AMERICA AND EUROPE — A GREAT DIVIDE
MSNBC News published this week on its Webpage an article from Newsweek, titled, “A Great Divide.” The article stated, “Europe and America are largely split over whether a war to change the regime in Iraq is now justified. But the divisions go much deeper than that – to differing perceptions of history and politics, power and God.”
It is interesting how the author, Christopher Dickey, recognizes the ever-increasing divide between the two power blocs. He asks, “How did the magnificent alliance between democratic Europe and the United States… reach this sorry state of affairs?” He continues, “In some eyes, the problem today is not what France, or the Europeans, have forgotten; it’s what they remember… Europe’s critical experiences of faith and history, God and War, are not the same as America’s… [A] basic source of resentment against the United States is a kind of strategic envy. American military power is simply overwhelming…”
The article continues, “Americans are religious in ways that many Europeans find almost incomprehensible… Why? Because in America religious faith is increasingly tied to freedom of choice. Europeans grow up in their Roman Catholic or Protestant cultures… To most Americans it seems natural enough that President Bush, a born-again Christian, would incorporate religious references into his speeches. His Manichaean descriptions of good versus evil, with us or against us, are rooted in his reading of the Bible and strike many in the U.S.A. as strong, righteous and decisive. But all this sounds to Europeans very much like the kind of theology – or ideology – that led them to slaughter each other for centuries.”
On Sunday, February 16, 2003, the San Diego Union Tribute published commentaries from Henry Kissinger and John Keegan. Mr. Kissinger, former secretary of state and presidential advisor, stated that the “Atlantic Alliance is in its greatest crisis.” Mr. Keegan, a military historian and defense editor of “London Daily Telegraph,” felt that “‘Old Europe’ may push America too far.”
At the same time, massive anti-war demonstrations of millions of participants took place this week all over the world, including in London, Berlin, Paris, Madrid and Rome, as well as several cities in the United States. Der Spiegel asked, “What now, Mr. President?” The magazine continued, “Suddenly, those who are against war with Iraq are not isolated anymore, but the world power – the United States – is. The appearance of Blix before the Security Council has made true the worst fears of the U.S. military… It was exactly the situation in which President Bush never wanted to be… Suddenly, the entire world is against… Washington…”
And so it seems. The AP reported Wednesday that the Vatican warned again against unilateral action against Iraq. This was perceived to be a veiled message to the United States. USA Today ran an article, titled, “U.S. struggles for support on Iraq.” It continued, “The overwhelming opposition to the Bush’s administration’s policies on Iraq… set back plans for the introduction of a new resolution Wednesday… Over nearly four hours Tuesday, a parade of ambassadors spoke out during an open debate in the Security Council in favor of disarming Iraq through continued weapon inspections, not war. Only Australia and Japan supported Washington and London in seeking a quick new Security Council resolution… Representatives of the Non-Alignment Movement, the Arab League, the European Union and other Asian, African and Latin American nations staunchly spoke out against the idea.”
All of this prompted Secretary of State Colin Powell to say on Wednesday on French radio that countries like France that oppose swift military action against Iraq are afraid of upholding their responsibility to disarm Baghdad by force, according to an article published by the AP, widening the rift between the Bush administration and the French government.
Manfred Guttamacher of the Potsdam University in Germany was interviewed by CNN. He stated, “We are on the brink of a fundamental rift between the United States and Europe which goes much deeper than the rifts that came up in the course of anti-American sentiments in the 60’s or the early 80’s.”
How deep the rift already is can also be seen by the fact that most Germans – as well as most British – say that President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein. CNN.com published an article on February 14, stating, “Anti-Americanism in Europe deepens,” voicing the opinion that a “new generation of U.S.-haters” is “being created” in Europe.
Der Spiegel Online ran an article Wednesday, titled, “Americans come from Mars, Europeans from Venus.” It continued, “European and American NATO-partners are alienated as never before.”
On Monday, the 15 European states agreed on a unified position. Both France and Germany acquiesced to a statement that war against Iraq as a last resort is no longer rejected. Although some feel that this statement constitutes a defeat especially for Germany, the German tabloid “Bild” commented: “It was important for the European Union to find a compromise. They can now demonstrate to the United States that they are unified. A decision regarding peace or war stays within the United Nations.”
Some observers concluded that Germany’s modified stance constitutes a victory for Joschka Fischer in an internal power struggle between Chancellor Schroeder and the Foreign Minister. Nevertheless, both politicians declared afterwards that Germany would under no circumstances actively participate in a war against Iraq. Germany was also successful, according to AP, to block a European “declaration from warning Saddam Hussein that ‘time is running out’ – a phrase favored by Britain, as well as the United States.”
Der Spiegel Online reported on February 19 that Joschka Fischer again strongly criticized the policy of the Bush administration. He asked for a “strategic debate regarding the preventive-war-doctrine of the United States.” Although the U.S. might be strong enough militarily to fight alone against Iraq, they need the UN, and firstly Europe, to build and maintain peace, Fischer said in an interview with the German newspaper, Die Zeit. At the same time, German Minister for the Environment, Juergen Trittin, stated in an interview with the German newspaper, “Die Welt,” that America wants a war against Iraq to secure the oil in the region.
As Der Spiegel Online reported on Wednesday, Russia’s Vladimir Putin criticized the United States’ and Great Britain’s routine air bombings of places in Iraq. He said that these attacks are violations of the UN-resolutions that cannot be justified.
THE EURO ON THE RISE
All of these developments have influenced the value of the European currency – the euro. MSNBC News reported on January 31, that the U.S. dollar is no longer seen as a safe haven, and that the euro has risen more than 20% since it was introduced a year ago, due to “growing fear of war in Iraq.” The article continued, “Analysts say the euro is showing signs of becoming a serious rival to the long-dominant dollar on world markets… International investors are worried that the United States and Britain would be isolated in a war against Iraq and that a conflict could be prolonged and draw in other countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. There is also concern that the United States would have to bear most of the cost of a war, which some analysts estimate could be as much as $200 billion.”
IS THE WORLD FACING SELF-DESTRUCFTION?
Another insightful article from the Washington Post was published on February 14 in the San Diego Union-Tribune, titled, “The world is at a major turning point.” In the article, Charles Krauthammer points out, “Anyone with a reasonable education in modern physics, chemistry or biology can brew” weapons of mass destruction. There is no avoiding the danger any longer… We are in a race against time. Once such hostile states establish arsenals, we become self-deterred and they become invulnerable. North Korea may already have crossed that threshold. There is a real question whether we can win the race. Year One of the new era, 2002, passed rather peaceably. Year Two will not: 2003 could be as cataclysmic as 1914 or 1939.”
Then, the following poignant question is asked: “What are the odds that our species will manage to contain this awful knowledge [of weapons of mass destruction] without self-destruction – not for a billion years or a million or even a thousand, but just through the lifetime of our children? Those are the stakes today.”
DROUGHT IN AUSTRALIA AND THE US
At the same time, parts of the world are facing serious food shortages as a consequence of unusual droughts. For instance, ABC News Online reported that Australia will be forced to keep importing a “considerable” amount of grain. The Australian government stated that 2002/2003 is “turning out to be one of the worst years on record for Australian grain producers.” The summer crop for 2003 is estimated to be the smallest in 20 years. In the United States, especially Colorado faces dire consequences of a prolonged “dangerous drought,” according to MSNBC News.