Whatever happened to the good old days when the U.S. aggressively confronted evil-doers and France screamed about our defiling the altar of the United Nations? Now, it is France and other European allies who are leading the way in confronting brutal dictators while the U.S. drags its feet so as not to look like an anti-Muslim resource-grabber. And while the U.S. dithers on Libya despite direct requests for help, suspicions in the Arab mind are being reconfirmed that it cares about their well-being as much as Charlie Sheen cares about sobriety.
Western Europe, not the U.S., has acted as the leaders of the free world since the Libya crisis began. When President Obama finally addressed it, he did not mention Gaddafi by name. He didn’t call for his removal until late last week. The British were the ones who began contacting Libyan officers to tell them they could be prosecuted for war crimes if they did not defect. It was French President Sarkozy, not U.S. President Obama, who first called for a NATO-imposed no-fly zone on February 23. Since then, British Prime Minister Cameron has become the loudest voice in the free world to support it.
There are now mixed messages coming out of France with the foreign minister saying any no-fly zone must be under UN authority, even though Russia opposes it, but we know where Sarkozy stands. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen say say there is no confirmation that Gaddafi’s forces are carrying out air strikes despite countless accounts from Libyans, reporters, and pilots who defected. Gates is warning about what it will look like to attack another Middle Eastern country and Secretary of State Clinton says that intervention has been resisted to avoid the perception that we’re trying to take Libyan oil. Ironically, the military commander who defected in Tobruk is suggesting that the West’s oil business with Gaddafi is the reason why it is not coming to their rescue.
CNN had an interview with a Libyan woman on February 19 who repeatedly pleaded for help, saying: “Mr. Obama, please help us.” Not a single Libyan defector or rebel leader is opposing a no-fly zone. The Libyan ambassador to the U.S. who has turned against Gaddafi has said that the passive response is, to the Arabs, more proof that the West “has only a materialist mind — they don’t care about human rights … except when it comes to their own interest.” Over 200 Arab organizations have endorsed a no-fly zone and opposition spokesmen are now going further in their requests, saying they would welcome “surgical military strikes” and arms shipments.
With these types of pleas, who can blame the Libyans or the Arabs as a whole for seeing the U.S. as uncaring, especially given how easy and relatively risk-free such limited intervention would be? President Obama sought to reverse the damage done by the Iraq War but his lack of response is reinforcing the anti-American narrative that the U.S. only intervenes when there are natural resources at stake like in Iraq. “Human rights” is just an excuse to get them.
Europe has also led the U.S. in articulating the threat posed by Iran. When Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi visited Yad Vashem in Israel, he talked about Iran and said, “We must watch out. We’ve already had one such madman in history.” Sarkozy denied reports during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign that he said Obama’s view of Iran is “utterly immature,” but in speaking before the UN on September 24, 2009, he said, “President Obama, I support the Americans’ outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing.” It was Europe, not the U.S., that voiced support for the Iranian people in the days following Ahmadinejad’s “re-election” and specifically called it fraudulent.
Beginning in August 2009, the elected Iraqi government decided that it had to confront Syria’s support for terrorism on its soil. The Iraqis began releasing data to prove that the Assad regime was harboring Baathist insurgents and even elements of al-Qaeda, allowing them to train and plan attacks. Diplomatic relations were eventually cut off and the Iraqis tried to begin building international support for creating a UN tribunal to prosecute terrorists in Syria and Syrian officials helping them. The U.S. would not take Iraq’s side, saying it is an “internal matter.” An Iraqi official said the U.S. was actually opposing the tribunal. France, on the other hand, took Iraq’s side.
Europe is also ahead of the U.S. in recognizing the danger of non-violent Islamism and its facilitation through a lack of assimilation. The Obama administration rarely refers to “radical Islam” and frames its counter-terrorism efforts as a fight against al-Qaeda, failing to mention the danger posed by other terrorist groups and the ideology behind them. French President Sarkozy is saying his country must stop the creation of “a society where communities coexist side by side” and “our Muslim compatriots should be able to live and practice their religion like anyone else … but it can only be a French Islam and not just an Islam in France.”
British Prime Minister Cameron has announced policy changes in reaction to the failure of “state multiculturalism.” The new policy of “muscular liberalism” will promote democratic values and includes cutting off state funding to Muslim organizations that oppose assimilation and do not advance women’s rights. “As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offenses, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called ‘non-violent extremists’ and then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence,” Cameron said.
These leaders get it. Sarkozy presides over a country where there are over 750 “sensitive urban zones,” mostly Muslim communities hostile to outsiders and especially law enforcement that are known for rioting when the government tries to enforce the law. Dr. Daniel Pipes has appropriately dubbed them “no go zones.” The United Kingdom has designated certain “ethnic minority communities” as areas where soldiers shouldn’t wear their uniforms. The London borough of Tower Hamlets’ Islamist mayor was elected in a stealth jihad campaign sure to be followed by other extremists. They know the road ahead for the U.S. because they are already on it.
Being the leader of the free world is not just about military or economic prowess. It’s about leading the way. And right now, it is Europe in the driver’s seat.