Article published on Feb. 24, 2003
community published
Article published on Feb. 24, 2003

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

This war is taking the shape of one of public opinion. In the “soft” society, the new European public opinion can be the consequence of a collective sub conscience that considers public opinion as a product, as part of a banal “European way of life”.

International Law and hard thought

Legal objectivity, its “hard” condition – considering the scientific conceptualization of this adjective –, is based upon the existence of facts and evidence for its application into the justice system; that is to say, the right choice among several options. When the law is applied without either objective evidence or facts its conceptual justification collapses in favour of a relative use depending on “concrete interests”. Realpolitik offers such relativism vis-à-vis the “hard” conception of how the law should be applied internationally; and it puts the power of freedom to configure the best possible “tailored” map before the freedom and rights of others to act within their sovereignty.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, clearly violating this law which comes from the UN, it was sanctioned with a military union that imposed the original sovereign boundaries. However, the “prevention” of proliferation and use of these alleged arms and the argument of a (not proved) “possibility” of a link between Iraq and the Al – Qaida Islamic terrorism, means a break from international law and UN principles.

Europe’s foreign policy is conceptually based on the scrupulous fulfilment of International law, as a guarantor of the order. The USA changes its interests depending on the moment and the contextual configuration where several dynamic factors play a key role: political strategy, economics, internal public opinion…etc. We will have to face some risks if this relativism is imposed in the legal field.

Firstly, it would mean a “new world order” (it already exists in many aspects) based on the mere force of the West over the rest of the world. Secondly, the UN would lose its political role, as an international law source and as a tool of compensating the different forces. It would also mean a moral relativism of the “soft” society, a “weak thought” society (Vattimo), which considers war as mass consumption and a videogame similar to a competition. Circumstantial grounds will triumph over the theoretical rigour of reasoned arguments; that is to say, abstract ethical principles applied equally in every case, and considered as a Kantian true, genesis of the Law.

The Spanish Rule of Law and the Spanish stance

In Europe, public opinion across the board has rejected the war. However, there is a division among its leaders: Berlusconi, Aznar and Blair support the US stance; Chirac and Schroeder do not. The former approve an action that will destroy, perhaps forever, the already weak world order; the latter want to protect it.

In Spain, for instance, the Rule of Law, born in the democracy after violations under the Franco dictatorship, carefully protects every citizen. It also includes the Basque separatist terrorists, who will be condemned because of their barbarism. However, as citizens, they enjoy the same rights as other citizens and they will even condemn a “state terrorist” who murders Basque terrorists. That is the right and rigorous application of the Spanish legal system. If the idea of force as a “preventive action” is imposed, the Spanish government could (in a virtual scenario) bomb Basque towns where they suspect – even without evidence – that the terrorists are hiding explosives factories. They would destroy a people in order to avoid future terrorist attacks. It would also be possible to eliminate the Basque government because it does not cooperate in dismantling the Basque terrorist network (something that is indeed happening).

Without a doubt, the same is going to happen in Iraq. “Preventive wars” will occur more frequently and governments will estimate subjectively the dangers and threats. The political elite is going to accumulate, concentrate and monopolize the violation of law: only the political leaders will be able to break the law since it will not be binding for them. The division of powers is something relative. “Soft” society, that is to say, post – modern irrational thought, tries to protect the capricious and promiscuous investments of the new economy that, according to some people, is the basis of our wellbeing. Nobody, including the people who are hypocritically against the war, wants to renounce such wellbeing. The Spanish paradox is the following: President Aznar supports the Spanish Rule of Law, the Spanish Constitution (he voted against it) and accused the former socialist government of “state terrorism”. Now he supports the US military transgression that is terrorism by an international coalition against a sovereign state. The consequences will be thousands of deaths and an international loss of values and rational order. How is he able to support and promote in other countries something that is against the ethics, the democratic principles and the law in his own country?

European Public Opinion. We are finally united!

This war is a war of public opinion. In the United States, Powell’s speeches, and the videogames he presents, generate instant public support. European public opinion is also being observed, but here the effect is the opposite: US arguments and the presentation of special effects as clear evidence that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction produce scepticism and the rejection of war. The figures are the same: 70% – 80% of the citizens in all EU states are against the war. Among all the European Union candidates in Eastern Europe, the figure reduces to 50%. In general, EU public opinion is against the war, including Italians, Spaniards and British, although their governments support the attack.

We may be witnessing the birth of a certain “common European citizen”: a collective conscience that emerges in opposition to the American one, since Europeans think that America is a childish, binary, simple and uneducated society. The “European citizen” needs its own common and united identity. Such identity is the satisfaction of refusing to imitate the American citizen: European citizens assert their identity by rejecting the opposite. The younger brother refuses the older one and finds his personality in the family.

Chirac and Schroeder may have opportunistically understood this circumstance and they may want to (although they will never admit it) unify feelings and politically capitalize on the future European conscience. That is why they apparently protect the international legality and consider the UN as an independent and impartial organism, which does not have to obey the United States. They may be creating the future and real identity of an EU that enforces a common democracy. This democracy should be based upon a similar political culture in all the member states and it is considered to be the logical culmination (the political union) of the European process. This stance would mean an investment in products “made in Europe”. The interesting and promising European Way of Life would become a registered trademark, ready to compete with the Yankees in a market eager not only for European or American trousers and cars, but also for “content”, values, and principles.

The pacifism of European public opinion runs the risk of being considered rash. Let’s admit it. We Europeans psychologically persecute American citizens because of our own inferiority complex. We run the risk of turning peace into an advertising slogan. In the information era, soft society, where it is aware of it or not, consumes contents, “ethics” or politics, as if they were catchy tunes conceived by ingenious publicists. If this becomes true, we will have lost, even if there is no war. We will also have lost if there is a war and all of us (except irresponsible politicians) are against it. Since, with our quiet European conscience, we will be finally citizens / spectators / consumers in mass video politics (Giovanni Sartori). Our values will have the same flimsiness as the files swarming promiscuously on the web. Everything that is politically wrong and information contrary to the European Way of Life will be considered as a superficial problem similar to a computer virus.

Although we think we are superior, we will be structurally equivalent to the American mentality, which, in its absolute mercenariness, invented consumption ethics and public opinion designed by marketing experts.

Translated by Marta Lozano.