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European-American Topics - Editorial - Quick fix: The European perspective

There just ain't no quick fix!

By Martina Law
Published March 2005

In the face of the Madrid and London bombings; in the face of the many lost lives of European civilians that tried to help rebuild a battled region; in the face of all this, it almost seems disrespectful if not outrages to claim that Europe is content to sit out the war, hoping that violence never finds  a way within its borders. To set the record straight, many European nations already have had a long history of violence and terrorism, such as Spain’s Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), Northern Ireland’s Irish Republican Army (IRA), Germany’s once Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF), or Italy’s Brigate Rosse (BR). But with the attacks in Spain’s and Britain’s capitals, a different wave of terrorism has reached Europe’s core, adding a new dynamic. This one stirs up populations, politics, and strategy about the best way to meet the terrorism threat. And Europe’s “best” way may not be compatible with the U.S.’.  

Almost two years after the war first started in Iraq, European discontent with America and its policies intensified rather than diminished. Particularly since doubts about the motives behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism abound an increasing number of European nations have wanted foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the U.S. Across Europe, perceptions of American unilateralism are spreading, and the majority of European countries even believe the conflict in Iraq would undermine the war on terrorism.

It is difficult to determine why the U.S. decided to attack Iraq with such minimal international support and without waiting for the final conclusion to be reached by  UN inspectors. To many European nations, as well as to the UN, this decision was a slap in the face. According to an interview with British broadcaster BBC, UN general secretary Kofi Annan declared the war on Iraq “not in conformity with the UN Charter from my point, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal.” 

Does it mean that the majority of Europe not joining the U.S. in its “march for freedom” is oblivious to the situation? Not at all because Europe cares. But the minute it wanted to sit down for talks, the U.S. turned its back on it to pursue its own strategy. Now, it’s not Europe that whines; it’s the U.S. But instead of admitting that its decision might have been rushed and not well thought through, the U.S. administration becomes more defiant and less open to criticism.  

I’m not saying that Europe has a better way to fight terrorism. In fact, it does not and is still in search of one. But I argue that it may have a better understanding of the situation. Looking back at its own history, no European would have ever thought that the former Eastern block countries would one day be free democracies. But democracy in these countries was not something imposed by an outsider, it was a process that had to start inside the minds of the many peoples.  

In my opinion, the U.S. administration lacks a great deal of diplomacy and understanding.  Seriously, what did this administration expect? To march into Iraq with its weapons, blow everything up, impose their Western ideals onto a society deeply rooted in Islamic religion and traditions, and eventually be hailed as heroes?  

This is no Hollywood Rambo version but a real life situation. And particularly this situation requires more diplomacy than the U.S. president can obviously handle. Mr. President, there just ain’t no quick fix!


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