What drove the left-of-center interventionists in Sarajevo and Kosovo, abrupt discoverers (and rather to their surprise) of the merits of military force, was the sight of hundreds of thousands of Europeans being driven from their homes and selectively killed by a repressive regime in Belgrade that, in the Bosnian case, did not hesitate to use concentration camps to speed "ethnic cleansing" alongwrites Roger Cohen in the International Herald Tribune.
For this new European left, confronted by such monstrous abuse on their own continent, the case for military action was clear enough. In Kosovo it went ahead without a clear United Nations mandate.
But such sentiment vanished at the gates of Baghdad. Having covered the wars of Yugoslavia's destruction, I'm as vehement in my sentiments about the late Serbian strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, as anyone, but I would have to concede that he pales beside Saddam Hussein.
In the scale of the destruction he unleashed - from the war with Iran, through the gassing of the Kurds, the slaughter of the Shia, and the invasion of Kuwait - Saddam was the Pol Pot of the Middle East.
His monstrous regime, built around a personality cult, random murder, and the iron discipline of the Baath Party, rivaled the worst totalitarian inventions of the 20th century. Indeed, it was openly modeled on them. By comparison, Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party was a trinket.
And yet, with a few exceptions like André Glucksmann and Bernard Kouchner and, yes, Tony Blair, the left-of-center liberal, interventionists found Iraq to be a step too far. Back came the tired arguments about the countless tyrants on the planet and how you can't make it your business trying to oust them all.
Why did the Sarajevo-Kosovo wave stop at Baghdad, leaving the European left to congratulate itself on being antiwar as it compared notes on who could express more derisive hatred of President George W. Bush?
There are many reasons. …
But given that this war also ended a regime of unrelenting terror, why have Europe's liberal interventionists lost their voice? Why is there no self-analysis, no explanation of the fact the road from Sarajevo to Pristina stopped short of Baghdad? Why has smug anti-Bushism replaced reflection?
… Why is such debate so absent in Europe? Why does freedom for Iraq not resonate just because it comes from Bush's mouth? Why is Europe's interventionist left, unanimous today about Hungarian freedom, apparently uninterested in Iraqi freedom?