Iraq – Where is Europe?

Article published on Oct. 30, 2003
community published
Article published on Oct. 30, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

If the recent attacks in Baghdad have shown anything, it’s that Europe must help Washington to stabilise the Middle East.

The Americans have had their fair share of surprises in post-Saddam Iraq. There was the welcome surprise of the UN’s unanimous resolution, supporting the political transition in Baghdad. Then there was the shock of Monday’s suicide attacks, which left 40 dead, after a string of similar such incidents. And then there is the Europe’s not wholly surprising decision to abstain from contributing whole-heartedly to the reconstruction effort.

Once again we are faced with a transatlantic rift between the American superpower and Europe’s former ‘great powers’. The latter are tempted to slip into a cosy past of power politics and political isolation. This is a position that ignores the political and economic backwardness of middle-Eastern regimes and the retrograde conditions suffered by the millions of women who are born under the golden crescent of Islam – as highlighted by 40 Arabic scholars in last year's UN Arab Development Report.

Blinded by Cynicism

There is an incredible political myopia in such an outlook, not least as Europe stands to benefit most from a shake-up of the Middle East. To have a free and democratic Iraq would massively attenuate the Middle-Eastern conflict, particularly in Palestine. Stability in the Middle East would lay for founding-stone for a genuine Euro-Mediterranean partnership. If the Americans ‘win the peace’ in Iraq, the first to benefit would be Europe and the Arab world – so why are we not fighting alongside them? If we are forced to make a cynical alternative, should we contribute to the flourishing and growth of a possible democracy on the doors of Europe, or out in the desert wastes around Kabul - as suggested two weeks ago in this column by Roberto Foa?

It is about time the Iraq debate moved on from conceited diplomatic wrangling and talk of recrimination. Instead we must now consider the urgent needs of the Iraqi people, security in the Middle East and the need for an effective response to the threat of international terrorism. The United States won the war: they have not yet lost the peace. Europe must engage herself on the side of history’s winners if she is to secure her future.