Partners in Disarray: the United States, the European Union and the United Nations

President George W. Bush raises his hand to vote at the United Nations

President George W. Bush raises his hand to vote as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton look on during the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York earlier this month. (Photo: Jim Watson / AFP-Getty Images)

The European Union and the United States share a common interest in stabilizing and promoting democracy in the Middle East, but so far they have failed to speak with one voice, causing confusion and distress to their worldwide partners. While their goals are identical in terms of supporting the trend toward democratization, civil society, the rule of law and human rights, the policies they have adopted over the years are significantly different. Europe has engaged on several fronts in political and economical relations with the Arab and Muslim states, creating platforms such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership regardless of the political system these countries had, while the United States’ position fluctuated between diplomatic and economical approaches, and the military moves made by the Bush administration.

The impression in Europe is that the United States is running the show, and that the Europeans eventually have to follow its lead. But, in spite of this perception, which can be held as true in some cases, the United States did find in Europe the minimum needed support to invade Iraq, to build a counter-terrorism policy post-Sept. 11 and to engage in the demanding aim of democratizing the greater Middle East area.

The fact that Iraq post-Saddam is far from being an oasis of democracy and stability, or a model worth being followed by other Arab countries, worked against the long-term aims of the United States and the “big three” European countries — Britain, France and Germany — in the region.

As a result of the United States’ policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a great sense of unease at the direction the White House is taking. Its unilateral stance, its inability to stabilize Iraq, let alone to democratize it, its quasi failure to promote a cohesive counter-terrorism project, and moreover to attract the Muslim populations as its supporters, all are signs that Washington only succeeded in adding fuel to the fire of violence and to the desire for revenge of the militant Islamists. Meanwhile, Iraq became a safe haven to all extremists wishing to resist what they call “the American hegemony,” and it helped Al Qaeda find an excuse to spread its venomous message all over the world. All this worried Europe, known for its rather careless policy when it comes to radical Islamic cells. However, the Madrid bombings, the assassination of the Dutch filmmaker Van Gogh and the more recent London bombings have awaken the old continent. The level of hatred and extremism that Europe found hiding under the pretext of Islam — also called the peaceful religion — proved to be far more dangerous and complicated than many initially thought.

The United States’ unconditional support for Israel used to raise eyebrows in a Europe where the Palestinians plight was received with much sympathy, and the terror acts of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Al Aqsa remained somewhere in the shadow of ignorance. A European Commission opinion poll claimed in 2003 that 60 percent of Europeans consider Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace. This put Israel at the head of the poll with the United States, North Korea and Iran in joint second place at 53 percent, followed by Iraq at 52 percent, and Afghanistan at 50 percent.

At the time, there were Jewish think tanks and personalities who accused Europe of being anti-Semitic and the Wiesenthal Center went as far as to demand the exclusion of the European Union from the “Quartet” — the group comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United States that seeks to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only one who understood the situation in its entire complexity was Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom who said that the poll should not be judged as being “anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian; it’s a much broader issue of expressing views different from the U.S., to establish itself as a power.”

The new American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, called “unacceptable” the funding of the Palestinian terror propaganda by the international community. As many other Americans and rather a few Europeans, Bolton considers the United Nations as a house that needs to be cleaned and reorganized. However, cleaning up the United Nations is impossible because it involves a fundamental contradiction of reality. The United Nations was designed to place rogue and even terrorist states on the same footing as the liberal democracies of the world. As long as those countries have a voice in it, the status quo cannot be challenged, let alone changed.

Their interests are fundamentally hostile to the spread of freedom throughout the world. An eloquent example was the recent speech by President Ahmadinejad of Iran at U.N. Assembly in New York. In his speech, Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran had “an inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear technology and rejected calls to freeze uranium conversion. Ahmadinejad warned, “If some want to again test what they have tested before, the flame of the Iranian nation will be very destructive and fiery.” An odd message from a country that claims it does not represent any danger to the world.

But, maybe the Bush doctrine of spreading democracy should have begun at the United Nations. Unless the United Nations can show the world the benefits of transparency and honesty in governing, the counter terrorism policies of both Europe and the United States will prove to be rather useless. Human nature, and religious hatred and fanaticism are the causes of much of the ills of this world. The United Nations can alter only one of the two. For now, the United Nations has chosen to alter none.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Manuela Paraipan.