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Vaclav Havel and Iraq

The Wall Street Journalreminds us that Vaclav Havel’s judgment was sometimes remarkably poor:

He also did not hesitate to put his name to a January 2003 op-ed in this newspaper calling for a united stand against Saddam Hussein. “The trans-Atlantic relationship,” he and seven other European leaders wrote, “must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime’s persistent attempts to threaten world security.” Jacques Chirac was not pleased.

The text of the 2003 op-ed can be read here. To the extent that token European support lent credibility to war supporters here in the U.S. by creating the illusion of greater international support for the war than there really was, the leaders connected to this op-ed helped to facilitate a war that was both illegal and unjust. Perhaps because of some misguided sense of gratitude to the United States, Havel was one of the first leaders in central and eastern Europe to align himself with Bush’s folly. One of the perverse side-effects of the first two rounds of NATO expansion was to create an unhealthy eagerness on the part of the new members to fall in line behind U.S. policy, no matter how foolish or far removed from their own interests it may have been, and in this Havel was no different. Like many other leaders in the region, Havel was wildly out of touch with his own people on the Iraq war question. It can’t be stressed enough that the people responsible for weakening and jeopardizing the “trans-Atlantic relationship” during 2002 and 2003 were the Bush administration and its eager supporters in Europe. On one of the more important issues of the last decade, the famous dissident became a predictable conformist and yes-man.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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