Europeans don’t have to like this any more than many U.S. Americans do, but one thing is sure, Bush has won this battle and European inaction has contributed to his victory.

In the period preceding Europe’s economic union and in spite of significant, but isolated fears, I witnessed great optimism for the unified currency and the stature it would bring to Europe. There was fear too, from the U.S., that perhaps we would finally have to compete for economic dominance. So far, these predictions have not materialized. The world would likely be a safer place if power weren’t so concentrated in the hands of one country’s leaders. U.S. Americans can only hope that so friendly a rival as Europe finally grows up and becomes that competitor. Today the more likely contender appears to be China. Poor Europe might sink from younger sibling to forgotten step child!

Bush may have won this fight but Europe must stand up and become an equal to her bullying sibling. Even the U.S. is not impervious to every action; Europeans must develop the power that their unity confers to them and that strength cannot be expressed in words alone. Until then, it doesn’t look like there are any parents around to listen to the whining.

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