Sunday, June 13, 2004

Europeans awaiting U.S. "regime change"

It has become increasingly clear that the world is anxiously awaiting "regime change" in the U.S.

Hopefully, the majority of Americans will have realized by the time they enter the voting boots that policies adopted by the Bush administration are NOT in the best interests of our nation or, the world for that matter:

 "Now it is to be feared that this hatred of America may lead to regime crises in the Middle East. The American "Neo-Conservatives" bet on a positive domino theory; a democratized Iraq was supposed to open the path to reform of the Greater Middle East. Now the dominos, including those of the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula, are definitely at risk of falling, but in the direction of a militant anti-Western fundamentalism."

" In the first place, Europe should avoid the perception that it is associated with the present conduct of the Bush administration's failure in the Arab world. It is in everyone's general interest - including, in the final analysis, that of the United States itself - to avert the whole of the West being rejected by that entire region"


Le Monde - Thursday 04 June 2004

Overwhelming 6th of June 2004
By Francois Heisbourg
  
 
During the decade we're in, an attack with weapons of mass destruction will be attempted on European territory.

    At no moment since the big crises of the Cold War has the world been as close to a planetary confrontation. Paraphrasing Marc Bloch, what emerges is a "strange catastrophe".

    The strangeness relates first of all to the perfectly avoidable aspect of the course of events that have led to the present danger.

    Certainly, the world was living with al-Qaeda's terrible challenge after the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, this terrorist act by an operational minority did not necessarily have to transform itself into a clash of civilizations along the model Samuel Huntington suggested eleven years ago.

    The Americans had to deploy a unique combination of narrow-minded activism and unlimited incompetence in Iraq to arouse the Arab world and beyond to a massive rejection.

    It also required a sort of genius for the United States to double that negative impact by appearing to throw the Israeli-Palestinian "road-map" - patiently elaborated by the Quartet partnership (including the United States) - to the winds.

    Now it is to be feared that this hatred of America may lead to regime crises in the Middle East. The American "Neo-Conservatives" bet on a positive domino theory; a democratized Iraq was supposed to open the path to reform of the Greater Middle East. Now the dominos, including those of the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula, are definitely at risk of falling, but in the direction of a militant anti-Western fundamentalism.

    The strangeness is also a function of the failure of the international community- and especially Europe- to organize itself in the face of the threat that hyper-terrorism, represented by al-Qaeda, embodies.

    As the March 11 attack in Madrid attests, the web of organizations claiming allegiance to bin Laden has not been undermined in its essential workings, in spite of the relentless exertions of our countries' security forces. Still worse, al-Qaeda has found the increasing rejection of America to be a powerful recruitment tool.

    Sooner or later, al-Qaeda will cross the technological barrier blocking access to weapons of mass destruction. In the face of this risk, our countries' intelligence services are redoubling their efforts.

    Nonetheless, in budgetary terms, as on the organizational level, most European states have stuck to their pre-September 11 2001 dispositions with regard to security and civil defense, although the consequences of the al-Qaeda threat have already achieved war operation dimensions: the 3000 or so deaths on September 11 exceeded the number of GIs (1,465) killed on D-Day in 1944.

    The resources our countries have currently mobilized are not up to the scale of such a challenge. We are at most prepared for the consequences of an attack no bigger than the one in Madrid (192 killed), or, in the case of unconventional risks, the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 when 12 died.

    It is this double strangeness that presents the risk of catastrophe with so much scope: the present convergence of anti-American hatred, "massing" of al-Qaeda support (reflected in Arab world public opinion polls), unpreparedness of the countries targeted by hyper-terrorism, with the persistent fracture between the United States and most of its allies as the backdrop.

    The question therefore is what may be done and what must be done to prevent these developments from coming to a head, if that is still possible?

    In the first place, Europe should avoid the perception that it is associated with the present conduct of the Bush administration's failure in the Arab world. It is in everyone's general interest - including, in the final analysis, that of the United States itself - to avert the whole of the West being rejected by that entire region.

    In the present circumstances, that plays out through the European Union's refusal to be recruited under the NATO flag in Iraq, but also through rejection of the imposition of the American so-called "Greater Middle East Initiative". The G-8 meeting at Sea Island from June 8-10 will provide the necessary opportunity.

    In the same way, Europe must stick to the search for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement on the basis of the "road-map" and everything that includes. In this regard, the joint press conference of Mssrs. Bush and Sharon was a political disaster. Precisely because Europeans must be uncompromising in their defense of the legitimacy of the State of Israel, they may not support an American policy that can only make acknowledgement of that legitimacy more difficult in the Arab world.

    I write this with great sadness, just as our country is about to preside over the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 landing. Ever since then, history has shown that a European-American partnership was one of the keys to international peace and security.

    One of the present tragedies is to be obliged to plead for Europe's dissociation from American policy, so rash has the latter become under the Bush administration.

    Beyond this observation - which I hope represents a transitory situation - we must prepare the ground for a civilized and constructive restoration of European-United States relations. The Bush administration is not permanent. In January 2005, or at the latest, 2009, new representatives will arise, allowing us to imagine a redefinition of the partnership so that we may together forestall the threatening catastrophe.

    Beyond the struggle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it would be especially appropriate to tackle the infinitely important and difficult question of the modernization of the Middle East together. Without this transformation, al-Qaeda will continue, along with oil, to be one of the region's export products.

    In other words, France, as a G-8 and Security Council member, must express its reservations with regard to present American policies in the coming months in a way that does not compromise its future relationship with the American people.

    Finally, the European Union and its member states must organize themselves for security and civil defense around the following principle: during the decade we're in, an attack with weapons of mass destruction will be attempted on European territory.

    That organization occurs through adapted security policies: warning and identification networks for chemical, biological, and radioactive attacks, coordination of crisis management resources around the consequences of an attack.

    This goes well beyond reinforcing our first line of defense, which is intelligence: our history teaches that we should never count on a single line of defense, however well-constructed it may be.

    Naturally, security policy cannot take the place of policy itself, especially with regard to the matter integrating our populations of Arab extraction. However, without adequate security measures upstream, that policy risks being over-determined by extreme reactions to acts of hyper-terrorism that we will not have known how to prevent or mitigate.

    It's just such a loss of control that occurred in the United States after September 11, and for which the whole world is paying the price today.

    Francois Heisbourg is the Director of the Foundation for Strategic Research.<<

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