Europe’s Global Security Reach or Sad Failure?

An all day conference on April 26th, “EU’s Common Security & Defense Policy” (CSDP), was an EU effort to inform the American security and defense experts and diplomatic residents of Washington on the accomplishments and hopes for the EU’s hopeful capabilities in the security arena.

The good news is that some progress is being made, and the bad news is that the existing structure of this effort is largely still counterproductive for effective action. And there was no real sign that either the necessary resources or political will are likely to be seen in the foreseeable future. This is said with much sadness since I have long supported the concept of European Union integration and worked for decades in this field both as a diplomat and scholar.

What can be said, with respect, is that there was a large, if somewhat subtle, acknowledgment of this weakness among the EU speakers, and a strong desire to put on a good face and provide some hope. But the reality is that defense budgets in Europe are already very low, except until now for the UK which is now in the process of cutting its defense funding. The background is the economic crisis is forcing even more cuts in this area, including in foreign assistance. The possibility of independent action by the EU in the security sector is frankly diminishing rather than increasing. The EU decision structure is not underpinned by real capabilities, a fact highlighted by the recent NATO analysis of the Libya operations. 

Most acknowledge the difficulty of getting 27-28 nations to agree on any action, thus the pride among them that they were able to do anything. Good work has been done by the EU in some key places, especially in the Balkans and Horn of Africa. Yet the reality is that when the tough decisions were needed along with the necessary capabilities in key crisis situations, Europe in the guise of the EU was not there by-and-large.  

There was a good showing of U.S. officials at the meeting who diplomatically urged Europe to get their act together and make a greater contribution. Amb. Rick Barton, Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations, a new and needed State bureau, focused on oncoming crises. He noted that we will not likely go to places like Iraq and Afghanistan again, and the focus will be on places that are most significant, like Syria, Burma, Asia/China, Honduras, and Salvador. A key point he made was the need to focus on and deal with “thematic crises” rather than purely national ones. He said we have more “micro successes” than “macro successes.”   He also cited the need for internal coherence within the U.S. government, the United Nations, and coordination with other actors. He hoped now that America will be a more effective partner and believes we need to work together, including with the EU.  

At the meeting was also Amb. Phil Reeker, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European Bureau. He also covers South-Central European affairs and his focus was the continued need to cooperate with the nations of the former Yugoslavia, with the EU still playing a major role in the stability of the region and eventually integrating fully these nations into the European and Transatlantic community. 

There was rightly discussion and a number of questions about how to “do more with less.” Some considerable skepticism was voiced of this concept, yet others said this was possible with better cooperation and focus on priorities. Clearly the U.S. can do this with less in the military area, given its already inordinately high DOD budget levels, but there are serious questions if the EU nations can do this and be capable of any major action on their own or perhaps even under NATO. Further, the State Department’s budget is under attack by the House of Representatives, which may seriously restrict our role of peacemaker and our ability to intervene with what we call “preventive diplomacy,” meaning a trajectory towards a big crisis and major conflict rather than acting early when less risky options are useful and effective.  

What was not explicitly addressed was the possibility of a divergence of goals, interests, and perspectives between the U.S. and Europe. There was need for more frankness and a better intellectual discussion of this issue and how to maintain unity of goals and purpose as well as action.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Next Steps for Libya’s Transitional National Council and for the Libyan People’s Future?

We are getting closer to seeing the testing moment of whether or not the Transitional National Council (TNC) will be able to work together as a stable interim government rather than a rather fractious fighting rebel force. They have gained recognition by a wide group of nations including now the U.S. and the Arab League, which sets the stage for external help.

The proof will be if the TNC’s efforts successfully create a better future for its people and provide the basis for promoting reconciliation and democracy as well as create democracy and prosperity for that nation.  Certainly, they have the advantage of some major resources in their oil producing capacity (about 3% of world production) and their now “embargoed” massive Libyan assets which can soon be made available for useful investment in the country.  They also have a fairly high literacy rate unlike what we see in Afghanistan.

Equally, we will be seeing if the NATO powers and the Arab allies will be able to provide the vital necessary assistance in a timely way and in forms that immediately impact the lives, well being, and especially employment–particularly of the youths of that nation, who are now so armed and engaged that they present both an element of instability and a promising source of talent to rebuild their now fairly devastated nation.

Libya needs an economic plan not dissimilar to what Obama would have liked in America if the Republicans had not vetoed it and thus prolonged our sad economic decline we are now seeing. But clearly, for Libya, a real stimulus is just what the doctor ordered to achieve growth and economic renewal.

We made some major mistakes in Iraq and in Afghanistan regarding getting their economies and security systems established and working.  Let’s not make the same mistake while the Arab world is watching and its implications loom large for the future of the “Arab Spring” and, thus, the evolution of the Arab world towards modernity and democracy.

There are plenty of “shovel ready” projects in rebuilding the damage that six months of civil war have created. (Just like there are in America with our own deteriorated infrastructure where the government can employ millions for massive long term national benefits.)  In Libya this can, in the end, all be paid for by oil money.  (In the US it can be paid for by our own increased productivity and revenue plus savings from less imported oil and fewer unemployment checks and destitute families.)  But it requires the full mobilization of both national resources and help from outside experts, companies, and international organizations with expertise in rebuilding countries that have experienced major damage. It means massive educational and training programs that lead to real jobs. Such an effort is likely to make building national unity easier when all have a stake in success.  The coming six months of victory and rebuilding will be even more important than the six months of civil war!

Comments invited!

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Gates’ Farewell to NATO and Europe: Europe’s Opportunity? (The Long View Versus the Short View)

There is nothing surprising about Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ blast at the European members of NATO over their lack of support for the “common defense” embodied in the NATO alliance. This problem has been building for decades, as long ago as when I served at the US Mission to NATO in the late 70s and early 80s when the Cold War was still the “Cold War.” But it is getting worse given the earlier 50- 50% split on cost sharing which is now 75-25%.

The European reaction however is what really matters now. In some ways, this is both the worst of times and the best of times for this issue to once again come to a head. It is the worst of times because of the global financial crisis and the disturbing intra-European conflicts regarding the specific problems of the most economically troubled nations, such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland and likely some others, the high unemployment levels in almost all nations, and the cost of saving the euro zone and maintaining economic unity.

Further, many states in Europe are blindly following a policy of depression/retrenchment, which is likely to worsen their economies and decrease income for government programs. Any careful look at Europe and its policies can only make a grown man cry.  They are not only eating their children, prolonging high unemployment, cutting education and vital R&D expenditures, but also possibly moving towards dismantling the only firm military alliance that has American power committed to their defense in a world that still looks dangerous and unpredictable.

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What’s Next for Libya?

That was the question that a panel of experts organized by the Middle East Institute endeavored to answer as Barack Obama was delivering his landmark Middle East speech Thursday. Panelists, including Paul Pillar, Jeffrey White, and U.S. Representative of the Transitional National Council of Libya and former Libyan ambassador to the U.S. Ali Suleiman Aujali, discussed the progress of Libya’s civil war to date and the challenges that must be overcome if it is to be brought to a peaceful and desirable resolution.

In Mr. White’s presentation, he outlined four possible outcomes to the civil war. They are:

  1. The forces of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime steadily weaken and eventually dissolve, leading to victory for the rebels. This process would take several more weeks if not months.
  2. The regime collapses suddenly and without warning, causing an immediate rebel victory.
  3. The war becomes a true stalemate. In this outcome, any peace would likely involve a partition of the country along East-West geographic lines.
  4. The regime makes a comeback, gaining a military advantage and ultimately crushing the rebellion. Continue reading

Libyan Stalemate? Implications for Libya and Beyond

There appears to be a series of mixed messages coming out of the conflict in Libya.  One is that a possible negotiation may be in the cards with an outcome that would permit Gaddafi to leave, but leave some of his structure and people still in place. But a newspaper report indicates that the African Union’s aims are simply hope for a cease fire, access by humanitarian help and “starting of a dialogue between the rebels and the government” that could leave Gaddafi or his people in place.

The other possibility is a stalemate in the war, with the country divided, and with a possible cease-fire which could solidify Gaddafi’s power in Tripoli and the East with the rebels remaining in power in the West, based in Benghazi.

But the reality of the conflict on the ground did not make the effort by the African Union delegation auspicious for peace given some advances Gaddafi’s forces are making, while there are some success rebels seen in the East.  Gaddafi’s forces still have the advantage in terms of numbers, training and firepower. NATO air strikes have further destroyed some of his military but the ravage on rebels and civilians alike in some areas has had its costs. Continue reading

Obama’s Address to the Nation on the Situation in Libya


THE PRESIDENT:  Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya –- what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism.  They have moved with incredible speed and strength.  Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.

Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe.  As Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.

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