Friday, September 21, 2007
Keeping NATO Regional
If I could update my own piece, based on several days of meetings in Prague as well as some of the sentiments expressed at a conference today (co-sponsored by Europeum, the Prague Security Studies Institute, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and the American Center):
Difficulties in getting the NATO Rapid Reaction Force off the ground point to the immense challenges facing the alliance. I would argue that most Europeans (and for that matter Americans) favor NATO because of the defined nature of its missions and requirements, and the vaguer and more global they become, the less likely they are to retain public support. And here one must not only address structural questions, but also political ones. One official here told me that the public is already skeptical about why forces are deployed so far from Europe, whether in Afghanistan or Congo.
I think that there also remains a major gap between the idea of expansion in an abstract sense versus accepting the obligations. So far, the assumption is that expansion has been largely cost-free (and it is true that expenditures related to expansion have been far lower) and that new members are unlikely to be net consumers of security (for Central Europe, for example, the likelihood of a revived military threat from Russia remains quite low). But it seems most Europeans want to limit the discussion of the next growth of NATO to "completing" and rounding out the greater European security sphere (the rest of the Balkans, the Black Sea basin), rather than reaching out to still quite dangerous and unpredictable parts of the world, such as South Asia or the Far East.
For their part, Americans seem unwilling to contemplate creating a new global alliance with a different treaty and with separate assets and still remain committed to transforming NATO.
It's clear that far more frank and focused discussions are going to be required.
The idea of out-of-theatre NATO was a dangerous delusion that you could neither fund nor man any way.
It only cast serious doubt on your intentions towards the rest of the world - causing others to become suspicious.
Thanl God we can now put this monster to rest.(I hope.)
Two questions come to mind:
1. How should the United States have responded to the attacks on 9/11, if it was wrong in your view for the US to remove the Taliban regime in Afghanistan?
2. How would your government have responded to an attack on one of its cities by agents of a private group that receives sanctuary from another country?
If your answer is that neither the US nor your own country would be attacked if it followed a certain policy, is it your view that al-Qaida and affiliated groups can be placated by policy changes in the US and Europe?
I was not questioning the US response to 9/11 attacks via that attack on Afghanistan. Every state has a right to self-defense and certainly the United States government had an obligation to its population to take robust action against those that had been involved in that attack. I personally thought it justified. And most other states in the world accepted the US response as such.
I was specifically questioning the sanity of the expansion of NATO mission to other areas of the world. As long as NATO remains a PAN-Atlantic military defensive alliance it will not be conceived as a threat by any number of states. Should her mission be altered to include - under the guise of "Humanitarian" or "anti-Terrorism" rubrics - intervention in other areas of the world then it will be considered an offensive military alliance of "White" people against the Yellows, the Browns, and the Blacks of this world. And I submit to you that those days are gone.
Serbian cities and citizens were attacked by groups alleged to have been supported by various EU states.
Iranian cities and citizens have been attacked by groups that are alleged to have been supported by US.
Indian cities and citizens have been attacked by groups that are alleged to have been supported by Pakistan.
Russian cities & citizens have been attacked by groups alleged to have been supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Turkish cities and citizens have been attacked by groups alleged to be supported by Iraqi Kurds.
Israeli cities and citizens have been attacked by groups alleged to have support from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, etc.
Iraqi cities and citizens have been attacked by groups that are alleged to have support from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
In all of these cases, the response of the state that has been attacked has been less than robust - excepting that of Israel. The public anti-terrorism efforts always have stopped at the national frontiers of these states. Internally, the reaction has been swift and brutal with execution of the offenders and long imprisonments for their internal supporters being the norm.
On the other hand, the robust Israeli responses out of her own borders- while stemming losses - have been politically useless; they have not made her any more secure than before.
Terrorism, i.e. the use of non-uniformed personnel to deliver explosives to military or civilian targets is a method of warfare. It is not an enemy as such. One has to define the enemy. US has singularly failed to do so, in my opinion. Instead of stating publicly and consistently that US is at war with Al Qaeda and its ilks, she has articulated a vision of an endless war against Global Terror. Then are Chechens enemies of US? The PKK & PJAK? Jundullah and Lashkar-e Taeibi? Tamil Tigers? FARPAC? MEK (Cuddled by US in Iraq)?
Large sectors of Sunni Muslims believe that US is out to destroy Islam. This sentiment was there in the 1980s, it is not a new phenomenon pursuant to US policies after 9/11. I do not know the extent of this sentiment among the world’s Sunni populations now but I cannot believe that it is any less widespread or any less virulent than it was in 1980s.
I believe that as the population of the world increases, there will be more and more chances that there will be groups of people that believe themselves victims of disenfranchisements or injustice and thus might take the redress of their grievances into their own hands. Thus we should expect a certain amount of terrorism for the indefinite future. At the same time, I also believe that these groups will be used as convenient tools by other state actors to further their state power agenda.
As regards to US and Al Qaeda; I believe that we have to take Bin Laden at his words. He has stated that he attacked US as an act of vengeance for the “Towers of Beirut”. And vengeance has a large and ancient pedigree both in Arab custom and in Islamic Law. Which brings me to this: “What is the extent of the administration of Ronald Reagan’s responsibility in the causing the 9/11 attacks?” And “Why did US use 9/11 attacks as a pretext for advancing her geopolitical interests in the Levant and the Persian Gulf?” And “Why did some EU states joined her in that endeavour?” So I do not think there is much that US can do to convince Al Qaeda and other such groupings to stop attacking US by a change in policies. However, having said that, I think US can certainly try to lower the temperature. I want to emphasize that US has lost the information war and unless and until she has been able to convince the majority Muslims of the world that she is not against Islam she will be prone to attacks.
I think the attacks against European states have been confined to those states that had participated in the US - Iraq War. Italy so far has been unscathed and we shall see if that will remain the case. But outside of the Iraq issue, there are social issues in each European state that has large Muslim populations – Russia, Germany, France, Italy, and UK. These social issues have roots in the religions of Christianity and Islam and I think their amelioration (but not resolution) will take decades more to work out. In Italy, there have been several attempts to blow up a church that has murals of the Prophet Mohammad in Hell (per Dante); in Germany you have a disenfranchised Muslim population (they do not have German citizenship and no prospects of getting it), in England an alienated population of Muslims with a lot of anger among its young men (almost all from South Asia). The US or EU foreign policies will only have marginal impact on these internal problems.
I think the best road forward is to try to develop something like EU among the Muslim states. It will tie them up in working their problems through committees for years and in the meantime can improve the lot of the young people in those areas of the world. In fact, we already have a nascent organization, Economic Cooperation Organization, whose membership includes Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, the Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan. Arab states are not members but should be encourage to join. I think this is the only productive way forward. Current US & EU policies are more of the same un-imaginative and failure prone policies of the last 200 years: divide-and-rule, balance-of-power, etc.
What we need is the development and nurturing of peace interests from Casablanca to Kashghar. What we have is the almost certain probability of more wars that is going to be bad for all: for Muslim States, for US, and for EU.
Thank you for your comments above. The larger absence of a security framework in Asia is the real problem and the NATO alliance is, I agree, poorly suited to providing such a framework.
The question is whether particular regions outside Europe can come together in frameworks of their own to stabilize relations within these regions. The problem is not whether NATO ought to extend itself but whether the security of Europe and the larger West can be insulated from what happens in adjacent regions that fail to stabilize themselves.
The urgent need right now is for the West to couple any retrenchment of its military influence with a greater effort to assist countries in sensitive regions with their development needs. The Arab world in particular seems to have been affected by the human development reports of a few years ago and now want to make a serious investment in education and modern science and technology.
I don't know if these efforts can succeed without further changes that the governments of the region probably do not envision. But what they have begun could draw the region closer to the West in ways that are voluntary and mutually beneficial. This is the basis on which better relations in the long-run will depend.