Friday, December 17, 1999

Rapid-reaction force
for Western Europe

Bullet The issue: The European Union has endorsed a plan for a rapid-reaction force to intervene in crisis situations.

Bullet Our view: The plan could create conflicts with NATO.

The collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to obviate the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was formed to defend Western Europe against communist aggression. However, in the years since, NATO has been called upon to intervene in the turmoil in the former Yugoslavia and has enlarged its membership to include three former Soviet satellite nations.

Now the Europeans have gone a step further. The European Union has endorsed a plan to assemble a so-called rapid-reaction force of some 60,000 troops to intervene in crisis situations where the United States doesn't want to become involved.

In principle, this is good news. Now that the Soviet threat has been eliminated, the Europeans should be able to deal with many if not all of their security problems without the United States.

However, in Bosnia and Kosovo it turned out that the Europeans were unwilling and unable to act without U.S. leadership. The hard lesson of those experiences is that the end of American involvement in European security is nowhere in sight. The Europeans lacked the weapons, technology and air power -- and the will to use them -- to deal effectively with the challenges in Yugoslavia.

NATO foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, have now endorsed the EU initiative, saying that it "will strengthen the alliance...will avoid unnecessary duplication and does not imply the creation of a European army."

NATO Secretary General George Robertson said, "European allies learned a strong lesson from Kosovo. There is an imbalance in the alliance (between Europe and the United States) that has to be addressed."

The Clinton administration gave the plan its blessing. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said the plan represented "a step -- indeed several steps -- in the right direction."

However, the endorsement masked considerable doubts. Meshing the roles of NATO and the new force could be tricky, particularly if Washington opposes deployment of the new force in a given situation.

Moreover, conflicts could arise over the question of U.S. assistance. There is skepticism about the Europeans' willingness to foot the bill for the program. Some European nations are actually reducing their military spending. Do they expect Washington to bail them out?

The EU force could prove to be more trouble than it is worth. France, in particular, is resentful of American domination and could try to employ the new organization to stick its figurative thumb in Uncle Sam's eye.

If the Europeans want to play a larger role in their security matters, more power to them. Many Americans would be happy to relinquish responsibility for the defense of Western Europe or at least reduce the U.S. role. But forming a separate force, rather than assuming a larger role within NATO, looks like trouble.

Hawaiian sovereignty

Bullet The issue: Some Hawaiian activists advocate a fully independent Hawaiian nation.

Bullet Our view: There is little support for that proposal and its achievement is highly improbable.

A letter writer (Dec. 15) challenges our assertion that there is no evidence the Hawaiian community favors restoration of an independent Hawaiian nation. He suggests that a plebiscite be conducted on the question.

An informal vote might be useful, particularly if all residents, not just Hawaiians, were eligible. With only about 20 percent of the population, Hawaiians alone cannot decide the political future of this state.

However, it should be understood that a vote in favor of independence would not be binding unless the U.S. government chose to accept the results, which seems highly unlikely. No state has ever been allowed to secede from the Union.

Although no official referendum on Hawaiian sovereignty has ever been held, unofficial opinion surveys in recent years have shown little support for an independent Hawaii, even among Hawaiians. A 1995 Star-Bulletin poll asked voters of Hawaiian ethnicity if they liked being in a state within the United States of America. The results: yes 87 percent; no 12 percent; not sure 1 percent.

The same poll asked voters of Hawaiian ethnicity whether, if a Hawaiian nation was formed, it should follow a "nation within a nation" model, like some American Indian tribes, or be completely separated from the U.S. The results: "nation within a nation" 69 percent; complete separation 17 percent; not sure 15 percent.

We have no doubt that if non-Hawaiian respondents had been asked whether they supported a totally independent Hawaiian nation, the result would have been a resounding no.

By contrast, there is a clear history of strong popular support for Hawaiian statehood. In a plebiscite held in 1940 on the recommendation of a congressional committee, voters approved statehood by 2-1. In 1959, in a referendum on the question of becoming a state under the conditions specified in the statehood bill, voters approved statehood by the overwhelming ratio of 17-1.

Although Hawaiian sovereignty was not offered as an alternative on the ballot, there is no reason to believe that it would have gained a majority or even a substantial minority of votes if it had been.

The people of Hawaii unequivocally chose statehood status and few have regrets. Proponents of Hawaiian sovereignty should face that fact and explore options short of a fully independent Hawaiian nation, which seems unwanted and unattainable.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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