New U.S. Doctrine Worries Europeans
Decades of Coalition-Building Seen at Risk
By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 30, 2002; Page A01
BRUSSELS -- Here in the capital of the new Europe, officials are expressing emotions ranging from concern to alarm to anger
as they contemplate the growing gap between themselves and the Bush administration.
The immediate cause is the administration's newly declared preemption doctrine, reserving for the United States the right to
attack potential enemies before they strike, and its determination to deal with Iraq with or without international support. One
senior European official said the new U.S. message to Europe was: "You have become irrelevant, and unless you do something
dramatic to raise your defense expenditure, this is the end. The phone is not ringing."
But officials and analysts here say their problems with Washington go much deeper than the current crisis. They fear that the
Bush administration, in the name of countering threats from terrorists and from rogue states since the Sept. 11 attacks last year,
is jettisoning the post-World War II system of multilateral institutions and coalitions -- such as the U.N. Security Council and
the NATO alliance -- that the United States helped build, and which helped preserve peace and stability for nearly 60 years.
"The mixture of containment and establishing an international rule book by and large encouraged democracy, the rule of law and
open markets throughout the world," Chris Patten, the European Union's external affairs minister, said in an interview Friday.
"Why should anyone think that that approach was somehow less relevant after September 11th? I think it's more relevant."
Rallies by tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators in London and Rome on Saturday were reminiscent of the protests of
the early 1980s in favor of nuclear disarmament and against President Ronald Reagan's tough stance on the Soviet Union. But
here in Brussels, opposition to what is seen as the administration's emerging unilateralism comes not just from the left but from
across the board, and includes the highest levels of the EU.
"There's a lot of concern, and it's growing and it's not just the usual suspects, it's across the spectrum," said John Palmer,
director of the European Policy Center, a prominent Brussels research group.
Officials concede that one of their problems is that they do not speak with one voice. The views of European leaders range
from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spirited endorsement of the Bush administration's Iraq policy to German Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder's equally spirited criticism, with French President Jacques Chirac somewhere in between. "It's our
weakness, not America's strength, that is the problem," said Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs
committee. "We have no influence because we have no common European approach."
Although the European Union is a baroque collection of institutions, regulations and formalism designed to transform narrow
national interests into collective policies, feelings still count -- and European feelings have been badly bruised in recent months.
The Europeans say the administration views them as "Euro wimps" who don't pull their weight militarily, and who prefer
prevarication to plain-speaking and appeasement to action. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's recent appearance at a
NATO meeting in Warsaw, during which he snubbed the German defense minister because of Schroeder's strong opposition to
military action against Iraq, was the latest insult.
"There's a tone of contempt that people here deeply resent," said John Wyles, a journalist and policy strategist who works for
GPlus Europe, a consulting firm.
Many officials regret that Schroeder took his stance, which helped him win a narrow reelection victory last week, without
consulting his European partners. But they say that Schroeder was reflecting the views not just of the German electorate, but of
people throughout the continent. "President Bush would not be able to walk the streets of Berlin shaking hands right now," a
senior official said, "or the streets of Madrid."
Europeans also resent U.S. predictions that they will inevitably go along with military action against Iraq, whether it is
sanctioned by the United Nations or not. "The consequences of allowing America to go in alone would be too severe,"
conceded another senior official. But not every European leader would go along, he said. "A lot of Europeans would feel they'd
been put in an intolerable position." For those who would agree to participate militarily, "it would be less a coalition of the
willing than of the dragooned."
Relations with the Bush administration were icy even before the Sept. 11 attacks. Washington's opposition to the Kyoto treaty
on global warming, its demand to be exempted from the reach of the new International Criminal Court and its staunch support
of Israel's hard-line prime minister, Ariel Sharon, have caused anger and consternation here. U.S. officials, in turn, complained
that Europe thrived because it was nestled under a security umbrella provided and paid for by the United States, and that if it
wanted more influence, it needed to contribute more to its own defense. The United States spends about twice as much on
defense as do all of its 18 NATO partners combined.
The terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon momentarily overshadowed those disputes and created a wave of
sympathy and support for the United States. "We're All Americans Now," declared the front page of Le Monde, the
left-of-center Paris daily that usually takes pleasure in America-bashing.
But that sentiment quickly faded. European officials now concede that they were slow to recognize the depth of the wound and
shock to Americans -- and the degree to which Americans would take literally the concept of a war on terrorism. "For you, it's
not symbolic, it's a real term," one official said. "From that moment, you decided it's your problem and you have to solve it and
the rest of the world can either help, or, if not, to hell with them."
Europeans, who have experienced terrorism in such places as Northern Ireland and the Basque region of Spain, resent being
dictated to. Many people contend that the Americans have put too much emphasis on a military approach to attacking terrorism
and not enough on dealing with what they identify as root causes, such as poverty and lack of freedoms. "None of this in any
way justifies or explains what happened on September 11th," Patten said, "but perhaps it means we have a slightly more
nuanced idea of how you deal with terrorism."
Worse, many believe that Washington has adopted a militarized foreign policy that divides the world too simply into friends and
enemies. Bush's "axis of evil" characterization, lumping North Korea and Iran with Iraq, disturbed many here -- including
Britain, the United States' most loyal European partner, which was engaged in trying to build bridges to moderates in Iran when
Bush's rhetorical hammer fell.
The conflict over Iraq has crystallized many European fears. After the hawkish statements of Vice President Cheney, national
security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld, many here concluded that the Bush administration had no genuine interest in
seeking to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, but was using the issue as a ploy to topple Saddam Hussein under any
circumstances. While they welcomed Bush's decision to seek a new U.N. Security Council resolution on weapons inspections
-- and give Britain's Blair credit for helping guide Bush in that direction -- they fear that the administration is only using the
council as justification for military action, and will go ahead even without U.N. assent.
"It was wholly legitimate for President Bush to go to the United Nations and to challenge the international community to make
good on what it says it believes," said Patten. "But that's just not for one day. It's got to be for real."
Bush's new strategic doctrine formalizes some of the trends Europeans find most troubling. "Preemption says to us, 'This is an
empire and we will not allow anybody to get close to our capabilities and we are ready to act to prevent that from happening,' "
a senior official said.
Another official said the doctrine set a bad precedent -- if it is all right for the United States to attack another country
preemptively for supporting terrorism, he asked, then what is to prevent India from dropping a nuclear bomb on Islamabad, the
capital of Pakistan, in retaliation for Pakistani support for separatists in Kashmir?
European officials search for signs that the American public is less hard-line than the administration. Every one of a half-dozen
officials interviewed last week cited the recent opinion survey sponsored by the U.S. German Marshall Fund and Chicago
Council of Foreign Relations indicating a convergence in views on security issues between Americans and Europeans and a
solid American majority in favor of obtaining Security Council support for any attack on Iraq. Most cited with approval former
vice president Al Gore's attack on administration policy last week, although one official added, "If we'd said that here, we'd be
immediately branded as anti-American."
U.S. diplomats contend European fears are overwrought.
"Part of it [their fear] is European old-think -- the old balance of power instincts," said a senior U.S. diplomat, referring to the
Cold War model in which strong nations balanced each other and effectively maintained world stability. "And I think part of it is
that the Europeans see lots of reasons to interpret America's terrorism war as America trying to bend Europe to its own will."
Some Europeans agree that officials need to calm themselves and remember what they have in common with the United States.
"There are so many areas where we have joint interests and so many similarities between us," said Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade
commissioner. "Any good negotiator will tell you that Lesson One is having a clear view of each side's starting positions. Just
getting there is a good start for living together because we have to live together."