In Defense of our Allies
I take strong exception to the following statement [by a participant in H-Diplo].
>”Regional states and our feckless “allies” in Europe (an Ally is someone
>who stands with you in a war – except for Britain, NATO is merely a
>collection of concerned observers and free-riders who have dismantled
>their military capablities in order to fund -say – extravagant welfare
>programs for Islamist extremist immigrants . . .”
US NATO allies at this very moment have special forces on peace keeping missions in Afghanistan at the behest of the US, including Turkey, Germany, France, Canada and others. Those young men have been sent to risk their lives, in a very, very dangerous place, as a means of giving help to the US in the war on terror. Some forces, including that of the French, have conducted tactical operations rather than just doing peace keeping. Germany had to change its policy of not sending troops outside Europe, and a government in coalition with the *Greens* managed to do so. In addition, German naval forces are sweeping the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea in search of al-Qaida skiffs, and last I heard the Dutch were helping out with similar activities in the Carribean. The security of the U.S. is greatly enhanced via this aid from close allies. NATO allies also played a key role in the Gulf War. Those of us not in uniform and not at risk of losing a foot to a land mine at any moment are not in a position to call these young men feckless.
What really seems to be being said here is that allies are Gurkhas who can be ordered into battle whenever the Imperial power decides unilaterally to go to war, and if they demur then they are “feckless.”
The last bit about “extravagant welfare programs for Islamist extremist immigrants” quite frankly has a racist overtone in my ears. Five percent of the French population is Muslim, there are 7 million Muslims in Germany, and over 2 million in the United Kingdom. The vast majority of these immigrants were brought to Europe or allowed to come because of sectorial labor shortages in Europe (read: they were willing to do tedious or fatiguing jobs Europeans weren’t). I well remember in the UK in the 1980s not being able to get over the counter medicine in the evening because the pharmacies were all closed at 5 pm, except at the local Muslim grocer’s. The vast majority of these immigrants are hard-working people not living on “extravagant” welfare programs. The vast majority of them are not extremists at all. There are only an estimated 3000 al-Qaida members in the entire world, and hardcore sympathizers in a place like Germany are estimated by German police at 2000. In a German Muslim population of 7 million? That is a needle in a haystack. That the French, e.g., have “coddled” Islamic extremists is an absurd proposition.
There are terrorists and extremists in any immigrant community anywhere. Sikh immigrants to Canada once engaged in terrorism, targetting Indian airliners. The Tamil Tigers at one point received a great deal of support from middle class emigrants to the West (they are Hindu). The US Irish community is notorious for having had many members who directly or indirectly supported the IRA. Even the JDL plotted to blow up a congressman’s office last fall, and Gush Emunim fanatics who emigrated to Israel from Brooklyn have engaged in terrorism on the West Bank.
There are even terrorists among the “indigenous” populations of European and North American countries, including Timothy McVeigh, neo-Nazis, etc., etc.
That the Germans are acting as a voice of conscience against what looks to them like very possibly a war of aggression should give us all pause. That sort of thing haunts their history, and they are sensitive to its implications.
For evidence that neocon hawks closely tied to the Likud Party have been among the most vocal proponents of a US attack on Iraq for some time, see Brian Whitaker’s excellent “Playing Skittles with Saddam” in the Guardian for Tues. Sept. 3, ’02 :