After Iraq: America and Europe

William Shawcross
This letter was sent to William Shawcross, the well-known writer and broadcaster, in response to his 2003 Harkness Lecture, “After Iraq: America and Europe” which you can read here.

Dear Mr Shawcross

I write in reaction to your recent Harkness lecture, extracted in the Spectator this week. I found it stimulating and thought-provoking.

You are quite right that Europe has failed utterly to make any impact on the Iraqi crisis. The policy of inspection that was previously supported by Chirac and Schröder depended on the existence of a credible threat of military force, a threat to which France and Germany were either unable or unwilling to contribute. Europeans who criticise American actions have to accept their own responsibility for a world where only the Americans had the capacity to act.

However, I think you are unfair on Joschka Fischer, suggesting that the same rules need to apply to all countries large or small. The reason why Germany needed liberating from Hitler was precisely because it had a government did not accept that it was subject to the same rules as the rest of the world. It is not surprising that German politicians are still conscious of that experience.

The lesson of Germany in the 1940s or Iraq in 2003 is that countries do have to behave according to the same rules: that is both a restraint on their selfish behaviour and an injunction to act when those rules are violated by others. There is no meaningful rule of law unless it is also enforced, but the law must also apply to those who are enforcing it. You will forgive my doubts over whether George W Bush’s government understands that.

Yours sincerely

Richard Laming

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William Shawcross on the web

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