- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

American observers have taken note of the leftist orientation of many European critics of the American war on terror and the buildup to conflict with Iraq.

And it is quite true that even in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party backbenchers in Parliament have been in a state of increasing despair over Mr. Blair's unstinting support for the United States and President Bush. This was evident, too, in what may be largely Labor-leaning academic and intellectual circles, as reported in an earlier article by this correspondent after attending a Cambridge University Atlantic Studies conference in late October (Commentary, Nov. 8).

But those who expect European and British conservatives to be more in line with American thinking on Iraq may be disappointed. Reluctance over our Middle East policy, albeit more muted and nuanced, and less marked by antagonism, can be found among elements of the British and the European right. Polling numbers reveal limited British public support for war significantly less than in the United States and even weaker support on the war-weary Continent.

Stefan Halper, a former Republican State Department official and director of the Cambridge Atlantic Studies program, reports British public support for military action has "weakened dramatically" since Iraq's most recent maneuvers. These include a 12,000-page report denying Iraq has weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and an apology for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Regarding Conservative British caution on Iraq, consider the remarks delivered in the House of Commons earlier this fall by Andrew Tyrie, conservative of Chichester, and rated by parliamentary observers as a promising talent. Parliament was recalled in late September to hear and debate Mr. Blair's statement that Saddam Hussein's WMD program was "active, detailed and growing."

Mr. Tyrie (no known relation to this writer) said though only the prime minister had access to the intelligence needed to judge the scale of the threat he remained unconvinced that Saddam intended to attack the West. Mr. Tyrie said the biggest risk is that military action against Saddam will lead to a general Middle East conflagration.

The statements of the oft-published Mr. Tyrie may more nearly encapsulate the position of nation-minded British conservatives than would any blank-check support for the Bush administration in expanding the Middle East conflict.

In Commons, Conservative spokesman Michael Ancram backed the prime minister's stance on Iraqi WMD, but Member Douglas Hogg said the threat was not "sufficiently grave or imminent to provide the moral basis for war." Edward Leigh called containment "safer."

Mr. Tyrie's remarks this year are consistent with his parliamentary speech last year that offered limited support for limited objectives in the war on terror. But he neatly laid out opposition to a widening war to restructure the states and societies in the Middle East.

Mr. Tyrie then specifically decried what he called the "messianic" flavor of some of a quote of Prime Minister Blair's in favor of deploying force "to bring those same values of democracy and freedom to people around the world."

Mr. Tyrie noted that success in the Middle East depends upon "building a coalition of the existing order" in the international system against "outlaws," the terrorist organizations that do not possess the right to use force, a right restricted to states.

"The plain fact is that, ghastly though the prospect may be, terrorism is likely to remain with us, as is the war against drugs and crime," Mr. Tyrie told the House of Commons.

A little more comfort and further insight was available into the European state of mind at a luncheon held in Washington last month by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The speaker was Bernard Vogel, minister president (or governor) of Thuringia, a constituent state of Germany, and a member the center-right Christian Democratic Union. Mr. Vogel criticized the (successful) campaign waged by Germany's Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for re-election, "the first campaign in postwar Germany in which anti-American sentiment was a major factor."

Mr. Schroeder had expressly ruled out German participation in a war against Iraq. But Mr. Vogel said, "The chancellor in any event failed to observe that Germany is incapable of contributing to a military operation in Iraq in any meaningful way." He noted that Germany's expenditures on defense as a percentage of gross domestic product are about half of what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is imposing on new members. Further German cuts are reportedly in prospect.

But Mr. Schroeder, the doyen of German state governors, took his place beside the pledge of Konrad Adenauer, the post-World War II Christian Democratic chancellor who supervised the reconstruction of West Germany. "Our place is on the side of freedom and the Americans," he quoted Adenauer. Part of Germany's reluctance about military intervention, he suggested, is a pacifism rooted in the horrendous destruction and dislocation of two world wars.

His assessments were echoed privately by two women journalists of German background. One of them, a conservative, deplored the anti-American tone of the German electoral campaign but affirmed that German reluctance about military forays is widespread due to the World War II trauma and the antiwar culture spawned after the Hitler misadventure. The other woman, who generally sounded more leftish, said elsewhere, "I was so proud of Shroeder for saying 'no' to Bush."

So there may generally be more pro-American sentiment among British and German conservatives. But a thousand signs indicate we should be quite wary of any notion such support is or might be unqualified or full-bore even were the Tories or the CDU to return to power in their respective lands.

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