The voice of young liberal democrats

How the European Constitution Imperilled European Security by londonliberal
October 23, 2008, 2:51 pm
Filed under: defence, Foreign Affairs

I wrote this post for Eurodefense UK –

Few reforms are needed more urgently in Europe today than the forging of a coherent and, as far as possible, single EU foreign policy and yet few reforms are less likely to see the light of day in the current political climate. The blame for this must lie squarely at the feet of the European Council, ultimately responsible for trying to insert the proposals for an enhanced decision making process and an EU foreign minister, amongst others, into a confusing constitution that never had much chance of being approved by an angry electorate.

When the citizens of the EU were asked to rank the most serious problems facing the continent earlier this year by the German Marshall Fund, they naturally put terrorism and the credit crisis at the top of the agenda. However, a large majority also expressed grave concerns about the resurrection of the Russian bear and its use of its energy supplies as a weapon, not to mention its tanks and warships, whilst almost as many said they wanted closer relations with America and that NATO was still essential to their security.

It’s safe to say the ‘masses’ were on the money in their assessment of the most immediate threats to European security. Indeed, their concerns, along with illegal immigration, cyber-crime and climate change, have featured heavily in the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy’s drive to establish a new security strategy for Europe. Central to formulating a single European response to these challenges, therefore, has been the push to update the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

As they are, the policies have failed to unify the EU in its dealings with the rest of the world, rendering the Union inefficient on the occasions when member states do take a common approach, such as in the Balkans, and wide open to manipulation by foreign powers when they don’t, such as the United States during the Iraq war and Russia now. The reforms envisaged by the constitution went some way to addressing these problems: a single foreign minister to represent the EU abroad; a legal personality to allow the EU to conclude international agreements; EU-wide investment in research and development; an EU equivalent of NATO’s clause 5 committing all states to collective “aid and assistance by all the means in their power”; the agreement of all member states to make available troops assigned to other multi-national task-forces to European battle-groups too; as well as a refined decision making process with opt-outs for any member state opposed to any EU decision to deploy troops.

So why then, if European electorates agreed on the supra-national nature of the threats and challenges facing their countries and their governments agreed on a set of measures to tackle them, were the proposed reforms thrown out by the Irish this year when they voted in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, seen by many as simply a watered down version of the constitution? The answer is simple. The EU’s attempts to package these paramount changes within a vast and unreadable document that few wanted made it impossible to pass them. Indeed a poll taken of voters immediately after the Irish referendum revealed that the majority of those who voted ‘no’ did so because they did not understand what they were voting on.

However, Europe’s electorates lost faith in their elites long before then. The reasons behind the French and Dutch ‘no’ votes on the constitution proper in 2005 were far less kind than the Irish and revealed a deep-seated resentment of European elites and indeed their own. And for what? A flag and an anthem that we already have and that nobody cares about. Since then, any attempt to do the sensible thing and try and pass the reforms necessary to create a single coherent foreign policy has been viewed with suspicion and contempt. Indeed if the Lisbon Treaty hadn’t been voted down by the Irish it probably would have fallen at a later hurdle. Of course, the peddling of half-truths and even outright lies by the Europhobic press in countries most likely to need a referendum on such treaties like Ireland and the UK hardly helps.

What hope remains for a single European foreign policy then? Ironically, it would seem that the security of the continent now lies in the hands of national leaders regaining their people’s trust and convincing of the merit and the need for a unified approach. The election of a President in the United States with a respect for the transatlantic alliance and an understanding of the importance of a multi-lateral approach to the world’s most serious problems would go a long way too.


Iran: No Evidence of Nuclear Weapons Program by georgeinwashington
November 5, 2007, 2:14 pm
Filed under: defence, Foreign Affairs, iran, nuclear weapons | Tags: , , ,

From the McClatchy group today. An article strongly contradicting the belligerent tone of the West recently. Experts seem to agree that there is no firm evidence of a nuclear program, only cause for suspicion. Read the full article by clicking on the link above. The McClatchy were the only news organisation that raised serious questions about Iraq’s WMDs before the war.

Chris Would Tear Up The NPT by georgeinwashington

A number of comments on my last post drew me also to the completely illogical policy of Huhne’s nuclear policy, and since I have been criticized already for attacking Clegg’s policies I hope this post will go some way to prove my independent spirit.

Chris says that the UK should scrap trident and decide whether we should decommission entirely or keep a smaller deterrent after the non proliferation talks in 2010. He also argues that we should be less dependent on the United States militarily.

The implications are clear, if we were to have a “smaller deterrent” Britain would have to develop an entirely new generation of nuclear weapons.

No matter what the outcome of the talks in 2010, it is inconceivable that they will not prohibit the entirely new development of new nuclear weapons systems. Therefore if Britain attempts to do this, it will tear up the regime from the moment of it’s conception. Secondly the development of an entirely new system would most probably require testing violating the comprehensive test ban treaty.
This claim that this new deterrent will cost less is just plain stupid. For now the UK is entirely dependent on the US for Trident, the missiles are built maintained and designed in the US. This would mean that the UK would have to pour literally billions of pounds into research and development, before we even started building the weapons.

Chris also seems under some delusion that the UK possesses some sort of massive nuclear arsenal, he talks in his policy on nukes that Trident was built to counter the Soviet Union’s potentially massive use of force. Currently the UK has 48 nuclear missiles and probably around 200 warheads. It also only has one submarine on patrol at any one time. It is difficult to see what the point would be of reducing this stockpile drastically as this already makes the UK one of the smaller nuclear powers. By contrast the US has some 7,500 missiles.

Both candidates, whilst committing to the NPT are publicly advocating positions that would undermine it. If they are committed to a goal of universal nuclear disarmament, they will have propose their ideas for a fundamentally system, or pay more attention to the current NPT. Most of all they should credit the public with a little more intelligence.

Mcnamara and Nuclear Weapons by georgeinwashington
October 30, 2007, 5:08 am
Filed under: defence, nuclear weapons

Update, full excerpt from the fog of war, now below

I was not going to reply to the last reply by London Liberal on nuclear policy, I felt enough had been said by all. However after just finishing watching “The Fog of War” I wanted to share some of the things said by former US defence secretary Robert Mcnamara. “The Fog of War” is a documentary on Mcnamara where he himself explains the lessons he learned during his lifetime. Mcnamara was Secretary of Defence during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He is well known for being the architect of early Vietnam policy, presiding over a massive expansion of the US nuclear capability and perhaps most importantly for this debate. was Sec Def during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In his own words:

“Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those who he is speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He has killed people unnecessarily, either his own troops or others through mistakes – through errors of judgement 100 or 1000, tens of thousands maybe even one hundred thousand people – But he hasnt destroyed nations. Conventional wisdom would say, dont make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes and we all do…. [but] there will be no learning period with nuclear weapons, you make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.”

“I want to say, and this is very important, at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war, we came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals, Kennedy was rational, Khrushchev was rational, Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies – and that danger exists today”

“The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is that the indefinate combination of human fallability and nuclear weapons will destroy nations”

“Is it right and popper that today, there are 7,500 strategic nuclear warheads, of which 2,500 are on 15 minute alert to be launched by the decision of one human being?”

“I think the human race needs to think more about killing, and conflict. Is that really what we want in this 21st century”

It strikes me and even reassures me that despite the being advocates of nuclear build up men like Mcnamara and Nitze seem to have displayed a true understanding of the terrible, catastrophic moral consequences that that build up presented. I can only imagine that they advocated such policies as they saw no other course, and would have been happy to have had the opportuntity of alleviating themselves of the burden of nuclear arms.
Today however I find it worrying that advocates of the continuance of nuclear arms do not seem to display such an understanding of the gravity of situation. Nuclear weapons are still treated in terms of strategic or political tools. However nuclear weapons are much more grave. The possibility of an accident, either mechanical or human, has catastrophic consequences. Leaving aside the immorality of their use by our military, is it not insane to even possess these weapons that have the possibility to bring destruction on our society, despite the lack of any credible military threat to our homeland? To paraphrase Mcnamara is it right and proper that we have given the power to destroy the world to one man?

Iraq Not the Last Front in the War on Terror by georgeinwashington
October 26, 2007, 3:51 pm
Filed under: America, defence, Foreign Affairs, war on terror

In the Washington Mayflower last night the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, gave an insight into the future strategic outlook of the United States. “We have to realize that the the Middle East is larger than Afghanistan and Iraq, and the World is larger than the Middle East.” It would seem that that the US is far from ready to recede to the sidelines in international affairs.

The Admiral went on to remind us that we are in a generational war, and that he foresees a series of continuing engagements in the future. As belligerent as this sounded the Admiral did qualify himself by noting that these engagements would not necessarily be of an offencive nature. The US, he said had to utilise all of its efforts in future interventions, in diplomacy, foreign aid and the private sector as well as the military.

This kind of commitment will require a substantial financial commitment. When the Iraq conflict finally ends there will be no peace dividend. The Admiral told the audience that the current defence spending of the US of 4% of GDP should be considered an absolute minimum.

The Admiral was also candid about the kinds of stresses the military is currently facing. Whilst the Army is not as some claim broken, but it is breakable, the current troop rotations had to be shortened.

These goals will surely be a challenge for the Admiral who faces international suspicion of US military motives, declining enrollment, a large budget deficit and a hostile public. In the end his most pressing problems may be political rather than military. Whilst the US Military may say it stands ready to undertake a larger role in the world. It will have to rely on the White House and Congress to rebuild the political goodwill that will allow it to do so.