Last week, while the European Union celebrated 50 years of peace, freedom and solidarity, 15 Europeans were kidnapped from Iraqi territorial waters by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. As I write, those 14 European men and one European woman have been held at an undisclosed location for nearly a week, interrogated, denied consular access, but shown on Iranian television, with one of them making a staged "confession", clearly under duress. So if Europe is as it claims to be, what's it going to do about it? Where's the solidarity? Where's the action?
Simply to describe the crisis in these terms is to see how far we are from the Europe of instinctive solidarity that European leaders like to believe we have - and especially when it comes to our armed forces abroad. Most Brits do not think of our captured sailors and marines as Europeans. Indeed, I'd bet our kidnapped British service personnel don't think of themselves that way. Most British people will look for more decisive action from the British government ("Admiral Lord Nelson must be revolving in his grave," chuntered Melanie Phillips in yesterday's Daily Mail), and then perhaps from the United States or the United Nations. It would not occur to them to look across the Channel for support, and they would be very surprised to learn that Europe has more direct, immediate leverage on Iran than the United States does.
Many continental Europeans, if they have registered that there is a crisis at all - and many will not have, since Europe's media are still mainly national in form and priorities - will probably think of it as yet another consequence of a foolish, illegitimate Anglo-American military action in Iraq. They will see it as a problem for "them" (Brits and Americans) rather than for "us" (right- thinking, peace-loving Europeans). Some may suspect the British sailors and marines did in fact stray into Iranian territorial waters, as the Iranians claim. A few may even privately mutter: "Well, you had it coming to you."
The EU talks up a good game, but I too am interested to see just what this bureaucratically bloated entity does about this. In France, soon to be ex-President Chirac has paid his traditional lip service, beyond that little else. Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and others haven't expressed much else either. German Chancellor Merkel has been the only real voice that has resonated well, in the matter. Turkey has also stepped onto the scene with an offer to help. That's kind of sad because, they are still offering to assist despite the fact they are currently being snubbed by the EU. This has been reported, in this article.
But government officials are not the only ones keeping quiet, even the European blogs are conducting an exercise, in deafening silence.
One of the better German blogs, David's Medienkritik (which is a fine blog that works hard at fighting against anti-American rhetoric) has nothing to report. One of the better known French blogs is Super Frenchie. There, he sings the praises of the EU and castigates those he perceives as engaging in French-bashing. But try as you might, you cannot find one piece about standing in solidarity with the Brits on this crisis and yet, would rather write about a toy and condemn the use of the term "Freedom Fries", than to condemn the illegal acts of the Islamic Republic of Iran for their violation of international law.
(I am sure there are others, but time not being an ally of mine and searching extensively takes much of it, I have to use these two that I have on the blogroll. Both are non-Anglo European blogs and both illustrate my point.)
I would emphatically state that if Europeans really want this experiment to demonstrate its effectiveness, now would be the time to stand up. If they wait passively so that the lion will eat them last, they will still be eaten anyway. If the world is going to confront this threat, it must start with Europeans looking after Europeans. If Brits cannot count on the continentals, how will anyone be able to count on the Russians of Chinese? What incentive would they have, if Europe doesn't care for its own, first and foremost?
Look, Europe has been told by its leaders a blue million reasons for why they need the EU. If the leadership of the EU does not respond to this, they greatly illustrate just precisely why I call the EU, UN Lite. Spending all of the money it does and consuming the many man hours to run it, you'd think they'd get something that resembles a return on their investment. Instead you have little else, but a bunch of bureaucrats that consume much and produce very little. You have bureaucrats that love to have praise thrown at them, but do not earn it on the average day. But I cannot blame the leadership entirely. It wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the will of the people.
They wanted it and they have it. But as we can now see (by the lack of reaction by EU officials), there is still a malaise-like apathy that exists in Europe that is not entirely understood by this writer. Whether it's because I am an ignorant, yet arrogant American or I am some kind of genius that cannot see the forest for the trees, the outcome is the same. It's pretty difficult for me to think that someone could kidnap some Canadians and the U.S. would not be more vocal about it,; more than the whole of Europe has been so far in this current situation (at least). In fact, I often wonder if unity is really a goal with them.
But whatever the case may be, I have to say that I have made no secret in my love for the European continent and its people, during my tenure here at this sleepy little blog. And please understand fully that I completely realize, recognize, and understand the fact that my country needs a strong Europe, both as friends and trading partners. My heritage is from there, I lived and worked there with people of several nationalities. I can honestly say that those days were some of the most care-free and enjoyable days, of my life. I worked hard and played hard with the people, and I well know the resolve they have. But I also know, they deserve better than what they are getting here.
I would hate to think that the continent would turn its back on an ally that has stood by them many times in the past, just because there is a difference of opinion on Iraq. Yes, there have been differences at times, and there have even bloody wars fought between the nations. But Europeans tell me time and time again, this was in the past; and in the same breath, they speak of a new era of European cooperation and greatness.
Well I say, the time to support that claim is right here, right now. Part of that cooperation and the greatness that will ensue it, is providing for the safety and security of the member states, both in the political and diplomatic channels, in the hopes that the military channels will not be necessary. But, it cannot begin if the member states do not speak up. It won't work if they remain silent and muted, that's a given. Words must precede acts, with the hope that acts will not be needed. But if the words never come, nothing will get resolved.
So to Europeans, I say the following:
EU-Yes or EU-No, it really matters not so much to me. I do not live there. Maybe I do not have the right to have an opinion on the matter, I don't really know. But if you ask me, you need to get a little more bang for your buck, where the "so-called" unifying entity is concerned. Or like every other attempt before it, it will certainly fail.
Courtesy of Flocon de Paris comes this update:
The EU has finally issued a statement on the crisis.
I would say that it's better late than never. But I also have to wonder, why did it take an entire week to get out a few paragraphs? (You know me. Just asking.) But nevertheless, I applaud the statement - especially the last paragraph. I hope it won't be necessary, but also hope they mean it (if it does become necessary).