Thursday, March 27, 2003

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THE QUESTIONABLE PERFIDY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: Michael Ledeen is arguing in a New York Sun front-pager that the reason Turkey failed to permit U.S. troops to stage operations on its territory has nothing to do with the Bush administration's diplomacy: "contrary to the conventional wisdom, the vote was not an Islamic protest against the American-led coalition, but an act of anti-American intimidation by France and Germany." He goes on to say:

"The French and German governments informed the Turkish opposition parties that if they voted to help the Coalition war effort, Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation. As one Turkish leader put it, 'there were no promises, only threats.'

One can describe this behavior on the part of our erstwhile Old Europe allies only as a deliberate act of sabotage against America in time of war."

Let's assume for the moment that Ledeen is correct about France and Germany using the power of the European Union to influence Turkey's decision-making (Josh Marshall believes Turkish domestic politics played a significant role in the decision -- and I agree that multiple causality is at work here. UPDATE: both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune provide postmortems that blame both U.S. diplomatic blunders and Turkish misperceptions in equal measure. European pressure is not mentioned in either piece). It would certainly be correct to scold the relevant EU members for acting in such an obstructionist fashion.

However, Ledeen should also acknowledge that the EU also just did us a huge diplomatic favor -- convincing Turkey not to send troops into Kurdish Iraq -- by using the identical coercive tactic that Ledeen deplores.

Over the past week, EU members have jointly and individually warned Turkey not to send troops into Iraq. Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, echoed these warnings, saying that such a move would be "a very serious act." An EU spokesman reiterated this warning, stating, "Any action by a neighbour that could destabilise the situation would be most unwelcome.”

The threat worked. Turkey responded to the EU by saying it did not plan any large-scale incursion and had no desire to occupy the Northern part of Iraq.

Memo to Ledeen: if you're going to bash the EU -- and there plenty of reasons to bash it -- then acknowledge its occasion utility as well.

[Hey, why are you praising EU attempts to coerce Turkey but yesterday you bashed U.S. efforts to coerce Canada?--ed. The two situations are different. Turkey desperately wants to join the EU club. Canada is already a member of NAFTA. Furthermore, what Turkey's contemplated action could have had very deleterious effects on Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Canada-bashing was over penny ante dust-ups. However, it's worth noting that Franco-German bullying has alienated many of their natural allies in the region as well.]

UPDATE: I take Glenn Reynolds' point about the distinction between "Old Europe" and the European Union. However, the only reason the EU was useful in constraining Turkey's operations in Iraq was the consensus among Great Britain, France and Germany on this issue. What holds for the EU holds for the individual countries as well -- even France.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've received several e-mails suggesting, to quote one of them (Greg D.), "the only reason the EU needed to bully the Turks to NOT send troops into Iraq is because they FIRST bullied them to keep the US troops out."

Sorry, that dog won't hunt. Recall that earlier this month the U.S. was offering a lot of sweeteners to Turkey in return for that permission to open up a second front -- and one of them was giving the Turks a much freer reign in the Kurdish part of Iraq. If you're Kurdish, you should thank the EU twice over -- for preventing the U.S. from acquiescing to Turkey's wishes on the matter in return for military support, and for preventing the Turks from taking matters into their own hands.

posted by Dan on 03.27.03 at 11:23 AM