Europe Submits to Peace
From the April, 4, 2007, Wall Street Journal
April 5, 2007
by Leon de Winter
On March 30, the EU's foreign affairs ministers gathered in Bremen, Germany, to discuss Iran's kidnapping of 15 British soldiers. The ministers refused to support the U.K. proposal to pressure the mullahs with the threat of revoking government export guarantees. Their joint declaration of course "deplores the continued arrest of 15 British citizens by Iran" and "underlines the European Union's unconditional support for the government of the United Kingdom." But that's as far as their "unconditional support" went. There was no diplomatic or economic boycott, not even the hint of one, let alone a military threat. The EU couldn't muster the strength to support one of its most important member states. The lack of substance in the declaration stands in sharp contrast to the gravity of the incident. The British soldiers were in Iraqi waters and their presence was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.
The Iranian leaders created this incident to test the will of the West and demonstrate their own power, just as Iran-backed Hezbollah was able to measure Israel's resolution and the support of its own rank-and-file by Jerusalem's reaction to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Why does Iran want to provoke and then measure reactions? First of all, Tehran strives for domination in the Islamic world and it believes it can win the admiration of both Sunnis and Shiites by challenging the West. The mullahs assume that animosity to the West among Muslims is so deep and common that small victories and symbolic humiliations can bridge differences between the main Islamic branches. Afshin Ellian, an Iranian professor at law at Leiden University, observed that Iran's Farsi TV stations seem to be giving less attention to this incident than its Arabic programs; the kidnapping as a publicity stunt is particularly directed toward the mostly Sunni Arabic public.
Holocaust denials serve a similar purpose. Sowing doubt about the existence of the gas chambers and accusing Jews of financially and morally blackmailing humanity with a lie is supposed to bring anti-Semites and anti-Zionists in both the East and West together. Further, Iran wants to make it clear that it won't give up its nuclear plans. Iran can and will pluck 15 British soldiers from the sea and can make the Americans and British in Iraq bleed terribly should Iran's nuclear installations be attacked, the kidnapping seems to say.
The EU reacted as the mullahs expected: it did nothing. It wouldn't even threaten ending export guarantees, although Europe could easily bear the possible loss of these sales that make up only 1.5% of its total exports. Europe chose instead to handle Iran with kid gloves, just as it has for years.
The problem is that the EU doesn't have any other kind of gloves. The current crisis is the inevitable conclusion of the EU's "peace policy." Europe's progressive classes treasure the concept of soft power like a dowry. No matter the nature of the aggressor, he can be dealt with through endless negotiations. Presumably, someone who is talking can't be fighting. Europe's elites are inspired by the principle of "peace," and who can be against it? Those who disagree with them must be "war activists." But there are dramatic crossroads in history in which striving for peace causes war and destruction.
Peace was Chamberlain's motivation to make a deal with Hitler. Peace was also the motivation of the West European movement in the 1980s to resist American cruise missiles on the Continent: "Better red than dead," was the rallying cry at demonstrations from Amsterdam to Paris. All the while dissidents suffered in the Soviet gulags because they refused to become red. In Eastern Europe, "peace" did indeed rule the land -- but it was the peace of a police state. As Churchill had realized, Western civilization is not based on the struggle for peace but on the struggle for freedom.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western progressives focused on preserving the peace in the Middle East. Peace activists went to Iraq in 1990 as human shields for Saddam Hussein, to preserve the peace of that rapist of every human right and prevent the freedom that the coalition troops would bring. The U.S. back then decided against bringing freedom to Iraq -- with bitter consequences for the future.
The mullahs say their quest for world domination would bring peace as well, because they claim that's the meaning of "Islam." But the word literally means "submission." For the mullahs "peace" will come once humanity has submitted itself to Islam.
Europe can't stop the Iranian style of peace, given that the EU has shackled itself to the dear but dangerous thought that peace is always better than war. In practice that means that this is the creeping end of the European liberal democracies.
Because "soft power" is their weapon, Europe has shrunk its armies so that they are scarcely usable. When the Netherlands years ago sent a fleet to the Gulf, soldiers' unions warned that it was dangerous and that there could be casualties; the idea that soldiers might fight and could die was absurd for the unions. The U.K. has reduced its army to such an extent that the declaration of war by Iran, an aggressive but chaotically organized theocracy, could not be adequately answered. The EU collectively could answer the threat -- in theory -- but which member is prepared to offer its own sons for the freedom of 15 British soldiers? If not, where is the threshold? Would the EU spring into action for the kidnap of 20 Polish soldiers? Of 25 Romanians?Of 50 Dutch?
The impotent reaction to Iran's declaration of war means that that peace is little else than the peace of the graveyard, where European politicians -- good, well-meaning folk with the best of intentions -- will bury their civilization. At the moment, the British government, desperate, embarrassed and powerless, is negotiating with the mullahs. The British will pay a price to get their 15 soldiers released. Once Iran is nuclear, it will hold us all hostage. And we, too, will pay a price.
Leon de Winter is an adjunct fellow of Hudson Institute.