The formal end of America's occupation of Iraq, with sovereignty transferred to an Iraqi government, provides Europe with a chance to play a serious role in determining the future of that vital nation. The European Union must get off the sidelines and act, both to assure that the transitional government holds elections and creates a viable Iraqi state, and to preserve Europe's own interests and values in the region.
The total failure of the Bush administration's Iraq policy has opened the door for Europe to offer a serious alternative vision for Iraq's future. But what should European opponents of the war, having seen their worst fears confirmed, propose?
Of course, it is tempting for Europe not to propose or do anything, and simply wait for the Iraqi crisis to sweep John Kerry into the White House and George Bush back to Texas. But America's misfortune - and Iraq's - is inimical to European interests. A policy of "the worse the better" is simply not acceptable: it mirrors the cynicism that the US administration is rightly criticized of adopting.
The EU should present its own policy proposal in the context of the debate now taking place within the UN, and it should outline the conditions that the US would have to accept if it truly wants to find a way out of the crisis and ensure active European involvement. This requires that Europe's proposal be universally understood and embraced. Only a common European position - Britain included - has any chance of influencing the Bush administration.