European Press Review: Power Outage Shows Vulnerability | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.08.2003
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European Press Review: Power Outage Shows Vulnerability

The power blackout in the United States and Canada, Libya’s acceptance of responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing, and the heat-related deaths in France are among the topics in European editorials on Friday.


You don't need a bomb to paralyze a superpower -- you just need to turn off the lights.

La Repubblica from Rome remarked that even if it wasn’t Osama bin Laden who turned off the electricity in the northeastern United States and Canada, the hours that millions of people suffered seem to have been "some sort of horrible dress rehearsal that has led us to the brink of the vulnerability of our times – our absolute dependence on electric power." Anyone who watched the news on CNN , the paper wrote, "will come to the conclusion that you don’t need a nuclear bomb to paralyze a superpower – you just need to unscrew the fuse."

The Milan-based Corriere della Sera observed that Osama bin Laden has already succeeded in becoming somewhat of a "deus ex machina," who is faulted for whatever disrupts life in the United States. "We don’t know whether his organization can still hit as precisely as on September 11th, 2001," the paper stated, "but we do know that the U.S. has lived with the fear of a new test along those lines ever since."

Meanwhile the French were struggling with problems of their own, namely the unbroken heat wave and the soaring number of deaths claimed by it. The Paris paper Liberation called into doubt statements by the health minister saying over and over again that there wouldn’t be more than 3,000 people dead from heat-related illnesses. The real issue, the paper stated, is how many of these deaths could have been prevented. It said the manner in which politicians dealt with the crisis clearly points to bad management.

The Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace, on the other hand, said it would be exaggerated to hold the government responsible for the thousands of deaths. But it did concede that the question of a lack of sensitivity within the government does arise.

On the Libyan agreement to set up a fund for families of victims of the 1988 airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, London’s Financial Times said Libya’s decision to take responsibility for the terrorist attack and to compensate the families can be seen as a modest victory for tenacious diplomacy. While offering no template for dealing with rogue states, the paper continued, it does suggest some of them can be contained and brought back into line with international law. Getting such an agreement from Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi, the paper admitted, is no mean achievement. It called on the United States to consider these developments in its approach to Libya, adding that such a policy of cautious engagement would show there are alternatives to military invasion such as in Iraq, and perhaps encourage other countries on the rogue terror list, such as Iran and Syria, to change their ways .

Germany’s Hamburger Abendblatt; however, was convinced that Muammar Gadaffi is still a dictator despite the billions of dollars in compensation he offers to the victims’ families. The paper conceded that the Libyan leader has recognized the signs of the times. The Iraqi example has shown him that no time is lost in dealing with rogue states.

Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter took a closer look at the consequences of the Iraq war, noting it has always been of extreme interest what conclusions the United States draws from its actions. "Have the Americans understood the importance of alliances," the paper wondered and answered, it doesn’t look likely.

The Financial Times Deutschland predicted that if the American fatalities in Iraq continue to increase, President Bush will quickly re-discover the importance of the United Nations, not least with an eye on securing his re-election. The damage such a delay can cause for the U.S. could be immense, the paper surmised, adding that America risks letting the situation in Iraq get out of hand, and risks a destabilization of the entire region.

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