PARIS ATTACKS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS: HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGE AND IF SO WHAT?

Datelined London

Photo: The Guardian

By
Harry C. Blaney III

Last night Friday on a TV screen in London we watched in real time the horrific unfolding of the terrorism acts which at this report time cost the lives of some 129 persons and many more wounded as the total is likely to grow over time. The analysis is that it was an organized series of such attacks which were designed to cause major fear not only in Paris but in France and beyond. It has had already reverberations throughout Europe and even in America.

Friday night UK time, President Obama said while the events were still active, that this was an attack on all humanity and this view was echoed by statements by President Holland and Prime Minister Cameron and others.

This attack has had many implications for both France’s own security and the possible impacts on its politics, economy, and not least the relationship with Muslims in France that constitute, by some estimates, 4.7% of the population, the largest in Europe.

ISIS almost immediately took “credit” for these acts of brutality. ISIS said this was a retaliation for France’s acts of bombing against it. President Holland in the immediate aftermath said that this was “war” and promised swift action and France will be “merciless against the terrorists.” These were acts of war Holland stated on Saturday that the attacks were planned abroad. Two people were arrested in Belgium and two attackers were said to come from Syria and Egypt. An American student and a British London School of Economics student were killed at last reports.

This act has been called a massacre – the worst attack in France’s recent history. Paris is in shock but the reactions take a wide range of anger, horror, revulsion, fear, and a determination to both carry on and to respond against the terrorists. But people in Paris are clearly very uncertain and cautious. Holland has taken a hard stance, which is understandable given the brutality of the attack. Holland has called a state of emergency and the French Prime Minister has said on Saturday that France will enhance its attacks on ISIS and will not be deterred by threats.

If ISIS thought the attacks would frighten France and other countries to stop their attacks it looks that this has likely backfired. But the other danger is that the attacks increased polarization and racist and right wing groups may use these attacks to instigate hatred for migrants, the domestic Islamic community, and citizens and create even more fear for political reasons. This could backfire and increase the sense of alienation which has already led to disaffected and angry Muslim youth joining ISIS. Thus national authorities need to find a fine line between cracking down on likely terrorists but at the same time assuring regular Muslim citizens that they live in a welcoming and safe environment.

The reaction from other countries was with statements of sympathy and solidarity. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron promised to be of help in any way they can. Here in London tonight there was a large vigil and gathering of citizens showing solidarity with Paris and France, with the tricolor lights of the French flag projected against the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square which I and my wife went to. I could not be but aware of the irony that a few weeks earlier there were many statements related to Britain leaving the EU by the Tory leaders, including Cameron, about how UK was different from the Continental Europeans. That party’s majority MPs desires to separate from countries like France that they wish little ties with that are seeking for more European unity.

One interesting element which some have commented on is that at the moment when ISIS is under siege at their home base in Syria/Iraq, they have carried out their most successful major and effective massive attack in Paris and created a sense of fear throughout Europe and beyond. This brutality gives ISIS major international profile and forced focus on their presence abroad while at the same time facing increased military action against them. This pressure is due to American bombing and more effective moderate reinforcements on the ground of allied groups fighting in their home bases.

As for Paris, one concern is that if this can happen in Paris, it could happen again and anywhere. Thus the international dimension has now been established and it is clear that the G-20 meeting in Turkey this week attended in advance by Secretary Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister with President Obama soon arriving, will strongly focus on what can be done on an international level to deal with such horrific and massive attacks and what are the implication of these more professional and devastating attacks on citizens and how to prevent or mitigate them. But also how to solve the basic problem of how to put an end to ISIS and get rid of Assad and create a more safe and stable region.

What does all this mean? As noted, one danger is a backlash over Europe against Muslims and this anger being exploited by right-wing racists parties like UKIP and the Le Pen party in France.

The other question is where does the Western nations and their Islamic allies go next against ISIS both in their Syria/Iraq stronghold and to counter their international reach. This is not a new question but the Paris attacks gives it new urgency and profile to these questions. What has been said and I think still stands is that what is most needed is a viable diplomatic solution likely backed up by some sort of military action also.

Many are saying too little is being done while others think American engagement in the region is too much. Will the attacks in France change any of this? Will changes on the ground change anything also? The Question for the major powers and many members of the G-20 and also Muslim nations in the region is can there be a way of putting the necessary elements together to achieve sooner rather than later a dismemberment of ISIS and a political structure on the ground to replace the present chaos and brutality. This will take major decisions by all, that enough is enough and all are in peril if this ISIS and other Jihadis forces remain powerful and dominant and attract each day new and committed recruits.

The key must be in the long term to return the region to some sense of normality and hope for security and some decent economy and employment of youth. But also at the heart of any solution must be a mitigation of the religious and political conflict between the Sunni and Shia sects which really means Shia Iran, its allies, and Sunni Saudi Arabia and Gulf States and others. It may also mean bringing peace to the Israeli and Palestinian situation via a two state solution and now the sooner the better. On seeking security and security for the region here American power and European and regional allies and perhaps even Russia and Iran might just find some common ground. This is probably asking too much now, but if not now when? If one waits, will not all be caught by a maelstrom of disaster and destruction from which none will survive intact.

More in time on these issues and related events from Europe.

We welcome your comments!

A DISCONNECTED, INWARD LOOKING, AND A TORY SELFISH BRITAIN? FOREBODING IN EUROPE

Photo: Chatham House
              Photo: Chatham House

By
Harry C. Blaney III

On Tuesday, November 10th, British Prime Minister David Cameron sent a formal letter to the president of the EU Council to start negotiations based on four broad demands, (Letter From Cameron to European Council) with the threat of a referendum by the end of 2017 on the issue of withdrawal from membership in the EU. The letter and the referendum were both a historic moment and an act of high stupidity and irresponsibility.

Prime Minister Cameron is believed to want to stay in the EU, but to placate his Euro-Skeptic large grouping of Tory MPs, which now dominate the Conservative Party, and to keep himself in power, he agreed to hold a referendum after he would first try to negotiate “special terms and concessions” from the EU.

In effect, the demands are to give the UK special exemptions or exceptions as well as protection against the concept of an ever more unified Europe, to protect the UK’s “City,” as it is known, which is the financial and banking sector against what might be plans to create a unified and equitable set of regulations that would apply to all EU countries. This, to protect against the excesses of the banking meltdown of the global “Great Recession.”

Among other demands were that EU migrants should live in the UK for four years before claiming social benefits, opposing EU laws that require members to treat all EU citizens without discrimination. He would also set up an unspecified system by which the national legislators could override EU legislation and actions. He wants a “British Bill of Rights” to replace the EU Human Rights Act.

His bottom line, but not said, is to protect the highly profitable, but sometimes shady, UK  London financial institutions from oversight from Brussels and the EU parliament.

The UK large business community is somewhat split, but largely aghast at the prospect of losing its privileged access to the UK market. The Unions are somewhat divided but mostly favorable.  The media is also divided between the far right papers like The Daily Mail, and the mass circulation tabloid, Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph. The conservative, but quality, broadsheet Financial Times supports Britain staying in the EU as does the London Independent and its Sunday edition. There is a muddled view on this issue by the Murdoch owned Times of London, which criticized Cameron for being too much “on the side of moderation” and further criticized the EU saying that the “regulations and barriers to doing business are excessive.” This all sounds familiar to American ears from the GOP and their right-wing business and media allies with the same refrain.

The demands are both silly, in some cases not important in real world terms, and on some items important but not acceptable to the rest of the EU. These demands can only be seen by Britain’s partners in the EU as unacceptable and self-serving. On the whole, the other EU members probably would want the UK to stay in the EU, but only if the price does not undermine the unity and future of Europe, as a whole and as a unified entity, which now is already seen as fragile.

The negotiations have now started; the forces in the UK against staying in are led by the Vote Leave campaign and on the other side there is Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.  The betting is that a vote will be to stay in if Cameron gets most of what he wants, but the polls show wide support to get out based on a general sense by many citizens of anger at the hopelessness of their lives, and the xenophobia created by the right wing press and the racist anti-immigrant UK Independence Party among others.

In a speech to the London based Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), Prime Minister Cameron said that there were strong arguments on economic and national security grounds to stay in the EU (Watch speech here). But his bumbling tactics and cowardice now put in danger a central element of UK global strategy of being at the center of European decision-making, at the forefront of the Atlantic relationship and NATO, and having a strong voice in global affairs. Further, there is no realistic plan for an alternative choice to stand alone and achieve the same influence as within the EU and European decision-making.

Cameron wants a quick decision largely favorable to him (he likely does not expect to get all his demands in full) from the EU leadership, but the EU Council president has indicated it might take a longer time given the many problems inherent in the proposals. Cameron wanted a decision by the end of the year with action of a vote in Britain, perhaps in the summer of 2016.

For America the EU has, with NATO, been the center of our interest in having a free, peaceful, and secure Europe and thus strengthens the stability and power of the West overall. This only then adds to the already strong destabilizing forces within in Europe, like the harsh austerity policies of many states and the related problems of the weaker economies, the massive immigration problems, the possible dismemberment of established nations like Spain, Belgium, and Scotland’s future, which is still in question. Plus, not least, the aggression of Russia in the Ukraine. The so-called British exit from the EU would only add to a sense that “the center cannot hold” and instability and a dangerous downward trajectory may be at work with also threats to democracy from right-wing governments, economic justice, human rights violations, and basic security at peril.

We will be examining many of these forces in future posts.


We welcome your comments!!!

THE UK DEFENSE DEBATE: A PLACE IN THE WORLD OR BY ITSELF?

Photo: http://www.independent.co.uk/

By
Harry C. Blaney III

London Dateline

I had the opportunity to attend an on-the-record “research” meeting at the Chatham House looking at UK defense policy and the presentations and discussions only reinforced the sense of a listlessness and disarray that characterizes much of Prime Minister David Cameron’s international policies and Britain’s role in the world. 

Two issues exemplify this. The first is Cameron’s foolish commitment to the right wing Tory MPs to a vote on UK membership in the EU, thus forever forfeiting Britain a role in European policy and decisions. The second, is on the UK defense budget and strategic stance which foresees cuts in funding which will weaken Britain’s ability to act as a major force on security issues in Europe and globally.  That means a diminished role in security matters with allies, and not least, to effectively defend British interests in conflicts abroad and in Europe.  It will further weaken NATO’s capability as the UK has been the second largest contributor to NATO overall defense resources. 

Over the decades I have been witness to many discussions and debates about NATO, UK and American defense issues both within and outside of government. This session was among my most disappointing, not because the speakers were bad, but because they were very frank on the implications and inevitability of long-term decline in UK “hard power” reach. 

Further, it was clear that despite many governmental and non-governmental studies some of their thinking was declared by participants to be somewhat limited and often too driven by bureaucratic and ideological and budget forces. They were not always driven by good strategic perspectives. Also one speaker reflected that the influence of the disastrous participation in the Iraq war had also installed among the public and politicians distaste for further military action abroad.

All of this retreat from defense engagement is worrying in the face of a series of uprisings, conflicts, the Arab Spring and its consequences, ISIS, Putin’s aggression, China’s military buildup and South China Sea adventures, and not least, the spread of terrorism and civil and ethnic war.

One commentator said that NATO was looking petty shaky after the UK budget cuts were fairly well known. Clearly Britain’s voice in the halls of EU and NATO defense decisions has been weakened and it was acknowledged that such decisions will diminish UK’s influence in America, noting that France seems now to have the ear of Washington. 

This is especially the case since Prime Minister Cameron at the earlier NATO summit in Scotland had criticized other NATO countries for not meeting their 2% NATO commitment to military budgets and is now in danger of missing this benchmark.

One commentator said basically that Britain had resigned as “a great power” while another phrase used was “giving up as a “world power” in foreign policy. Yet conversely the concept of being a world power had not yet been given up by Cameron. The other view was Britain is still playing a “supporting role.” The implication was that Britain could no longer act on its own. 

There was very little discussion of Britain’s nuclear force which is being questioned as being useless by some and as a “necessity” by others. Trident’s future still has not been finally decided but some feel this capability is losing its attractiveness. 

In my own intervention, I asked why the larger strategic geopolitical assessment had not played a bigger role in either the discussion or in the new government. Clearly it was a case of the “Emperor having no clothes.” Asking these key questions in drawing up the budget would undermine the decision to cut the UK defense budget willy-nilly. Clearly it was overall political budget cuts that ruled. All this was a result of a promised “forever” budget surplus by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. George Osborne, a strident advocate of austerity and right wing causes and possible future Prime Minister, and not of honest strategic assessments. The political decisions were all that mattered.

The real need for a hard look at the strategy and then shape the budget was urged and priority should be the need for UK military’s to aim for “adaptability.”  This approach was argued due to the reality of still unknown risks and opportunities. The point was made to the hard fact of the actually realities at existing “mid-level” strategic situations, not just at uncertain long term theories and projections, which can never be fully known or accurate. In short, keep open your options and prepare for the unexpected.   

In the end, it was real flexible capability not just grand strategy that Britain needed to achieve. So the real question is what is Britain’s role in the world?  What are its fundamental interests and what are the risks it faces now and in the near future? 

A question that I also asked was if there was any thought of not just conflict responses, but looking at playing a larger role in conflict prevention and “soft diplomacy” and peacemaking/peacekeeping which requires an adaptable force, that would help make Britain be again a useful payer on the global stage. Some liked the idea, but there is not much defense industry interest in this more human level capability verses profits of large weapons systems. 

As one speaker said we need to ask “what are we?” The answer is sadly diminished, inward looking, greedy for the interests of the rich and damn the poor, and now equally damn national security or our alliances, if we can lower the taxes on the rich and create a surplus and stay in power.  The right wing is in the ascendency here for the moment and it is ironic that it is the Tories, that in the past and until now, have claimed the role of guardian of national security and global reach, that now have sold that honor down the river of expediency and concessions to misguided Euro-skepticism  and “Little England” isolationists.

We welcome your comments!

Syria: Events Overpowering Decisions and Knowledge in Dangerous Moving Environment, Will Arming the Opposition Make a Difference?

Syrian FighterJPGHaving just come back from two weeks in the UK observing foreign policy debates, there seem to be two conflicting schools of strategy both in the United States and in Europe over policy and intervention in Syria.  For example, in the International Herald Tribune on June 12, Javier Solana and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, both former NATO Secretaries General, along with James Carroll in a different op-ed titled “Stay out of Syria” of the same date, present their “solutions” but show their own conundrums and limitations. They do not fully address the question of the consequences of no action or failure of Geneva II conference – which is the only option supported by the former NATO officials.  

On the other hand, the position of some of the “hawks” on both sides of the Atlantic think a “full court press” of arms for the rebels, a no fly zone, and other direct support (not yet “boots on the ground”) are our best options.  Many sadly predict that the Geneva Conference will not likely produce a viable solution. 

Neither of these two extreme positions, as I have argued previously, provide outcomes that are likely to either end the massive blood bath or provide long-term security for the people of Syria or peace for the region.  They are either empty of content and understanding, or they are filled with too much reliance on simple use of military force.     

We are faced with a continued civil war that has cost more than 80,000 lives and will likely cost many more unless some “solid” solution is found. I believe that “staying out” is not a solution, and will simply lead to ever more carnage and spread of conflict throughout the Middle East. Putting of all our options and hopes on Geneva II, as suggested by Solana/Scheffer, also risks more endless carnage should Geneva II fail, which in fact is quite possible. The simple “more war” option also is a “dead end.” 

There must be an alternative strategy, or the world will see human butchery continue and spread. What could happen if Assad gains victory with the arms of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah? In  this case, absent of international intervention, we will see the continuation of a kind of unopposed killing of the opposition and inter-communal revenge, which will light a flame of conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims throughout the region. Yes, diplomacy is our best option, but it needs to be combined with “smart power” also.  

Geneva II should be tried, but the West and the Arab “Friends of Syria” need to be ready with “Plan B” to act by supporting the moderate rebels, and making their intentions clear in order to give the Russians and Assad  the incentive to compromise and find a peaceful transition. 

Thus, President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will provide small arms, ammunition, and other assistance to moderate rebel groups provides some leverage towards getting Assad to come to the table, which he will not have if he thanks he can win,  on the fields of battle, despite the bloodshed. 

One test of the Geneva option will be the talks that UK Prime Minister David Cameron held with President Putin this week-end, the meeting of Putin and Obama this week ,and the wider talks at the on going G-8 meeting in Northern Ireland.

The problem is that Europe is divided on the issue of providing just arms, let alone sending in troops. In the U.K., despite Cameron’s push for arming the rebels, his  own Tory party is divided with a likely majority against doing so, his coalition partners the Liberal Democrats are strongly against it, and most of the Labour Party MPs are also probably opposed.  

Cameron seems to have also promised to have a House of Commons vote on the matter at some stage.  One of Cameron’s officials, involved in drawing up Syrian strategy, was reported in The Mail on Sunday of June 16th, to have said: “The one certainty is that, if nothing is done, not only will lives be lost, not only will Assad not negotiate, but we will also not stop radicalisation.” This quote probably gives us a concise insight into the some of UK top level perspective on Syria.  

Even France, the other nation supporting the option to supply arms, is divided fiercely on this question and Germany is firmly against as are other nations.  The irony is that both the Brits and the French are working to reduce their already meager defense budgets but asking their military to do more! There is a fight going on at this moment on the proposed British defense budget cuts.

I doubt that just giving small arms alone will make that great a difference without a wider set of options and a long-term strategy.  But it does give a bit of leverage for talks and defending Syrian areas under the opposition, especially if the “Friends of Syria”make clear that they are willing to do more to remove Assad and create a new broad based and responsible new government. 

But the problem is that Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah are providing not only outside fighters, but major arms and air defense and offense systems. The implication of Europeans, Arab states, and the U.S. giving small arms is that if our minimum policy is to not permit the opposition to be destroyed and Assad to be removed from power, then more either diplomatically or via military action or both will be required.  Geneva II will likely be the dividing line between a negotiated solution or use of stronger measures by all sides.  Let’s hope that the Russians see the wisdom of diplomacy and are willing, as will be necessary, to see Assad go. That remains only still a problematic hope especially since Russia has just said it will not allow a no-fly zone.  Putin’s real goals remain obscure, but still mostly confrontational. 
        
The “Friends of Syria” and others committed to security and peace in the Middle East will do well to adapt a long-term strategy and the necessary resources and complex set of tools and the determination to see it through. It will require seeing the Syrian conflict through a wide angle and dealing with the many difficult elements in the Middle East that are fueling this now growing clearly Sunni-Shia struggle.  

My suggestion again is to have a strong broad international robust peacekeeping/peacemaking force to stop the killing of civilians and permit large scale humanitarian help within Syria and to help create security for all groups within the country. This requires working diplomatically to heal the growing divisions and long standing upheavals in the region.  It is a large but necessary task, and one we may not be quite up to if narrow and partisan elements insist on narrow or conflict only solutions.

W(H)ITHER THE WEST?

     The aptly labeled “euro crisis” has led to a good deal of speculation about the future of the common currency, the European Union and, as if to put to rest any doubt that U.S. national security interests are also at play, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Debate on all of these issues is building on the back of great changes that have occurred all over the world since the end of the Cold War, most particularly the redistribution of economic, political and strategic might and influence.  The very meaning and identity of “the west” can no longer be clearly defined, as serious differences between its various components threaten to undermine the solidarity forged over the decades, particularly since the end of World War II.

     The euro crisis itself has clearly demonstrated  substantial differences between the economies of the northern tier, led by Germany, and those of their Mediterranean partners, i.e., Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain,  Portugal and, not far behind, France.  Those differences and the solutions proposed or, more accurately, imposed by the austerity-mad forces of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have led to loose talk not only about the future of the Euro Zone but, as stated above and in more hushed tones, of the European Union itself.  (The IMF’s Christine Lagarde is now reported as working to soften Merkel’s hard line.)  The consequences of dissolution may well force face-saving remedies, but the crisis has exposed not only wide gaps in monetary theory but obvious political and cultural prejudices that will survive whatever technical solutions are hammered out.

     A danger of quite a different kind exists in political developments in the British Isles, where Scots will decide next year whether to remain in the United Kingdom or go their own way, and where a new political party, the “Independents”, is gaining strength while pushing loudly for British departure from the EU.  The Tory government of David Cameron is feeling the pressure.  Add to that the recent ill-concealed animosity between the conservative Merkel forces and the French Government of socialist François Hollande, both wary of loss of support from their own domestic constituencies.  (Merkel is up for re-election this coming September, and Hollande predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy seems to be rethinking his retirement as criticism at home and abroad of Hollande’s performance emerges on a daily basis.)   If the UK goes its own way, the world will not end, but if France and Germany cannot work out their differences, the European experiment is dead.  The betting here, based as much on hope as anything else, is that common sense will rule.

     What does all this have to do with American national security?  Everything!  Whether or not there must occur some shift in focus, with the United States paying increasing attention to its interests in both the Near and Far East, the importance of Europe, Western Europe above all, will never diminish.  Washington surely understands this simple truth and, we must assume, is acting on that understanding.  This may well explain the recent announcement that President Obama will make an official visit to Berlin on June 18-19, which the German Deputy Spokesman has specified will take place at the invitation of  Chancellor Merkel and will cover “a broad range of bilateral and global issues including the further deepening of the transatlantic relationship”.  We can be sure that the dangers facing European and transatlantic unity will be high on the agenda.

     “Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given.” This quote from an incisive article by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in the British daily The Independent of  May 12

says it all, no matter what hopeful optimism has been expressed above.  Schulz’s views, under the headline “Europe needs to change, let the debate begin.  For some the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ is in freefall,”   must be repeated in full:

“For some, the idea is in freefall. Europe is living through rising eurosceptism, unacceptably high unemployment, especially among the young, and weak economic prospects.  This is worrying, for the moment people withdraw their support from an idea, the idea is finished. The more populist protest parties may see the European elections this time next year as an opportunity to score electoral successes. 

“As a convinced European I welcome the debate, but I recognise first that Europe needs to change course, something many in Brussels seem not to acknowledge. We are living beyond our means. Budgetary consolidation is essential, if only because we cannot bequeath a mountain of debt to our children. 

“Second, some structural reforms – to the labour market and on retirement ages – are essential. But the austerity policies currently being implemented in Europe are lopsided. It is taking too long for the structural measures and the necessary budgetary consolidation to take effect and, at long last, increase competitiveness. In the meantime, some EU Member States are sliding ever deeper into a recession. Austerity, supposedly the cure, is threatening to undermine the European project.

 “Third (and this is surely a cause to warm a British Eurosceptic’s heart), the EU must tackle the vexed question of tax. Every year in the EU, €1 trillion is lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance – an enormous loss to the Union. This sum could be used to pay off debt, to set up youth guarantee schemes and to invest further in growth initiatives. European heads of state and government have a duty to agree on effective counter-measures at the EU summit in ten days’ time.

 “And yet, and yet. Just six months ago, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was one of my proudest moments. Indeed, many of Europe’s greatest successes are being taken for granted: Europe is the most prosperous continent on earth, Europeans can travel, work and live where they please. We enjoy a standard of living and a degree of protection of our fundamental rights which people in other parts of the world can only dream of.

“Perhaps paradoxically, a new European awareness is emerging from the crisis. Europeans are recognising how interdependent they are. One country’s failures can threaten the entire European economy, and can call into question the fruits of 60 years of integration. Peace, solidarity, and prosperity are not irreversible; only 27 countries, (28 when Croatia accedes to the EU on 1 July this year), working together can guarantee them. The peoples of Europe are taking a greater interest in what is happening on the other side of their countries’ borders. People want to know what the retirement age is in other countries, what the top tax rate is, why young people are demonstrating in the streets of European capitals. 

“However, some governments still refuse to accept that they are already working in a European context. They prefer to cling to national sovereignty, to the familiar trappings of carefully orchestrated Brussels Summits at which they mount a last-ditch defence of their national interests and then present the outcome at home as a victory. In so doing, they disregard the fact that it is in their countries’ very best interests that Europe should function properly. This, surely, is little more than posturing. 

“The European Parliament and the Council is currently discussing the EU’s long-term budget 2014-2020. It’s an important issue, but sadly it best illustrates the short-termist lack of commitment of some Member States to the wider European interest.  It is clearly misguided of EU governments, including the UK government, not to shift investment towards research and development, education, training, foreign relations and development aid, areas where European added value are at their greatest.

“The EU is about much more than its budget (capped at a meagre one percent of EU GDP since its inception).  The single market benefits the British economy hugely, and the EU remains by far the biggest destination for UK trade, accounting for almost 50 per cent of total exports The UK has played a leading role in forming many key EU policies (on the single market, overseas development, trade and climate change).  UK leadership in these areas has been highly appreciated and would be sorely missed should the British decide to exit.

“The UK has also played a major role in shaping policy on Justice and Home Affairs. In little over a year from now, these policies, including most importantly the European Arrest Warrant, cross-border criminal justice and policing become fully-fledged EU policies, meaning that any Member State failing to apply them properly can be brought to court. Yet the UK is moving ever closer to opting out of scores of those measures – in essence re-erecting national borders in the fight against cross-border crime. The UK’s own House of Lords EU Committee has concluded damningly that “…the Government have not made a convincing case for exercising the opt-out and that opting out would have significant adverse negative repercussions for the internal security of the UK and the administration of criminal justice in the UK, as well as reducing its influence over this area of EU policy.” Does the UK really want to puts its internal security at risk by exercising this opt-out?

“Next year’s European elections are of paramount of importance. For the first time there will be candidates from the European political parties for the post of European Commission President, this should engender a greater interest in Europe’s future. Those who say they want more democratic control can hardly complain at that. 

“Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given. A thorough, factually-based conversation on the virtues of deepening European integration needs to take place, starting in the UK. Britain would be sorely missed should it decide to leave. The stakes are high, so let the decision be taken with full access to the facts, rather than to narrow, outdated thinking. Let the debate begin!”

     W(h)ither the West?  However one wants to take that question, of this there can be no debate: the matter is of crucial importance to U.S. national security.

More Madness From London and the Tory Party

David Cameron on EU Membership:

“We have the character of an island nation – independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty.

We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel.

And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.

For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.

We insistently ask: How? Why? To what end?”

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out of the European Union and risk disaster for their country!  Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on January 23rd is another example of the foolishness that has overtaken the Tory Party in Britain as it has the Republican Party here in the U.S. They are both backward looking and narrow in their perspective. They also share a fear of change and aversion to global engagement and serious problem solving. Their myopic ideology trumps any sense of realty and analysis.

At its heart, Cameron’s call for an “in or out” vote on membership in the EU, which was already voted on in the 1970s and reaffirmed by Parliament vote several times, gives fuel to his most extreme euro-skeptics and places the UK in the worst position for real influence with its other EU partner leaders and nations.

Cameron’s key statement was:

Looking at essential renegotiations of the fundamental documents of the EU, Cameron said vis a vis a new Treaty, “so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this. My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new Treaty for us all then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners.

The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart.

And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.

…And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.

It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.

And when that choice comes, you will have an important choice to make about our country’s destiny.

I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course. But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads. Proponents of both sides of the argument will need to avoid exaggerating their claims.

Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so. So could any other Member State. But the question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country? We will have to weigh carefully where our true national interest lies.”

Indeed! As others have noted, there is no need for such a referendum, nor is there a need to change the basic elements of the UK-EU relationship. Furthermore, Cameron himself noted that there will be a cost of withdrawal from the EU, but he thinks such an act will not be a “withdrawal” from Europe. In that he is very wrong. In addition, he thinks there would be no damage to Britain’s “special” relations with the United States, a view that is not shared by the American government, as noted in the comments by Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon (cited in the Full Text Documents blog page). He ignores a key element that has been a lynch pin to British influence for decades; namely, the special relationship with the U.S. tested in two world wars, the building of NATO, the integration of Europe to ensure peace, and playing the key role in the EU of providing a global and outward looking perspective for continental Europeans.

Any careful look at the massive existing sinews of connection, trade, financial markets, cultural heritage, education, and employment would show that cutting those ties with the EU would be catastrophic in every sense for Britain and hurtful for the future prosperity and peace of Europe. With a possible Atlantic wide free trade area being developed it would make even less sense for Britain to cut its ties with that larger effort.

Let’s be frank. Looking beyond Cameron and the Tory “Tea Party” stupidities, Europe also needs Britain and its many virtues brought to the table when its governance, experience, and leaders are at their best.

Out of the EU, Britain would indeed be the “odd man out,” capitulating to its worst instincts and growing ever more backwards in modernity, growth, and influence.

Cameron and, more importantly, the British public, will have to decide whether they will be an integral part of Europe, whether they wish to abandon their decades long trade advantages within the EU and its promise of long-term prosperity and cooperation, or stand alone, isolated from that great European project, and also be less influential and involved in the great decisions that the U.S. and the European Union will be acting on to address the pressing issues of the age.

 

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

Will Europe Finally Save Itself? The G-20 role, and Greeks Baring Gifts: We Still Await Merkel’s Answer by Harry Blaney III

There is fresh news out of Europe with the Greek election and there are hints of a trend towards reassessment of the half-witted mantra that “Austerity and unemployment are good for you.” The cumulating evidence on both sides of the Atlantic is that the policies of cutting budgets, cutting workers and letting your GDP shrink to alarming levels may not be the best antidote to the economic and financial crisis we are facing.

First, the Greek elections only proved that while a pro-EURO party came out on top, the broad consensus including the New Democracy party, wants a renegotiation of the austerity terms forced on it and supports a real “growth” agenda.  Second, the G-20 meeting in Mexico is still in progress, but the Financial Times  today notes the group remains in a condition of policy “paralysis”.

But the trend is growing in recognition of the absurdity of the slash and burn policies of the conservative-led governments and their allies who control legislative bodies similar to the Republicans in the United States. There is an intellectual blind leap in conservative thinking that despite the facts on the ground, one must stick to a failed agenda and defend it even more strongly even as the ship goes down. To them suffering of the average citizen or of the most vulnerable is of little consequence.

Earlier there were hints, that at last, the German government, seeing the critical and dangerous crisis of its policies, would finally have brought upon Europe, the “project” that is a united Europe. Yet indications are coming from the CDU leaders that it will stick to its failed stance. Germany has gained the most from the EU, the Euro zone, and from European integration.  Past German leaders took a principal hand in bringing the EU institutions into existence.  It has the most to lose if European unity unwinds.

It is fair to characterize Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German Central Bank solutions as either “too little and too late” or “kicking the can down the road” or more truly as the worst policy possible. That is a benevolent description of the mayhem wrought by the constricted perspective of the conservatives in Europe who seem, like our own of that tribe here in America, to show total disregard for the human and social costs of recession, unemployment, and the decimation of both private enterprises and social infrastructure.

The price already paid is in the trillions of dollars of missed opportunities, productivity, loss of securities and housing values since the crisis took off.  It would have been comparably a pittance of that cost if Europe had undertaken a strong intervention at the start.

Merkel is not alone in this folly.  British Prime Minister Cameron is one of the biggest offenders as seen by the on-going British recession. The ToryLibDem government is an example of this mindless austerity, with its ideological aim to cut government’s role along with human welfare services. One can’t help but believe that they are mainly about cutting the poor and middle class from any support, while making sure the bankers of the City (from who the Tories get their money) are amply rewarded and protected.

Yet as noted, Merkel may not yet be ready to “bell the cat” of awaiting catastrophe. Each day that goes by the crisis or as the Europeans call it the “contagion” spreads. The ongoing crisis has spread from Ireland, then to Greece, to Spain, and to Malta most recently, Portugal, and now to Italy, the fourth largest economy in the Euro zone. Flavored.

If this coming EU summit does not take a comprehensive and conclusive act of unity and provide sufficient resources, then the cost later will just be that much greater. At some point the cost of undoing the harm will be just too great as economies spiral downward and the social and political unrest will bring to the fore the extremes of the right and left and faith in democracy will be lost to those left behind.

America, under Obama, led the way in arguing for a global stimulus and coordinated action to grow all our economies.  It was the strong support of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the new G-20 context that held out a promise of a better global strategy. But the voice of Germany and others prevailed and when the Labour Party lost the election, the stage was set for policies which were clearly going to lower growth and create even larger burdens of debt as a percentage of GDP.

It did not take any genius to know what the results would be. Europe and our own Congress here in the US became captive of rigid ideology that refused to face the facts, and that favored obsolete economic theories.  Here in the US, Senator Mitch McConnell leader of the Senate GOP said that their major objective was to defeat Obama.

In Europe, the acknowledgment by the conservative parties that their right-wing prescription was wrong from the start would have exposed their political and social agendas which were really to cut the underpinning of the social contract and safety net that their opponents had put in place. They saw the crisis as an opportunity to lower taxes and regulations for the rich.  So the price of rigidity and greed won the day and the question is will we have to live with it’s consequences for decades.  Or is there in the end some “light”?