Fears are building of Europe splitting into camps over action in Libya, resembling the strong policy differences over the Iraq war in 2003.
The line-up for this ‘war’ is quite different, however. The coalition behind the bombing today has seven EU countries in it, and this time Britain (the major US ally in 2003) and France are on the same side promoting armed intervention, not like when France stayed out, and European opposition to the US-led war in Iraq was widespread. Now the EU countries in the coalition with the US include Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Spain.
Motives and commitment levels are different too. Germany’s objection to military means is attributed to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s election calendar. French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, who wined and dined Colonel Gaddafi in high style three years ago, has presidential elections on the horizon. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s position is also double-edged. A poll in the Sun newspaper says even fewer Britons support military action in Libya than initially backed action in Iraq. Even coalition member Italy would like to see NATO running the operations.
The 28-nation alliance has failed to agree on that, key member Moslem Turkey saying ‘no’ the loudest. Paris said Arab countries would also object. France seemed satisfied to stay in the driver’s seat, saying NATO would provide support when the US scales back its participation.