|Wednesday, 19 November 2003||
Here’s a round-up of recent items from the world’s press you may have missed:
In the last two weeks, two Toronto-bound El Al flights had to be diverted to other airports after credible terrorist threats were made about using surface-to-air missiles against them. The Canadian transport minister, David Collenette, responded by suggesting that the Israeli airline’s service to Pearson International Airport might be ended.
The Baghdad hotel in which Paul Wolfowitz was staying was blown up. Several people were killed, though the US deputy defence secretary emerged unscathed. Much of the death and destruction was caused by French 68mm missiles ‘in pristine condition’, according to one US officer who inspected the rocket tubes and assembly. In other words, they’re not rusty leftovers Saddam had lying around from the 1980s. The Baathist dictatorship had acquired these missiles from the French rather more recently.
According to Le Nouvel Observateur, ‘D’après un questionnaire de la Commission Européenne, 59% des Européens pensent qu’Israël est le pays le plus menaçant pour la paix dans le monde.’
In the Guardian, Tariq Ali ended this week’s column on the mounting American (and NGO) death toll in Iraq thus: ‘Iraqis have one thing of which they can be proud and of which British and US citizens should be envious: an opposition’.
On 11 September 2001, I wrote that one of the casualties of the day’s events would be the Western alliance: ‘The US taxpayer’s willingness to pay for the defence of Canada and Europe has contributed to the decay of America’s so-called “allies”, freeing them to disband their armed forces, flirt with dictators and gangster states, and essentially convert themselves to semi-non-aligned.’ ‘The West’ was an obsolete concept, because, as I put it later that month, for everyone but America ‘the free world is mostly a free ride’.
Two years on, most governments, at least officially, and most commentators, at least in the mainstream press, still don’t believe the relationship between America and its ‘allies’ is in a terminal state. But the above quartet of stories — and you can find equivalent items any week — illustrates why it can’t be put back together.
Mr Collenette’s response to terrorists is to take it out on their targets. Terrorists are threatening to use SAMs against El Al? No problem, we’ll get rid of El Al. That’s a great message to send. How soon before similar threats are phoned in to similarly jelly-spined jurisdictions in Europe? Pretty soon El Al won’t be flying anywhere. But no matter: Air Canada and Air France and Lufthansa will still be flying to Tel Aviv — at least until a couple of anonymous phone calls are made hinting at fresh targets.
The threats against El Al came via phone calls from the Toronto area from terrorists claiming to have heat-seeking missiles. Police subsequently found a cache of weapons including a German-made shoulder rocket launcher that was smuggled into Canada through the ingenious method of dropping it in the mail and letting the Post Office deliver it. So there are two approaches to this problem: you can crack down on Toronto-based terrorist cells and try to get government agencies not to deliver their rocket launchers; or you can ban El Al. Mr Collenette inclines to the latter. This is a man, by the way, who marked the first anniversary of 11 September by publicly regretting the fall of the Soviet Union because now there is nobody to check America’s ‘bullying’.
In the war on terror, the United States believes in pre-emption; Canada, like many other ‘allies’, believes in pre-emptive surrender. These two strategies are incompatible.
Just suppose that one of those French rockets had killed Paul Wolfowitz. One of the greatest fictions of the interminable debate on Euro-American differences over Iraq is that it’s an argument about the means, not the end. If only Bush had been a little less Texan, less arrogant, less bullying, if only he’d been less impatient and willing to put in the hours, he could have brought the French and Germans round. After all, everyone agrees Saddam Hussein is a very bad man.
Not the French and Germans. There’s too much evidence suggesting the main reason they were unable to join the Bush side in this war is that they’d already signed on to the other team and they’d decided, in the sort of ghastly vernacular the cretinous Yanks would use, to dance with them what brung you. They’re being admirably consistent about this: at the recent Madrid conference France and Germany both refused to pony up one single euro to Iraqi reconstruction. It was never about the means, only the end.
America and ‘Old Europe’ have different objectives in Iraq, and those objectives are incompatible.
59 per cent of Europeans think Israel is the biggest threat to world peace. Only 59 per cent? What’s wrong with the rest of you? But, hey, don’t worry. In Britain, it’s 60 per cent; Germany, 65 per cent; Austria, 69 per cent; the Netherlands, 74 per cent. The good news is that Israel won’t be a threat to world peace much longer, at least not if Iran’s nuclear programme carries on running rings around the International Atomic Energy Agency and the ayatollahs fulfil their pledge to solve the problem of the Zionist Entity once and for all.
Let us leave for another day the question of whether Israel is actually a bigger global menace than North Korea, which has hung a big shingle on the street saying ‘Nukes? We Got ‘Em! And You Won’t Believe Our Prices!’ The fact is that 11 September bound America to Israel in ways that oblige Washington to regard European distaste for Jews as more than a mere social faux pas. Given the rate of Islamic immigration to Europe, those anti-Israeli numbers are heading in only one direction. At present demographic rates, by 2020 the majority of children in Holland — i.e., the population under 18 — will be Muslim. What do you figure that 74 per cent will be up to by then? Eighty-five per cent? Ninety-six per cent? If Americans think it’s difficult getting the Continentals on side now, wait another decade. In that sense, the Israelis are the canaries in the coalmine.
America’s and Europe’s world views have diverged significantly, and those world views are now incompatible.
Tariq Ali may not be the most representative political commentator, but it’s still quite something to find the house journal of the United Kingdom’s leftie establishment printing the assertion that Americans and Britons can only envy the vigour of the Iraqi ‘opposition’. So that’s what Iain Duncan Smith was doing wrong! He should have been loading up ambulances with rockets and firing them into hospitals. That’s the way to draw attention to the problems of the NHS.
The other day I accidentally referred to Tariq Ali as Tariq Aziz and within minutes had a little flurry of emails from correspondents sneering that evidently all these guys sound alike to me. Well, I wouldn’t say that. But Tariq Ali and Tariq Aziz are sounding very much alike. In fact, T. Ali sounds more Baathist than T. Aziz these days. When I was in the Sunni Triangle, I met many Iraqis who were grateful to the Americans; some who wanted a more visible US presence on the ground, a few who resented the infidel occupier — but not one who was as gung-ho for the Saddamite holdouts and Syrian and Iranian opportunists as Tariq Ali. For him, and for Mr Collenette, and for Goran Persson and Nelson Mandela and many many others, even on 11 September, the issue was never terrorism; the issue was always America.
Washington and Europe do not agree on the problem, so they’re hardly likely to agree on the solution.
Tariq and co. are right to this extent: in the scheme of things, it’s not about Islamic terrorism. The Islamist goal is a planet on which their enemies are either dead or Muslim converts. That’s not going to happen. But Islamism is sufficiently disruptive to rupture permanently the old ‘Western alliance’. A lot of things have been said on both sides, but what’s impressive about the Europeans is the palpable desire for America to fail, and Bush to fall.
I can’t see that happening. On election day next November, the Democrats have no chance of taking back the House of Representatives and they’re all but certain to lose seats in the Senate. Bush is likely to be re-elected: with that 7.2 per cent growth in GDP, it’s hard even for the BBC to keep pretending America’s in the middle of some sort of recession; and whatever happens in Iraq it’s difficult to see the Democrats, running on a foreign policy of Cut & Run, being the beneficiaries. But the trouble with a war on terror is that the victories go unreported — the plotters who get foiled, the bombers who don’t make it through. All you hear about are the defeats. Let’s say there’s a terrorist attack in the US in the next 12 months and it kills several hundred people. On the one hand, you could argue that this shows the soundness of Bush’s judgment in making terrorism the priority of his administration. On the other, you could argue that this proves he never learnt the lessons of the failures of 11 September. Knowing the American media, I’d bet on the latter line being the one they settle on.
But other than that, the arguments over the next few years are going to be between conservatives — between those who think it is worth pushing on with an ambitious programme to bring the Middle East within the non-deranged world, and those who figure that’s doomed to fail and we should settle for something less. This project is in the national interest of the United States but, in the end, the fate of the world’s hyperpower does not hinge on it.
Now let’s turn back to Europe. The Telegraph’s Adam Nicolson got irritated the other day because Denis Boyles of America’s National Review had dismissed the Europeans as ‘cockroaches’. Boyles is wrong. The Europeans are not cockroaches. The cockroach is the one creature you can rely on to come crawling out of the rubble of the nuclear holocaust. Whereas the one thing that can be said with absolute confidence is that the Europeans will not emerge from under their own rubble.
Europe is dying. As I’ve pointed out here before, it can’t square rising welfare costs, a collapsed birthrate and a manpower dependent on the world’s least skilled, least assimilable immigrants. In 20 years’ time, as those Dutch Muslim teenagers are entering the voting booths, European countries, unlike parts of Nigeria, will not be living under Sharia, but they will be reaching their accommodations with their radicalised Islamic compatriots, who like many intolerant types are expert at exploiting the ‘tolerance’ of pluralist societies.
How happy what’s left of the ethnic Dutch or French or Danes will be about this remains to be seen. But the idea of a childless Europe rivalling America militarily or economically is laughable. Sometime this century there will be 500 million Americans, and what’s left in Europe will either be very old or very Muslim. That’s the Europe that Britain will be binding its fate to. Japan faces the same problem: in 2006, its population will begin an absolute decline, a death spiral it will be unlikely ever to climb out of. Will Japan be an economic powerhouse if it’s populated by Koreans and Filipinos? Possibly. Will Germany if it’s populated by Algerians? That’s a trickier proposition.
Last Sunday, recalling the US-Soviet summits that helped ‘ease the tensions of the Cold War’, the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman proposed we hold regular US-Franco-German summits. Implicit in that analysis is the assumption that France and perhaps other Continental countries now exist in a quasi-Cold War with America. If that’s so, the trick is to manage the relationship until the Europeans, like the Soviets, collapse. Europe is dying, and it’s only a question of whether it goes peacefully or through convulsions of violence. On that point, I bet on form.
This article first appeared in The Spectator.