News Analysis: A chance for Bush to up ante on war in Iraq

Posted in Terrorism , United States | 08-Jul-05 | Author: John Vinocur| Source: International Herald Tribune

The leaders of G8 and outreach countries pose for a group photo in Gleneagles.
The last time Europe and America were tested by the horror of Islamic terrorism, their response varied from doing nothing to a confounding decision by the newly elected Socialist government of Spain to pull its forces out of Iraq.

Whether it was sitting tight or performing exactly as the authors of the murderous train bombings in Madrid in March 2004 might have hoped, the community of civilized nations basically turned away from upping the ante.

This time, with the London bombings deliberately juxtaposed by the terrorists against the Group of 8 meeting in Scotland and its group picture of democratic leaders standing in supposed solidarity behind Prime Minister Tony Blair, the shame of leaving things at more reprobation and verbal response might be seen by many as insufferable.

The circumstances brutally pair the possibility of action with the chance that the traditional reflex of such international meetings dominates, and the participants issue a forgettable communiqué and go home.

But the choice this time will not only write in red just how much resolve there is in places like France and Germany to deal with terrorism through deeper, riskier engagement. It will also make clear how much the United States and Britain are willing to intensify their fight in Iraq.

The issue is Iraq - because antiterrorist operational cooperation works seemingly well among the Western players, including Russia. If German and Dutch courts have repeatedly and despairingly allowed suspected terrorists to go free, the G-8 partners regularly (and honestly enough) repeat how remarkably they function together.

Iraq and the United States sit at the heart of the matter because the Bush administration's policy of spreading democracy globally and reshaping the Middle East is the vessel of change that the Islamists so hate.

If President George W. Bush sought to demonstrate immediately that terrorism could not prevail - a certain line in any summit communiqué - his most convincing response to the London bombings might well be an announcement that the United States would dramatically increase its troop strength in Iraq, where terrorism, with vast margins of impunity, exercises its barbarity daily.

A former Bush White House security-policy officialsaid there would be no way to mobilize a stronger European involvement on any aspect of the terrorist threat "if we're fuzzy and appear to be doing Iraq on the cheap."

He said of the United States: "It had better hurry up in sending more troops to Iraq, explain the strategy not in terms of a 'war on terror' but as war on terrorists, and describe it as a generational effort which now demands sacrifices beyond an all-volunteer force of lower middle-class people sent off to fight.

"Like it or not, Europe keys off the U.S. on strategic thinking. The tendency will be for some to think of the United States as a dangerous friend. But our common enemies are more dangerous."

In the current situation, if Bush is ready to reinforce the American role fighting terrorism on the ground in Iraq, the United States can now once again ask what sacrifices in the area of cash and civil liberties can be made by its G-8 counterparts.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany, facing defeat by the conservatives in elections in September, and stuck with an increasingly left-oriented campaign platform, cannot be expected to offer anything like a surprise turnabout going beyond his country's present willingness to help train Iraq's security forces outside Iraqi territory.

But Jacques Chirac, his popularity decimated at home, and faced with two possible years of humiliation as a lame-duck president before elections in 2007, could find the situation one in which a strong gesture of antiterrorist solidarity might help right his situation, turning an international vision of France from a self-involved nation in decline to one re-defining itself as a global player.