"Impotent, incompetent hypocrites" - last week, the anti-European fad made its presence felt here, in full force. One radio commentator, known for his throaty voice, walked the extra mile, adding to this list of superlatives the scientific characterization: "rapists of minors." This was an apposite description because it provided an implicit explanation as to why the Europeans had yet to engage a holy war against the crazed wearer of dresses from Tripoli.
Is anything more thought-provoking than hypocrites who issue allegations about other peoples' hypocrisy? Many such accusers never left comfortable IDF bases during their terms of army service. But would even the warriors among them have taken risks to save the lives of 8,000 Muslims who were massacred at Srebrenica; who among them would have sent his son to spar with the Hutu machetes in an effort to stave off genocide in Rwanda; and who among them would be willing to trek to the deserts of Afghanistan to fight against the terrorist fanaticism of Al-Qaida and the Taliban?
The stringent criticism is, indeed, warranted when its objects are paralyzed by impotence. But the targets of the criticism are attacked even when they act in accord with the demands of the critics. It's a classic case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." A minute before the attack was launched on Libya, Gadhafi was already positioned in Benghazi. Here I come, he informed the "dogs and rats," that is, his opponents, whom he promised to annihilate without "pity or mercy." Were he really to do that (and there is little doubt that he would slaughter his opponents if he was allowed to ), the Europeans would be subjected to a flood of ridicule and justified denouncement. Now that they are leading the attack in Libya, the cynics draw from their stock reservoir of claims: Everything is Machiavellian interest, it's all because of the oil, the waves of immigrants and the fear of terror; it's also claimed that the persons who sponsor the attack are bullying the weak, that they are waging a "war of luxury" and are "wagging the dog."
Some of these claims have foundation. David Cameron is trying to repair the errors of Britain's last government, and erase memories of wide-ranging relations forged with Gadhafi's government, the disgrace of the deal to release the Lockerbie attacker, and the involvement of Special Air Service (SAS ) forces who remained in Libya with their pants down. Sarkozy, for his part, wants to erase the memory of the tent that Gadhafi erected in the heart of Paris, the miscues of French diplomacy regarding the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt; and he also wants to reverse poll results concerning Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Le Pen, results that pose a threat to his continued rule.
But do the cynical explanations constitute a full interpretation? Is it wrong to imagine that ideals of freedom, democracy and human rights are also in play? Isn't it possible that the Spring of Arab Nations, the recent revolutions, are exerting an influence?
Why is it wrong to assume that lessons learned from the disgraceful actions regarding Yugoslavia and Rwanda have motivated current policy in Libya? As ever, the justice of this war action depends on its results. Success in the action could lead to a revolution, with international repercussions. Europe is still far from conducting coordinated, effective common foreign and security policy. Yet at a time when the American superpower has decided to hide behind them, the Europeans have never appeared to have such policy reach. "He doesn't count us," European Union leaders complained after Obama took his post. It may appear that the operation in Lybia is a watershed event, one in which Obama has come to understand that he needs a strong Europe in order to promote his agenda in the world. He needs such a Europe in order to stand up to the Iranian threat; he needs Europe's security capabilities in the Balkan, and to implement policies aimed at stabilizing affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he now needs Europe for his policies in the Arab world too - and yes, he will need Europe to effectuate his vision of peace in the Middle East.
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