European foreign policy
Article added on March 26, 2003
There is of course no European
Foreign policy as there are no European defense and security policies. And in
the 2002/2003 Iraq crisis, light was shed on another structural European
problem more clearly than before: France and Germany are not Europe. Charles De Gaulle
and Konrad Adenauer, François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, reconciliation and
peace between the hereditary enemies France and Germany were key in building
the European Community and the European Union. But especially after the
scheduled enlargement of the EU more than ever, these two founding members of
the history-making uniting Europe effort alone should and cannot define and
dominate the EU, its character and agenda. The UK, Spain, Italy and other nations
voiced their dissent. As a result, Europe is divided on the Iraq issue.
Europe has always been a world champion in giving good advice to the US, but
when it comes to the point to taking action, its ranks get thinner and thinner.
Anyway, Europe has no credible means of wartime action, only the US have. In
other words, a war such as the one in Iraq, even if officially with the
support of the United Nations, is necessarily foremost and above all a US
American-led war, because only the world's sole superpower has the means for
such an intervention.
As for the demonstrator's in Europe's streets, where were they when Saddam
Hussein attacked Iran, when he used chemical weapons against the Iranians or
later against the Kurdish people in northern Iraq? Have we seen mass
demonstrations against the dirty Russian war in Chechnya with its numerous war
crimes? No. The "international peace movement" is selective in its
perception. Many shout "peace" but express above all their
Economic sanctions, not only in the case of Iraq, are no alternative to an
intervention since they mostly hit ordinary people, especially the poorest of
a nation, whereas the regime and its close allies continue to live in luxury.
The road to a diplomatic deadlock began of course with German Chancellor
Gerhard Schröder, a reputed opportunist who was about to lose the 2002
general elections. Before, in the context of 9/11 he was the first to find
appropriate words, before George W. Bush even gave a sign of life. In substance,
Schröder did not only call the attacks on the twin
towers an attack against civilization, he also declared Germany's
unconditional solidarity with the United States. In this context, President
Bush's and America's anger are easily understandable, when, not even a year
later, they saw the same man stand up against a war for opportunistic
electoral reasons. The way Schröder did it, was even more embarrassing:
somewhere on his campaign trail, without asking his minister of Foreign
Affairs, Joschka Fischer, and at a time, when the German Chancellor was not
asked for support in any form. Anyway, Germany does not have the means to
intervene in a war such as in Iraq. And today, Schröder tries to sell his
diplomatic blunders as part of a wise strategy.
What Schröder said in substance was that whatever happens, whatever the UN
inspectors will find, Germany, in no case whatsoever, will be part of a war
against Iraq. Is there a more incompetent way to deal with a dictator who
only understands the (possible) use of force? Is this the way the
international community can build up pressure against Saddam Hussein in order
to fully comply with UN resolutions? Of course not.
Worst of all, as far as German domestic politics are concerned, is that
Schröder got away with his strategy: Apart from floods and Jürgen W.
Möllemann (but that's another story), his anti-Americanism helped him win the
elections. In a democratic country the voters are, at least in the longer run,
responsible for the leaders they get. Germany (or more accurately the half of Germany's
electorate who voted for him, almost the entire other half was against him in
the close 2002 election) got what it deserves, and that does not seem to be
much. A few weeks, even days after the election, many regretted having
supported him. Schröder had to revise economic and social electoral promises.
He needed one issue to stand firm on, in order not to lose his entire
credibility in the eyes of his voters (as for the rest of Germany's
population, he had lost his credit before), and this issue was Iraq.
However, Germany looked quite isolated. And one man realized it: French
President Jacques Chirac. A man tainted with scandals which go back to his
time as Mayor of Paris, but for which he cannot be put on trial as long as he
is President. Even if he was innocent and did not know anything about what was
going on, which is unlikely, he did not do anything to bring light into the
affairs and, as a responsible man, should have taken the political
responsibility and stepped down.
In the eyes of a vast majority, he had no credibility. In the first tour of
the last French presidential election, he only managed to get about one out of
four votes, a disastrous result for a ruling president. But he got another
chance because French right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen came in second
and any decent French voter had to endorse Chirac in the second tour.
Let's be fair, if there is one thing Chirac deserves credit for, it is that he
never tried to collaborate with Le Pen, even when the socialist President
François Mitterrand changed the electoral rules to use Le Pen's party to put
pressure on the democratic center-right parties.
Back to the second tour: Chirac got some 80% and, together with clever people,
he was able to unite almost the entire spectrum of the democratic center-right
parties. United, they won the general election. Chirac, who once had
prematurely dissolved the parliament and lost his presidential majority, one
of his major blunders, stood there as a wise statesman. But he wanted more,
and with an isolated Gerhard Schröder who desperately needed an ally in order
not to be left out in the diplomatic cold, Chirac saw his chance coming. The
French president stood aside - actually, in front of - the German chancellor, who
was just to happy to leave the leadership to the Frenchman, and the post-war
Franco-German alliance was reborn. Immediately, Chirac became popular in
France, and his position was almost entirely supported by the
Socialists, Communists and even Le Pen, besides a strong majority within his
presidential majority, on the Iraq issue.
The diplomatic balance within the UN Security Council began to shift. Germany
is only an ordinary member of it, whereas France is one of the five permanent
members with the right to veto and therefore block initiatives of which it disapproves. The UN Security Council is one of the rare places where France can
still claim (or pretend) to be a major power in
the world. However, only a united Europe can become a leading force in world
Russia and China, also permanent members of the UN
Security Council, became more courageous. They probably would not have dared
to veto a resolution supported by the democratic Western nations. But with
France as a possible veto candidate, it became a whole different ballgame.
One can imagine that many UN members were worried about a violation of
international law by the US, which could in the future do whatever it wants to
do, regardless of international law. But preventing the setting of an alleged
precedent by the US is of course only one side of the coin. The other side is
that Russia is only a half-way working democracy which, in Chechnya, does not
only violate international law, it commits war crimes. China is no
democracy, on the political level one could even call it a totalitarian state.
China, of course, is not interested in having the UN interfering in the
domestic affairs of dictatorships.
In short, out of an opportunistic electoral declaration, an unholy (not in the
religious sense of course) alliance against a war in Iraq was born, which de
facto means support for Saddam Hussein since weapon inspectors and more time
can bring no solution to the Iraqi crisis and are no threat to the Iraqi
By the way, one could read in the French Nouvel Observateur that as
late as December 21, 2002, Chirac secretly sent a general to Washington in
order to negotiate the support of some 15000 French soldiers and 100 airplanes
in exchange for a military intervention not before January 21, 2003, the day
on which chief weapons inspector Hans Blix was to deliver his report to the
According to Le Monde, in the 1980s until the first Gulf War in 1991,
France has delivered some 37%, the Soviet Union some 30% of the military
material Iraq has purchased abroad. The military cooperation between France
and Iraq however dates back to the mid-1970s when then Prime Minister Jacques
Chirac (then called "Monsieur Iraq") allowed to deliver a simple nuclear
reactor for research, as he called it. Iraq launched a program to produce
enriched uranium. The plans to develop nuclear weapons found a setback when
Israel bombed the nuclear reactor in 1981.
Besides the French and the Soviets, the Germans, British, Italians and
Japanese helped to arm Iraq and to develop its nuclear knowledge. According to
Le Monde, among the French companies who have delivered military
material are Dassault, Matra, Thomson-CSF (today called Thales), Aerospatiale
(today part of EADS), Luchaire, GIAT industries, Techniatome, Panhard,
Thomson-Brandt, the Société nationale des poudres et explosifs (SNPE). Among
the weapons delivered were combat fighters, helicopters, anti-tank missiles,
radars, electronic equipment, artillery grenades, armored vehicles, mortars, and
even biological strains and cultures which allowed Iraq to develop biological
June 1983, France and Iraq concluded a secret treaty regarding the commerce of
arms, including the delivery of five Super-Etendard fighter plans, equipped
with Exocet missiles and AS-30 laser which were used in the war against Iran.
As for Germany, the weapon inspectors internally referred to an area where
biological and chemical weapons were produced as the "German alley".
The US, not for the first time, have not acted wisely on the diplomatic
parquet, but Europe, above all Germany and France, have totally failed.
Transatlantic-relations, the EU and NATO have been damaged. That is a shame since
Germany owes its democratic state, its status as the world's third economic
power and even partly its reunification to the US. And France has been saved
by the US in the two World Wars.
Nobody, neither the US nor the Europeans, including the former Soviet Union
and Russia, look good in the Iraqi affair, where for strategic or blunt
commercial reasons, an evil power was built up and later, especially in the
supported as the lesser evil, until Iraq invaded Kuwait.
the article on US American foreign policy on Iraq for complementary