Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

An interesting interview with General Gustav Hägglund, Chairman of the EU Military Committee.

Hägglund reminds us that Europeans have a long experience of terrorism on their soil, but that Americans believed themselves to be safe behind the barriers of the Atlantic and Pacific.
"Osama bin Laden's goal was almost certainly just this, the shaking of that sense of security. He wanted to prove particularly to Saudi Arabia that not even the United States is invincible - it is possible to take the fight to the Americans, too."

I agree that it was a message to all of the Arab leaders, as well as America. Bin Laden has long stated that any Arab leader working with the UN or America is a traitor to Islam.

"I have noticed that some have put forward the sort of opinion that runs: 'What's it all got to do with us anyway - the Yanks got what they deserved'. But what would these people say if Finns had been among the bodies cremated in the World Trade Center, or if the plane had taken down the Strand Inter-Continental in Helsinki?" Hägglund points out that this is not wild speculation; Finland is in there with those countries whom the Muslim terrorists count as their enemies. He nevertheless issues the consoling follow-up that Finns do not represent a very tempting target for terrorists. "I was working in a UN role with UNIFIL in Lebanon at the time when terrorists were taking Westerners as hostages. It was said then that one French or English hostage was worth around a million dollars to the kidnappers, and an American was worth perhaps five million. A Finn was probably worth around ten bucks. The cold truth is you don't exactly rock the world's boat by killing a Finn or two."

A stern reminder for those who think they are safe because they are not American. You may not be specific targets but, remember the ideology of fundamentalist Islamists allows for no non-combatants. We live in the "House of War".

The shock of last September affected American sentiments so dramatically that Hägglund believes Europeans have not really been able to keep up with the pace of things. A particularly difficult pill to swallow has been the realisation that in the Americans' new world map, Europe is no longer slap in the middle, but way out on the margins. After World War II, U.S. security policy was founded on providing a bulwark against Communism. The Soviet camp and China were surrounded by a buffer-zone of military alliances. The most important of these was NATO. "The United States' importance in the aggressive stemming of Communist influence was paramount. Without the Americans, Stalin's troops would almost certainly have rolled forward at least as far as the English Channel. For this alone, Europe owes the Americas a big debt of gratitude."

Some haven't forgotten.

Hägglund's task as the Chairman of the EU's Military Committee is to procure for Europe its own disciplinary arm. This is the intended purpose of the 60,000-strong crisis management force, which should be operational next year. According to Hägglund, with troops such as this at their disposal the Europeans would have had the means, for instance, to handle the Kosovo crisis on their own. "It is in the interests of both the Europeans and the Americans that we are able to put out our own fires in such a way that the Americans can save their resources for other tasks."

Indeed it would be nice to restation thoe 100,000 American soldiers.

Although the respective takes on the Iraq issue may diverge, in Hägglund's view the Americans are doing an important job in trying to keep order around the world. "Nobody is suggesting that the Americans are handling the role of world policeman out of purely unselfish motives, but all the same, the world would be in a much worse mess if nobody stepped up to bat."

Thank goodness some non-Hawk European had the grace to say this.

< email | 9/10/2002 03:16:00 PM | link

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