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Cook Resigns From British Cabinet Over Iraq Crisis (Post, March 17)
U.S., Britain and Spain Pull U.N. Resolution Authorizing Force in Iraq (Post, March 17)
Foreign Policy in Focus
Confronting Iraq Special Report
Confronting Iraq Discussion Transcripts
Talk: World Message Boards
Live Online Transcripts

NEW! Subscribe to the daily Confronting Iraq or weekly Live Online E-Mail Newsletters and receive highlights and breaking news event alerts in your mailbox.


Confronting Iraq:
U.S. and European Relations

With Peter Howard
American University, Foreign Policy in Focus

Tuesday, March 18, 2003; 10 a.m. ET

The United States, Britain and Spain ended diplomatic efforts for U.N. approval in their war efforts. France, Germany and Russia are denouncing the military invasion and call it a mistake to invade Iraq. In his address to the nation, Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq and U.N. weapons inspectors have been advised to leave Baghdad as war appears imminent.

Peter Howard, Ph.D., post doctorale fellow at American University's School of International Service, was online Tuesday, March 18 at 10 a.m. ET, discusses the current state of U.S. and European relations.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.



Dr. Peter Howard: Thank you for having me here today to answer your questions. I will try to get to as many questions as I can in the available time.


Austin, Tex.: Dr. Howard - I was just accepted as a transfer student at AU's School of International Service, so maybe I'll see you next fall.

My question --- The U.S. will undeniably have to utilize tens of thousands of troops over several years to legitimize a new government in Iraq (A price, by the way, that I'm willing to pay). What kind of support (if any) will nations such as France and Germany give to the U.S. during the post-Saddam era? How involved will the UN be post-bellum?

Dr. Peter Howard: Welcome to Washington, its a great place to study!
It is highly likely that the UN will be involved in a post-war Iraq in one form or another. The UN has extensive experience in managing the myriad of international aid agencies necessary to rebuild post-war societies, and the US has expressed a willingness to have them participate. But, the type of involvement will largely depend on the way the war goes and the type of peace we establish.


Wheaton, Md.: It looks to me like European relations have never been better. There are 18 states who support the U.S. while three oppose. It is clear that France does not represtent "European Opinion." Maybe the French need to be concerned with their relationship with the rest of Europe.

Dr. Peter Howard: France is concerned with its relationship with the rest of Europe. France and Germany dominate the EU and its decision making structures, and many other European states see the war as a way to counter the influence of France and Germany in the EU. Many Eastern European states supporting the US are hoping for US support in thier applications for NATO and EU membership.


Silver Spring, Md.: How many countries have we bought to participate with the U.S.(promised aid or threatened to pull aid)? Why don't we do what President Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile crisis -- throw up a total embargo, block all export of oil and starve them out until they comply?

Dr. Peter Howard: Not that many. Remember, we promised Turkey something on the order of $26 billion in grants and loans, and the Turkish parlaiment voted down the resolution of cooperation.

If by embargo, you mean embargo Iraq, we have been doing that for years--UN sanctions-- and it hasn't worked.


Brussels, Belgium: I was shocked to hear on the radio this morning (Belgian public radio RTBF) a discussion concerning the elimination of NATO. This topic is often spoken about here but this is the first time I've heard it on the radio. How can the US repair the damage that has been done in the last year?

Dr. Peter Howard: This is perhaps the most serious trans-atlantic rift in years, and the Bush Administration clearly sees NATO in a very different light than both its predecessor and many European governments. There is a clear division of labor in NATO-- as evidenced over the skys of Kosovo, the US military capability is unmatched. But, NATO's collective decision making structure gave Europe a voice in fighting that war and provided legitimacy to the bombing. It also provided a robust post-war peacekeeping force. Today, however, the Europeans feel irrelevant. Reparing the rift will take active diplomacy, real consultation, and a few meanaingful gestures to show that we still value Europe's cooperation and contribution to international security.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Is there really a viable European Union when Germany and France can intimidate the other members or future members with threats, theatrics, and tantrums? Doesn't seem like any outfit I'd want to join or support. Now we know what Turkey would act like if they got to join. They want in "in the worst way" but they're freezing Cyprus out. And we've seen how they honor their NATO obliations. The New and Improved European Union: a warm, congenial gang of outlaws. Thanks much. HLB

Dr. Peter Howard: The effectiveness and viability of the EU depends on the issue-area you are considering. In the economic realm, yes, the EU is a potent force, and the massive French and German economies dominate. In major trade negotiations, the EU speaks as a bloc. But, in areas like foreign and security policy, the EU still has a ways to go toward becoming a unified and effective actor in international politics.


Sterling, Va.: Can you tell me which European countries are participating in the "Coalition of Will"?

Dr. Peter Howard: The UK, Spain, and Bulgaria are the present members of the UN security council in the "coalition of the willing" and have actively participated in the diplomatic run-up to war. Italy is also supportive, though not a member of the UNSC. Most former communist countries are also supportive.
However, only the UK offers a substantial military contribution to the war effort and will participate in the actual invasion of Iraq. The rest offer token military contributions at best.


Brainerd, Minn.: How do European nations declare war? Our congress didn't declare a constitutional war, only granted authority to our president to do so.

Dr. Peter Howard: While each country has its unique form of government and constitutional processes, in general, most declare war with a vote by the parliament. Many have much stricter rules on overseas deployment of troops than the US does, requiring a vote on that as well. Some even require a vote in parlaiment to open airspace for overflight, and if these resolutions don't pass, like in Turkey, the US can't fly over thier territory on the way to Iraq.


United Kingdom "London": What will be the impact on the economies of the countries within the European Union that oppose to war?

Exp: France, Germany etc..

Dr. Peter Howard: That's difficult to say, and I'm not an economist.
Politically, I don't think there will be a particular economic penalty for opposing the war. Its not as if Germany and France are major recipients of US aid.
Much of the impact depends on how the war goes, what happens to the price of oil, and the impact on the US economy.


Chambersburg, Pa.: My husband is in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and scheduled for deployment in less than a week. After President Bush announced the ultimatum last night, one of my old friends called last night to wish us well and tell us that we are in her family's thoughts and prayers. That friend lives in Silicon Valley, California with her computer programmer husband. She is from Paris and her husband is from Nantes, France. I apologized to her for the recent French-bashing in the media. Her family risked their lives as active leaders in the French Resistance. I believe that despite the different stances taked by our respective countries, we continue to share core values.

Dr. Peter Howard: And you are correct. The core values of freedom, liberty, and equality that your husband fights for are the same core values of freedom, liberty and equality that unite Europe.
The trans-atlantic differences begin to emerge in the means we see as legitimate for protecting those values and our respective roles in the world as protectors of those values.


Washington, D.C.: There's been a lot of talk in the past month or so about the idea of booting France off permanent membership (with veto power) on the Security Council, maybe replacing it with India and/or Japan. Regardless of the probability of this happening, what would be necessary to accomplish it? Simple majority vote of the General Assembly? A supermajority?

Dr. Peter Howard: In short, it wont happen. Any changes to the UN charter, ie changes to the permanent members, require the approval of the security council.
So, France would have a veto on any resolution to boot it from the UNSC.


Europe: Has the UN played out its role? Because the US ignores it when it doesn't fit the US agenda, but at the same time demands other nations to follow the UN when it favours America?

Dr. Peter Howard: No, the UN remains relevant. On the one hand, the UN is largely a product of the collective will of its member states. It can only do what its members are willing to authorize and pay for. On the other hand, the UN remains a vital forum of diplomacy for many countries and a vital actor on many international issues. For example, the UN continues to lead the global effort againt AIDS.


Washington, D.C.: In your opinion, how strongly would Russia, China, and Germany have opposed US-UK resolutions if France had not thratened veto....could a negotiated force resolution happened?

Dr. Peter Howard: I think French opposition was the key. Germany is a non-permanent member of the UNSC, so its opposition alone could not scuttle the resolution. Without France's support and veto-threat, Russia would have stood alone, an uncomfortable position for Putin given his newfound closeness to Bush. China, historically, abstains from such resolutions if the other members are in favor (as it did in 1991).


Washington, D.C.: It's true that the UN has extensive experience at re-building post-war societies, but what type of reparations will it require of the United States in exchange for its participation?

Most scholars agree that US invasion is not legitimized by the UN resolution 1441, and the US certainly has the funds to pay for the wreckage it's about to cause. What the US can't do is successfully occupy Iraq. Will the UN assist in the invasion by agreeing to act as a surrogate occupying force?

Dr. Peter Howard: I don't think the UN will become a surrogate occupying force.
I do think that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Shinseki was correct when he told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq, and I don't think that the Bush administration intends to do that.
Perhaps the most important UN asset in a post-war Iraq is the UN Oil for food sanctions program. That food distribution network will probably become a critical way to distribute aid, and I would imagine the US will tap UN expertise in this area.


Washington, D.C.: Which memebers of NATO have the military infrastructure to execute a Kosovo/Somalia size mission?

Dr. Peter Howard: The United States.
As one Washington Post columnist likes to say, Thats It, Thats the List.


Weston, Conn.: Dr Howard,

Europeans, in particular the French, have been vilified of late for failing to support the U.S. position on Iraq.
Knowing the end-game of the Bush Administration was always the removal of the Iraqi regime, and that diplomacy was merely a cover to lend a semblance of credibility to military action, why are do you think we are so shocked at the European reaction and are our friends in Europe (including the French) surprised at the depth of our anger?

Dr. Peter Howard: I think that the Bush administration assumed that with decisive US leadership the rest of the world would fall into line and offer support. Recall that the rest of the world, especially Europe, was rather upset with Bush pre-September 11, 2001. While they support the US war on terrorism, they are unhappy with what they see as a return to unilateralism.
The important point is that the Bush Administration explicitly links the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism, while Europeans (aside from Tony Blair) see this link as tenous at best. We're shocked they don't support the next step in the war on terror and they are suprised that we would drop the hunt for Bin Ladin to go after Iraq instead.


Dublin, Ireland : Why is it so hard for the US to accept the simple truth that the great majority of Europeans oppose this war even in Britain, Italy and Spain, let alone in those countries where the governmentst are openly opposing the war.

Dr. Peter Howard: I don't think its hard for the Administration to accept it, I think its hard for the American people to understand it. The Administration doesn't seem to mind the public opposition abroad-- thier focus is on American public opinion-- so they can easily ignore it and work around it.
The American public (the polls say) sees the war in Iraq as linked to the necessary war on terrorism. The rest of the world sees the war in Iraq as a choice, an assertion of American power in an illegitimate way. Therein lies the misunderstanding.


Washington, D.C.: The French Ambassador to the US has indicated this morning that France's position would change if Iraq uses chemical or biological weapons. How do you think this will be received by the Bush Administration and will it really help to mend the rift? OR is it too little, too late?

Dr. Peter Howard: In a tragic way, if Iraq uses chemical or biological weapons it will "prove" the Bush administration's point that Iraq has a hidden WMD program and is willing to use it.
While I think that the Administration might accept French help in a post-war peacekeeping operation, I don't think that this will really mend fences. The rift now appears deeper than just Iraq, its about the US role in the world. Bush will not change his assertive, largely unilateral foreign policy after Iraq, and that is what the French really oppose.


Washington, DC: Will the US face any official condemnation from the UN for action against Iraq?

Dr. Peter Howard: No. The General Assembly could take a vote, but these votes are non-binding.
The only legally binding condemnation the UN could offer would be in the form of a Security Council resolution, and we would assuredly veto it, meaning it will never be considered.


Washington, D.C.: Why do people continually talk about France causing all these problems because they threatened to veto? Russia also announced they would veto that resolution, so why not say France and Russia? Because it's easy for people to dislike the French or something?

Dr. Peter Howard: France asserted its role as opposition leader in the UN, making itself a lightening rod for any criticism. Its not clear that Russia would have been as bold without France.


Liverpool, UK: Is history likely to record this failure in diplomacy as the point at which the UN was dealt a fatal blow? If so who will be blamed? Saddam for failing to disarm? George Bush for wanting to wage war so readily? Tony Blair for tabling a second resolution which never stood a chance? Or Mr Chirac for his willingness to carry out a veto whatever the wording of the resolution?

Dr. Peter Howard: This is a distinct possibility, and history will probably look at the Bush Administration's actions as the key factor. The US created the UN after WWII, and as its most powerful member, is instramental in its success or failure. If the US continues to see itself as an exceptional "city on a hill," safer when engages the world unilaterally, then the UN is in serious trouble.
This, however, is not an inevitiable chain of events.


Dr. Peter Howard: Thank you all for your questions, there were many more than I could possibly answer in this hour.
Thanks for participating!


washingtonpost.com:

That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.


© 2003 The Washington Post Company