THE WAR ON TERROR AND US-EUROPE RELATIONS

9/11 against the background of Alliance history 

Every major conflagration in US-Europe relations tends to cast a rosy glow over the period just before. In reality, the relationship was no bed of roses in the decade before 11 September 2001, or even in the years directly before it—relatively calm though they may have been.

Foto: Forsvaret.dk

Ever since the end of the Cold War, analysts had been warning that trans-Atlantic differences of interest and priority would begin to stand out more clearly and grow harder to resolve: not just because the Soviet threat which made Allied solidarity a life-and-death matter had been taken away, but because of the slow revolution that 1990 had launched in the USA’s own position. The biggest Ally, the world’s ‘indispensable country’, was now also the world’s sole superpower. It could not be so in a purely reactive and passive way because the only way from its pinnacle of power was down, unless it actively developed and defended its supremacy and pushed away possible rivals. And on top of this with the 2000 federal elections came the historical accident, or perhaps not so much of an accident, of the rise of a new Republicanism strongly influenced by neo-conservative thinking. While interest-based policies alone might have led US decision-makers to settle for “containing” the non-compliant, new advisers highlighted the possibility and almost the duty of transforming external trouble-spots into new diffusion centres of Western-style democracy. A President who carried the genetic memory, not just of ‘unfinished business’ in the 1991 Gulf War, but of the consequences when the fall of the Shah of Iran cost the USA its last really reliable ally in the greater Middle East,[1] was more than ready to make the experiment with Iraq.

In the light of what happened next —Al Qaeda’s horrific attacks on the USA of 11 September 2001 and the USA’s declaration of a ‘war on terrorism’ that 18 months later would see its troops invading Iraq—the most satisfactory metaphor for US-European strategic relations in the 1990’s might be that of a fault (like the San Andreas in California) where continental blocks slip past each other over long periods of time. Sometimes this results in only small shocks, but sometimes—when the tension of a needed adjustment has been building up for some time—in a catastrophic earthquake. The shocks of the earlier part of the decade were real, especially the bitter wrangle over policy towards Former Yugoslavia in 1993-4, but they destroyed relatively little of the Atlantic architecture: perhaps because the solution was found by using NATO itself, in new ways, on NATO’s own continent. The same could be said of the Kosovo crisis of 1998-9, although this time the discomfort of the common military solution was such as to drive both France and Britain to seek a way for Europeans to take military action outside the Alliance in future.[2]

The next set of difficult decisions confronting NATO before ‘9/11’ suddenly transformed the picture were not about a Balkan war but rather, over how many countries should be accepted in the next round of enlargement, and when; and how far it was acceptable to go in balancing steps to create a privileged NATO (and EU) relationship with Russia. Hindsight makes it easy to forget that there could have been quite sharp inter-Allied divisions over this, had the Al-Qaeda strikes and subsequent massive focus on ‘new threats’ not made it seem natural to turn all Europe into a common internal- as well as external-security space, and to accept President Putin’s proffered alliance against the terrorists despite (or even, because of ?) his actions in Chechnya. The shift of plates, thus, eased tension at one point even as it began to create a yawning gap at another. What was not immediately obvious (and may not be accepted by all observers even now) was that with the ‘Big Bang’ enlargement decided in 2002 and carried out in 2004, NATO had used up at a stroke its only remaining integrative or ‘softer’ mission that would be available for some time ahead.[3] Its credibility for the next phase of history would be staked on its useability, and the use of the Allies could actually agree to make of it—for its hastily adopted new policy of world-wide military intervention:[4] a foundation that could seem strong when there was work to do and the Allies agreed on doing it, as in Afghanistan, but pretty narrow and fragile in the light of Iraq.[5]

The first historical thesis being offered here is that the years of crisis after 9/11 were, indeed, only the greatest of a long series of trans-Atlantic shocks; and that the effects of the previous ones had rendered the strategic alliance embodied in NATO more vulnerable to the impact of the last, notably by narrowing its base of comparative advantage for tackling the security spectrum of actual concern. A second part of the argument is that the US positions causing the most friction after 9/11 were only in part developed at that time, but also part-revealed or emergent from a logic that was already inherent in Washington’s post-Cold War situation almost from the start. It could have been predicted, and indeed was predicted by some observers,[6] any time during that decade that the end of any imminent war risk between the great powers of the Northern hemisphere would steer US policy towards:

 

(i)      abandoning a fixed, territorial definition of enemy states and regions: with the corresponding shift from a strategic concept and alliance system based on the static defence of certain distant territories (Europe, Korean peninsula, Japan) towards one based on a concentration of extremely flexible forces under the USA’s direct control—plus transit bases re-positioned for rapid access to the most likely ‘rogue states’, the further exploitation of mobile platforms, and the ability to ‘blister on’ major additional capacities drawn from the private sector at short notice;

(ii)     a widening of the perceived spectrum of threat and risk to the US homeland and extended US interests, to include quasi-military and non-military threats like terrorism and the trafficking of Weapons of Mass Destruction but also (e.g.) crime and drugs trafficking (which explained earlier controversial US interventions in places like Grenada, Panama and Colombia), and to include sub-state, non-state and trans-state as well as traditional state actors: with the practical consequence that remedial policies and actions must similarly be widened to combine both direct and indirect, local and global, violent and non-violent measures and a wider than ever variety of partners;

(iii)   (partly as a follow-on from this last point) a much less reverent and more ‘instrumental’ view of (all) security-related institutions, leading in general not to their abandonment, but to vigorous efforts for their renewal and re-direction and zero tolerance for any features they might have (including the views of other members) that did not serve or even obstructed the USA’s national interest. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made his famous remark that ‘The mission makes the coalition, not the coalition the mission’[7] he was not describing a new phenomenon,[8] but by turning it into a new doctrine he was striking a potentially mortal blow at NATO in particular.

 

Foto: Forsvaret.dk

The third point needed to complete this historical sketch is a reference to the shifting relative position of NATO and other institutions ‘channelling’ US-European relations. During the 1990’s and especially as the Russian Federation moved into it as a full member, the Group of 8 Industrialized Nations (G8) became more significant as a forum for creating joint positions among the Northern hemisphere powers on challenges both of regional and functional security.[9] It adopted at Kananaskis in June 2002 an ambitious programme of cooperative disarmament assistance (to destroy WMD-related materials in the former Soviet Union) of the sort which—in an earlier age—might have been expected to belong to the ‘softer’ side of NATO.[10] It was also a forum for debating non-military security issues like AIDS and SARS, the environment, and (most recently at the Sea Island meeting of June  2004) the safe handling of the civil nuclear fuel cycle.[11] The UN itself was the defining forum for trans-Atlantic policy-making on the 1991 Gulf War, for a series of crises in Asia and Africa, and—for good on ill—regarding the Iraq crisis itself.[12]

The competition that hit NATO closest to home, however, has come from the European Union—and not primarily because of the EU’s military ambitions (which, thus far, have led to only one military deployment carried outwithout NATO’s intimate involvement in an advisory and supporting role, as against two with).[13] Much more important in historical perspective is the better match of the EU’s competences, resource, and even philosophy with the evolving threat perceptions and security-policy priorities that have come so clearly into focus since 9/11. The EU can tackle terrorism in much wider and deeper ways than NATO because it is an internal-security community with elements of common law and judicial systems, a common border management community, a financial and industrial community (competent to try to block terrorist financing), and so on. It has competence for tackling WMD proliferation threats (but also destabilizing flows of conventional arms) through its state-of-the-art common export régimes, its competence for nuclear safety, its disarmament assistance in Russia and elsewhere, the conditionality applied to its external partnerships and relationships, its powers in the science and technology and R+D fields, and so forth. The same case could be made on disease control, civil emergency management, the handling of environmental threats and pollution, and other ‘human security’ topics almost ad nauseam. As for philosophy, the EU’s new Security Strategy (‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’) adopted by the European Council on 12 December 2003 contains noteworthy parallels to the ‘post-modern’ US strategic vision outlined a couple of paragraphs earlier.[14] It demands a proactive, tous azimuths approach to the new threats (‘the first line of defence will often be abroad’); highlights the growing priority of transnational challenges involving non-state actors (terrorist use of WMD is its ‘worst case’, just as it is for the USA); and bases its institutional approach on ‘effectivemultilateralism’ (author’s italics), which is a recipe for critical analysis and reform in all relevant fora, rather than blind conservatism. All in all, while the EU (collectively) is not ready to take on the Realpolitik tone and full responsibilities of a neo-colonial ‘Great Game’, it certainly recognizes that it is henceforth engaged in a ‘Jeu sans frontières’ where it will need to be ready to play every potential card in its hand.

 

The Near Future: charting the minefields

President George W. Bush won re-election in November 2004 at a time when some opinion polls suggested ordinary Americans’ personal anxiety levels about terrorist attack had dropped from post-9/11 levels;[15] when US personnel losses in occupied Iraq had exceeded the death-toll of the original invasion; and when business complaints about lost contracts and profits had driven even the official authorities to stress that they did not want tighter visa and security régimes to deter foreigners from coming to America. Any pretence of validity in the original official claims made for Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMD had been abandoned, but the intelligence reforms designed i.a. to draw the lessons from this had themselves got bogged down; and the new giant Department of Homeland Security’s feet of clay were being increasingly exposed.[16] All in all— although judgements with such short hindsight are risky—it does look as if the election result was decided more by domestic issues of governance, and especially by ‘values-related’ ones, than by either approval for or opposition to the Administration’s actions in the ‘war on terrorism’. Nonetheless, the way that the President himself has interpreted his renewed mandate, and the choices he has so far made in his top team for the next period of office, indicate that he neither sees need for nor intends any major change of course.

To assess the implications for US-Europe relations in the near future and in practical terms, it is necessary above all to be clear about what the George W. Bush ‘course’ means and about exactly where the problems with Europe have lain and still lie today. It will be argued here that:

 

(a)    the real battle-ground in US/EU policy is not and will not be over tackling terrorism as such, even if this challenge has very difficult and contentious secondary issues attached to it;

(b)    the toughest security issues to handle across the Atlantic in the last couple of years, and to find any new consensus on in future, are issues that are not really about terrorism but that all relate somehow to concepts of American immunity, exceptionalism and impunity, and styles of transformation;

(c)     the longer-term future of the US/European relationship may not depend primarily or even largely on any of these security issues, but rather on the evolving approaches of these and other world power centres to other dimensions of global governance.

 

Terrorism not the problem?

The first point can be brought into focus by imagining a fantasy scenario where the USA at end-2004 elected a President who ran on a programme of de-prioritising terrorism, and of dismantling the international initiatives and homeland security measures set up against it since 9/11. The EU and, indeed, other major democratic countries and regional organizations around the world would be facing serious shock and embarrassment as a result. In two major packages of decisions taken in September 2001 and March 2004 [17] the EU has established new common European definitions and penalties and arrest warrants for terrorists, new police and intelligence cooperation arrangements, a new anti-terrorism coordinator in Brussels, and new political ‘solidarity’ commitments binding EU members to assist each other by all necessary means in the event of terrorist attacks on their territory. At the UN, EU countries strongly supported the USA’s initiative that led to a new UNSCR 1373 against terrorist financing,[18] and they have taken supplementary action to promote world-wide observance by mainstreaming anti-terrorist norms into their own aid policies. As a legalistic institution with reverence for its ‘acquis’, the EU would be very unlikely to go back on these measures even if the US had lost interest. In political terms, most EU members would agree that the new toughness against terrorism also makes three fold sense in Europe’s own terms:

 

-          it allows the EU (belatedly) to close the security gap it created when it set up a frontier-free single market and common immigration area without adequate safeguards against the wrong people getting in and exploiting the new vulnerabilities thereby created;

-          Europe manifestly is exposed to the new Al-Qaeda type of terrorism, both on it new territory (as tragically demonstrated in Madrid), and in terms of the damage to European lives and property in attacks abroad;

-          the new measures are designed to be just as useful against ‘old-style’, e.g. IRA or Basque, terrorism as against the ‘new-style’ Al-Qaeda sort, and may incidentally also help in catching other miscreants such as arms and drugs and people traffickers and criminal finance networks.

 

It is, moreover, no big stretch for the Europeans to identify terrorism as something that needs to be combated even when it does not threaten European interests directly, but affects the security dynamics in other regions. Terrorism helps create, and aggravates, and is itself aggravated by conflict which is something that the EU has always been opposed to and threatened by (this connection is spelt out particularly clearly in the finally adopted version of the Security Strategy). Terrorism also violates human rights in itself and tends to provoke further human rights violations, which is something the EU also stands for or ought to stand for and ought to care about. In the CESDP context, it also makes practical and moral sense to ensure that European peace-keepers abroad know how to protect themselves and others when operating in environments infected by terrorism and terrorist-style insurgency. Finally, there is consensus among EU members that CESDP actions actually directed against terrorist menaces cannot and should not be ruled out, even if one may imagine considerable difficulty for the EU nations in agreeing on any specific real-life case for such intervention.

In sum, it does not appear that the US-Europe problem now and in the future arises—either in NATO itself or in EU-US relations—because the US is fighting terrorism. It occurs, rather, when the US, as seen through European eyes, over-shoots in its fight or shoots against the wrong target.

Over-shooting can occur when the US promotes a sensible anti-terrorist measure but in a too hasty, cumbersome and costly way with insufficient regard for others’ interests. Examples since 9/11 have included its new demands on aviation security and port security, stricter visa procedures and insistence on the early introduction of bio-data in passports. Since Europeans (and most others) have agreed with the goal if not all the details of such measures, traditional negotiating techniques between Washington and Brussels (or in the International Maritime Organization for shipping measures) have generally succeeded in turning US unilateral initiatives into consensus measures pretty fast. Similar ‘overshooting’ has occurred in some aspects of the Homeland Defence programme like the disproportionate emphasis on some rather narrow bio-security issues, but this has not on the whole led to extra-territorial difficulties.[19]

More troublesome are those cases where the US overshoots in its diagnosis, branding people as terrorists who are not, or becoming tempted to equate all forms and motivations for terrorism with its new-found nemesis Al-Qaeda. Europe, which has been struggling with native terrorism for centuries or even millennia, is not likely either to share this monochrome view or to regard those terrorists who ‘only’ have localized and conflict-related motivations any less seriously. The Europeans are also likely to disagree, and have disagreed, with the USA when it over-prioritises the terrorism-related imperative in various area of external relations and world politics where sensitive trade-offs and balances are needed. This may occur in general or functional cases, for example over the balance to be struck between anti-terrorist security and human rights and civil liberties. Even some of the European states participating most loyally in the US-led operations in Iraq (like the UK and Denmark) have been steadily opposed to the USA’s treatment of alleged terrorists captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at the Guantanamo Bay facility on Cuba, and appalled by the revelations of systematic mistreatment of detainees at US-run (and coalition-run) prisons in Iraq itself. The EU has been much more concerned from the outset not to let anti-terrorist efforts turn into a witch-hunt against other ethnic groups and religions,[20] which can only aggravate the problem of co-existence in already fragile multi-ethnic, multi-creed societies.[21] Even if some European Governments have tilted the balance more towards security and discipline in their proposed enactments than their own parliaments and civil rights movements could approve, none of them has even come near the severities of the US Patriot Act.[22]

Such differences of judgement have also been seen on specific national or regional issues abroad. While Europe itself displays a wide range of views on ‘Russia-handling’, debates both in the EU and Council of Europe have revealed general concern about the USA’s temptation to ‘go easy’ on Russian President Putin over Russian use of force in Chechnya, in view of the (undoubted) strong terrorist streak to Chechen rebels’ actions. The dogged efforts made in these last years, even (or especially) by the USA’s close ally the UK, to get President Bush to take a more proactive and even-handed approach to the Middle East conflict arise i.a. from concerns that Washington is too simplistically perceiving and too readily supporting Israel as the ‘anti-terrorist’ side. There has been concern about US military aid and other rewards given to the states (e.g. in the former Soviet Union) where it has needed to establish new military bases for the purpose of the war in Afghanistan and may seek them in future for broader counter-terrorist purposes. The USA has also been willing to pour military aid into some more remote countries where it sees the central government as assailed by terrorists (Nepal, Philippines, Colombia), in a way that Europeans have not been prepared to contemplate and which they would probably say—although this issue has not been debated as much as it should be—is likely to retard rather than improve the chances of a peaceful settlement.[23]

It would be conventional at this point to add a reference to the different weight given by Europeans to ‘fighting the causes of terrorism’ rather than terrorism itself. In fact, however, the formulation of this frequently-cited argument may better be seen as a case of the Europeans’ borrowing US language to argue for something that diverges more fundamentally from US philosophy. The ‘balancing’ activities that the Europeans have called for are all actually things that European values and interests dictate pursuing in their own right: conflict prevention, economic development and humanitarian aid, greater North-South and inter-civilisational dialogue and so on. The real concern for Euope should, therefore, rather be that the US’s and the European institutions’ own concentration on the ‘rich man’s agenda’—or at least rich man’s view—of terrorism may have outbalanced the legitimate claims of these other methods of security building, and sapped the energy that the world should have been putting into cross-regional cooperation on other shared human challenges like AIDS, SARS or climate change. An excellent case for observing these trans-Atlantic differences of global concern and emphasis will be provided by the USA’s and EU’s reactions, respectively, to the recommendations put forward on world security governance in a UN High Level Panel report published on 2 December 2004, and presented in the UN Secretary-General’s report of January 2005 on (under-) performance in achieving the goals of the UN Millennium Declaration.[24]

 

Shooting the Wrong Target

The most painful and divisive issues, however, and the ones hardest to unravel even with the most charitable efforts for a fresh start have been those where the US:

 

-          has done something (at least partly) in the name of anti-terrorism which actually made no sense in that context at all, such as invading Iraq;

-          has handled secondary or spin-off issues in a way which actually fail to pay due regard to anti-terrorist dictates, such as allowing a bigger opium harvest in Afghanistan and free access to quantities of left-over weaponry and even civil nuclear materials in Iraq.

 

Apart from any practical ill effects on European interests, the Europeans are offended by these things as evidence of insincerity and hypocrisy (which they are certainly well qualified to judge), and frightened by them because of the strongly negative impact they have had on Islamic, Arab, and developing world opinion. Under the burden of so many negative impressions and emotions it is easy for the Europeans to—so to speak—shoot the wrong target in return, by attributing these US excesses to security dynamics triggered specifically by 9/11 or conceptual dynamics triggered by the neo-cons. In reality, and as already hinted in the opening section above, they are better seen as manifestations of US attitudes and instincts that have been evolving since at least as far back as 1990 and that have generated further US-European tensions, not just over responses to the second ‘new threat’ of WMD proliferation,[25] but on many other security and global governance issues that are not (superficially) related at all.

 

The Deeper Diagnosis, and its implications

With much simplification, the problems described above regarding terrorism, and many other US-European disputes (in and out of NATO) since the Cold War, can be traced back to four emergent US attitudes which the Europeans do not, and indeed could not objectively be expected to, share:

 

1. The tendency to prefer (and if necessary, invent) targets that can be personalized—like Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Moqtada al-Sadr—and localized, and thus potentially hit with military power. This follows directly from the USA’s military supremacy and, especially, its ability to deliver deadly force remotely without apparent risk of consequences for its own territory. In real-world conditions, the success of this approach is vitiated by the inherent limitations of (any kind of) force, especially when dealing with transnational and non-state dynamics of the kind that are central to the post-9/11 ‘new threats’.[26] Europe cannot share this temptation or make this mistake (except in some very small-scale, usually neo-colonial contexts) because of its lack of military resources, which may lead it in turn to follow ‘softer’ approaches when these are inadequate, or to shy away from tackling certain problems altogether.

 

2. The aspiration for immunity of the USA’s own territory both from physical external attack and from external intrusion, e.g. in the form of excessively binding international obligations or arms-control-related monitoring and inspections. This may seem a realizable ideal to Americans, not just because of their military dominance, but also because of their experience of nearly two centuries of history in which there has been only one instance of military violence on their territory (Pearl Harbour) that was not a civil war. Well before the events of 9/11, President Reagan had tried to guarantee the same protection for a new technological era with his ‘Star Wars’ proposal for a defensive ballistic missile shield. There could be no clearer illustration of the persistence of this dream than the fact the dreadful violation of immunity that was 9/11 drove the US authorities to conclude that missile defence was more important than ever—regardless of the fact that the most effective missile shield imaginable could not have stopped the lower-tech means that the terrorists chose for their attack. The Bush Administration’s subsequent enunciation of the doctrine of pre-emptive use of force—moreover, as far away from the USA’s own territory as possible—against future ‘asymmetric’ threats of any kind surely originated from the same well-spring. Europe, by contrast, not only lacks any illusion that it can be safe from the back-lash and overspill (including internal repercussions) of conflicts caused by the use of force in its neighbourhood, but has constructed its whole 20th-21st century integration model on the notion of peaceful interpenetration, abolition of frontiers, and equality in face of a highly intrusive superior law.

 

3. The US temptation to exceptionalism, sometimes expressed as a licence for the USA to do things without any other power’s or institution’s approval (because its right to protect its interests and the goodness of its intentions are self-evident), and sometimes reflected in its efforts to impose rules and restraints on other security actors without seeing a need to accept the equivalent disciplines itself. The latter syndrome has been reflected especially often in the field of arms control and non-proliferation.  Linked with these ideas is an assumption of, and sometimes a conscious striving for, impunity. As already noted, since the end of the Cold War the USA has little cause to fear escalation or retaliation against its own territory, and it objects to the idea that any tribunal but its own should judge its representatives’ actions. (Hence the extreme measures taken by the Bush Administration to avoid application of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to US citizens, even extending in a recent draft law to the threat of military retaliation against the Court’s seat at The Hague). The Europeans neither can realistically expect such impunity nor seek it, and have been among the ICC’s most enthusiastic promoters. In general, the new EU Strategy makes clear that the EU does not claim to be a ‘self-mandating’ source of normative authority in itself, but regards it as part of its value system to comply with the rulings and mandates of the UN and other applicable international regulations.

 

4. Perhaps also because of its geographical remoteness, and self-completeness, and its lack of experience of interpenetrative co-existence with other sovereign cultural entities,[27] the USA has a tendency to think thattransformation can be imposed on other ‘problem’ states and societies, by means usually including the transplantation of some of its own methods and models. Where transformation does not seem possible it has often resorted to the alternative of a kind of ostracism, shutting the ‘rogue’ player out the normal interaction of global society (e.g. Nicaragua or Libya in the past, and North Korea to a great extent still today). Both these somewhat absolutist approaches are, like the Manichaeanism of the ‘war on terrorism’ and ‘axis of evil’ itself, alien to the majority of Europeans and to the EU as an institution. From their own post-World War Two experience and also the recent success of enlargement, the Europeans have to believe in the possibility of benign transformation coming from within, in an evolutionary process boosted by persuasion, positive incentives and eventual inclusion in the European family itself. As the Security Strategy says, [Quote]—and it is significant that its text never once uses the world ‘enemy’. The great weakness and limitation of the European method, of course, is that it does not work on anyone who does not want to be transformed and, if only for that reason, has rarely if ever worked on a country beyond the mainland of Europe itself.

It would be orthodox to add here a fifth difference relating to the US’s preference for ‘unilateralism’.  However, while the Europeans’ conceptual as well as practical devotion to ‘multilateralism’ is beyond doubt (solemnized, for example in the December 2003 Security Strategy of the European Union), recent US behaviour suggests that the choice of unilateral or multilateral methods is essentially a secondary and instrumental matter for Washington.   The US has promoted some extremely ‘multilateral’, even universal initiatives where these were clearly best attuned to dealing with the transnational and non-state manifestations of ‘new threats’.  Even the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were not strictly unilateral, due to the number of partner countries who agreed to act simultaneously and with equal responsibility. If there is a more persistent shade of difference here, it lies probably in the USA’s tendency (as a ‘default’ mode) to use older-style, ad hoc inter-state coalitions, while the Europeans have grown accustomed to legally binding and permanent accretions of shared regulation; and, at normative level, in the fact that most Europeans positively welcome the constraints that such shared rules impose on the ‘old Adam’ of national self-assertion.

 

US Prospects, European Choices

Precisely because of the legalistic and cumulative nature of the obligations inherent in the integration process, it seems almost impossible – at least at the time of writing – that the Europeans should become less ‘European’ in the near to medium future in any of the respects described above. Logically, therefore, either they must find ways to cooperate with the USA across a wide and probably widening gulf of practical and normative preferences, or the gap must be reduced by the USA changing its ways.  In theory this could happen as a result of (i) practical constraints (the continuing burden and costs of Iraq etc), (ii) lessons learned from experience since 2000, or (iii) a change of heart. Element (i) will certainly operate under the second Administration of George W. Bush, for both military-technical and financial reasons.  Most observers would currently see it as the main (perhaps the only) factor rendering highly improbable a further US military adventure against, for example, Iran.  This type of effect cannot, however, offer any real solution or even degree of comfort in US/Europe relations. For the US’s policy to be diverted by weakness is fundamentally bad for other democracies who need a strong US leader and partner, and there would be no guarantee that US adventurism might not start again the moment that the constraints were lifted.

        The first high-level appointments made for George W. Bush’s second term do not give the impression that the ‘lessons learned’ or ‘change of heart’ factors are likely to count for much, at least initially. With the emphasis on continuity and reliability under a ‘war leader’, any new accents that are introduced - whether in the interests of greater efficiency, cost and damage limitation, or internal reconciliation in the USA itself - are more likely to be presented as embellishments of a consistent underlying policy.  Bearing in mind, however, the diversity of methods used by this Administration up to now, it is possible that the US might proceed with greater finesse on some issues in the fields covered by points 1 and 4 above – e.g., a more exact and prioritized definition of terrorist threats, better use of non-military techniques against them, and more indirect ways of promoting change in strategically important regions with some effort to procure a wider range of partners.  All of these, given non-US players’ recognition that they need to make the best of a given situation for the next four years, should open up new room for working with a wider range of local players and institutions even perhaps in the Arab world. It is very hard, however, to see Bush II Mark II and his team being ready, especially with a Republican Congress, to make any real concessions on the points of American exceptionalism and impunity; meaning that such emblematic issues as the CTBT, the ICC, and Kyoto can at best be ‘managed’ rather than resolved over this period.  And even a Democratic President would have found it near-suicidal to try to wean his citizens in any near term away from their dream of immunity.

        This is not the place to expand on how Europe, specifically, can or should manage its own interests under such a scenario.  It seems safe to surmise that the Europeans will be able to rely even less than hitherto on joint Atlantic institutions to moderate US behaviour and to produce substantial compromises.  If they wish to make the most of the important common ground and interests that they retain with the USA almost regardless of who is President, they must be ready in future (a) to strengthen the direct EU-US link (now growing in substance but very weak in form and discourse); and (b) to work through less institutionalised and/or less exclusive fora like the G-8 and the UN itself, or use purely political constructs and ad hoc frameworks (“coalitions”) such as that which brought Americans and Europeans together to launch the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).[28] All these approaches are more than just working alternatives to the NATO tradition, but also imply a regrettable if unavoidable change of philosophy: from assuming ‘family’ unity as the default condition of the wider Atlantic community, to accepting that a common way forward will need to be negotiated in each case and that the result may be a coincidence of interests (or even ‘agreement to disagree’) rather than enduring unity. If the Europeans want to have truly united, institutionalized, rule-based solutions for terrorism and other security challenges that affect them directly, they will have to pursue them on their own through the European Union and with whoever else is willing to join it and work with it: not necessarily producing anti-American, but – one can hardly avoid concluding – increasingly non-American results.

        It is, however, quite possible that what most strongly unites and divides the two sides of the Atlantic during the next decade will not be about terrorism or any other more obvious dimension of security at all. The US-EU joint handling of issues of world trade and finance has hitherto shown a pattern of micro-rivalry (going as far as WTO litigation, etc) superimposed on macro-solidarity over how the world system should be managed, what threats exist in this context, and how they should be counteracted. Just as the Soviet threat helped to herd the West together for safety in the Cold War, basic trans-Atlantic solidarity in this field is helped by the fact that the combined West (even when Russia can be counted in, which remains dubious) does not enjoy the same automatic and asymmetrical dominance in the world economy as in defence.  If anything, the balance is shifting the other way given Western dependence on energy supplies, Asian economic prospects and financial behaviour, developing world carbon emissions and so on. Will this alternative kind of West-West “cement” persist and perhaps grow stronger as USA’s own economy and society are more fully penetrated by the effects of globalization? If so, it might make the net effects of continuing disagreements on things like terrorism less fatal, and offer a new shared logic for building joint strategies towards to the affairs of various other world regions and communities. The first Administration of George W Bush was on balance not a bad one for Europeans in this policy sphere, although its economic behaviour notably on deficits gambled almost as recklessly with the West’s shared interests as did the military intervention in Iraq. It will be important to watch how the USA’s new Secretary for Commerce takes up the tango with his EU partner (Peter Mandelson) that Robert Zoellick and Pascal Lamy danced so elegantly during the first Bush term of office.


[1] George Bush senior took office as Vice President in 1980 when one of President Reagan’s most painful duties was to resolve the crisis over the hostages being held by the new radical-Islamist Iranian régime in the US Embassy at Tehran. A certain Paul Wolfowitz was active at the Pentagon in assessing the failure of the previous President Carter’s efforts to solve the challenge by force.

[2] In the shape of the new Common European Security and Defence Policy which opened the way for military crisis management operations under the direct command of the European Union (key decisions taken at the Helsinki European Council of 10-11 December 1999), see http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs­/coms_Da­ta­/docs/pressData­/en/ec/ACFA­4C.htm).

[3] By contrast with the period of ‘détente’ policy from 1967 to the early 1990’s, NATO today has practically nothing in the way of arms control or confidence-building efforts on its agenda; it has no further convincing candidates for early accession; and its attempt to design a partnership scheme for countries in the greater Middle East (Istanbul Summit decisions, 29 June 2004, see http://www.nato.int) is generally judged to be a mountain that brought forth a mouse.

[4] NATO agreed on a doctrine of world-wide intervention in mid-2002 and took the required structural and capability decisions at the Prague Summit of 21 November that year (including a new Response Force, new Capabilities Commitments and the start of a sweeping reform of command structures reform – see http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/2002/p02-127e.htm.

[5] NATO allies, including notably Germany and France, were content to contribute to a UN-mandated stabilization force (ISAF) in Afghanistan that was placed under NATO management from mid-2003, but the US intention to invade Iraq created paralysing divisions in the Alliance (over hypothetical military support to Turkey) in January-February 2004. Allies are now contributing to the training of new Iraqi armed forces, but not all are prepared to do so on Iraqi territory, a source of continuing dispute between the USA and Germany and France in particular.

[6] For an example from an author whose views have evolved further since, see Mandelbaum, M., ‘The dawn of peace in Europe’,

New York, NY, Twentieth Century Fund, 1996.

[7] At a press conference on 31 Jan. 2002, see http://www.defenselink.mil­/speeches/2002/s20020131-secdef2.html).

[8] Cf. the US decision to use an ad hoc coalition for the Gulf War in 1991.

[9] The G8 had in fact mediated trans-Atlantic tensions in a previous terrorism-related crisis, at its Tokyo Summit of 8-10 July 1994 following the unilateral US bombing of Libya.

[11]  G8 action plan on non-proliferation, published at Sea Island Summit, USA, 8-10 June 2004, http://www.g8usa.gov/d_060904d.htm.

[12] US-European bargains were central both to the 2002 UN decision on sending WMD inspectors back to Iraq (UNSCR 1441), and UN Security Council Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 that regularized the international-legal position following the US-led invasion.

[13] The military actions referred to were: (autonomous) Operation Artemis in the Congo in 2003, (NATO-supported) a short-term military deployment in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the current EU take-over of SFOR’s previous task in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The EU’s other ESDP missions have been police or judicial ones.

[14] Text at http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsdata/docs/2004/4/29­/European%­20Security%20Strategy.pdf.  For more on this subject see Bailes, A.J.K., “The New European Security Strategy: an evolutionary history”, SIPRI Policy Paper, forthcoming online at http://www.sipri.org.

[15] Number of US respondents considering a terrorist attack in the USA to be very likely or somewhat likely in the next few months: 85% in Oct. 2001, 80% in Feb. 03, 67% in August 04 (NBC poll quoted athttp://www.pollingreport.com/terror.htm). In a Chicago Council of Foreign Relations poll in Sept. 04 (quoted at http://www.antiwar.com/lobe/?articleid=3668) ordinary Americans saw fighting terrorism as only the USA’s third most important job in the world (‘protecting American jobs’ came first) whereas élite respondents put it at the top.

[16] Attempts to create a top-level intelligence coordinator ran into divided counsels and resource problems in the Congress, while the new CIA Director Porter Goss was accused of provoking a stream of resignations.  The Secretary-General of the DHS  resigned unexpectedly and President Bush’s first nominee to take over as head of that Department in the new Administration was obliged to withdraw.

[17] European Council Presidency Conclusions of 21 September 2001 at http://ue.eu.int/cms3ap­plica­tions/Applica­tions/newsRoom/Load­Document.asp?directory=en/ec/&filename=140.en.pdf; European Council Declaration of 25 March 2004 at http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs­/cmsUpload­/796­35.­pdf.

[18] Text at http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/1373); see also the chapter by T. Biersteker in A. Bailes and I. Frommelt, ‘Business and Security: Public-Private Sector Relationships in a New Security Environment’, OUP for SIPRI, May 2004.

[19] On this set of issues see the Introduction and the chapter by P. Lenain in ‘Business and Security: public-private partnerships in a new security environment’, as note 18.

[20] “The European Union categorically rejects any equation of groups of fanatical terrorists with the Arab and Muslim world…. The European Council emphasises the need to combat any nationalist, racist and xenophobic drift….”(extracts from European Council conclusions of 21 Sept. 2001, note 17 above).

[21] Quoted figures for the number of Muslims living in Europe as EU citizens range widely, from 10-15 million, and some estimates of total Muslim residents go as high as 20 million.  One difficulty is that individual nations, not the EU, determine who is defined as a “citizen”. The fragility referred to was demonstrated i.a. by the bloody riots in the Netherlands in November 2004.

[22] On this subject see Dalgaard-Nielsen, A., “Civil Liberties and Counter-Terrorism: A European Point of View,” Cooperative Security Program Opinions (Washington, DC: Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University SAIS, 2004).

[23] On the terror/conflict linkage, see the chapter by R. Dwan and S. Wiharta in ‘SIPRI Yearbook 2004: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security’; also Stepanova, E., ‘Anti-terrorism Policy and Peace-Building during and after conflict’, SIPRI Policy Paper, July 2003, text at http://www.sipri.org.

[24] For the High Level Panel report ‘A more secure world: our shared responsibility’, see http://www.un.org/secureworld; see also the Introduction to SIPRI Yearbook 2005 (forthcoming, OUP for SIPRI, August 2005).

[25] This subject would deserve a paper all to itself. Suffice it to say here that the EU’s WMD strategy adopted on 12 Dec. 2003 identifies much the same threats as lie behind current US policies, but diverges from the US line in the priority it accords to imposing (sometimes intrusive) restraints on the EU countries themselves: strengthening the international-legal instruments and institutions of arms control; and seeking negotiated bargains with proliferation offenders. This last point has found concrete illustration in the different lines taken and roles played by the USA and Europe respectively towards Iran. For the text of the EU WMD strategy see http://ue.eu.int/press­Data­/en/misc/78340.pdf.

[26] The argument about limitations of military power has been sufficiently aired since mid-2003 to need little reinforcement here, but the author has written on it at more length in the Introductions to SIPRI Yearbooks 2003 and 2004.

[27] The experience of integrating diverse ethnic elements internally, under the USA’s own national authority and constitution, is not the same thing.

[28] The PSI involves commitments and action by a select group of states to interdict the passage of illegal WMD-related materials at sea: for background see http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/proliferation

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