European Responsibility

The attacks on New York and Washington have changed the Europeans’ world as well. Anyone who believes that mere expressions of solidarity will do, and that the fight against international terrorism can be left to the Americans, is seriously mistaken. Even though the United States was the most seriously injured party, this is not an American but a global problem. When European governments refer to the blows as attacks on Western civilization, they are getting to the heart of the issue. But words must be followed by deeds. And that has not always happened in the past. This was not necessarily the result of ill will, but rather the result of a mixture of minimizing the extent of the threat, ridiculing American fears, and concrete interests in the region itself.

Europe does not have to fall into the black-and-white mind-set that the United States has come close to in calling some nations “rogue states” in order to recognize that its soft policies toward certain countries cannot, after Sept. 11, be continued. At the same time, Europe needs a strategy for combating terrorism, one that will not push the world into a spiral of uncontrolled violence. The governments of Europe will need to provide voices of reason to keep the United States from acts of blind vengeance. With appeals alone, the Europeans will achieve nothing. There would be all too many people who would see Europe, then, turning one blind eye or another to the problem.

Assurances that Europe will stand staunchly beside the United States in the struggle against terrorism will make sense only if they answer European interests, and deal with them as well. Only such assurances will impress the Americans and convince them that a joint action is under way. French, British, German, and Italian security agencies can provide valuable assistance in the hunt for the attackers, their helpers, and their sponsors, who are spread throughout many parts of the world—if they receive clear political instructions. It would also be helpful if Paris, especially, but London as well, refrained from the games they have played in the crisis region, dark games harking back to their days as great powers.

And the United States cannot avoid taking another look at its relationships with nations and political groups that provided direct or indirect aid to the terrorists, or are suspected of such. Where necessary, the political and economic screws must be tightened. At the same time, the European Union must increase its efforts toward peace in the Middle East and bring the United States into this effort. That will certainly not make any impression on violent terrorists, but it would make it harder for them to justify their acts. Terrorism can also be fought through political isolation.

The EU is on the way toward becoming a great power. It wants to be an example for the world. Good. But if it does, then it must assume convincing responsibility for fighting the world’s forces of darkness.