Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Narrow Way

Patrick Belton at Oxblog links to a European think tank study recommending what the continent's response should be to terrorism, genocide and weapons of mass destruction. The Human Security Doctrine for Europe seems consciously designed to be the not-American response to these threats. It begins with these stirring words:

Many people in the world lead intolerably insecure lives. In many cases, insecurity is the consequence of conflicts in which civilians are deliberately targeted with impunity. In an era of global interdependence, Europeans can no longer feel secure when large parts of the world are insecure.

Over the last few years, the European Union has been developing a common security policy. In December 2003, the European Council agreed a European Security Strategy (ESS), which advocates preventive engagement and effective multilateralism. This report is about implementation of the ESS. It argues that Europe needs the capability to make a more active contribution to global security. It needs military forces but military forces need to be configured and used in new ways. The report focuses on regional conflicts and failed states, which are the source of new global threats including terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and organised crime.

Those threats are to be met by "A ‘Human Security Response Force’, composed of 15,000 men and women, of whom at least one third would be civilian (police, human rights monitors, development and humanitarian specialists, administrators, etc.). The Force would be drawn from dedicated troops and civilian capabilities already made available by member states as well as a proposed ‘Human Security Volunteer Service’." To keep this formidable force within civilized bounds and to prevent it from riding roughshod over the rights of terrorists, mass murderers and nuclear proliferators, they will adhere to the European version of Asimov's Laws of Robotics.

  1. Respect the primacy of Human Rights;
  2. Act within a legal framework that is locally acceptable;
  3. Act within the framework of multilateral treaties and obligation;
  4. Adhere to the "Bottom-Up" approach, to "take account of the most basic needs identified by the people who are affected by violence and insecurity," preferably by working with non-government organizations.
  5. To act within a regional political setting whenever possible;
  6. To use law enforcement as the primary mode of fighting threats to global security. "The use of law, and particularly international law, as an instrument does not pertain just to diplomatic fora and decisions concerning whether to intervene: they are at the core of how operations should be conducted."
  7. To use force as a last resort: to be "prepared to kill in extremis, as human security forces should be. Hence, in line with principle 1 (primacy of human rights) and principle 6 (legal instruments), minimum force is key. Minimum force suggests for instance that it would be an over-reaction to kill someone who threatens violence when an arrest can be made."

Come down to brass tacks, the study proposes a three-tier force structure consisting of a headquarters in Brussels, which would "be composed of strategic planners, with a capacity for analysis of intelligence and information, and a civil-military crisis management centre, with a capacity for assessing what military and civil capabilities, both European and local, are needed in a particular crisis situation.".

The second tier would consist of 5000 personnel at a high level of readiness able to deploy within days. They would include civil-military teams and a deployable command and control headquarters. They would be on permanent standby constantly training and exercising together and ‘breathing human security’. They would be able, at short notice, to deploy ‘Human Security Task Forces’. The third tier would consist of the remaining 10,000 personnel, who would be at a lower level of readiness but nevertheless could be called on for deployment and who would periodically train and exercise together.

In keeping with the overall professional tone of the report, it does not neglect to provide for Reserves. Far from it.

"NGOs could be registered as part of the Human Security Volunteer Service, along with individuals. The Service could provide a framework for contracts with NGOs that would involve vetting to ensure that they were reliable and effective These contracts would entitle them to participate in training and exercises, as well as being deployed as part of a wider force. For private corporations, there could be a registration procedure and tenders for certain non-military tasks such as logistics or communications, but they should not form an integral part of the force."

To make all these wonderful things possible requires material support. "A deployable headquarters, a command and control system, aircraft carriers and other transportation equipment should be dedicated to the EU force ... planes, trucks, jeeps and helicopters, as well as communications systems, for example mobile phones, should be usable in a range of tasks and have both civilian and military components. They need to be compatible and interoperable both among member states and between civilian and military." Which of course, means NATO standard.

This a serious (the report was presented to EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana) exposition of the kind of security policy some European political groups actually think will work. It is a refreshing departure from the purely reactive critique of the American approach to international security. It is entirely earnest and devoid of any irony, which from my own personal point of view, makes it very frightening indeed. This is what some people actually mean when they talk about a more "sensitive" approach to fighting terrorism, one that is multilateral and nuanced.

It would be a mistake, of course, to characterize every European critic of the Bush administration's foreign policy as an adherent of the Human Security Doctrine, but it is probably fair to say that its spirit finds wide currency among them. God help us all.