Friday, June 18, 2004

"Failed Preemption"

Nothing new, right? Wrong. In this case, the Post has editorialized about the failure of preemptive European "soft power" to persuade Iran from working towards nuclear weaponry. The full editorial is here. Selections from the piece are below (items in bold are my emphasis):

". . . as a confrontation loomed between Iran and the United Nations over Iran's illicit nuclear programs, three European governments staged a preemptive operation. Flying to Tehran, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany struck a deal with Iran's Islamic regime: The Europeans would block a referral of Iran's violations to the U.N. Security Council and provide technical cooperation, and in exchange Iran would stop its work on uranium enrichment, fully disclose its nuclear programs and accept a new U.N. protocol giving inspectors greater access. The Bush administration was upstaged; some in Paris and Berlin smugly suggested that it had been given an object lesson by the Europeans in how 'soft power' could be used to manage the rogue states in President Bush's 'axis of evil.'

This week, with the world's attention focused on the troubled situation in Iraq, the European version of preemption is yielding its own bitter -- if less bloody -- result. Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have reported that Iran never honored its agreement; it has stalled and stonewalled the inspectors while continuing to work on elements of a nuclear program that could soon allow it to produce weapons. The Europeans have responded by drafting for approval by the 35-member IAEA board a stern statement demanding Iranian cooperation; Tehran has replied with threats to restart uranium enrichment and suspend negotiations with the West.

. . . there can be no disguising the fact that the European strategy for handling one of the world's most dangerous proliferation problems is proving feckless. . .

For now, military action is not an option in Iran, at least for Western countries. But if a crisis is to be avoided, a better strategy is needed. The Bush administration, which once advocated referral of the Iranian matter to the Security Council for consideration of sanctions, now is merely pressing for a deadline for Iranian compliance. The Europeans reject even that as too aggressive. Yet it should now be clear that if Iranian nuclear ambitions are to be checked, Europe -- and Russia -- will have to forcefully employ the leverage of their diplomatic and economic relations with Tehran. So far, only carrots have been offered -- and they have produced no results."

On a related note, Victor Davis Hanson explains why Europe insists on this "soft power" approach, but more importantly, why they don't want us to succeed in Iraq because "it might be interpreted as a moral refutation of their own opposition to Saddam's removal." An opposition strongly based on their refusal to acknowledge that sometimes "hard power" is needed for the ultimate goal of the greater good. (Hanson's piece is devoted to how we should only hope for a neutral Europe and he provides some historical perspective on how Europe, especially France and Germany, have never really embraced us, contrary to popular myth).

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