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Allies are needed

Other editors say

Bush mustn't ignore European questions about his plans for Iraq

Los Angeles Times

As the Bush administration weighs various plans for toppling Saddam Hussein, European allies are becoming increasingly jittery. Last week, President Bush repeated his determination to oust Hussein but Wednesday showed welcome signs of temperance, saying he will be patient and deliberate and consult with Congress and friends and allies.

Bush aides said he was only restating policy, but unless the president really does give the allies more than lip service, he risks splintering NATO over the most momentous issue it has faced since the end of the Cold War.

Already the issue of intervention has become the key issue in Germany's September federal election. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is running against conservative challenger Bavaria Gov. Edmund Stoiber, announced Monday that we're not available for adventures, and the time for checkbook diplomacy is over once and for all.

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming under increased pressure from within his own Labor Party to temper his support for war; Tam Dalyell, a senior member of Parliament, is calling upon him to recall Parliament from its summer recess to debate intervention.

How concerned should the United States be? The European record in facing up to tyrants ' whether it was appeasing Hitler or, more recently, Slobodan Milosevic ' is nothing to boast about. Passivity and hand-wringing have been the hallmark of European governments. But the questions they are raising are not unreasonable. These questions are, in fact, similar to those put forth by cautionary voices in the United States.

Many hawks close to the administration, such as former CIA Director R. James Woolsey and former Pentagon official Richard Perle, dismiss the Europeans as little more than wimps and maintain that the United States can do the job by itself. But the value of having the European allies on board should not be underestimated. A unilateral American action would set a dangerous precedent for India, China or Russia to launch their own wars. There are also immediate practical advantages: Should a war be successfully concluded, European peacekeepers could help reconstruct Iraq.

The war on terror can be prosecuted much more effectively with the allies than against them. If Bush truly believes that Hussein must be removed, he needs to make the case not only at home but abroad.