The American media and even some friends here seem puzzled by the fact that the Europeans, including the Germans, do not fully support the American bombing attack on Libya. It is therefore useful to recall the following:
Unlike the Americans, who have seen modern wars on television only, the Europeans have experienced wars in their own countries. Unlike American bomber pilots, they have experienced bombs not from above but from below, and they remember how horrible it is when bombs fall on cities, homes, and people. Right now Europeans are very deeply concerned and afraid that this American attack against Libya could escalate into a dreaded war.
The attack has been hailed as "America strikes back!" Especially for the Germans this pronouncement has deadly associations. Without equating Reagan with the Nazi Fuhrer, this phrase nonetheless is all too reminiscent of the words with which Hitler began the war in 1939: "We are shooting back!"
This sentence and an act of war were Hitler's response to the Polish terrorist attack on the German radio station at Gleiwitz. We know now that that terrorist, "Polish" provocation was carried out by none other than German secret agents.
No one in Europe knows exactly to whom the terrorist attacks on the TWA flight or the bar in West Berlin can be attributed. This, too, must be understood as a reason for the reserved, if not outraged reaction of the European public to the American bombing attack on Libya.
Jaeger is a visiting professor from Bremen, Germany, at UC Irvine.