If you’re an American who didn’t support the war in Iraq, what have been your choices since “major combat operations” ended in April 2003? Call for withdrawing U.S. troops, leaving the Iraqis to cope with the colossal and tragic mess produced by the Bush administration? Give the Bush people another eighty-seven billion dollars to use as they please? Argue that the United Nations should take over right away when the organization could not possibly handle the violence and chaos without a larger, better organized coalition?
After the invasion, many of us hoped that Europe would unite in a nation-building effort to counter the Bush administration’s bungled and self-interested occupation. More generally, we’ve hoped that our natural allies-European leftists, either as government parties or opposition movements-would act together as protagonists in an alternative to U.S. hegemony. But for the most part, the left in Europe hasn’t shown much interest in pro-active counter-hegemony. As some Italian activists like to say, there already is a second superpower in the world: all the people who want peace. As for postwar Iraq, much of the European left has been satisfied with “End the occupation now”-also the theme of this year’s international mobilization on March 20.
The dilemma of the occupation might well be a non-issue in a matter of weeks. On July 1 nominal authority passes to the Iraqis, and the United Nations will probably provide a mandate for the troops that remain. Some nations that refused to participate without the UN might send troops. But the question of what the European left has to offer as an alternative to U.S. hegemony remains. Here are two cases in point: one that inspires some hope and one that doesn’t yet-Spain and Italy.
The horrific terrorist attack in Madrid on March 11 and the startling upset in Spain’s parliamentary elections just three days later changed the foreign policy map in Europe-and, given what we know so far, changed it for the better for many who oppose the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Spanish voters threw out (an apt verb given the speed and vehemence with which this happened) Prime Minister José Maria Aznar’s Popular Party and voted in José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist Party. Zapatero immediately announced that he would make the fight against terrorism his top priority and withdraw Spain’s troops from Iraq at the end of June unless there is a UN mandate.
Zapatero did not “reward” Islamist terrorists (the perpetrators of the Madrid atrocity). He won a democratic election and has campaign promises to keep, including leaving Iraq. But the election did repudiate the Bush administration’s twisted claim that the war in Iraq makes the world safer from terrorism. Spanish voters didn’t turn against military operations in Iraq because of the terror in Madri...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $29.95 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.