President Bush Needs 'New Europe'

By Tommy Ates

Now the international community is feeling the cancer of political quicksand.

The deaths of seven Spanish intelligence agents and two Japanese diplomats, dull the lackluster of President Bush's surprise Thanksgiving visit.

Unfortunately for Republicans over the next two days, Americans were forced to move quickly from 'warm holiday sentiment to thinking about the impending morass of the Iraqi occupation. And how it's not getting any better.

Even White House Director of Communications Dan Bartlett couldn't redirect the press from these coalition losses with signs of upswing in the economy. If there's anything to learn from recent events, the President's visit proves that the future of Iraq is inevitably tied to the fortunes of the Bush administration, whether it retains the commitments of coalition partners and or the fortitude to stay the course.

Whatever the U.S. does (in order to get American servicemen home), diplomatic relations with "new Europe" comes first.

Yes, "new Europe," i.e., a neoconservative expression made famous before the Iraq war, when the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a distinction between France and Germany and European countries whose governments supported the war, like Spain and Bulgaria.

And did Europeans and non-preemptive opponents like the new classification?

To no one's surprise (save Rumsfeld), reaction to the comment from the countries of "old Europe" and anti-war opponents (like the majority of Democrats) was severe, with calls for condemnation from the President by the French and German governments and Democrat Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). However, to the Republicans and its conservative base, lambasting the French and Germans at their expense was immediately rewarding in terms shoring up support among the undecided in a classic "us versus them" strategy.

To everyone's chagrin, in post-war Iraq, the U.S. needs the support of both "old" and "new" Europe to help relieve beleaguered American troops, as well as to present to the Iraqi people a more united NATO front against post-Saddam loyalists and Islamist extremists. The problem is trying to get more assistance with peacekeeping and securing old Iraqi army depots still filled with mortar shells. Weapons often falling into the hands of insurgents.

Adding to the uncertainty, President Bush's hard-line rhetoric on the need to go war has splintered Europe and NATO along "Rumsfeldian" lines, leaving "new" Europe in the middle with little reward.

And little seen by the Spanish people, as a majority of the public was against a U.S. invasion. By contrast, the Spanish government saw economic opportunity to forge better business relations with the United States, lagging far behind in exports between the countries compared to Germany and France. Supporting Bush preemptive strategy was an economic decision.

Was the gamble in supporting the United States worth the political risk?

(Some in the Spanish government may say no.)

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar may publicly state his wholehearted support to the Iraq occupation, but in practical terms, the Spanish government is simply trying to salvage its initial "pro-war" investment. Aznar has benefited little economically as the American economy is currently deficit-laden and the economists still predict it will take several months until there is positive job growth, even under the best circumstances. And with an ambitious intelligence network taking a big hit, it appears unlikely the Spanish military would take on more of a presence than its 1,300 troop deployment (particularly with its growing Arab-minority population). If he does, Aznar may face a political backlash to rival that of Britain's Tony Blair.

Thus, the efforts of neoconservatives to hawk the value of a more sympathetic Europe (besides the cash hungry former Soviet Republics) comes to a futile impasse without offering insider diplomatic access or another economic incentive (other than cash). After all, no large sum of financial or military support was ever considered crucial to the coalitions' success (even though the U.S. currently is bearing more than 80% of the cost). Of course, this plan did not include a costly, proactive stay into 2004.

To reverse course, President Bush might try to convince "new" Europe of his sincerity of the anti-Saddam mission without the handholding of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but continued failure (with an inherent policy and no further assistance from America's traditional allies), plays only in the hands of his Democratic opponent. How the Bush administration handles of the issue of Iraq's future security will gage the margin of victory next November (and for that we will need help from our remaining allies).

Let us hope "new Europe's" patience doesn't wear too thin.

Copyright 2003 Tommy Ates. All Rights Reserved.

Tommy Ates loves the left because the left is always right! Tommy Ates has appeared in several publications, such as The Houston Chronicle, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Wichita Eagle, The Macon Telegraph, and Global Black News, among others. Please contact the author for column release dates and/ or pricing.