The Crisis in Europe

por William Kristol, 22 de marzo de 2004

(Published in The Weekly Standard, from the March 29, 2004, issue: We can decry the decision of the Spanish people all we want, but lamenting a defeat is one thing. Acting to minimize its damage is another. Volume 009, Issue 28)
Let's begin with the obvious: Whatever the motives of Spanish voters, however much the Aznar government mishandled the aftermath of the attack--last Sunday's Spanish election was a victory for terror. Some say that the election result was an expression of democracy. That's true. It was an expression of a popular willingness to retreat in the face of terror. The terrorists struck three days before the election, seeking to defeat Prime Minister Aznar's party, and they succeeded.
The Spanish election was also a defeat for the United States. A European leader who, under great pressure, stood with us, was repudiated. Other world leaders have shown signs, predictably, of going wobbly.
Since Spain voted, President Bush has restated our determination to see the war on terror through to victory. This is, obviously, the right message to send the terrorists. But what about our European allies? Has there been energetic American diplomacy to shore up our friends and to mitigate the damage that has been done? Have there been efforts to change public opinion in various European countries, both in those whose governments are with us on Iraq and those that aren't?
The Bush administration shows little sense of urgency in making our case in Europe. The most unfriendly European voices--those of Spain's newly victorious José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of European Commission president Romano Prodi, of French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin--haven't hesitated to draw their own conclusions. Their conclusions will become authoritative if they remain uncontroverted.
Zapatero, for example, claims the 'occupation' of Iraq is a 'fiasco,' and says he looks forward to a 'profound debate' with the Bush administration on how to fight terrorism: 'Fighting terrorism with bombs, with Tomahawk missiles, isn't the way to beat terrorism, but the way to generate more radicalism.' Furthermore, Zapatero tells Bush (and Blair), 'You can't organize a war with lies.' Meanwhile, Prodi suggests 'the American approach' to the war on terror, depending in part on the use of force and on regime change, has been discredited. Indeed, Prodi suggests the war in Iraq was motivated by 'vengeance,' making Americans somehow 'prisoners of terror and of terrorists.' And de Villepin argues that the world has become 'more dangerous and unstable' because of the foolish war in Iraq. 'Terrorism didn't exist in Iraq before. Today, it is one of the world's principal sources of world terrorism.'
Messrs. Zapatero, Prodi, and de Villepin are wrong. It is not hard to show, in some detail and with arguments that might convince those with a willingness to listen, that they are wrong. Would that more of their fellow Europeans were rising to the occasion. Instead, thankless as the task may look to the White House, it is the duty of the Bush administration to make those arguments with renewed urgency, and make them directly to the Europeans.
This week marked the first anniversary of the war in Iraq. President Bush's remarks included eloquent restatements of the justice of the war, assertions of progress made over the last year, and a reiteration of our commitment to see Iraq through to peaceful self-rule. THE WEEKLY STANDARD agrees with virtually every word in those speeches. But they are not sufficient. If the administration were to put half the effort into sustained arguments aimed at citizens of fellow democracies that it puts into its (rather effective and perfectly legitimate) deconstruction of the foreign policy positions of John Kerry, we might have a chance of turning the tide in Europe.
We can decry the decision of the Spanish people all we want, but lamenting a defeat is one thing. Acting to minimize its damage is another. It's time for the American government to get serious about dealing with the political crisis in Europe. There is a big difference between an isolated al Qaeda victory, however unfortunate, and a chain reaction of political capitulations that invite more terror.