- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 1999

European Union crisis management in a no-win situation

John Bolton’s description of a European Union (EU) rapid reaction force is woefully misleading (“Risking NATO’s future?” Commentary, Dec. 15).
The decisions taken by the EU heads of state and government in Helsinki last weekend are the result of hard, detailed work among military experts, not least in France and the United Kingdom. To dismiss them as “inevitable EU verbiage” is not only insulting, but is a demonstration, once again, of the deeply ambiguous attitude that one of our friends across the Atlantic harbors about any European effort to become a more reliable military partner to the United States. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Europe’s leaders emphatically are not challenging the role of NATO, which, as they acknowledge, “remains the foundation of the collective defense of its members.” We are determined to avoid duplication. But it is surely in everyone’s interest for Europe to have some collective ability to prevent conflicts and manage crises “where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged.”
Mr. Bolton worries that Europe’s determination to create a 60,000-troop capacity for conflict prevention and crisis management threatens NATO’s “military rationale.” He should be concerned, rather, that Europe might fail to meet the legitimate expectations of its citizens and of its greatest ally. If anything were to drive a wedge into the trans-Atlantic relationship and encourage isolationism, it would be a continuing inability of the European Union to shoulder its responsibilities.
The nonmilitary dimension was central to the decisions taken last weekend. The EU provides a mechanism for integrating nonmilitary and military capacity in a way that NATO whose primary task has been “hard” collective defense finds difficult to do. Conflict prevention and crisis management do not need just troops and missiles. They need mediation and arbitration, monitors, media advisers, reconstruction work, police deployments, emergency and rescue services, humanitarian aid and many other related activities designed to create or restore healthy societies. The EU is at last coming to grips with such questions.
By coincidence, Mr. Bolton’s column appeared on the same day when NATO ministers gave the EU decision a resounding welcome at the NATO North Atlantic Council meeting. I would respectfully suggest that they know more about it.
CHRIS PATTEN
European commissioner for external relations
European Union Delegation of the European Commission to the United States
Washington

Description of powerful trial lawyers over the top

Stephen Moore, in his Nov. 26 commentary, “Cause for trial bar celebration,” states that the trial bar could be the greatest threat to a churning U.S. economy. According to Mr. Moore, no industry is safe from overzealous trial lawyers.
I share his fear and contempt for trial lawyers, but Mr. Moore’s “sky is falling” hyperbole strikes me as a bit much. If seven years of a remade liberal Democrat in the White House and five years of an inept Republican Congress bent on cooperating and placating the president have not destroyed the U.S. economy, I doubt the trial lawyers taking on Microsoft, Phillip Morris and gun manufacturers will. To defeat the ever-encroaching appetite of big government, reasonable arguments and critical analysis should be employed, not hyperbole.
As a Libertarian, I take issue with several other things Mr. Moore states or suggests. First, I find it odd that Mr. Moore insinuates that companies that produced lead paint and asbestos should not be held accountable in civil suits for the health damages caused by these products. Second, I do not think defending these industries is the best way to argue his case about the negative effects of trial lawyers. I have not met many people lately who are complaining about the fact that America’s schools are not riddled with health-damaging paint and asbestos.
Finally, as a Libertarian who believes government should be taken out of the equation in solving many of America’s problems, I am perplexed that someone who represents the Cato Institute can call for the state and federal government to step in and impose “reasonable” fee restrictions on lawyers in class-action suits.
JIM SOLAN
Prague

Military leaders need the guts to speak out on administrative policy

I have been out of the country so am late commenting on Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden’s column “No jiggling please, we’re very military” (Pruden on Politics, Nov. 19). Mr. Pruden’s column was absolutely on target regarding women in the military. Rear Adm. Ned Hogan’s letter on Nov. 28 was solid testimony that Mr. Pruden was right (“Ethics and the next generation,” Forum). I want to thank Adm. Hogan for having the guts to speak out. He has what our four-star officers lack.
The kindest name one can call our four-star officers (including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and such officers in all services except the Marines) is coward, but perhaps more apt is the term political prostitute. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stands before television cameras and says with a straight face that all is well with women in the armed forces, knowing full well they are an unmitigated disaster for morale and morals throughout all the services except the Marine Corps. With Adm. Hogan standing up for the truth, it is possible others can find the courage to emulate him. By the way, what does a four-star fear? Retired four-stars won’t be living in poverty or without jobs.
I am afraid the code of the general officer that one never criticizes a senior officer, no matter how egregious his conduct dominates the profession. Until we change administrations or there is a miraculous change in these men, we will continue to destroy our combat capabilities. How sad is the record on which we stand. All of these officers will be gone eventually, and the destruction of America’s military will be their legacy. How strong the lust for power must be.
CAPT. JOHN P. PRISLEY
U.S. Navy (Retired)
Sterling, Va.

Naivete on display in turning over the Panama Canal

On Dec. 14, the Panama Canal was transferred ceremonially to the government of Panama, a photo-op both President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright curiously passed up.
The notion that the handover of the Panama Canal is of little concern because the canal has outlived its military and commercial usefulness is dangerously naive. Last year alone, about 13,200 ships passed through the canal. More than 15 percent of goods entering or leaving the United States pass through the canal, including 40 percent of U.S. grain exports.
As retired Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, points out, with a navy that has declined to barely more than 300 ships, the ability to transfer vessels and supplies from one ocean to another remains a vital imperative. He states: “If the United States doesn’t have control of the canal in a war, the first thing we’d have to do is go down there and take it.” He also notes: “I don’t see how any reasonably intelligent person can fail to see the vital importance of the canal. The Chinese see it, obviously.”
Unlike American politicians who can’t see past the next election, the Chinese take the long view of history. What if during a future blockade or invasion of Taiwan a Chinese ship being navigated by a Chinese pilot were sunk deliberately to block the Canal? It is not inconceivable that China could ship its shorter-range missiles across the Pacific, unload them at Balboa, and conceal them in warehouses until the time is ripe, say during a blockade or outright invasion of Taiwan. We could be headed for a Panamanian missile crisis that would make the 1962 Cuban missile crisis look tame.
Far-fetched? Article 2.1 of Law No. 5, quietly passed by the Panamanian legislature on Jan. 16, 1997, grants People’s Liberation Army-tied Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. “first option” to take over Rodman Naval Station, the Pacific port facility capable of handling any warship, and other former U.S. Navy and Air Force facilities handy for launching China’s Russian-made submarines and short-range missiles just 900 miles from Miami.
DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI
Chicago

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