Astonishing public declarations made by US Generals (Source International Herald Tribune, 15/04/2006), criticizing Donald Rumsfeld’s mismanagement of the invasion of Iraq, and even the decision itself to invade the country, prove that even in the US the American military leadership is in a crisis. Studies made by GAO on the development of new armament programmes , confirm that the US are less and less capable of managing and financing the big armament programmes (Source DefenceTalk, 04/04/2006) which are at the core of their military might, of which NATO is nothing but a sub-product dating back to the end of WWII.
In Europe, the loss of confidence is significant and durable. Besides the general feeling that the US are losing influence (78% of the people surveyed in this month’s GlobalEurometre share this conviction), Iraq (now involved in a civil war) provides a daily illustration of the deadlock where the first global power has managed to stuck itself and its faithful allies. Besides the fact that the most active form of the initial opposition to Iraq’s invasion came from Europe (France, Germany, Belgium), it is clear that all European forces first involved next to Washington and London (Spain, The Netherlands, Poland, and soon Italy) have progressively pulled out. Given the pain experienced due to Iraq (on the field as much as in terms of domestic politics), it is highly improbable that European governments will support any future US military adventure, unless their countries are under direct threat. We shall come back on this aspect in the third part of the present paper, but threat perception is less and less convergent between the EU and the US.
This reaction by European leaders was predictable and reflects a radical and durable trend of the European public opinion during the Iraq crisis which led to the invasion of the country. It is from this crisis that a common public opinion emerged for the first time in the European Union Sources Europe2020, 16/04/2003 and Arte, 08/04/2006), that citizens from Budapest to Helsinki, from Lisbon to Stockholm, were touched by the same « vib ». At the time, this major positive trend in the EU took place in reaction against the Bush Administration. But his re-election, the deadlock in Iraq, Abou Graib, Guantanamo, CIA renditions, and other similar oppositions to the bottom-line of the action, have progressively transformed this opposition to one specific US administration into a distrust, see a rejection, towards the American leadership as a whole. A leadership is accepted when based on a feeling of material and moral superiority. These past years have seriously questioned both parts of the equation. The dominant trend at play within the European public opinion is to question vehemently the very relevance of the Alliance, and whether Europeans and Americans share the same values any longer. A clear sign of the crisis is to be found in the UK, NATO’s central pillar in Europe, where in the past months various military, judicial and religious high representatives expressed their conviction that values from both sides of the Atlantic were no longer the same. Such convictions are now dominant all over the continent. Even new EU-member states are affected by the trend and they too pullout from Iraq under the pressure of their public opinion.
In Turkey, the least « typical » member of the Alliance, the situation is more and more unclear since the US invaded Iraq (Turkish populations are now overwhelmingly hostile to the US – Source World Public Opinion, 06/04/2005) and since Turkey’s EU integration entered a deadlock due to EU populations’ hostility to the project. In the years to come, domestic trends in Turkey will give ground to all the forces that consider that the country’s future is also (see “mostly”) in the Muslim world, in particular in the Middle-East. This discovery will diminish NATO’s power of attraction (whose « reward », EU entry as promised by Washington, appears less and less certain) and will strengthen distrust as regards to its objectives and « added-values ».