Rome: Political considerations apart, there
are fundamental differences in the perceptions of the probable war in Iraq
between Americans and Europeans which have hardly been taken into consideration
by war planners on either side of the Atlantic.
In the short range, the risks of
war with Iraq are much greater for Europe than for the United States. In
a war of longer than six months, the cost of oil would soar to $50 a barrel,
which would bring the Old World to its knees. Today in relative peace, Europeans
already pay 3 - 4 times as much for fuel than do Americans. Especially countries
that have rejected nuclear power like Italy would suffer even greater hardships.
Moreover, in an extended conflict
Europe would be a much easier target for fundamentalist retaliation than
the USA, as the recent day-long paralysis of the London airport because of
a terrorist threat demonstrated.
It is in the long range, however,
that the differences of perception of war between the USA and Europe become
more palpable and the reasons for Europe's hesitancy about the war option
more acute. First, the demographic differences between the two worlds - Europe
is increasingly less the "Old World" so rich in history, tradition and culture
than it is an ageing continent. Demographers foresee the population of Europe
of 2050 decreasing from today's 393 million to 373 million people.
Europe is a continent of increasingly
fewer children and more aged, soon to be 30% of the total. It is a sociological
reality that older people want to live out their life in peace and security.
That means a population more concerned with retirement, health care, internal
security, and aversion to risk.
This graying Europe contrasts with
the younger population of the USA whose population is to jump from 290 to
420 million in the same period, thanks to immigration and a higher fertility
rate. A young population is quite naturally more inclined to risk and investment
in the future.
Terrorism has been part of Europe's
history since the early 1900s-from anarchists to regicides to the terrorist
brigades of the 1970s, especially powerful in France and Germany, Italy and
Spain. Europe has lived with terrorism for a century while the USA has only
recently had its first experience with foreign terrorism on American soil.
Finally, there is a great difference
in news coverage in Europe. For as Paul Krugman pointed out in an article
in the New York Times, news on the Iraqi crisis in the USA is hawkish while
Europeans see a vast gamut of opinions, much of which is geared toward peace
and the role of the UN. Therefore Europeans tend to doubt Iraq al Qaeda connections,
wonder what war against Iraq has to do with the war against terrorism, and
suspect America's interest is chiefly oil.