As a longtime statesman, friend and admirer of the United States, he is worth listening to. Moreover, what he says about America reflects what most of our VIP friends express from ambassadorial dinners in Washington to conversations with ranking foreign-policy officials in any number of foreign capitals. Chris Patten, the former “foreign minister” of the European Union, last British governor in Hong Kong and former Cabinet minister for overseas development, laments loss of America’s “weapon of mass attraction,” the democratic ideals and entrepreneurial dynamism other nations envy or aspire to.
In his memoirs, “Not Quite the Diplomat: Home Truths About World Affairs,” Mr. Patten sadly sees the lack of U.S. global leadership leading to a new world disorder. Pre-emptive wars do not address the major problems of our era, from the challenge to the status quo by China and India, to failed and failing states, to terrorism, poverty and the environment.
Mr. Patten approves of America’s 20th-century “undeclared” empire which gave the post-World War II-era global institutions, the “soft-power” that was the indispensable adjunct of “hard” power, the conjugation that defeated the Soviet empire.
As he now sees the world, the United States has abandoned Wilsonianism to return to Teddy Roosevelt’s gun-slinging, this time with precision-guided bombs and missiles.
He cannot see what Iraq has achieved except to reinforce a U.S. tendency to throw out the rulebook and act alone. What is widely perceived throughout the world as unprovoked American aggression has turned Iraq into the world’s most effective terrorist training facility. By the same token, Iraq elevated Osama bin Laden from a fringe figure to a global leader opposed to U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
U.S. unilateralism, says Mr. Patten, feeds the dark side of globalization, or transnational terrorism. He believes restoring multilateralism in U.S. foreign policy is imperative and concedes Europe is also at fault for not providing sufficient support for U.N. reform, for peacekeeping and peacemaking roles.
By now, Mr. Patten argues, the European Union should have negotiated a common foreign and security policy that the U.S. could treat as a genuine counterpart to its own multilateral efforts to bring a semblance of order to the world. He flays his own government for the worst possible service it could render the special relationship with the U.S.: supporting the unilateralist “Bush invasion” of Iraq.
This war of choice and not necessity has destabilized the Middle East. The al Qaeda network and its seldom-mentioned support group have been energized by the Iraqi insurgency. As have Muslim minorities in the barnacle-like slums of major European cities, witness the daily footage of Muslim youth torching the Arab suburbs of Paris.
The Paris riots will further dampen what little enthusiasm there is for Turkey’s membership in the EU. Chris Patten’s plea to his European colleagues to admit Turkey to the EU to help reconcile the growing number of Islamic communities within its borders is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Muslim youth opening fire on French security forces as they try to end the chaos reinforces the Bush administration’s conviction that failure is not an option in Iraq. The history of insurgencies since World War II shows they have a nasty habit of lasting seven or eight years. With President Bush’s ratings on conduct of the war slipping below 40 percent, it is hard to imagine U.S. forces remaining in Iraq that long. But success does not necessarily depend on the presence of U.S. troops.
After the Dec. 15 national elections, a new Iraqi government, concluding it cannot hack it on its own, could ask some of its Arab neighbors, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and other friendly Arabs, such as Egypt, for military peacekeeping forces. These could be supplied under a new U.N. resolution and remain until Iraqi forces can hold the fort on their own.
Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have voiced alarm over Iranian influence in Iraq. Some ranking officials from these three countries have complained in background briefings that the U.S. invaded Iraq “to turn it over to Iran.” Iraq would give them a unique opportunity to put their troops where their mouth is.
The current conundrum is how to check the drift toward emergence of three separate geographic and political entities — Iraqi Kurdistan, Sunni Iraq, and Shia Iraq — as they were more or less before Winston Churchill drew lines on a map after World War I. Iraq requires imaginative geopolitical thinking. More of the same won’t do.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.