The German cop-out is, of course, a reflection of the nightmare history of World War II and the subliminal notion Germans have that the Americans and the Brits can handle out-of-NATO-theater operations and keep them safe. French, Spanish, Italian and Turkish parliaments have also put a variety of caveats on exposing their troops to danger. Some are prohibited from moving at night, which is when Taliban guerrillas move.
U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates keeps reminding European allies their safety from terrorist attack by Islamist extremists is linked to NATO's success in defeating the Taliban insurgency. But outside of the national security elites in European countries, few buy in to Gates' admonitions. European media see Afghanistan as part of the Iraq imbroglio.
Guantanamo, water-boarding torture, civilian casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Benazir Bhutto's assassination, suicide bombers all over Pakistan, the Taliban and al-Qaida's privileged sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas on the Afghan border, the final months of the Bush administration, all are part of a distant geopolitical play that doesn't really concern Europe. Besides, democracy in Afghanistan is unattainable. At 9,000 tons a year, up 1,000 tons in a year, the opium poppy is now 80 percent of this narco-state's economy. Drug lords have replaced the warlords who replaced the Taliban.
The 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy met under a portmanteau label that stretched from "The World in Disarray" to "Shifting Powers" to a "Lack of Strategies." On Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the Palestinian crisis, there was no fresh thinking. The unspoken European view of the U.S. request for more troops for Afghanistan says if it weren't for Iraq, the United States would have no problem with the Taliban today. With the upcoming state visit of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baghdad, they also see an unhappy end to the Bush administration's grand design for Iraq and the emergence, sooner or later, of Iran as a nuclear power.
Iraq, say the Europeans, was a force multiplier for al-Qaida and its Taliban cohorts. Constant cuts in defense spending since the end of the Cold War 18 years ago have left the European Union and NATO's European allies (except France) with two dozen paltry military establishments and not a single common procurement program among them. European policy-planners see Kosovo's impending declaration of independence, and a resurgent Russia's opposition, as a clear and present danger next door in the Balkans. This could, in turn, trigger an atomization of the region into mini non-viable entities.
Today, Putin's new Russia hungers for the old "duopoly" in international power politics. This time around, the Europeans feel they can straddle the fence with both ears to the ground. Ungainly and uncomfortable, but far more secure.
Spain is the latest to discover a direct link between "homegrown" terrorists and al-Qaida training camps in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The Germans recently uncovered a terrorist underground link to Pakistan via Turkey. In the United Kingdom, almost all terrorist trails track back to FATA. But Europe's present mood of appeasement, which is linked subconsciously to the hope for new, less demanding allies in Washington next year, rejects the notion that Europeans are the targets of al-Qaida. And this despite terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, and again in London and Glasgow in 2007.
There is a new generation of Europeans who reached adulthood reading bestsellers that "document" how Sept. 11 was a plot cooked up by the CIA and Mossad to make Saudis the culprits. This, in turn, pushed the Bush administration ever closer to Israel, whose grand design for the Middle East was embraced by Bush 43.
Laughable, of course. But then, the conspiracy theorists ask, how does one explain the Bush administration hasn't compelled Israel to abandon all its illegal settlements in the West Bank to make a Palestinian state possible?
The European Union has gradually fallen into the paralyzing embrace of appeasement. A year ago, the Brussels-based Eurocrats issued a classified handbook that banned "jihad," "Islamic" and "fundamentalist" when referring to terrorism. "Anti-Islamic" is one of the substitutes on offer. "Jihadi fundamentalists" is now a sinful expression. Instead try, "Violent extremism." Hello!
Where is all this going? Not far enough, according Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, the head of 77 million Anglicans. Pandering took on a new dimension when the High Church of England's grand penitentiary played devil's advocate on behalf of jihadi fundamentalists. His new canon: Applying portions of Islamic law (the Shariah) to Great Britain (home to 1.8 million Muslims out of 61 million Brits) "seems unavoidable" because not all British Muslims relate to the existing legal system. So when Muslims can go to a Muslim civil court, the poor dears need not face "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty."
Polygamous marriages are now recognized in the United Kingdom. New tax rules allow multiple wives to inherit tax-free as long as the wedding vows were contracted where polygamy is legal.
Mercifully, Williams set off a caterwaul from John O'Groats to Lands End, and from right to left. The Sun editorialized, "It's easy to dismiss (him) as a silly old goat. In fact, he's a dangerous threat to our nation." The archbishop was told he was in the wrong church.
Yet he still found favorable echoes on the continent. The Dutch justice minister said that "if two-thirds of the Dutch population should want to introduce the Shariah tomorrow, then the possibility should exist." Liberal German judges have invoked the Koran in divorce cases.
Imposing Shariah law in Europe is a clearly stated objective by Islamist extremists settled in Europe with European IDs and passports. European reactions are eerily reminiscent of a naive appeaser with an umbrella who flew to Munich in 1938 -- a journey that led to 60 million deaths in World War II.