Why Europe, US differ on Mideast
They disagree on using force and have different considerations at home.
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Contrasting with that outlook is President Bush, who not only has resorted to force to resolve conflict, but also emphasizes Israel's right to use force to defend itself – especially in light of the 9/11 attacks.Skip to next paragraph
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"This administration tends to see this conflict as an extension of the war on terror," notes Mr. Salacuse. "That has led to a tighter bond with Israel," which the administration sees as fighting the same foes that the US is, he says. But it hasn't tightened ties with the Europeans, "who see things differently," he says.
Viewing this conflict as another chapter in a continuing war, the US thinks in terms of rooting out a terrorist group, seeing that as a prerequisite for achieving the goal of a democratized Middle East, analysts say. And the European approach is both more pragmatic – dealing with the influential actors, like them or not – and focused on ending civilian suffering.
Those different approaches can be seen starkly in how the two sides of the Atlantic view Hizbullah. The US lists the Shiite group as a terrorist organization, but the European Union has resisted US pressure to do the same, taking account of Hizbullah's political status in Lebanon.
"It comes down to their [Europeans'] desire to be influential in Lebanon," says Amatzia Baram, a Middle East historian at the University of Haifa.
Noting that the EU has listed the Palestinian organization Hamas as a terrorist group, Professor Baram says the position on Hizbullah reflects France's connection to Lebanon. "France wants to guarantee its good relations in Lebanon, and they believe that if Europe brands Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, their ability to build bridges and to help Lebanon stay in one piece would be affected."
Baram, who travels extensively in both the US and Europe, says it is "simply a fact" that Europe is more anti-Israel and pro-Arab than the US – in part due to history, in part a result of large Muslim populations. But he says the European position on the current conflict is not driven by anti-Semitism or even domestic pressures, but by a priority of avoiding civil war in Lebanon.
"For the Europeans, if that means paying for Lebanon's stability with Israeli coin" and unfulfilled goals, he says, "so be it."
Mr. Kupchan of Georgetown says it should surprise no one that another war in the Middle East would expose old transatlantic fractures and rivalries.
"Probably no issue divides the two sides of the Atlantic like the conflict between Israel and its neighbors," he says.
But he expects to see the two sides converge – as they are at the UN – because both sides fear, though for different reasons, the rising costs of a continuing war.
The Europeans can't forget their Muslim populations at home and want to demonstrate their leadership potential, while the US "is already paying a high price for appearing to give Israel a green light," Kupchan says. "It doesn't want to see its influence in the region diminished any further."