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COLUMN

European Irrelevance

Basil Enwegbara

Since the end of the cold war, nations around the world have become very concerned about America’s military buildup and how the U.S. exerts power with that buildup. Most frightening to most of these nations are not the threats of military might and pressures of economic power that accompany this buildup that consume over $400 billion annually, but America’s rising role as the world’s sheriff and its international unilateralism.

The question many are asking is, who is it whom America is truly competing with and/ or afraid of that forces us into the present defense spending? Is it Russia, no longer interested in any confrontation with America since the demise of the Soviet Union? Or should it be China, a country now more interested in economic growth than military expansion? I don’t see that it is. Who then? It’s not Europe, when European citizens cherish building socialism, not weapons. In fact, everything that matters in today’s Europe is how to revive and reclaim the present economic and political power from America.

Without any Russian threat, Europeans now seek a European way different from America’s. All a gulf war presents is the opportunity to truly showcase a Europe ready to confront America on the economic and political battlefield in decades ahead. France and Germany are already counting the euro as one of their weapons. They are certain that without weakening if not replacing the dollar as the sole currency for all international trade and finance, there is little Europe can do to level the economic playing field. Britain’s refusal to use the euro seems to be counted as more American handiwork designed to undermine European reemergence.

This currency war is now shifting to the control of oil around the world. America’s invasion of Iraq is believed to be an attempt to force Europe into a secondary position in the scramble for oil. But Europe’s leading analysts are warning European governments about the economic consequences if Iraq stops success in this war: whoever controls Iraqi oil wealth wins this scramble. America feels it has the military might and the argument of disarming Iraq as a way to be in charge in Iraq. France and Germany, for their own part, believe that exploiting international diplomacy and global public opposition will yield them that power. Even the Russian position is not neutral. But Russia can perhaps not afford to be a spectator, given its multi-billion dollar interests in Iraqi oil and infrastructure development, currently yielding hundreds of millions of dollars of profits annually.

Encountering all these diplomatic roadblocks built by France and Germany in conjunction with Russia and China is frustrating to Washington. Government leaders like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are expressing their anger to France and Germany, seen as the “Old Europe,” even though the so-called “New Europe” is only made up of countries seeking American dollars.

The Gulf nations are not left out in fierce opposition to America. Among Arab nations and the oil-producing nations in the Middle East, the fear that the invasion of Iraq will not only further destabilize the already fragile Middle East but also hasten the demise of OPEC is strong. If the U.S. controls and sells Iraqi oil to itself, the days of OPEC are likely numbered.

These possibilities force one to wonder whether the current debates about the war with Iraq are missing a vital argument. Nearly everyone seems to agree on the pros and cons of this potential war but at the same time fail to discuss what happens after the war is won.

One important question is what will happen to NATO if the invasion of Iraq takes place without France and Germany. Mightn’t it degenerate into European countries withdrawing from NATO and demanding removal of American military bases in Germany and Europe? What if the weakening of the United Nations triggers its demise and forces like-minded nations to look for an alternative to the U.N. without the American membership?

It is in Americas best interest for its politicians and government leaders to carefully weigh these questions before embarking on a war that most people around the world strongly oppose. Diplomacy remains the best weapon for resolving complex world problems. Those who are against war are not simply anti-American; they deserve attention, just like the hawks. We all know that war is to be left to the generals alone. We must hide the truth that the war on terrorism is going to be severely hurt without the international coalition built after Sept. 11.