Northern Light

Will Europe change?

In an otherwise interesting piece in Time Magazine former CIA field officer Robert Baer wrongly predicts that Europe is on the verge of waking up to the terrorist threat. He writes:

”Bin Laden should know that if he does manage a terrorist attack, the only thing he should count on is a hardening of America nad its allies’ positions. Especially in Europe. An attack there, such as the foiled plot in Germany, would sweep away European unhappiness about secret prisons and Guantanamo, once again lining Europe behind the U.S in its war against Al-Qaeda.”

If recent history is any guide, Baer overestimates a possible reaction by the Europeans in case of an attack. Back in 2002 I spoke to a former official in the Clinton administration. The offcial, who by the way is an eminent expert on Europe, expressed frustration with Washington’s European allies who were reluctant to support the Bush-administration’s doctrine of preemption in the war on terror. I am afraid, the official said, that we’ll have to witness an attack on Europe before the Europeans will come around and show any understanding of our position.

Since then Europe has been subject to several attacks, but we haven’t seen any substantial change in Europe’s attitude to the war on terror: Madrid 2004, London 2005, Glasgow 2007, the killing of Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam in 2004, cartoon riots in 2006 and several other incidents. Add to this list an unknown number of foiled plots across the continent. In the case of Spain, one may even argue that Spanish voters handed the terrorist behind the March 11 attacks a victory by electing a socialist government whose first action was to withdraw troops from Iraq.

So I don’t think Americans should look for a fundamental change in Europe’s approach even if more attacks are to follow.