OpinionIran in the World PressMars, Venus and Iran

Mars, Venus and Iran

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Wall Street Journal – REVIEW & OUTLOOK: If Europeans sometimes seem of two (or more) minds about Iran’s nuclear aspirations, that’s because they are. A pair of surveys released last week reflect a deep divide between ordinary Europeans and their leaders as to seriousness of the threat and whether force might need to be used to counter it. The Wall Street Journal

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

If Europeans sometimes seem of two (or more) minds about Iran’s nuclear aspirations, that’s because they are. A pair of surveys released last week reflect a deep divide between ordinary Europeans and their leaders as to seriousness of the threat and whether force might need to be used to counter it.

The European public, as surveyed by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, believes that nuclear-armed mullahs would pose a significant danger. More than 70% of respondents say Iranian nukes would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and allow terrorists to get their hands on the bomb. Nearly two-thirds believe that Iran would attack other countries in the region and a majority says Tehran would eventually threaten Europe. Americans surveyed by the Marshall Fund were even more worried that Iran would attack or proliferate.

European leaders take a different view. In the “European Elites Survey” by Italy’s Center for the Study of Political Change released alongside the Marshall Fund study, senior EU officials and Members of the European Parliament believe it’s unlikely that Iran would attack its neighbors or threaten Europe. A whopping 72% of senior EU officials say Tehran’s nukes would be intended strictly for defensive purposes.

Ask European citizens and politicians how to deal with Tehran, though, and the results seem contradictory. The public, despite feeling more threatened than its leaders do, is notably more disposed to diplomacy; only 21% favor even leaving the military option on the table, much less using it. But a third of Members of the European Parliament and nearly 40% of senior bureaucrats refuse to rule out the use of force.

The broader analogy of warlike America (Mars) versus pacifist Europe (Venus) popularized by Robert Kagan also continues to hold up. When the Marshall Fund asked whether “under some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice,” 74% of Americans said it was. Less than a third of Europeans agreed.

That doesn’t mean Continentals never want to deploy troops. In four of five scenarios — maintaining peace in the Balkans or Darfur, monitoring the cease-fire in southern Lebanon, helping to rebuild Afghanistan — more than 60% of Europeans were ready to put boots on the ground. They were even more supportive of each of these actions than Americans were. The exception? The only one that involved actual combat, against the Taliban in Afghanistan: 68% of Americans believed in that cause, compared with just 31% of Europeans.

If there’s a positive spin to put on these results, it’s that Americans and Europeans see more or less the same thing when they look out at the world. As far as dealing with the threats, though, it appears that the Atlantic isn’t getting any narrower.

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