So Europeans are from Mars and Americans are from Venus. Those "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" – the French – have led the military charge into Libya. The hamburger-munching crusader eagles have dithered in the rear.
Except that such crude stereotypes are as misleading today as they were at the time of the Iraq war. Now as then, Americans are divided – and Europeans even more so. France and Britain have led the campaign for a no-fly zone and for "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. Germany has demonstratively dissociated itself from them. The Obama administration initially showed almost German levels of reluctance to get involved with any form of military intervention, but shifted its position in response to Gaddafi's brutal campaign to restore his own power, the remarkable pro-intervention stance of the Arab League, and pressures from many Americans. Among the American voices pressing for action was Robert Kagan, the neocon who popularised the original bon mot: "Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus."
So far as France is concerned, we need have no illusions about the personal motives of Nicolas Sarkozy. He surely hopes that cutting a dash on the international scene will boost his ratings and give him a better chance of being re-elected next year. Decisive action in defence of Arab human rights is supposed to cover up his administration's appalling record in cosying up to Arab leaders who trampled on those rights, including Hosni Mubarak, until recently Sarkozy's co-chair of the Union for the Mediterranean, Tunisia's Zine El Abidine ben-Ali and, yes, Muammar Gaddafi.
EU-Digest: Whatever the differences within the coalition, one thing should be crystal clear to what now looks more and more like a "coalition of chickens ", that regardless of what they say or do, history will judge this coalition as to how it dealt with this despotic madman in Libya. So for the sake of the people of Libya, not withstanding the billions most of the coalition member countries have invested into sustaining this Gaddafi's fiefdom in the past, its high time to show some backbone and conclude the assignment properly.
For more: France plays hawk, Germany demurs. Libya has exposed Europe's fault lines | Timothy Garton Ash | Comment is free | The Guardian