The United States and the Chaotic Middle East

by Dr. Gawdat Bahgat. Dr. Bahgat is professor of National Security Affairs at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Study. He is an Egyptian-born specialist in Middle Eastern policy, particularly Egypt, Iran, and the Gulf region. His areas of expertise include energy security, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counter-terrorism, Arab-Israeli conflict, North Africa, and American foreign policy in the Middle East.

This article was published on International Relations and Security Network (ISN) of the Center for Security Studies (CSS), at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) first. ISN is one of the world’s leading open access information services for both professionals and students who focus on international relations and security studies. It is jointly funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports and ETH Zurich.

How can the United States safeguard its strategic interests in the Middle East? Gawdat Bahgat believes it needs to 1) give Arab countries the space they need to resolve their internal problems, and 2) pursue closer ties with the region’s three non-Arab “peripheries” – Israel, Turkey and Iran.

A US Marine covers the face of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's statue with the US flag in Baghdad's al-Fardous square 09 April 2003 (Photo: Ramzi Haidar / AFP / Getty Images).

A US Marine covers the face of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s statue with the US flag in Baghdad’s al-Fardous square 09 April 2003 (Photo: Ramzi Haidar / AFP / Getty Images).

In the aftermath of the Second World War the United States emerged as a superpower with global economic, security, and strategic interests. Meanwhile, the old European colonial powers (mainly Britain and France) gradually saw their prominent status in the international system wane. In the Middle East this key shift in the global balance of power meant that Washington replaced London and Paris as the main foreign power. In the past six decades the United States has been perceived in the region as rival, enemy and/or ally and occasionally a mixture of all.

Interestingly, US goals in the Middle East have been consistent, with little, if any, change. US oil production peaked in the early 1970s, and the United States became increasingly dependent on cheap and secure oil supplies from the Middle East. Private US oil companies have played a major role in oil discovery and exploitation in several Middle Eastern countries, and, at the same time, the United States has been a recipient of billions of petro-dollars of investment. The huge arms deals between Washington and Persian Gulf Arab states in the past several decades have cemented the strategic partnership between the two sides.

The security of Israel and the on-going peace process between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors have been major US goals in the Middle East. In the past several decades every US administration has spent substantial time, effort, and domestic political capital on the Arab-Israeli conflict and peace process. Secretary of State John Kerry has spent more time working on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement more than on any other issue. These efforts, however, have failed to bridge the huge gap between the two sides’ vision of a peaceful solution.

In addition to these two fundamental goals – cheap and secure oil supplies and Arab-Israeli peace – the United States has pursued other important goals. The 9/11 attacks reinforced counter-terrorism as a main priority of US foreign policy in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Similarly, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has been a major US objective for decades. The tension over Iran’s nuclear program in recent years has further underscored the prominence of non-proliferation.

In pursuing these four broad objectives of oil, Arab-Israeli peace, counter-terrorism, and non-proliferation, Washington has relied on key Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as partners. The former is the Arab world’s largest economy and the latter is the region’s most populous country. The United States has different policy and strategy aims with two other major Arab countries, Syria and Iraq. For most of its modern history Syria has been a close ally of the Soviet Union and later Russia. The US occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011 is one of the longest wars in the United States history and entailed substantial human and financial costs. Generally, US ties with these major Arab countries have been based more on perceived national interests than on common values.

Protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, hold a poster featuring the head of Egypt's armed forces General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013 (Photo: Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters).

Protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, hold a poster featuring the head of Egypt’s armed forces General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013 (Photo: Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters).

The three non-Arab Middle Eastern states of Iran, Israel, and Turkey have had unique relations with Washington. Shared Judeo-Christian values are the core of the US-Israeli alliance. Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has long been seen by the United States as a model for other Muslim countries to follow in accommodating Islam with liberal democracy and a free-market economy. Since the 1979 Revolution, Iran has been seen as the main US adversary in the Middle East, accused of sponsoring terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons. The nuclear deal signed in November 2013 between Iran and major global powers, however, represents a potential game-changer in relations between Washington and Tehran. There is no guarantee of success. However, the intense hostility between the two nations is likely to be addressed by diplomatic means than military threats. In short, the telephone call between President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani might have started a new chapter in relations between the two nations. Time will tell.

The sweeping security and political upheavals in the Arab world since 2011 and the substantially improved US energy outlook due to technological innovations suggest two opposing US strategies. First, American leadership and active diplomacy is essential. The fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the on-going civil war in Syria illustrate the high cost of lack of US leadership. On the other side, the recent military gains by Iraqi and Kurdish forces against the Islamic State fighters underscore the difference an active American role can make. Second, the US policy in the Arab world has been proven costly and ineffective. Washington should play a less active role and give major Arab countries the space they need to sort out their domestic and foreign policies and focus on the strong ties it already has with Israel and Turkey and address the major differences is has with Iran. The political values of these three Middle East “peripheries”, Israel, Turkey, and Iran, are closer to US values when compared to other nations in the region.

The United States and the Arab World
Certainly, US policy in the Arab world has varied from country to country and has experienced ups and downs in the past half century. In the past several decades Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been seen as the pillars of US policy in the region, but this is now changing.

For more than seven decades Saudi Arabia has been one of the closest allies the United States has in the Middle East and the Islamic World. Several economic and strategic interests are at stake in this relationship, including oil supplies, Persian Gulf security, and the containment of militant Islam. These mutual interests aside, Washington and Riyadh have recently taken different positions on a number of regional disputes. In recent years the kingdom has exported more oil to China than to the United States. Several US government agencies and members of Congress frequently criticize Saudi record on human rights, particularly religious freedom and the status of women. In February 2011 Saudi leaders strongly expressed their dismay of what they perceived as the US abandoning President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Similarly US criticized Saudi military intervention in Bahrain.

President Barack Obama meets with King Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz of Saudi Arabia at Rawdat Khuraim in March 2014.

President Barack Obama meets with King Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz of Saudi Arabia at Rawdat Khuraim in March 2014.

Washington and Riyadh also strongly disagree over Syria and Iran (see also Khaled al-Dakhil, “Washington, Riyadh Divided Over Iran’s Role in Syria Solution“, Al-Monitor, 18.09.2013). The United States has been concerned over what it perceives as Saudi support to Jihadists and other extremist groups fighting the Bashar Al-Assad regime. On the other hand, the kingdom has strongly urged the Obama administration to take military action against Assad and provide military assistance to the rebels. Finally, Riyadh has little trust in the US-Iran negotiation over Tehran’s nuclear program. Some Saudi officials and analysts have expressed concerns that a US-Iran deal might be at the expense of their country. To sum up, in recent years there has been a growing trust deficit between Washington and Riyadh.

The current status of US relations with another key Arab ally, Egypt, is in a similar state. Unlike Saudi Arabia, which has been a close Western ally since its establishment in 1932, Egypt adopted a pro-Soviet policy after the monarchy was toppled in 1952. The fast toppling of President Mubarak in February 2011 took the United States and many other countries by surprise. After some hesitation, President Obama called on President Mubarak to step down, and the United States pushed for credible and free elections. Washington adopted a businesslike approach toward the Muslim Brotherhood. Since 2013 the Egyptian authorities have ignored US pressure and requests and moved ahead, arresting and charging Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including former president Mohamed Morsi. The military resents what it perceives as US meddling in Egypt’s domestic affairs. The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, accuses Washington of not exerting enough pressure to prevent or end the military takeover and the toppling of President Morsi. In short, by late 2013 a large number of Egyptian activists, the government, and the Muslim Brotherhood resented the US role.

To sum up, major Arab countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, among others, are going through a potentially prolonged period of political and economic instability. Imposing reform from the outside is not likely to succeed; it has not so far. Given the Arab world’s unique culture and history, the Arab people will choose the path and direction of reform, at some stage, but at their own velocity. US efforts to influence or shape the process have largely proven unproductive.

United States and the Peripheries
The three non-Arab Middle Eastern countries – Iran, Israel, and Turkey – have historically been called “the peripheries”, because they sit on the edges of the region’s Arab countries, which, with more than 300 million people, undoubtedly represent the heart of the Middle East. US relations with Iran, Israel, and Turkey and the relations between and among these three powers have fundamentally changed in the past several decades.

arab_spring-002In the aftermath of the political and security upheavals in the Arab world from early 2011, the regional strategic landscape has fundamentally changed. Rather than Soviet penetration, the current threat is broad socioeconomic and political instability. As regional powers with relatively higher levels of stability than their neighbors, Iran, Israel, and Turkey see both opportunities and challenges in the upheavals on their borders. The United States shares similar sentiments. Washington has traditionally enjoyed close ties with two of the three peripheries, Israel and Turkey. The 1979 Revolution represented a turning point in the relations between the United States and Iran.

After decades of tension between Washington and Tehran, suspicion over Iran’s nuclear program pushed the two countries to the brink of confrontation. The process and outcome of electing President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 has presented an opportunity for rapprochement. Rouhani was considered the most pragmatic candidate and was supported by the majority of moderates and reformers. He also enjoys full support of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The signing of an interim agreement on the nuclear dispute between Iran and the global powers (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) in November 2013 potentially could start a new chapter in the relations between Tehran and Washington.

The Way Forward
The on-going political and economic turmoil in several major Arab countries has highlighted the dilemma the United States and other countries face in the broader region. A policy driven by perceived national interests with less attention to transparency and democratic values has proven ineffective and costly. In most Arab countries, both governments and their opponents reject foreign intervention. Indeed, less foreign intervention by the United States and other powers is likely to help Arab countries to determine their future without blaming foreign powers.

Meanwhile, the three peripheries of Iran, Israel, and Turkey enjoy a higher level of political and economic stability than most of their neighbors. In addition to maintaining good relations with Israel and Turkey, the United States can take the opportunity to reduce tension with Iran and help it to be reacclimatized and reintegrated into the regional and global systems. Good US relations with the three peripheries should not be seen as coming at the expense of the heart of the Middle East, the Arab world. The zero-sum policy and mentality should be replaced by a win-win approach.

Posted in Egypt, English, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Security Policy, Syria, Turkey | Leave a comment

The vulnerability of post-heroic societies

by Hans Bachofner. Bachofner, born in 1931, received his doctorate in law from the University of Zurich. As a career army officer, he ultimately became Chief of Staff of Operational Training with the rank of Major General and was a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He died in 2012. This article was published in 2006 in German in “Schweizer Monat“, a Swiss political, economic, and cultural magazine. We are grateful to be permitted to exclusively publish this translated version (translated by We hope it will contribute to our discussion about Europe’s weakness (read also “The Geopolitical Crisis” by Sid Lukkassen and “America Has Itself to Blame for Europe’s Weakness” by Nick Ottens).

Heroic societies are held together by honour and sacrifice. Based on experience, they are more successful and robust in violent disputes than post-heroic societies, which are characterised by law, trading, pursuit of prosperity, and peacefulness. This constitutes a fundamental threat to peaceful civil societies.

Hercules. Gilded bronze, Roman artwork, 2nd century BC.

Hercules. Gilded bronze, Roman artwork, 2nd century BC.

Post-heroic societies can be identified by the disappearance of the fighter who acquires honour through great willingness to make sacrifices. There is no doubt that Americans and Europeans, including the Swiss, are among the post-heroic societies. They have high regard for the trader, not the hero, according to a distinction made by Werner Sombart. Post-heroic societies have overcome interstate war for the purpose of dispute resolution; patriotic sacrifice and endurance of suffering have been eroded and are only maintained in rhetoric and rituals. Their soldiers are peacekeepers on humanitarian missions; if they fight, they do so without loss to their own side. Their governments assert again and again that they never want to endanger the lives of their own soldiers. Their playing fields are peacekeeping and asymmetric war from a position of strength. Their tools are the satellite-guided cruise missile, the missile submarine, and bombing from high altitudes. The opportunities to kill and to die are distributed completely unevenly. Technologically superior weapons replace the readiness to die. Military tasks that were once typical are outsourced. Private military companies acting in lawless spaces, mercenaries, “green card-soldiers” (foreigners who are permitted to acquire citizenship after a few years of military service), and volunteers of all kinds replace citizen soldiers. The mentality of buying freedom: you pay and let others shoot. The personal weapon in the closet of free and responsible citizens becomes a nightmare.

Two experiences led us to this post-heroic stage: the monstrous sacrifice of mass heroism in World War I, and the misuse of the terms “honour” and “sacrifice” driven by totalitarian regimes in World War II. There is also demographic development. One-child families have a very different relationship to the loss of sons in the service of a nation than families with six or more children and a high child mortality rate.

Self-destruction and de-heroisation in the wake of the two world wars have had a lasting effect. We are happy to put peace above everything, to consider human life as the supreme good, and to strive for prosperity in globalised openness. We have a huge learning process behind us. Going back is not an option. The best case, the expansion of the European desire for peace in the whole world, has not occurred. The most likely scenarios of possible development all contain an abundance of rivalries, power struggles, armed conflicts, and wars. A particularly bad case is the emergence of an enemy that thwarts the technological superiority and overcomes the peaceful, life-loving societies of the West. The question we fear is: can post-heroic societies survive colliding with heroic groups? Is the new terrorism an indication of the beginning of a worst case scenario?

The partisan, who was once the typical representative of asymmetric weakness, is now the terrorist, in particular the suicide bomber. Guerrilla war was defensive, the war of terror is offensive. It takes place on the enemy’s territory. It does not need the support of the population. It uses the complex and slightly vulnerable infrastructure of the enemy and carries out a real war of devastation. The new terrorism does not target individuals, politicians, business leaders, and law enforcement agencies; instead it targets public opinion, the psychological structure of society. Highly symbolic buildings, suburban trains, holiday hotels, buses: the randomness of the victim selection is intended to spread worldwide fear and terror (hence “terrorism”) with the help of the sensation-obsessed media, create uncertainty, destroy confidence in the future, tire and wear people down. The murdered people are not the target, rather the survivors are, every one of us. It is a sign of ignorance of modern terror when it is alleged that, for example, the Swiss people are not a target. Our self-confidence, our sense of security, our psyche, even our security portfolios are also in the sights when attacks are perpetrated abroad. Today, the Internet is the most popular means for recruiting, leading, and training terrorists.

This file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 7, 2014 shows a convoy of vehicles and ISIS fighters in Iraq's Anbar Province. With pictures like this - and also with the horrible video of the murder of James Wright Foley - ISIS, like other terrorist groups, target the people through the possibilities of modern communication.

This file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 7, 2014 shows a convoy of vehicles and ISIS fighters in Iraq’s Anbar Province. With pictures like this – and also with the horrible video of the murder of James Wright Foley – ISIS, like other terrorist groups, target the people through the possibilities of modern communication.

The asymmetrically weak person, the terrorist, has a very different relationship with time and space than the opponent, who is looking for a defined territory to dominate (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon), and is in a hurry. The costs of war are enormous for the opponent, the patience of his own population is limited; without rapid victory, the legitimacy of political and military leaders quickly fades. The asymmetrically fighting weak person knows no defined territory. He is omnipresent as a network. He is no longer based in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, in the capitals of the Western world, in the Islamic arc of crisis from Morocco to Indonesia. He has time and does not need much money, he makes pinpricks and evades every decision. Acceleration and deceleration of processes indicate on which side the advantages and disadvantages are and which way the decision tends towards. These wars do not end with compromises and peace treaties. Military forces have to learn the hard lesson that they can win all the battles as the technologically superior party in every respect and yet still lose the war. As we have known at the latest since Vietnam, it does not depend on tactical and operational successes, but instead on reaching strategic goals.

In the worst case scenario, the terrorist threat may become parallel with the rapid development of missile technology and the slow end of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Strategic precautions now require thinking about the time after the NPT regime. We are on the way to a multi-polar world disorder with numerous large, small, and very small owners of weapons of mass destruction. The nuclear structure of the five nuclear powers and Security Council members, which was stable for decades, is decaying. North Korea, Iran, Israel, India, and Pakistan are the centre of attention. The list of contenders with their own nuclear weapons is long. Among them are also rogue states, non-state actors, and terrorist organisations. Mutual deterrence due to possible counter attacks and the guarantee of stability of the bipolar symmetric cold war is becoming untenable. The strategic masterminds are just now starting to deal with this new world; politics and diplomacy are falling far behind, and even the military is more concerned with problems on this side of the backstop. We need new regional monitoring systems, missile defences, preparations for evacuating densely populated urban centres, a dense, well-equipped network for measuring radiation, shelters, well-trained civil defence organisations, prepared medical services, a new arms control, and above all, we need respect for this new type of threat – and expert knowledge of it. We do not need alarmism and artificial fear psychosis, but sober education and a lot of practical exercise in using all state funds for precautions and aftercare, as well as material readiness.

Preparedness: The soldiers of Company F "Blues Platoon," 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, move forward, almost shoulder to shoulder, with live ammo while practicing team movement drills at an Advanced Close Quarters Marksmanship (ACQM) course at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, May 13, 2009. The ACQM course was meant to sharpen the Soldiers skills before moving north to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Preparedness: The soldiers of Company F “Blues Platoon,” 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, move forward, almost shoulder to shoulder, with live ammo while practicing team movement drills at an Advanced Close Quarters Marksmanship (ACQM) course at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, May 13, 2009. The ACQM course was meant to sharpen the Soldiers skills before moving north to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

We do not yet have a secure [strategic] missile defence. After years of expensive research and development, a Pentagon employee recently [(as of: 2006)] had to declare: “There is simply not much we can do against missiles except for controlling the launch area or going to the bunker.” The Lebanon war was also a missile war. The imprecise Hezbollah short-range missiles were ridiculed unjustly. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They were not intended to hit point-targets, but instead uninvolved civilians who happened to be there (see also Jassem Al Salami, “Rockets and Iron Dome, the Case of Lebanon“,, 05.08.2014). The mental state of Israel was hit, as well as – via the consciously controlled media – the whole world. Europe needs to wake up. North Korea is far away, but the Iranian missiles are on our doorsteps. Trade in missile technology must be strictly prevented.

The dialogue of international law lags behind development. The arsenal of missiles (air-to-air, air-to-ground, ground-to-air, ground-to-ground, mobile on trucks and ships, long-, medium-, and short-range missiles, warheads with conventional charges or weapons of mass destruction, multiple warheads, guided missiles, high-speed drones, and much more) is large and varied and so widespread that the armed forces would do well to adapt their doctrine, organisation, and equipment. Military airfields and logistics centres are missile targets; the civilian population is even more vulnerable.

There is no cause for despair when dealing with the worst possible cases. The current strategic worst cases are still more harmless than what we have behind us. In an extensive nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, 160 to 180 million people would have been killed within 24 hours (the numbers are from Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was at the source at the time). The chance of falling victim to a terrorist attack is vanishingly small. The main danger is the loss of faith in the future, of self-certainty, of the joy of participation. Strategic considerations for the worst case are not forecasts, but thinking aids for taking precautions.

For four years I was responsible for coordinating the U.S. response in the event of a nuclear attack. And I can assure you that a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union on a comprehensive scale would have killed 160 to 180 million people within 24 hours. No terrorist threat is comparable to that in the foreseeable future. Moreover, terrorism is essentially a technique of killing people and not the enemy as such. If one wages war on an invisible, unidentifiable phantom, one gets into a state of mind that virtually promotes dangerous exaggerations and distortions of reality. — Zbigniew Brzezinski cited in Hans Hoyng and Georg Mascolo, “SPIEGEL Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Victory Would be a Fata Morgana’“, Spiegel, 12.09.2006.

Even post-heroic societies need a basic foundation of heroic values. Without willingness to sacrifice, without heroes, such systems, which are used to purchasing services with money, do not survive either. The Swiss-style militia soldier supports this idea, in as do the police, fire, and civil defence. People care about him. His reward is not his wages, but the recognition and attention. With the ability to defend, we [(Switzerland)] lose the ability to survive as a small state. Affiliation with majorities, alliances, large anonymous organisations is tempting at any time, but wrong. People think they are trading freedom for security, but they are drawn into the adventures of others. NATO in Afghanistan, the EU in the Congo, the UN in Sudan: if you look behind the curtain, you’ll see abysses. The mania for also sending a few non-combatant Swiss soldiers everywhere does not lead to more prestige, but to contempt.

With the new images of war, the radically altered strategic situation also calls for a new image of soldiers. There are growing signs that more “real soldiers” (Ehud Olmert) are required again. The “miles protector” must be replaced with the “miles pugnator,” the fighter. Even the civilian citizens must change. They must know that they are the target of the attacks, rarely physically, but always psychologically. They must acquire great composure; a “heroic composure,” as it was called following the London bombings. Attacks are not worth it if citizens react coolly and calmly, if the economy cannot be intimidated, and the media remain moderate. The physical damage can be reduced by judicious precautions, through structural measures, surveillance, decentralisation, redundancy, and delegation of responsibility. Well-managed companies, organisations, and governments are prepared for attacks.

We [(Switzerland)] need composure, determination, special forces with adequate equipment and a high level of training, and decision-makers in the federal government, in the cantons, and in the municipalities who know their duties and powers jointly. The danger of missile wars and weapons of mass destruction must be reasoned out, played through in exercises, illustrated to those in positions of responsibility and to citizens in all sobriety and then tackled. Only passive protection is currently possible for the small state. If it does not have this, confidence will be shaken at the first incident. The question posed at the beginning regarding the ability of post-heroic societies to survive clashing with heroic groups can be answered: yes, they will survive – if they are able to sacrifice, if they stay calm and decisive, if they prepare and take precautions, if they do not lose the will to self-affirmation, freedom, and independence.


Posted in English, International, Security Policy, Switzerland, Terrorism | Leave a comment

Israel is Fighting a New War of Attrition

Israeli troops in a tunnel in the Gaza Strip in July 2014. IDF photo

Israeli troops in a tunnel in the Gaza Strip in July 2014. IDF photo

by Robert Beckhusen. Robert Beckhusen is a freelance writer who contributes regularly at War is Boring. He’s also written for publications including C4ISR JournalWiredThe Daily Beast and World Politics Review. You can follow him on Twitter.

If anyone expected Israel’s war with Hamas to end with a unilateral ceasefire, the last several days should serve as a rude shock. Ten days after Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip, Hamas resumed rocket fire and Israel struck back with at least 100 air strikes — including targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders.

That Israel is committing itself in a war of attrition with Gaza after pulling its forces out should come as no surprise. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) went in without clear objectives, meaning that its attempts to reduce — let alone end — Hamas’s weapons and tunnel systems were bound to come up short. The result is an extended air campaign that may last days, weeks or even months.

The operation committed some of the Israeli army’s heaviest units, including the heavily-armored 36th Division, a veteran unit formerly based in the Golan Heights and which now serves as Israel’s emergency shock force, available to be called into action on short notice. The Israeli invasion also included three infantry brigades, a parachute brigade and territorial infantry units – in addition to large numbers of drones and fighter aircraft.

At least 64 Israeli soldiers died in that operation. More than 2,000 Palestinians died, including hundreds of Hamas fighters. The IDF claimed it destroyed dozens of tunnels within 4.5 kilometers of the border. But it’s unlikely Israel secured all of them within the limited window of time its troops had to find and clear the underground passageways. Recently, Hamas took reporters on a tour of one tunnel that Israel missed (see Jeffrey Heller and Giles Elgood, “Exclusive: Hamas fighters show defiance in Gaza tunnel tour“, Reuters, 19.08.2014).

“Our men are still operating in those tunnels prepared for all options,” an al-Qassam Brigades fighter told Reuters.

But it wasn’t really about the tunnels. Rather, Israel stumbled into a series of violent escalations following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.

As Israeli troops and interior police cracked down on Palestinians in the West Bank — with a focus on Hamas militants based there — other militants retaliated with rocket fire from Gaza. This led Israeli to launch air strikes. Hamas retaliated through tunnel-borne commando raids. It was only then Israel launched its ground invasion. The objective of destroying the tunnels was rationalized after the fact.

Israeli troops during an exercise in August 2014. IDF photo

Israeli troops during an exercise in August 2014. IDF photo

Much reporting has focused on the heavy civilian toll in the invasion. This is partly because Israel wants to avoid casualties among its own troops. The IDF prefers to rely heavily on artillery and air strikes to hit its enemies while minimizing danger to itself. There’s also Israel’s reliance on overwhelming force as a means of deterrence, owing to Israel’s small size and vulnerability to stand-off weapons such as rockets and missiles. In short, Israel emphasizes striking hard and striking fast.

But Israel also cannot sustain a long war. As casualties mounted — three times that of Operation Cast Lead more than four years ago — the Israeli government felt the pressure to withdraw sooner rather than later. This means the IDF overcommitted to a plan that had no clear way to succeed. Effectively destroying the tunnels and deterring Hamas meant a price Israel wouldn’t likely be willing to pay.

For an undeterred Hamas, it will continue rocket fire as a means to pressure Israel into lifting its siege on Gaza, which has led to the collapse of numerous industries and makes the Strip nearly unlivable. Since the resumption of fighting (initiated by Hamas), the militant group has fired several hundred mortar rounds and rockets into Israel. One Israeli citizen in Eshkol was badly wounded in one such attack. But 29 Palestinians died on Aug. 21 alone in Israeli air strikes.

The chances for a ceasefire rests with Egypt. “The end of the operation, we believe,” an Israeli official told Haaretz, “must go through Cairo.” But the Egyptian regime under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is hardly sympathetic to Hamas. The result is deadlock and a push-button war that won’t likely see Israeli ground troops committed again for perhaps years.

That’s a strategy for Israel, on paper. But it’s not a means to end the conflict.

Posted in English, Gaza, International, Robert Beckhusen, Security Policy, Terrorism | Leave a comment

The Korean Quandary: Defence Reform

by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.

K2_Black_Panther_main_battle_tank_South_Korean_Army_South_Korea_002As the South Korean military pursues implementation of its “Defence Reform Plan 2020″ (DRP2020), the country has become interesting to watch from a procurement standpoint. Whereas the Republic of Korea’s land forces were previously oriented around the use of mass infantry, the focus beyond 2020 will be on a smaller but better equipped and better trained force. This has resulted in a contract for Daewoo Industries to produce a next-generation assault rifle to replace the K2 as the ROK’s standard issue infantry weapon. The K2 Black Panther (see the image on the right) was intended to become the ROK’s most prevalent main battle tank until serious problems with the transmission and main engine were identified late in the procurement process. In the midst of this, the ROK Navy is now enjoying the fruit of a 25-year development program as Hyundai and Daewoo complete production of several Sejong the Great-class destroyers.

The insights DRP2020 offer into South Korea’s strategic priorities, however, may be cause for concern. At the time of DRP2020’s introduction by the ROK Ministry of Defence in 2005, the country’s military was comprised of approximately 690,000 troops. The DRP2020 envisions a significant reduction in personnel, primarily from the land forces, to bring total military manpower to 500,000 troops by the end of 2020. As of this writing, the ROK military officially consists of 560,000 troops, suggesting the Ministry of Defence is on schedule to achieve the envisioned personnel cuts. Officially, the reason for this reduction in personnel is South Korea’s aging population and declining birth rate, which together is expected to ensure that 36% of South Koreans will be over the age of 65 by 2030.

But a downsized military will have implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula. A 2003 RAND study indicates that successful nation-building exercises have generally required a ratio of 20 soldiers per thousand civilians in the host country. Where this ratio is not met or exceeded, the military deployment fails to stabilize the host country. James Dobbins, RAND’s former head of international and security policy, determined that a ratio of 40 soldiers per thousand civilians is imperative to ensuring stability while nation-building is ongoing. Based on these recommendations, in the event of a regime collapse in North Korea, the ROK would require a force of approximately one million troops in order to secure a peaceful unification. This follows by applying the ratios identified in the two aforementioned RAND studies to the entire population of the Korean Peninsula, namely because regime collapse in the North and the prospect of unification could also result in civil disorder in the South.

In such a scenario, it is doubtful that South Korean authorities would take such drastic actions as those seen early in the American occupation of Iraq, completely demobilizing military forces. Rather, some elements of the Korean People’s Army would be incorporated into the stabilization force, depending on the nature of the regime collapse in North Korea. Due to an aggressive expansion to its military forces in the 1980s and 1990s, North Korea boasts a force of just over 900,000 troops. But ROK military planners certainly would not assume the full integration of its neighbour’s forces into a stabilization force. If the ROK is serious about unification, its defence reforms would reflect the need to maintain a sizeable land force in order to bring about that unification with a minimum of reliance upon former North Korean forces.

North Korean Forces (unclassified version from the US Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea", 2013, p. 16-18; click on the image for details).

North Korean Forces (unclassified version from the US Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea“, 2013, p. 16-18; click on the image for details).

With a force half that required to ensure stability during unification, it is very likely that ROK leaders have abandoned hope that Korea will be unified in the next few decades. While disconcerting on its own, this perhaps reflects a gradual shift in ROK foreign policy away from the United States and its allies. In July 2014, President Xi Jinping of China made a state visit to Seoul, just two days after Japan adopted reforms to its Constitution that are widely unpopular among the South Korean public. The year prior, President Park Geun-hye traveled to Beijing, primarily to discuss the further deepening of economic ties between China and South Korea. Bilateral trade is already $270 billion per year, surpassing the volume of trade South Korea has with both the United States and Japan combined. Given the overwhelming importance of China as a market for Korean goods, and given China’s vested interest in the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, ROK leaders appear to have “cut their losses” and determined that unification will only occur at the behest of China.

Though this increasingly cozy relationship between China and the ROK is a negative development in Asia-Pacific affairs for the US, the DRP2020 is not all bad news. The reforms envision a greater capacity for expeditionary operations on the part of ROK forces. The mass infantry previously generated by South Korean conscription was best suited to territorial defence or a convoluted nation-building exercise in the North. Substantial forces were deployed in recent years in support of US-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and smaller but no less valuable commitments were made to multilateral operations in Lebanon, Haiti, and South Sudan. But the procurement of new technology will allow the ROK military to intervene more quickly and efficiently in “hot spots” around the world. For example, the Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship produced for the ROK Navy by Hanjin Heavy Industries will have the capacity to carry almost 750 marines onboard as well as numerous armoured vehicles. A complement of 15 transport helicopters carried by the vessel could be used to rapidly deploy troops from the Dokdo-class to locations further inland where a troop presence is needed. More generally, the ROK is pursuing a “blue water” navy, moving away from its traditional reliance on a force of coastal patrol vessels strictly concerned with dissuading North Korean or Chinese aggression at sea.

President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping are greeted by students of Eunpyeong Elementary School at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea (Photo: Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald).

President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping are greeted by students of Eunpyeong Elementary School at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea (Photo: Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald).

The shape of things to come may be reflected in a 2011 incident involving a South Korean destroyer. After Somali pirates seized a Norwegian-owned and South Korean-operated tanker in the Gulf of Aden, the ROKS Choe Yeong was deployed. This Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin-class destroyer, supported by elements of the US Navy, saw to the rescue of the tanker’s crew, a boarding action resulting in the death of eight pirates and the capture of five others. Though not formally a part of NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, the ROKS Choe Yeong had cooperated with its forces to pursue the shared goal of fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Such a mission would not have been possible for the ROK Navy to accomplish prior to the recent program of modernization. But this also seems to reflect the kind of mission the ROK military is preparing for beyond 2020 and suggests three criteria ROK military planners will now have in mind. First, commit only when South Korean interests are directly affected. Second, engage against asymmetric threats. Third, commit only to operations conducted under a multilateral framework.

All in all, DRP2020 undermines the ROK’s reliability as an American ally. As it now lacks the capacity to pursue unification without considerable external assistance, the ROK also risks subordinating itself to the role of a Chinese client state. This is the greatest failure of the US’ diplomatic efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. The capacity for the ROK to contribute to counter-piracy or stabilization operations elsewhere in the world will have to be consolation enough.

Posted in English, International, North Korea, Paul Pryce, Security Policy, South Korea | Leave a comment

Weiterentwicklung der Armee: Update 01

Aktuelle Gefahrenlage: Brigadier Jean-Philippe Gaudin zeigte am 9. Mai 2014 auf einer Weltkarte Konfliktherde auf (Foto: Peter Klaunzer / Keystone).

Aktuelle Gefahrenlage: Brigadier Jean-Philippe Gaudin zeigte am 9. Mai 2014 auf einer Weltkarte Konfliktherde auf (Foto: Peter Klaunzer / Keystone).

Über den Inhalt der Weiterentwicklung der Armee (WEA) haben wir bereits in einem früheren Artikel informiert. Mit der gescheiterten Abstimmung über den Fonds zur Beschaffung des Kampfflugzeugs Gripen E kam jedoch auch dieses Geschäft etwas ins Stottern. Die Botschaft zur WEA wird Ende August innerhalb des Bundesrates, nach der Herbstsession in der Sicherheitspolitischen Kommission des Ständerates besprochen und danach frühestens in der Wintersession im Ständerat behandelt. Der neue Sicherheitspolitische Bericht 2015 wird voraussichtlich nicht wie geplant Ende dieses Jahres, sondern erst im Verlauf des nächsten Jahres veröffentlicht werden. Ob diese Reihenfolge auch wirklich Sinn macht, muss dann das Parlament entscheiden.

Es dauerte ganze drei Monate, bis Bundesrat Ueli Maurer am “Kasernengespräch” vom 19.08.2014 über die Auswirkungen der gescheiterten Abstimmung auf die Rüstungsbeschaffung Auskunft geben konnte (siehe auch Video weiter unten). Der Gripen E hätte gemäss Maurer einen Teil der Sicherheitslücken bei der Luftabwehr kompensieren sollen. Die momentan eingesetzten drei Systeme (Oerlikon 35-mm-Zwillingskanone, BL 84 “Rapier” und FIM-92 Stinger) sind wegen der zu geringe Wirkungshöhe (rund 3’000 m über Boden), der zu geringe Reichweite sowie wegen der Unwirksamkeit gegen Lenkflugkörper und Artilleriegeschosse den zukünftigen Anforderungen nicht mehr gewachsen (siehe “Projekt BODLUV 2020“,, 21.07.2014). Der Ersatz der drei Systeme wird nun prioritär behandelt und die erste Etappe soll bereits nächstes Jahr mit dem Rüstungsprogramm 2015 ins Parlament gehen. Das neue Abwehrsystem mit Boden-Luft-Raketen soll bis zu 1,5 Milliarden SFr kosten.

Ebenfalls soll mit dem Rüstungsprogramm 2015 dem Parlament die Beschaffung des neue Aufklärungsdrohnen-Systems (ADS 15) beantragt werden. Die Typenwahl ist im Juni 2014 erfolgt und fiel auf die Hermes 900 HFE der israelischen Firma Elbit Systems (siehe auch “Erste Anzeichen für ein Rüstungsprogramm 2015“,, 11.05.2012).

Die vier Kernforderungen der WEA.

Die vier Kernforderungen der WEA.

Bei den Kampfflugzeugen fokusiert sich das Eidgenössischen Departements für Verteidigung, Bevölkerungsschutz und Sport (VBS) auf den Ersatz der McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 C/D, welcher ab 2025 vorgesehen ist und bis 2027/2028 abgeschlossen sein soll. Gemäss Maurer sei deshalb zu prüfen, ob die F/A-18 C/D noch einmal für rund 500 Millionen aufgerüstet werden muss. Die Lücke der fehlenden Kampfflugzeuge wird voraussichtlich erst nach 2028 in Angriff genommen und dabei ein Gesamtbestand von (neu!) 50 Kampfflugzeugen anvisiert. Für die Northrop F-5 Tiger werden keine Investitionen mehr getätigt – sie werden definitiv ab 2016 ausser Dienst gestellt. Gemäss Maurer hätte eine Aufrüstung rund 1 Milliarde SFr gekostet – Geld, welches an anderer Stelle besser eingesetzt werden kann.

Abgesehen von der Luftwaffe sind in den nächsten Jahren auch am Boden und bei der Cyber Defence gezielte Investitionen nötig. Primär müssten die Kommunikationssysteme geschützt werden, beim Heer stehen unter anderem ein Minenabwehrsystem und der geschützte Mannschaftstransport im Zentrum. Interessanterweise ging Maurer nicht spezifisch auf die Beschaffung von Minenwerfer- und Artilleriesysteme ein. Alles in allem ist in den nächsten zehn Jahren mit einem Investitionsbedarf von rund 9 Milliarden SFr (exklusive Flugzeugbeschaffung!). Das Armeebudget reiche dafür aus, sofern es bei 5 Milliarden Franken (rund 6% des Bundesbudget) belassen wird.

Die WEA selber soll sich auf vier Kernforderungen fokussieren. Erstens sollen die Truppen wieder vollständig ausgerüstet werden. Zweitens gehe es darum, die Soldaten bestmöglich auszubilden, was insbesondere den Einsatz moderner Simulationsanlagen und eine intensivierte Kaderschulung erfordere (alle Kader verdienen ihren Grad wieder vollständig ab). Drittens wird eine höhere Einsatzbereitschaft angepeilt. Konkret heisst dies, dass ein Drittel der Armee innert zehn Tagen marschbereit sein soll. Viertens soll die Armee regional wieder besser verankert werden, was anhand der geringeren Mannschaftsgrösse und den zu schliessenden Immobilien jedoch eher ein Wunsch bleiben wird.


Ende 2014 / 2015 Das neue Militärgesetz wird im Parlament beraten.
2015 Das Aufklärungsdrohnen-Systems (ADS 15; Hermes 900 HFE) und die erste Trange des neuen Luftabwehrsystems (BODLUV 2020) werden dem Parlament im Rüstungsprogramm 2015 beantragt.
2015 Neuer Sicherheitspolitischer Bericht, welcher ab 2020 in die WEA (als ständiger Prozess) einfliessen wird.
2015-2020 Einführung des Aufklärungsdrohnen-Systems.
2016 Ausserdienststellung der F-5 Tiger.
2016 Neues Militärgesetz.
2017 Vernichtung sämtlicher Kanistermunition abgeschlossen.
2017-2020 Schrittweise Umsetzung der parlamentarischen Vorgaben inkl Reduktion des Armeebestands auf 100’000 Mann.
2020 Start der Evaluierung des F/A-18 C/D – Ersatz.
Ab 2020 Einsatzende Panzerhaubitze M-109 -> Zukunft der Artillerie?
2025-2028 Ablösung der F/A-18 C/D.
nach 2028 Stopfen der Lücke im Bereich Kampfjets (anvisierter Gesamtbestand: 50 Kampfflugzeuge).


Posted in Switzerland | Leave a comment

EU’s New Maritime Strategy is a Failure

by Felix F. Seidler. Felix is a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany and runs the site Seidlers Sicherheitspolitik“. This article was published there at first.

Since June 24, the EU has a new Maritime Security Strategy (EMSS). However, due to the haggling for posts in Brussels, there has not been much fanfare about it. In January, this blog has outlined what should have been in EU’s new Maritime Security Strategy. Hence, we should have a look how far the EMSS meets the strategic needs. To set the record straight: EMSS is a failure – and here is why.

FGS Hessen (Top), USNS Pecos (Middle) and FS Siroco (Bottom).

FGS Hessen (Top), USNS Pecos (Middle) and FS Siroco (Bottom).

Where is America?
The US Navy will remain the world’s most powerful navy for the decades to come. Its vessels dominate all oceans. Any maritime security policies will not work without taking Washington’s positions into account. Hence, any country’s or organization’s maritime strategy must at least address one’s relationship to the United States. However, EMSS does not address the US at any time (sic!).

EMSS repeats general knowledge by saying that the “EU depends on open, protected and secure seas and oceans” (“European Union Maritime Security Strategy“, Council of the European Union, 24.07.2014, p. 1). Due to the massive decline of Europe’s navies, this job is largely done by the United States. Moreover, EMSS defines maritime security “as a state of affairs of the global maritime domain, in which international law and national law are enforced, freedom of navigation is guaranteed and citizens, infrastructure, transport, the environment and maritime resources are protected” (p. 3). In the maritime choke points (e.g. Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca) most of these tasks are done by the US Navy and in the North Atlantic area also by NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups.

In consequence, a maritime strategy worth the term would have outlined what maritime relationship EU seeks with the United States. However, the EMSS does not clarify in any way how the triangle between EU, NATO and the US should work.

EU is now officially a regional power
Relevant theaters for the EU are the Arctic, the Mediterranean, the Indo-Pacific and meanwhile the Gulf of Guinea. In the EMSS, the EU says its strategy “covers the global maritime domain” (p. 4), while priorities are the North, Baltic and Black Seas, the Mediterranean, the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean (p. 4). The Indian Ocean was only briefly addressed concerning the Horn of Africa and the Pacific Ocean was not addressed at all. EU has missed the two most relevant oceans, not to mention that the Indo-Pacific as a geopolitical concept was also overlooked. Hence it is clear that in reality EMSS does not cover the global maritime domain.

Moreover, it is very questionable how relevant the theaters of EMSS priority really are. Of course, the Mediterranean and Arctic are go great concern. Due the Ukraine Crisis, the Black Sea has gained increased relevance. Instead, the Atlantic Ocean, the North and Baltic Sea are not areas of major security concerns. The only relevant issues going on there are Russian warship transits and air force flights. However, France could change this situation with the delivery of the Mistrals, because we may find these LHDs one day in front of Norway’s or the Baltic State’s coasts for unfriendly visits.

It is clear that while Europe is talking about interests and ambitions in the global maritime domain, it has effectively made itself a regional power. On the one hand, this does not reflect current strategic trends in the maritime domain, but on the other hand, the regional power approach is a realistic assumption.

The Landing Helicopter Dock Dixmude (L9015) in Jounieh bay, Lebanon (mMrch 2012). It is the third French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship.

The Landing Helicopter Dock Dixmude (L9015) in Jounieh bay, Lebanon (mMrch 2012). It is the third French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship.

Maritime good governance is fantasy
Frequently, the EMSS is using the term of “rules-based good governance at sea”, which the EU aims to promote in the international order. Perhaps, somebody from Brussels should have talked to our friends from Vietnam or the Philippines. What is emerging in the Indo-Pacific is the Chinese way of maritime governance, which means that by a salami-slicing tactic more and more of Asia’s water turn under Beijing’s control.

Much closer to Europe, Russia’s multiple show-of-force operations in the Eastern Mediterranean make clear, too, that Moscow will also not promote “rule-based good governance at sea”. In fact, in an international system, which becomes much more anarchic due to increased armament, nobody except Brussels is talking about good governance. The EMSS completely ignores that fact that maritime great power competition is growing and that new non-European expeditionary navies are emerging, which are likely to affect areas of concern for Europe.

Instead, Europe extensively debates security challenges, which are well known (p. 7f.). After more than 20 years of speeches, political documents and research, everybody is aware that organized crime, piracy, terrorism, proliferation and environmental issues are security challenges. Agreeing on this is not worth a new maritime strategy.

An aircraft elevator on the Chinese aircraft carrier "Liaoning". The carrier has two elevators, which lift the aircraft between the flight deck and the aircraft hangar (Source: "Liaoning (Varyag) Aircraft Carrier", SinoDefence, December 2013).

An aircraft elevator on the Chinese aircraft carrier “Liaoning”. The carrier has two elevators, which lift the aircraft between the flight deck and the aircraft hangar (Source: “Liaoning (Varyag) Aircraft Carrier“, SinoDefence, December 2013).

Brussels’ wishful thinking
While we see an emerging maritime great power competition across the global, the EU has managed to agree on a maritime strategy, which completely ignores the role of the US Navies and the rise of other navies, in particular China and India. While talking about “illegal archaeological research” as a threat (p. 8), EMSS pays no attention to shifting maritime balance of power, although Europe’s most pressing strategic-maritime challenge is how it will adapt to these shifts.

By canting phrases like “good governance”, the EU does only one thing: It sends a message all across the world that Brussels lives in a world of wishful thinking. China, India, Russia, Brazil and even America have no interest at all in playing by the rules that EU adores to put in place. While Brussels enjoys its self-percepted moral superiority, the world has moved on.

BRICS’ New Development Bank has no maritime relevance. However, it sends one relevant signal. The BRICS, who all are working on expeditionary navies, have no interested anymore in playing by Western rules, but rather try to overcome them in the long-term future. This applies on EU’s rule-based good governance, too.

EU will not become a serious player in maritime security
My argument in January was that it is most that EU says what it does and does what it says. Good governance in maritime security is promise Brussels cannot keep. Therefore, globally the EU will not become a serious maritime player. There is no talk in the EMSS about maritime crisis management or expeditionary missions. Instead, most of the issues addressed are trivial, self-evident and already well known. Hence, the EMSS is a failure.

Finally, there is also some good news. The stated ambitions of a regional power focusing on well-known security challenges is something that EU can actually do – but not more.

Posted in English, Felix F. Seidler, International, Sea Powers, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Sea Control 46 & 47: Indonesia Primer & British vs. American Surface Warfare Officers

Last week, I was job-related occupied and had no time to review the newest episodes of Sea Control. Thus, I will review in this article the latest two.

On 9 July 2014, the 3rd Indonesian presidential election was held. Voters had to decide between Prabowo Subianto, a former Lieutenant General in the Indonesian National Armed Forces and the governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, who finally won the election. The incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in office. The election of Widodo is a positive development 15 years after the first free elected president.

Indonesia is not only the largest state in South-East Asia, but also a stable, Muslim majority democracy. Nevertheless, according to Dr. Peter McCawley from the Australian College of Asia and the Pacific, Indonesia has still a long way to go. The biggest challenge for Indonesia is mass poverty – 11,7% of the population is below poverty line (CIA World Fact Book, 2012) and about 50% of the people have less than 2 US-Dollar a day. One place behind Palestine on rank 108, Indonesia has only a medium Human Development Index (HDI; UNDP, “Human Development Report 2014“, 24.07.2014, p. 161). Furthermore the infrastructure is underdeveloped – not only roads and ports, but also for example the water supply system.

The question remains if, with a newly elected president, Indonesia could do more in international affairs. Faced with domestic challenges, it would be a mistake for the international community to expect too much regarding Indonesia’s role in the regional security and stability. To answer that and other questions, Natalie Sambhi talks with Dr. Peter McCawley and Dr. Ross Tapsell, also from the Australian College of Asia and the Pacific, in episode 46 of Sea Control.

Listen to episode #46 immediately


• • •

According to Wikipedia, modern naval warfare is divided into four operational areas: surface warfare, air warfare, submarine warfare and information warfare. Each area comprises specialized platforms and strategies used to exploit tactical advantages unique and inherent to that area. Surface warfare officers interdict other, adversarial ships to pass through a location (interdiction) and have dominance of force over a given area that prevents other naval forces from operating successfully (sea control). In episode 47, Matthew Hipple discusses with Lt. Jon Paris, an US Navy Surface Warfare Officer, the differences between the Royal Navy and US Navy processes of creating officers for their surface fleet, the nature of being a maritime “professional” and possible improvements for the US model. The discussion is based on Paris’ article “The Virtue of Being a Generalist, Part 1: A Day in the Life of Sub Lieutenant Snodgrass“.

More information

Listen to episode #47 immediately

Latest: Episode #47 – Archive: all episodes – Don’t miss any future episodes and subscribe on iTunes.

• • •

CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

Posted in English, Indonesia, International, Sea Control, Sea Powers, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Personal Theories of Power: The Defense Industrial Base

by Mikhail Grinberg. He is an aerospace and defense strategy consultant in Washington DC. This article is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

Defense industrial base [hereafter "industrial base" or "defense industry"] issues are almost always discussed in a contextual vacuum — as if their history begins with World War II factories or with President Eisenhower’s 1961 warning of a growing military-industrial complex. But manufacturing materiel is as ancient as war itself. This essay attempts to first set a historical narrative for the defense industry and then to propose a theory of its power.

The Battle of Pavia, fought by Charles V against the Kingdom of France on the morning of 24 February 1525.

The Battle of Pavia, fought by Charles V against the Kingdom of France on the morning of 24 February 1525.

Marching through history
In 1528, Charles V of Spain hired a Genoese firm to supply and operate a fleet of galleys to help control the Italian coast. Due to their increased size and sophistication, the price of galleys grew. By 1570, this led his son Philip II to experiment with having court administrators operate seventy percent of Spain’s fleet. They failed to recruit experienced oarsmen or to provision equipment efficiently. The price of operating galleys doubled without any vessel improvements before the policy was reversed to private enterprise (David Parrott, “The Business of War: Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe“, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

In 1603, Charles’s grandson, Philip III paid 6.3 million ducats to Gonzalo Vaz Countinho, a private merchant, for 40 ships and 6,392 men. This eight year contract supplied Spain with its entire Atlantic fleet. Twenty-five years later, Philip IV contracted a Liège company to build cast-iron cannon and shot. By 1640, 1,171 canons and 250,000 shot were built. Until the end of the eighteenth century Spain was self-sufficient in iron guns (Parrot, “The Business of War”).

Contracting was not limited to the House of Habsburg. Governments have always relied on industry to provide materiel. It is not surprising then that in Michael Howard’s classic “War in European History” private enterprise plays a prominent role. Knights, mercenaries, merchants, and technologists shaped the history of Europe and thus its wars (Michael Howard, “War in European History“, New York: Oxford University Press, 1976).

An industry is born
For centuries supply caravans traveled with armies and small, decentralized, enterprises such as blacksmiths were ubiquitous. To profit, merchants repurposed equipment on commercial markets. Other proprietors assumed financial loss for military titles or, when victorious, profited from the spoils of war (Geoffrey Parker, “The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800“, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press, 1996).

The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) changed the scale of conflict and the materiel required to conduct it. At last there were “large-scale profits to be made” from the “business of war” (Parrot, “The Business of War”). In Genoa, Hamburg, and Amsterdam centers comprised of weapons manufacturers emerged alongside merchants that specialized in capital, financing, and market access. A multinational arms industry was born that “cut across not just national, but confessional, and indeed military boundaries” (Howard, “War in European History”).

Berlin based Splitgerber & Daum was one firm born from this system. Formed in 1712, its two proprietors began as commissioned agents. They raised capital to supply munitions first to local arsenals in Saxony and eventually the Prussian army itself. Their growth can be attributed to an early observation: that success in their business “could be achieved only within the framework of a strictly organized mercantilist economy” (W.O. Henderson, “Studies in the Economic Policy of Frederick the Great“, Oxon: Routledge, 1963.). Patriotism became a marketing tool.

By 1722, Splitgerber & Daum was manufacturing “gun barrels, swords, daggers, and bayonets” at Spandau and assembling guns at Potsdam (Henderson, “Studies in the Economic Policy”). By mid-century it was a conglomerate. Frederick the Great, unlike his grandfather the “mercenary king“, was not an admirer of contractors. But after the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763 he guaranteed the company a “regular flow of government orders” as long as it remained loyal to Prussian interests (Christopher Clark, “Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947“, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006). He understood that in order to “raise Prussia to the status of great power required the services of merchants, manufacturers, and bankers” (Henderson, “Studies in the Economic Policy”).

Thirty Years' War: The victory of Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631).

Thirty Years’ War: The victory of Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631).

Pouvoirs régaliens
Twenty-six years later, the French Revolution would change Europe. Until then, states were the property of absolute sovereigns; after they became “instruments of powerful forces dedicated to such abstract concepts as Liberty, Nationality, or Revolution” (Howard, “War in European History”). As the nature of the State changed, so did its wars. French armies were now comprised of conscripts. In 1794, France attempted a planned economy. It reasoned that if people could be conscripted so could resources. The experiment failed due to inefficiency; manufacturing reverted back to private enterprise before the year’s end.

Industry would flourish during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1783 to 1815 two thirds of Britain’s naval tonnage was produced by private shipyards. And the Royal Navy began to experiment with managing industry. It sacrificed deals with large lower-cost providers to bolster small contractors that it considered to be more flexible. In the nineteenth century, the birth of nations launched state industries: private, but British shipyards; private, but German steelmakers.

Krupp would embody this development. Founded in 1811 in Essen (by then Prussia), it would first develop steel. By 1851 it became the primary provider of Prussian arms and, after German unification, the country’s preeminent defense firm. By 1902, Krupp managed the shipyards in Kiel, produced Nassau-class dreadnought armor, and employed 40,000 people (Harold James, “Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm“, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012).

Defense Industrial Base Power
Defense industries evolved from distributed providers, to unaligned enterprises, and finally to state-managed industries. They became consortiums of private or government-owned entities that translate the natural, economic, and human capital resources of a state into materiel (Merton J. Peck and Frederic Scherer M, “The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis“, Boston: Harvard University, 1962).

Workers on the assembly line at the Chrysler tank arsenal in Detroit during World War II (click on the photo for more images).

Workers on the assembly line at the Chrysler tank arsenal in Detroit during World War II (click on the photo for more images).

World War II stretched this logic to its absolute; all state resources were translated into the machinery of war. In 1940 the US only built 2,900 bombers and fighters; by 1944 it built 74,000 on the back of industry. From 1941 until the war’s end 2,711 Liberty ships were built; welded together from 250,000 parts, which were manufactured all over the country. And from 1942 to 1946, 49,324 Sherman tanks were built by 11 separate companies such as Ford and American Locomotive — built by the “arsenal of democracy” (Jacques S. Gansler, “Democracy’s Arsenal: Creating a Twenty-First-Century Defense Industry“, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011).

After the war, all countries began to balance national security objectives with resources via defense industrial base policies. A country’s industrial base capability could be measured as a combination of its scope (how many different cross-domain technologies it could develop), scale (at what quantity), and quality (battlefield performance).

The path to independence
National resources limit capability. Less capable countries are more dependent on allies than more capable ones (see Figure 1). As countries develop an industrial base their level of dependence decreases, but never goes away. This can be best understood through industry itself. Prime contractors rely on their supply chains. But a widget supplier is more dependent on its customer, than its customer is on it.

Figure 1 - Interdependence in the International System: Reflects a manufacturing view of the defense industrial base. Information technology capabilities (i.e., data PED or cyber) have made industrial base capabilities more accessible to smaller countries with less national resources. How this impacts the curve or a nation’s independence is worth further exploration.

Figure 1 – Interdependence in the International System: Reflects a manufacturing view of the defense industrial base. Information technology capabilities (i.e., data PED or cyber) have made industrial base capabilities more accessible to smaller countries with less national resources. How this impacts the curve or a nation’s independence is worth further exploration.

Industry developed a science for managing the inherent risk of dependence — supply chain management. However, corporate practices do not translate to international politics. “Country A” may find new allies; “Country B” may seek to act on its own. And all countries shift along the curve depending on their level of investment.

For example, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invested into defense since the first Gulf War. They are now capable of “manufacturing and modernizing military vehicles, communication systems, aerial drones, and more”. Through offset agreements and foreign partnerships they have acquired “advanced defense industrial knowledge and technology” and are expected to rely on their “own manpower and arms production capabilities to address national security needs” by 2030 (Bilal Y. Saab, “Arms and Influence in the Gulf: Riyadh and Abu Dhabi Get to Work“, Foreign Affairs, 05.05.2014).

To borrow from Henry John Temple, Britain’s Prime Minister from 1859 to 1865, in the international system, states have temporary friends, but permanent interests (Erik Gartzke and Alex Weisiger, “Permanent Friends? Dynamic Difference and the Democratic Peace“, International Studies Quarterly, 2012, 1-15). Over time, it is thus in the interest of each country to increase its independence by investing into defense capabilities (see Figure 2).

Without such investment, “Country Z” capabilities erode. “Country Y” may attempt to sustain its capabilities, but as other countries develop new technologies, sustainment also leads to capability erosion. Only countries that invest into industrial bases over time are able to achieve political objectives independently.

Figure 2 - Ability to Achieve Political Objectives Over Time.

Figure 2 – Ability to Achieve Political Objectives Over Time.

One more supper
The United States has never shown, over a sustained period of time, “a coherent long-term strategy for maintaining a healthy domestic defense industry” (Todd Harrison and Barry Watts D, “Sustaining Critical Sectors of the U.S. Defense Industrial Base“, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2011). American defense budgets are cyclical; they have contracted after every war. Every time, the Pentagon intervened with reactionary strategies to manage industry. And each time, as one former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense noted, the Pentagon got it wrong (Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., “Pentagon Revamps Approach to Industrial Base, Official Says“, American Forces Press Service, 20.02.2013).

This was most evident in 1993 when the Pentagon held a dinner, known as the “Last Supper”, with top defense executives. It told them that after the Cold War, America no longer needed nor could it afford the same volume of materiel. But it left it up to industry to decide its overcapacity problem. Industry began to consolidate, based on rational business sense, but not a national strategy.

The 1990s were focused on consolidation, commercialization, and dual-use technology. Today, as budgets are again tightened, new strategies such as increased competition and international expansion have emerged. This may help save some companies, but how will it impact our ability to act independently over time?

In 2003, after decades of following a similar industrial base approach, the UK realized that it no longer had the design expertise to complete development of its Astute-class nuclear submarine (Harrison, “Sustaining Critical Sectors”). And in 2010 the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, by listing the capabilities it will have, spelled out what it can no longer accomplish independently. Although the UK received American support for its submarine, what would happen if it did not?

As the US argues over budgets or program cuts, a theory of defense industrial base power could help set priorities. Commercial diversification or international expansion are tactics by which defense firms gain new revenues to save themselves in a downturn. We need a national defense industrial base strategy to maintain our capability for independent action.

• • •

CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

The Bridge is a blog dedicated to strategy and military affairs. It was formed in 2013 to bring together forward-thinking junior to mid-grade officers and practitioners from a variety of fields to analyze and write about current and future national security challenges.


Posted in Armed Forces, English, Mikhail Grinberg, Security Policy | Leave a comment

The Islamic World’s Westphalian Moment

by Major Chad M. Pillai. Major Chad M. Pillai is an Army Strategist in the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC). He recently served as a Special Assistant to the Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the 38th Army Chief of Staff. Major Chad Pillai received his Masters in International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 2009. He recently published the “Return of Great Power Politics” at War on the Rocks.

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic. The image shows the Ratification of the Peace of Münster (Gerardter Borch, Münster, 1648; Source: Wikipedia).

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic. The image shows the Ratification of the Peace of Münster (Gerardter Borch, Münster, 1648; Source: Wikipedia).

Since the start of the “Arab Spring” in December 2010, there was hope real transformation would occur and the region would democratize for the betterment of the people, region, and the world. However, the promise of the “Arab Spring” has devolved into numerous conflicts with regional and global implications. The ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and now Gaza, where the ideals of self-determination, ethnic and cultural identities, and demands for greater economic and political freedoms will redraw the map of the region akin to Europe transitioning from its medieval feudal system to the rise of the Westphalian nation-state system. With the rise of ISIS in Syria-Iraq and Iran’s meddling in the region, the question for the United States is whether to become directly involved or allow the wild fire to burn out naturally by containing any potential spill-over.

Islam’s impressive early rise and expansion ushered in an era of scientific, cultural, artistic, and medical advancements. Islamic scholars preserved much of our knowledge of the ancient Greco-Roman world while Europe descended into the “Dark Ages” where the majority of academic literacy was reserved for the clergy. At its peak, the Islamic world stretched from Spain to modern-day India and its only real equal on the world stage were the Chinese. The Islamic world fostered an early age of globalization by serving as the global trading middlemen between Europe and the spice/silk trade from China and India. As the book “Mullahs, Merchants, and Militants” by Stephen Glain states, “a thousand years ago, the Arab Empire pioneered new technologies, sciences, art, and culture. Arab traders and Arab currencies dominated the global economy in ways Western Multinationals and the dollar due today. A thousand years later, Arab states are in decay.” The rise of the European nation-states and the “Age of Sail” initially led by Portugal and Spain, allowed Europe to bypass the overland trade routes from the West to the East which eventually led to the Islamic world’s economic and political decline. As the Islamic world declined, radicalism took root.

Expansion of the Islamic Caliphate (Source: Wikipedia).

Expansion of the Islamic Caliphate (Source: Wikipedia).

The Islamic world fractured as competition for the spirit of the Islamic World split among regional dynasties to include the Ottoman Empire, the Persians, and the Mughals of India. As the Islamic World fractured and the Chinese isolated themselves, Europe grew stronger as it began to colonize the “New World” and continued seeking new markets in Asia. By the end of World War I, the Islamic World had been conquered with the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. The aftermath was the creation of artificial states whose boundaries overlapped tribal, ethnic, and linguist identities. After World War II, the decolonization of the region led to totalitarian regimes led by either monarchs or strongmen who gained loyalty through the barrel of the gun or bribes from oil profits. The rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt gave rise to the belief in a return of a unifying “Arab Identity”; however, as my late SAIS professor, Fouad Ajami, so eloquently taught, this optimism gave way to pessimism as the realization of the true characters of such national figures as Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, the al-Assad family, and the Saudi Dynasties revealed themselves. Strongmen and dynasties who have squandered the greatest natural resource on earth – oil – without adequate investment in their people to join the 21st Century global economy.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq served as an earthquake to the region as the centuries old Sunni rule was upended and replaced by a Shiite dominated government. Additionally, it gave rise to self-determination as groups like the Kurds demanded greater autonomy and recognition. The two benefactors of the earthquake were the Iranians (Persians) and the radical Sunni Islamist. Within the Sunni world, a civil war has emerged by what Fouad Ajami describes as “the fault line [...] between secularist, who want to keep faith at bay, and Islamist, who have stepped forth in recent decades to assert the hegemony of the sacred over the political.” (Fouad Ajami, “The Struggle in the Fertile Crescent“, Hoover Digest, Summer 2014, No. 3). Mixed with the millennium conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis, the Islamic world is now experiencing its “Thirty Years’ War” waged between Protestants and Catholics for mastery of Europe which led to the Westphalian system.

Kurdish peshmerga troops  on the front line in Khazer. U.S. warplanes bombed Islamist fighters marching on Iraq's Kurdish capital after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent "genocide".

Kurdish peshmerga troops on the front line in Khazer. U.S. warplanes bombed Islamist fighters marching on Iraq’s Kurdish capital after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent “genocide”.

Unfortunately for the people of the region, the Islamic World needs to undergo this violent transformation. This fire needs to burn itself out until a single victor emerges or a recognition that an Islamic Westphalian peace needs to be attained. For the United States and the West, it provides an opportunity to contain the fire by not directly intervening between the warring parties unless genocidal violence is about to occur, or if one of the warring factions becomes a direct threat. Despite the rise of ISIS and its desire for the reestablishment of a Caliphate, which is as unlikely as the Vatican reestablishing the Holy Roman Empire, it will be opposed by Iran and its proxies in Syria and Lebanon. Likewise, Iran finds itself surrounded by hostile Sunni Islamists in Syria-Iraq on its western front and eastern front if the Taliban returns to power in Afghanistan. Groups such as ISIS and Hezbollah, while independent minded, act as proxies between the Sunni world led by Saudi Arabia and Shiites led by Iran. At the same time, Turkey is attempting to reestablish its former Ottoman influence in the region as a counterweight to Iran while the Kurds attempt to break free from both camps as they attempt to forge their own independent national identity. The most likely result will be the recognition such as Thirty-Years War between Sunni Islamist and Iranians will weaken them until there is recognition for a lasting peace. A peace established that rejuvenates the Islamic World with new national borders drawn as new nations-states form around their unique tribal and ethnic identities. The current crisis in the Middle East is their means to settle their millennium old debate between Sunnis and Shiites, and undo the artificiality of their borders created by European conquerors. For the U.S., the best bet is to lead the efforts to contain and the peace that follows.

More information
Stephen M. Walt, “Do No (More) Harm“, Foreign Policy, 07.08.2014.

Posted in Chad M. Pillai, English, History, Security Policy, Terrorism | 1 Comment

America Has Itself to Blame for Europe’s Weakness

Last Monday, published an article about Europe’s weakness. In his article, Sid Lukkassen focused his remarks on a socialisation of men in Europe which was influenced by feminism. The article thus provided some impetus for a critical discussion (see the manifold comments and my own response to the article).

This second article by Nick Ottens gives you another, different perspective on the issue. He argues that the European countries are not solely responsible for Europe’s military weakness; but that the United States deliberately wanted to keep Europe weak and divided after the Second World War.

Nick Ottens is the editor of the transatlantic news and commentary website Atlantic Sentinel and a contributing analyst for the geostrategic consultancy Wikistrat.

Dean Acheson

Former secretary of state Dean Acheson meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House in Washington DC, July 8, 1965 (LBJ Library)

As America struggles to cope with a revisionist Russia and unrest in the Middle East, distracting it from its desired “pivot” to East Asia, calls on Europe to rearm and “take responsibility” for the deteriorating security situation in its neighborhood can be heard louder and louder.

Such calls not only overestimate Europe’s political ability to muster a common defense and security policy; it overlooks America’s own efforts to keep Europe weak and divided. When taking this historical context into account, complaints of a feckless Europe seem somewhat ironic at best.

The United States never wanted the Europeans to get their act together on defense, Justin Logan, a foreign policy expert at America’s libertarian Cato Institute, pointed out in a Foreign Policy essay in June. “From NATO’s founding,” he wrote, “American policymakers were concerned both with preventing Soviet domination of Europe and with preventing the emergence of a ‘third force’ of Western European power divorced from Washington.”

This second objective of American postwar strategy in Europe appears to have been largely forgotten. American policymakers were quite explicit about their intentions. President Harry Truman’s secretary of state, Dean Acheson, told his diplomatic staff in Paris in 1952 that NATO should be prioritized in order to preclude the possibility of a European Union “becoming [a] third force or opposing force.” (see also: Christopher Layne, “Supremacy Is America’s Weakness“, Financial Times, 13.08.2003). National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy wrote to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 that it would be better for the United States if Britain spend its resources on conventional arms and “join with the rest of NATO in accepting a single US-dominated [nuclear] force.” The Americans were apprehensive about Charles de Gaulle’s attempts to position France — and, by extension, Western Europe — as a third pole in international relations, between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Even after the Cold War, in 1998, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, told NATO allies a common European security policy could only come about if it meant “no diminution of NATO, no discrimination and no duplication.” (“Transcript: Albright Press Conference at NATO HDQS December 8“, 09.12.1998).

Nixon De Gaulle

President Richard Nixon of the United States and Charles de Gaulle of France meet, March 2, 1969 (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum)

As recently as 2003, President George W. Bush’s ambassador to NATO, R. Nicholas Burns, condemned European security cooperation as “one of the greatest dangers to the transatlantic relationship.”

Yet now Americans are upset Europe never got around to mounting a common defense?
A more reasonable American complaint involves Europe’s underspending on defense. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned last year that “NATO is turning into a two tiered alliance with shrinking percentage of members willing, and able, to pay the price and bear the burdens of common defense.”

Looking at the numbers, Clinton’s worry seems justified. Only six European NATO members spend 2 percent of their economic output or more on defense: Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. And Britain and France are presently making reductions, leaving the former — America’s closest transatlantic ally — short of fighter planes to put on its new aircraft carrier.

America’s share of total NATO spending has only risen since the end of the Cold War, from roughly 50 percent before the Soviet Union collapsed to more than 75 percent today. But that has more to do with increases in American defense spending that European cuts. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the military’s budget grew from $291 billion to an $880 billion high in 2010, including financing of the war effort in Afghanistan.

Should the Europeans have kept up?
International terrorism is certainly a threat to European countries as well, evidenced by the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the suicide attacks in London the following year. But Europe was, and remains, far less convinced that the best defense is to occupy Middle Eastern states that produce terrorists. Let alone that there is a role for NATO in this.

David Cameron Barack Obama

British prime minister David Cameron, American president Barack Obama and European Commission president José Manuel Barroso observe a moment of silence in honor of NATO military personnel that have lost their lives, Lisbon, Portugal, November 19, 2010 (White House/Pete Souza)

Which is perhaps the main issue. Too often, America has seen and used its European allies as a means to give its own foreign policy an air of multilateralism — which put an unreasonable burden on them.

New NATO member states in Central and Eastern Europe have been more willing to share the burden. They needed something in return: American protection. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March proved they were right to be concerned about future Russian aggression and it was a reminder of what NATO is for. As General Hastings Ismay, the alliance’s first secretary general, famously put it: “to keep the Russians out” and “the Americans in.”

Certainly, Europe could do more. But as American politicians learn to live with an increasingly isolationist electorate of their own, perhaps they can sympathize with their counterparts in Western Europe whose voters have long seemed — not altogether unreasonably — under the impression they face no security threats whatsoever? Due in no small part to American efforts to keep the region both free and divided, it has had no war in almost seventy years. Little wonder so many Western Europeans don’t see the point in keeping huge standing armies.

Posted in English, History, Nick Ottens, Security Policy | 1 Comment