Why Europe must demand a quid pro quo from Bush

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Series Details Vol.7, No.36, 4.10.01, p6
Publication Date 04/10/2001
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Date: 04/10/01

By Gareth Harding

Europeans have stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of the United States since the appalling attacks of 11 September. They have felt the same sense of outrage, mourned in tandem, sworn to fight the scourge of global terrorism together and equated the strike against America as an assault on the values that Europeans hold dear.

This solidarity from the old continent has been much appreciated in the 'new world' and will be much needed if the international community is to rid the world of this 21st century form of barbarism.

But the US has to understand that support is one thing, blind obedience is another. The EU has given the United States no blank cheques to do what it likes in Afghanistan and is clearly not prepared to be treated as a junior partner in the war against terrorism.

At their mini-summit in Brussels last month, EU leaders said that a "riposte by the US is legitimate" but underlined that "actions must be targeted". They also emphasised that the fight against terrorism should be placed under UN control and would "require close cooperation with all the member states of the European Union".

This is a clear warning to President George W Bush not to walk the unilateralist path or to assume that any form of military strike will automatically get Europe's blessing. It also sends a powerful message to hawks within the Bush administration not to view the hunt for the attack's perpetrators as an excuse to launch a 'crusade' against Muslim extremists across the entire region.

In the first months of his presidency, Bush mocked the whole notion of international cooperation by ripping up the Kyoto treaty on climate change, threatening to shred a decades-old agreement limiting nuclear tests and blocking moves to check stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; he remains implacably opposed to setting up an International Criminal Court despite the fact that this would be the best place to try murderous thugs like Slobodan Milosevic and Osama Bin Laden; and he remains deeply suspicious of fora like the United Nations, to which the US owes billions.

So it must be slightly galling for EU leaders to now hear the Texas oilman talking about the need to build an international coalition against terror and declare in overtly Nietzchean terms that those countries that do not support the US should be considered its enemies.

Quid pro quo is a Latin expression that roughly translates as 'tit for tat' or 'You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours'. EU leaders should keep the phrase in the back of their minds as they stand by the US, because when those accused of last month's attacks are brought to justice, Europe should make it clear to the Bush administration that terrorism is just one of the world's many evils that must be defeated.

Global warming is every bit as dangerous to the future of the planet as the mullahs of the Taliban, yet the US has effectively washed its hands of any responsibility for rising sea levels and freak weather patterns. More children die of malnutrition in a day than were killed in the Twin Towers, yet Washington has slashed its aid budget in recent years. And landmines continue to claim the lives of thousands of innocent victims every year, yet America refuses to sign up to a convention that would ban their export.

This is not anti-Americanism; these are simple facts. As the world's two most powerful blocs gear up for war, EU leaders should not flinch from telling its ally across the ocean that it too has global responsibilities to fulfil.

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