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Chris Patten is the commissioner of external affairs of the European Commission. He spoke from his London home on the Thames at Barnes with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels.

NATHAN GARDELS: Europeans seem most uncomfortable with the new ''Bush Doctrine'' of preemption or ''anticipatory defense'' -- attacking other states in order to stop terrorism or the development of mass destruction weapons. What are the issues here as you see them?

CHRIS PATTEN: The idea that one should be able to intervene in another sovereign state is not a new one. Three years ago (U.N. Secretary-General) Kofi Annan made a memorable speech condoning intervention by the international community on human rights grounds when a country was treating is own citizens appallingly. And, of course, that was the justification for military intervention in Kosovo.

There are two other propositions that have been advanced more recently. First, that intervention should be justified where a particularly unpleasant regime is developing weapons of mass destruction. Many countries have mass destruction weapons, but we clearly have no intention of intervening against them because they do not threaten anyone. So the context of the threat, and in particular the intent of the regime, make all the difference.

The third proposition that has been argued, in particular by Henry Kissinger, is that the system of international law -- which really began with the Treaty of Westphalia -- that justified military action only in response to an attack by another state, but not preemptively, is no longer relevant where a state is using or harboring non-state actors like Al Qaeda to attack another state.

If we are looking for principles to guide our international action, what should we be looking at? Clearly, in the case of humanitarian intervention, the (ital) scale (unital) of the evil being perpetrated in a country -- whether for ethnic cleansing or political reasons -- has to be sufficiently large to justify intervention. That was the case in Kosovo.

If you are concerned about a country developing or having mass destruction weapons, then you have to have convincing evidence to demonstrate it is a real danger to the rest of the world because of that.

If you are talking about terrorism, then you have to be able to demonstrate some relationship between the country and the terrorist organization, and be able to assert the likelihood that weapons of mass destruction will be placed in their hands.

All this is relevant to the present debate on Iraq because if we are trying to assert the principle of preemptive defense, then the evidence of a clear and present danger must be presented.

The debate in Europe in the coming months will largely concern the evidence against Saddam Hussein. In order to mobilize public opinion as broadly as possible, and in order to assemble as broad a coalition as possible, it is also important to demonstrate that it would be more dangerous not to take action than to take military action.

In Europe there is also the belief that a new U.N. trigger ought to be in place for any new action. At the moment the United Nations has resolutions on the table with which Saddam Hussein has not complied. If we argue for a new resolution as an ultimatum to Saddam, then we need to be prepared to use force if he simply ignores it. What the Security Council absolutely should not do is pass some resolution that can then be picked apart by ifs and buts and caveats.

As (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair has said, the United Nations should be a way of dealing with the problem of Saddam Hussein, not a way of avoiding it.

GARDELS: You don't think the case for military action has been sufficiently made by the United States?

PATTEN: Apparently the case will be made over the coming weeks both by Tony Blair and the White House. Arguing for the presentation of evidence is not an attempt, at least on my part or other European politicians, to delay or avoid a decision. It goes to the heart of something we are very concerned about: how to mobilize the broadest possible support for whatever action needs to be taken. When one looks back 10 years to the Gulf crisis, what was so important was the unity of the international community. That is why it succeeded.

GARDELS: Well, European leaders look at the same evidence in different ways, apparently. Blair sees cause for military preemption. (German Chancellor Gerhard) Schroeder won't support military action even if the U.N. Security Council does and says openly that Iraq is not a threat. Does that mean Europe won't be able to speak with one voice on this?

PATTEN: The European Union is 15 individual states. Foreign policy goes right to the heart of what it means to be a sovereign state. The wonder is that we manage to develop common positions on as many issues as we do, for example, on the International Criminal Court. That position has shaped the way we discussed the issue with the United States. But it is more difficult to have a common position on Iraq other than that the Security Council resolutions should be implemented.

The debate has not gone past that yet. Indeed, it would be amazing if the issue of war against Iraq weren't vigorously debated in the midst of a German election campaign when it is being so openly contested even within the Bush administration.

GARDELS: Do you see the Bush administration's preoccupation with Iraq as a diversion from the war on terror or, as Kissinger says, ''a precondition''? It is a precondition, he says, because not to act against Iraq in the face of Saddam's defiance and continued stockpiling of weapons would signal a lack of will to terrorists.

PATTEN: There is no lack of will. Indeed, one of the positive results of the atrocities of last year is that, with American leadership, we've all done a great deal to combat terrorism, not just with the allied military campaign and subsequent restructuring in Afghanistan but also through a range of European-U.S. cooperation on intelligence and other matters. It is a legitimate concern that nothing that happens in Iraq should be allowed to undermine this cooperation.

Finally, is the concern about Iraq that Saddam might use mass destruction weapons or might hand them to terrorists to use? I think the former is the stronger argument because, so far, no convincing evidence has been presented to associate Saddam Hussein with terrorist organizations.

In Europe at least, the argument by Brent Scowcroft is more compelling -- that it would be exceptionally foolish for Saddam to give any weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist organization because if it uses them they will have his return address. The consequences would come down on his head.

I'm unhappy about interweaving the arguments about international terrorism and the arguments for dealing with Saddam Hussein.

GARDELS: In the United States these days there is a great deal of discussion about the growing rift with Europe. Francis Fukuyama argues that the nation-state in Europe has been increasingly a rule-based bureaucracy dissociated from military power and believes all problems can be solved by negotiation. Political scientist Robert Kagan similarly argues that Europeans believe they are living ''at the end of history,'' where the world can be governed by law and international agreements, while Americans think they are still living ''in history,'' where force is necessary to create order in a Hobbesian world. Further, if Europe wants still to be an historical player, it has to develop its own military might and stop hiding behind the American shield while dissing it. What do you make of these views?

PATTEN: Kagan's arguments are sinuous, clever and dangerously wrong. Happily, it appears to be the case that most of the public in the United States and Europe don't take his view.

I was struck by a recent poll by the Chicago Tribune of European and American attitudes on international issues which showed that, on both sides of the Atlantic, there is still an appreciation of the importance of international cooperation and that we still share most of the same ambitions and anxieties.

Whatever may happen in the think tanks in Europe or the United States, the public apparently remains sensible.

Why do people assume that someone like Kagan is right and that the way Americans have done things for the past 50 years is suddenly wrong? The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan exemplified an American leadership that combined military power and containment on one hand and on the other the establishment of a global rule book, a system of global governance that supported markets and democracy and a way to find common solutions to common problems.

All that was spectacularly successful. It destroyed totalitarianism and secured the prosperity and advancement of many countries, including much of Europe. That combination of military power and international rule-based cooperation is in my view still the right way to proceed. It would be disastrous if American leadership would lose the extraordinary skill that played so important a role in building the world we live in only to rely on the rule of force as its main instrument of power.

GARDELS: Surely, Americans are more willing to use force in international affairs than the British or the German public. That much is clear.

PATTEN: At the moment there are European forces in 10 peacekeeping operations around the world. During the fighting in Kosovo, Tony Blair was endlessly lobbying the Americans to put in ground forces. I spent my early years in politics under a prime minister (Margaret Thatcher) who sent the British navy to war in the Falklands against the wishes of then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

So, it is wrong to suggest that somehow Europeans are culturally wimpish while Americans are singularly martially courageous. That is a fiction.

What is true is that American power far exceeds that of anyone else. My own view is that, in order to be taken more seriously, in order to be a more credible partner and in some case to be a counterweight, Europe has to invest more in its own security.

It is imperative that Europe does on security what we have done with the Kyoto treaty and the International Criminal Court, namely to pull ourselves together and get on with our own responsibilities in the world. Then we can be a counterweight as well as a counterpart to the United States.

(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint/El Pais. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 9/9/02)