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Rebuilding Iraq could heal U.S.-Euro rift

By CHRISTIAN BOURGE, UPI think tanks correspondent

WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- The rebuilding of post-war Iraq should be also used as an opportunity for mending the dramatic strategic and ideological rift between the United States and its European allies, according to foreign policy experts at a think tank symposium in Washington on Thursday.

Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the centrist Brookings Institution, which sponsored the event, said that although there have been disputes between America and Europe in the past, the recent troubles over Iraq represent something more profound and show the need for a new formula for the trans-Atlantic relationship.

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"We can't go back to the same comforts that all of the Atlanticists have grown up with," Daalder said at the forum, which focused on repairing the rift between the United States and Europe after Iraq. "That era is over, it is gone."

The American effort to gain U.N. Security Council approval for an invasion of Iraq revealed deep and long-held divisions across the Atlantic over the proper strategic use of military force and geopolitical power, and the role of international institutions in world politics.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a leading neoconservative foreign policy analyst, said that Iraq was the perfect arena for exploring the strategic and ideological differences between the United States and Europe, because both sides have developed very different views of the legitimate and moral use of geopolitical power and military might.

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"The difficulty of the situation is that ideological differences tend to reinforce this strategic divergence," said Kagan. "We have to concentrate on it (the divide), grapple with it and come up with a new way dealing with each other that addresses it."

He added that one of the baby steps that can be taken to address the trans-Atlantic rift is for both sides to attempt to find common ground on how best to rebuild Iraq.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin Powell began meetings in Brussels with estranged European allies in an attempt to structure a deal on what role the United Nations and NATO would play in post-war Iraq. The meetings come at time when the Bush administration itself remains divided on just what role its allies should have in post-war Iraq.

Powell has said the United States must have the lead role in reconstructing and protecting Iraq, but British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the most important and steadfast supporter of the Bush administration's policies toward Iraq, along with other European leaders, is hoping for a strong U.N. role. They say that granting a central role to the United Nations would provide international legitimacy to the U.S. invasion.

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Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, said that America and Europe could use the rebuilding of Iraq as a means to begin repairing the rift. In the long run, he said, the United States must learn that there are risks and prices to be paid for unilateralism and that the style of diplomacy used in a conflict affects outcomes.

He added that European nations must learn to take weapons of mass destruction more seriously and accept that military force is needed from time to time to ensure security.

Daalder also said that both Europe and the United States must take these important steps to ensure that the damage to the trans-Atlantic relationship is repaired, but was skeptical that the steps would be made.

"I don't think a single one of them will happen," Daalder said. "That tells you a lot about the state of the relationship (between the United States and Europe)."

The debate over post-war Iraq has also created strange alliances between Wilsonians -- liberal-centrists like Daalder -- and neoconservative policy analysts -- like Kagan -- which illustrate the division over the Iraq issue on this side of the Atlantic, and the uneasy state of American foreign policy. This unwritten alliance has neoconservatives supporting the attack on Iraq, while Wilsonians take the lead on how to rebuild the nation.

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"I think this alliance is emerging at this point, with (traditional) conservatives attacking both sides," said one conservative foreign policy analyst.

Some conservative policy experts are also critical of the idea that the joint rebuilding of post-war Iraq could be a way to heal U.S.-European relations. John Hulsman, a research fellow in European affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the idea that the process of repairing the trans-Atlantic relationship could begin through U.S.–European work on post-war Iraq is "nonsense" because it is unrealistic. He said that although it is possible to repair diplomatic ties on a limited, country-by-country basis while rebuilding Iraq, the size of the rift precludes using such a complex and tense situation to heal trans-Atlantic relations.

Hulsman said he believed it would be counterproductive and wrong-headed to allow countries that have worked to undermine U.S. goals to have a strong say in post-war Iraq, because rewarding them in that way would only reinforce such behavior.

"The countries that are a part of the coalition of the willing are going to have more of a say in post-war Iraq, but those that didn't help us are not," Hulsman told United Press International. "That doesn't mean there should be (country-) bashing, but they should not benefit from carping from the cheap seats."

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