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The coalition quivers
By Charles Bloomer
The international coalition that President Bush has put together to fight terrorism is quivering in fear that the United States will expand the war into Iraq and other Middle East countries. This fear of carrying the war on terrorism to Iraq was prompted by President Bush's demand that Iraq allow UN weapons inspectors into the country.
Several governments have voiced opposition to any military action outside of Afghanistan.
As would be expected, the Arab League opposes an attack on Iraq. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League sums up the position of Arab nations: "We do not accept striking Iraq or any other Arab country. Launching military action against any Arab state would spell the end of the consensus in the international alliance against terrorism." Jordan and Egypt have separately denounced any plan to attack Iraq or other Arab state.
More surprising (or maybe no surprise, actually) is that the same position is being taken by several of our European allies. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the Bundestag, "All European nations would view a widening of the conflict with great skepticism, and that is putting it diplomatically." Fischer also stated that it would be "irresponsible to look for new targets". French Defense Minister Alain Richard said during a trip to Bulgaria that, aside from Afghanistan, "there is no other nation whose leaders have been active accomplices of terrorist actions".
The name of the anti-terrorism coalition should be changed to the International Ostrich Alliance.
One could reasonably expect the Arab League to voice solidarity with Arab countries. Several Arab countries have large segments of their societies that are anti-American and that support Islamic extremism to some degree. Public denunciations of anticipated attacks of Arab countries makes for good propaganda and helps to keep those segments under control. Middle Eastern countries may privately welcome action that removes Saddam Hussein from their midst, but they dare not say so publicly for fear of inciting internal revolt.
The European reaction to possible military action against Iraq or other sponsors of terrorism is nothing short of unbelievable - in the same category as the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and a free lunch. Does the French defense minister actually believe that "there is no other nation whose leaders have been active accomplices of terrorist actions"? Have he and the other European government officials ever read the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism published each year by the US State Department and made available to the public (to include foreign governments)? And just what justifies the "skepticism" expressed by the German foreign minister? Are he and his government skeptical about the US desire to defeat terrorism wherever it appears? Does this skepticism imply that Fischer believes that the US has some ulterior motive?
President Bush made several points clear when he announced the war on terrorism, before others were invited into a coalition. First, he made clear that the war was intended to root out terrorism wherever it flourished: Not just the terrorists in Afghanistan, but all terrorists and the countries that supported them. Second, the mission would drive the coalition; the coalition would not drive the mission. The United States would not delegate its national security decisions to others. Third, no coalition was necessary. The US would act on its own, if required.
If the Arab League nations and our European allies choose now to leave the coalition, so be it. Several Middle East countries have reason to fear that the war on terrorism will not end when Osama Bin Laden and his cronies are defeated in Afghanistan. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya are all on the State Department list of terrorist sponsors; any one of them could be next.
Europeans have nothing to fear from the US, but plenty to fear from those states that sponsor terrorism. Europeans need to get their heads out of the sand and recognize the threat that Iraq and other terror sponsors mean to them. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological -- and is actively engaged in attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon. Add to that the long-range missile technology that Iraq is aggressively pursuing and, in a very short time, Iraq will be able to threaten the European continent. Europeans ignore the threat at their own peril.
One other thing the President made clear in his address to congress and the American people, as well as the rest of the world: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." The rest of the world has three options: Actively support us, actively oppose us, or stay out of the way.
Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer at Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2001 Charles Bloomer
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