Europe as a whole has failed in the Persian Gulf crisis. As an entity, an emerging supernation, it plays no role and has no policy. Individual countries have, but not Europe. Just when Britain had bid the Anglo-American special relationship adieu and sadly consigned its fate to Europe, that relationship is more special than ever.
The one thing about the gulf war on which Europeans agree is that this is so. They disagree whether it is good or bad. Luxembourg says something should be done. Denmark and Spain favor majority rather than unanimous voting in the European Community. Britain finds proof that Europe is unready for political integration.
The European Community is not supposed to have a military policy but a foreign policy. Beyond denouncing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, it does not. NATO is the vehicle for European security, but NATO forbids itself to act beyond Europe. The best it can pledge is to defend NATO member Turkey.
Britain, the shrunken imperial power that invented Iraq and nurtured both Iraq and Kuwait to independence, stands four-square with the United States. British pilots on low-level missions have paid the highest price of coalition personnel. Some 35,000 troops are ready to roll forward. Even the opposition Labor Party approves.
France, the major supplier of Iraq's war machine and home to four million Arab immigrants, voted with the United States in the U.N. Security Council. Then it sought a European Community compromise. When Britain and the Netherlands refused, France mounted a unilateral initiative. Only after Saddam Hussein rebuffed it did France join the coalition, limiting missions to targets in Kuwait. Finally, French Jaguar fighter-bombers struck symbolically in Iraq.
Germany feels constitutionally restrained from sending forces beyond NATO. Germany's leading opposition party is a sponsor of Europe's biggest anti-war rallies. When Iraqi missiles, improved by German engineers, hit Tel Aviv and Israelis huddled under the poison gas threat created by German chemical firms, Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher rushed to Israel with $165 million in humanitarian aid. Chancellor Helmut Kohl's pledges of conscience money to the coalition approaches $9 billion. The power that unified Germany is craven and impotent.
Italy sent planes and ships to the gulf and keeps Iraq's new fleet of ten ships, completed years ago in Italian shipyards, bottled up and out of commission. Spain sent warships to the gulf but
Spaniards rival Germans in their pacifism, a throwback to World War II neutrality.
Each of these governments is acting on its own sovereign interest, heritage and judgment. The unity of Europe is as absent as that of the "Arab nation." Europe does better on a truly European question, such as Soviet repression in the Baltic. On questions outside Europe, Europe has shown that -- as a cohesive force -- it does not yet exist.