openDemocracy, 26 September 2001

American and European responsibility

By Tapani Lausti

Finnish freelance journalist

Europeans must encourage a rational debate about what international security might mean.

The first TV images from Manhattan were incomprehensible. It took some time for it all to sink in. Eventually a feeling emerged that this was something I had been hoping not to happen — and yet there was something inevitable about it. Vaguely I had been thinking that something like this might happen — although the awfulness of it exceeded anything I might have feared. The United States cannot try to impose its own interests on the rest of the world forever without serious repercussions.

We know from available US documents that American strategists don't mind if Washington is occasionally seen as unpredictable and capable of outrageous — if not crazy — actions. Now the other side of this equation has shown what this can all lead to. Whilst our sympathies go to the victims of these unbelievably callous attacks, the American leadership — and their European allies — cannot escape responsibility for helping to create a world where these kinds of atrocities can happen.

The most urgent task for Europeans is to create an atmosphere where it is possible to discuss seriously the dismantling of NATO and encouraging a rational debate about what international security might mean. The current crisis management thinking is ridiculous when all evidence in the Balkans — and in so many other regions — is that the 'international community' seems to be making things worse whenever they intervene proclaiming to be bringing peace. This is not being anti-American — some of the best criticism of US elite policies comes from America commentators. It may be hopeless to have a serious debate on these questions with leading EU politicians. My humble hope is that some of the smaller countries — my own, Finland, included — will encourage a serious national and international debate on world realities.

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