[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Strains In The Atlantic Alliance
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] We have just returned from a European trip, timed to coincide with the commemoration of D-Day. What I was searching for was some first-hand view of the state of American European relations. My sense was that with respect to the United States on the one hand, and France and Germany on the other at the top governmental level, the tensions are being pushed to the breaking point. Moreover, Chirac and Schroeder are the ones to blame for this situation.

Politicians love to stand in front of cameras so it wasn’t surprising that Chirac was all smiles and graciousness when photographed with Bush. No one should be deluded by those smiles. The bitterness that began in the days preceding the war in Iraq has intensified at the government level.

And for good reason. It wasn’t just that Chirac and Schroeder disagreed about the attack launched by the U.S. organized coalition. People disagree all the time. Even friends disagree. However, France and Germany did more than that. They waged an aggressive anti war and anti American campaign that was unjustified.

Fair minded people would have to say that it was a close question as to whether a war to unseat Saddam Hussein was the right course of action. Once it was clear Bush was committed to doing it, Chirac and Schroder should have with held their support if they disagreed. They shouldn’t have tried to obstruct the coalition effort.

Now that a new Iraqi government has been named, a glimmer of hope has begun to emerge that the United States was right. That the Iraqi people will be better off in the near future than they were under Saddam Hussein. With this development, Chirac and Schroder should have stepped forward, embraced this hope and actually done what they can to nurture it by public statements and at the U.N. Instead, they have been stunningly silent.

This behavior can only be explained in terms of egos and petty jealousies of ruling leaders. In London we saw Michael Frayn’s marvelous new play Democracy, which laid out numerous personal animosities of German leaders at the time of Willie Brandt’s rule. Nothing has changed. Add to that, enormous resentment of the United States, ironically at the same time we are being remembered as European’s savior sixty years ago.

In France I heard, among ordinary people, who still have a love for the United States, dismay that their leaders have let the relationship deteriorate, and it’s hurting them economically. Americans have ceased traveling to France in droves. American firms are basing their European operations in London.

Some Germans we listened to were gloating over the conduct of American soldiers at Iraqi prisons. After all, they said, we’ve suffered for years about the conduct of our people. “You’re no better than we were.”

Again, there is an economic price to pay. The Germans are upset about the removal of U.S. troops from Germany. They don’t want our military to wage war, but they sure like the boost it provides to their economy.

On the continent, there is no willingness to acknowledge that terrorists the coalition kills in the Middle East will not one day blow up a French or German train. Or that our efforts are ensuring the continued flow of Middle Eastern oil which is the lynchpin for their societies. This is not surprising coming from people whose willingness to face reality led to the war whose end we are now commemorating.

England is another matter. Debates are being waged about the Iraqi war as they are in the United States. But concern about the price of petrol has pushed Iraqi issues down on the front page of newspapers.

There continues to be enormous hesitation on the part of the British to jump into the common market with both feet. I often wonder if given a chance whether most Britains would prefer to become the fifty-first state rather than a full fledged member of the EU.

We heard nothing of these significant political developments when we wandered around hill towns of Umbria and southeastern Tuscany. The landscape hasn’t changed since the middle ages. The economy is vibrant. Prosperity visible.

The sun shines. The food and wine are marvelous. And Iraq seems millions of miles away. I’m not sure why we came home.