The response was immediate and visceral. A day after last week’s U.S. air strike against Libya, angry youths smashed windows of American banks in Berlin, demonstrators hurled rocks at the U.S. Embassy
in Madrid and crowds marched in protest through Rome, Athens and other capitals. But the outrage was not confined to the streets. With dramatic unanimity, Western European governments—with the exception of Britain, which supported the raid—criticized the attack, leading some diplomats to predict that the stability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may be in jeopardy. At a meeting of foreign ministers from the 12-member European Community, Belgian Foreign Minister Leo Tindemans declared: “There is a problem between the United States and Europe. We must do what we can to bridge that gap.” Concern: There were tangible reasons for European concern. For one thing, although Washington notified allies of the attack, it subverted NATO protocol by not seeking their approval in advance. For another, Europeans are clearly worried that their cities will become prime targets for terrorists seeking to avenge the U.S. strike. “Far from weakening terrorism,” said
Italian Premier Bettino Craxi, “military action has risked provoking explosive reactions of fanaticism.” Even the West German government—which generally supports the antiterrorism campaign —expressed disapproval.
Said Chancellor Helmut Kohl: “A violent solution cannot be successful.” Provoked: The British government alone expressed unqualified support for the raid. But Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision to let U.S. bombers strike Libya from
British bases provoked an outcry. Polls showed that seven out of 10 Britons disapproved.
And although the Tories defeated an opposition motion in the Commons to censure her policy by a vote of 325 to 206, there was dissent even in Thatcher’s ranks.
Former Conservative prime minister Edward Heath, for one, declared that he would have refused to allow a strike from British soil. He said that during the 1973 Yom Kippur ArabIsraeli war, he had
turned down a U.S. request to use Royal Air Force bases in England and Cyprus to supply Israel. Added Heath: “If you have an air attack, you must accept that it is almost impossible to avoid a lot of civilians being killed or injured. I do not believe it is right for us to get involved in any way.”
After Britain, Canada gave Reagan his firmest NATO endorsement. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said that the Canadian government supported the U.S. objective of eliminating terrorism, although he deplored the loss of innocent lives in the raid. And Stephen Lewis, Canada’s ambassador at the United Nations (UN) was outspoken in condoning the attack. “I don’t think
one can be strong enough,” he told Maclean's. “I understand the [U.S.] anger and concern only too well. I share it.” After hearing Mulroney’s response, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, retired Gen. Vernon Walters, said that he was “quite grateful he had nothing unkind to say about us.” Vulnerable: Spain, Italy and Greece were especially concerned about the price that they may have to pay for the raid. Italy —where 40,000 demonstrators protested the bombing in various cities—is particularly vulnerable to retaliation. It conducts $7 billion of Western Europe’s $17 billion in trade with Libya. And many Italians expressed shock that Libya attacked the Italian island of Lampedusa, In that action two missiles
plunged into the sea just short of the island’s U.S. telecommunications centre.
Clearly, the U.S. attack presented European leaders with a dilemma. They agree that terrorism must be countered. But they also claim that if they become involved in Reagan’s military strategy they are likely to be-
come targets of the terrorists. In Britain, where people have experienced Irish Republican Army bombings, many say that they fear a new enemy. Said one mother who lives near a Royal Air Force base at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire: “Until a few days ago Libya was just a country on the coast of North Africa. Now I feel we’re in the middle of a
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