A Most Remarkable Year

It has become a clich*eacute; to label *#8220;remarkable*#8221; each year that has just passed. The year 2003, however, belongs to those years that are remarkable in every sense of the word. Undoubtedly, the most memorable development of the year is the war in Iraq. This war is going to go down in history as the war that changed the post-Second World War rules of international relations. The new American doctrine of *#8220;pre-emptive war,*#8221; formulated in the aftermath of September 11, if it persists, could produce a tectonic change in the international system.*nbsp; While the fall of communism in 1991 brought about a profound change in the international balance of power with the eclipse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the sole mega-power, it did not shake the foundations of the international system. On the other hand, the war in Iraq and the American conquest of that country are placed in the context of a new worldview by the United States, at least by the present administration. It is a world where asymmetrical threats in the form of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Muslim terrorists, have to be dealt with quickly, decisively and preemptively. Accordingly, the only guarantor of American security is America itself. America*#8217;s traditional alliances and international institutions are not sufficient to provide security for the United States. And this leads to the doctrine of pre-emptive war. Iraq serves as the preeminent paradigm of such a war.
The world and the Middle East are certainly better off without Saddam*#8217;s tyranny. If the *#8220;pre-emptive war*#8221; doctrine is carried to its logical conclusion, however, it will lead to an American imperial adventure because the United States will have to perform the role of a global policeman in the real sense of the world. Putting aside a plethora of international considerations that render the proposition of an imperial America highly problematic, there is something un-American about such an idea. The Founding Fathers have warned of the grave consequences of an imperial America and the American public is unlikely to go along with such a vision of the United States. Still, the war in Iraq represents one of those watershed events that will mark American and world history for some time to come.
In Europe, the war in Iraq brought about an unthinkable rift between the United States and major western European powers. The NATO alliance has been the cornerstone of American foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. The collapse of the Soviet Union did create an identity crisis for NATO but the relationship between Europe and America remained sound. The war in Iraq changed all that. Europe was split in two with France, Germany and several other NATO countries opposing the United States going to war over Iraq and supporting a clear-cut UN authorization for such action.*nbsp; Britain, Spain, and Italy among others, stood by the side of America. The Euro-American rift is receding, but it will take time for the wound on the body of the traditional western alliance to heal. Thus, the split between America and Europe will mark the year as far as developments in Europe are concerned.
There is still a more positive and quite remarkable development in Europe that somehow balances out the negatives of the Euro-American rift. Last March in Athens, with Greece presiding, the 15-member European Union was enlarged to embrace 10 more members including Cyprus. The EU enlargement represented a historic European accomplishment. It was in Europe where two world wars started. Now several of the countries that fought endless wars in the past were coming together to form a truly European family of nations. Any one with a sense of history could not but remember that historic day of March 2003 when Europe opted for perpetual peace, a peace upon which the foundation of European security and prosperity are being built.
The year 2003 will be remembered in Greece not so much for the preparations for the Olympic Games as for bringing to a close a lengthy Greek drama.*nbsp; Since 1975, a terrorist group, November 17, murdered Greeks and non-Greeks, all in the name of a Marxist-Leninist-Troskyist-anarchist ideology. Among those assassinated were four American diplomats. Prominent Greeks were also assassinated including Pavlos Bakoyiannis, a distinguished Member of Parliament, and a thoughtful and moderate politician.*nbsp; The fact that for 28 years no member of November 17 was arrested and convicted, created continuous friction between Washington and Athens while it produced widely popular conspiracy theories in Greece. Following the arrest last year of the leader and key members of November 17, a lengthy trial ensued. The Greek court*#8217;s verdict: multiple life sentences. Those who tormented Greece and poisoned so many Greeks with the siren*#8217;s song of bringing about social justice (through terror) were finally behind bars. A sorrowful chapter of contemporary Greek history came to a close.
For Cyprus, last year will be remembered for a truly historic development. Cyprus was included in the EU enlargement, this over strong Turkish objections. Last April, the new Cypriot President, Tassos Papadopoulos, signed the official accession document in Athens under the Acropolis, the eternal symbol of Hellenism. Next May, Cyprus will be formally integrated into the European Union. However, the continuing illegal Turkish military occupation and colonization of the northern part of Cyprus means that the EU acquis communitaire will apply only to the free part of Cyprus, unless there is a settlement by May, a remote possibility.
In the final analysis, the year 2003 when Cyprus was included in the EU enlargement, when Greece brought to justice the November 17 group, when Europe and the US split over Iraq and when the United States entered the era of *#8220;pre-emptive wars,*#8221; this year is most remarkable and will be long remembered.

Dr. Christos P. Ioannides is Director of the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, CUNY.