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August 29, 2006
Peacekeeper Muddle Exposes The Sham Of A European Union

Der Spiegel analyzes the fallout from the French hokey-pokey and European distancing from the formation of the expanded UNIFIL force in Lebanon. Now that Jacques Chirac got shamed into committing his troops to the peacekeeping force and Italy has also ponied up some of its own, the Europeans have commenced an orgy of self-congratulation. DS throws a dash of ice-cold water on the victory dance:

In the end, it wasn't just a success -- it was a big success. Almost a breakthrough. Appearing at a press conference on Friday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan mused: "Europe has lived up to its responsibility and provided the backbone of the force."

Next up was German Foreign Minster Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "This was a success for Europe," he told the gathered reporters. If things go well in Lebanon, enthusiastic Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema said, perhaps the international peacekeeping force could later be deployed to restore order in the Gaza Strip.

But ultimately, the foreign minister's meeting in Brussels on Friday was a big piece of political theater. It provided a happy ending to a something that European leaders had threatened to turn into a farce. The 11th-hour agreement to send a 7,000-strong European contingent as part of the UN peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon created the illusion of a common foreign policy among European Union member states that doesn't truly exist. Indeed, the actual state of the EU's joint foreign policy was perhaps best expressed by Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioka.

An angry Tuomioka told a Finnish newspaper in early August that his 24 colleagues in the EU play a "game of intrigue" and that they prepare for joint meetings as if they are preparing for "negotiations with countries of potentially hostile intent." Every single document relating to the Middle East conflict "is known within an hour in Tel Aviv and apparently Washington and Moscow, too." That, the Finn argued, is no way to forging ahead with a working common foreign policy in Europe.

The EU and Kofi Annan may "muse" upon their greatness for scratching up 7,000 troops to enforce a cease-fire that they themselves demanded and then refused to support with their own resources, but the rest of the world remains less impressed. In the end, this wasn't even an EU function, which gets to the heart of Der Spiegel's analysis.

First, the French insisted on playing a lead role in carving out the text of what would become UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Chirac joined with the US government to create the document and jointly proposed it to the UNSC. The other EU nations had little to do with the document except demand a formula for a cease-fire. When Arab nations criticized the draft, France also started criticizing it, despite their own involvement in its creation, and tried to get the US to rewrite it to meet Arab standards for approval. When the US refused to bend over in the manner of the French, Chirac settled for making the language a little more ambiguous, and the US got the votes for its approval.

At that point, the UN, the US, and the EU expected France to lead the new UNIFIL forces and meet its earlier commitment to provide 5,000 troops for the force. France instead offered 200, apparently all they could muster on short notice. Only Italy among the EU nations offered any substantial amount of troops to cover the French collapse. After receiving humiliating criticism, France finally indicated that they would provide 3,000 troops and lead UNIFIL for six months.

If that is what the EU celebrates as a major step towards becoming a world power, it explains a lot about their behavior during the twelve-year quagmire on Iraq and the current circle jerk on Iran. The EU, as demonstrated by these examples, best resembles a cat-herding exercise, where all of the cats believe they are better than all of the rest. It takes bureaucratic stumbling to the level of performance art. And while the EU powers celebrate their martial strength, bear in mind that none of them would agree to disarm Hezbollah or stop arms from crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon.

The military prowess of the EU will be on full display during this operation. If their diplomatic manuevers give us any hint of their military leadership, they will make Olmert look like von Clauswitz.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 29, 2006 5:17 AM

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