AUSTIN DUEBEL ’18
I write here with the understanding that not all Trinity students have had the privilege of being exposed to views other than those that are largely pro-American with coinciding dispositions. That is to say that this is not an attack on American views and the like, but rather to introduce the views of other countries; namely those of the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany, some of the main players of the EU (linked with the languages I understand). I also won’t insult your intelligence by regurgitating what you probably already know from news headlines and the like, but rather people’s opinions on the matter. Please note that I only use these opinionated sources throughout for the actual views people have, but realize that obviously not everyone shares this same view. It’s quite hard to completely encapsulate everyone’s feelings in a few paragraphs, so do realise I will discuss what is perceived to be the general majority.
The Dutch largely view Obama’s announcement of the U.S.A.’s launching of airstrikes against ISIS as ‘quite impulsive’ according to the Dagelijkse Standaard, and American patriotism is to blame. This is a relatively common view shared by Europeans, as nationalism in the ‘Old World’ has led to many a conflict and thus is viewed with deep suspicion. In very simple terms, all it took was a few executions publicized on mass media to have the Americans chomping at the bit once again for military action.
Despite this suspicion, the Dutch public seems to be largely in favour of the actions taken by the US for they whole-heartedly agree with the eradication of the ISIS militants. On Wednesday, September 24th, the Dutch showed their diplomatic support for the U.S. by conducting their own airstrikes with F-16s from Leeuwarden, wrote Metro Nieuws. The only other thing the Dutch disagree on is the U.S.A.’s airstrikes against targets in Syria, because they view them as actions potentially supporting the Assad government.
Now before I go on, I should probably note that of course there were other factors leading up to Obama’s decision. But rather than it being a quiet matter where the US says ‘something must be done for these poor Kurdish people,’ he has instead opted for the charge to glory on a massive wave of public sentiment with a little more emotion and seemingly less planning than that is politically healthy. The Dutch were quick to notice when the NOS Journaal showed Obama’s speeches before the executions – that the US would provide support to the Iraq government but that’s about it – and after them, where he took on a very pro-American stance that harkened back to the days of his predecessor. But more on that later, with the German opinion.
The British are the odd ones out of these three EU countries, as they consistently back American actions on the world stage. That being said, it came as no surprise when the BBC announced that the House of Commons voted with an overwhelming majority to launch airstrikes alongside the US against ISIS. However, some do feel that the Americans have rushed the issue, dragging the UK into another Libya situation where no real plan exists other than ‘eradicate them completely.’ The only issue where the British veer away from their US pals is on the topic of airstrikes in Syria. Like the Netherlands, they believe that taking out rebel bases actually supports Syria’s tyrannical government, even though they belong to ISIS.
The German perspective is mirrored in the way that the newspaper, Der Spiegel, out rightly states the public opinion – Obama seems to be imitating Bush. On the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks Obama announced that the USA is once again involved in Iraq and that the public opinion is on his side. The perceived lack of planning is also alarming, bringing a fear that this will indeed be a long, drawn out conflict that Germany would like to avoid. This should be relatively easy as Germany can only have a defensive army and therefore cannot fight on foreign soil. The air force just revealed on September 27th that they are also below NATO requirements and would not be able to help the situation anyways.
So concludes an insight of EU countries’ views on US foreign policy – ones that hopefully convinces someone to challenge the view that the U.S. is a misunderstood superpower policing the world on its own. Perhaps those ‘unwilling’ NATO allies that ‘freeride on U.S. defence spending’ are actually a little more tacit in their approach rather than what some media encourages one to believe. We as Americans should be wary of our emotions when it comes to our foreign policy.