Social democrat policy makers and thinkers from Britain, Germany and France came together in London in November to discuss a range of issues, all of these highly conditioned by the events of September 11 2001, and their aftermath. The discussion was accompanied by a paper which organised the talks into four main areas: defence and security; globalisation; relations with Islam; and EU-US relations.
These discussions ranged widely and deeply. What emerged was a large concern in the short term for a war on terrorism seen as both necessary and full of danger; but also a desire to make both Europe's role, and social democratic values and approaches more prominent and vivid, even in the midst of the cares and responsibilities of governments.
1. Defence and Security
The attacks of September 11 on the United States give stark prominence to threats and conflicts which had been foreshadowed if not in the precise way in which the calamity struck. Indeed, a recent work by Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton, puts terrorist threats of various kinds as one of the most urgent dangers facing the United States. The British Ministry of Defence's paper Future Strategic Context for Defence (February 2001) argues that
"nationalism, religion and single-issue activism will continue to produce extremists prepared to use terrorism to achieve their aims. Use of improved communications and information systems will enable some groups to better co-ordinate their activities. Such groups may pose the most immediate, if small scale and localised, threat to UK interests, as they are less likely to be constrained by political considerations or threat of retaliation."
Also well known and well flagged are the greater resources of terror available to such groups. The collapse of the Soviet Union has made stocks of nuclear fissile materials, chemical and biological warfare materials, less secure; and it has 'liberated' generations of defence research scientists with poor salaries and living conditions, whose experience and knowledge would be of value to the terrorist groups. Even without the Soviet/former Warsaw Pact insecurities, the high military technology is now more available than a decade ago on the market, or through crime networks which are themselves expanding significantly, also in part because of the sudden growth of overt criminality in the former Soviet Union and its equally rapid globalisation.
Containment, seen by the West as a strategy of containing the Soviet Union's aggressive tendencies, was also it is clear in retrospect a way of containing huge potential threats to the West. Now, Russia does not pose a conventional threat to NATO forces and, though it remains a very large strategic power, its relative poverty makes it cautious and its relative rapprochement with the West makes it unlikely to confront it. Since September 11, it has made a great deal of common cause with the West in large part because it perceives its main threat to come from radical Islamic groups, a perception now shared by the US. Widescale instability could threaten the West, both by mass exodus and a further marked drop in weapons security.
China faces very large internal problems and has a relatively weak military, though it is seeking to improve technology and the projection of forces. It has a limited strategic nuclear capacity, which could reach Europe, but a policy of no first use. Territorial integrity is its main concern: Taiwan is the potential flashpoint but so far has been managed, if with many tensions. Like Russia, regional instability could threaten the West.
Before September 11, the main areas of regional instability and potential conflict were seen as:
Asymmetry has suddenly become a popular word in military circles. Part of what is meant by it is that NATO now has no conventional challenge, and thus potential enemies will pursue unconventional strategies one such we have seen displayed. The trend since the end of the Cold War has been rapidly away from the possibility of conventional force confrontation, though not yet so radically that the possibility can be discounted.
However, the threats are now multiple. Weapons of mass destruction are now proliferating, and will further. The spread of technology is more rapid than before, since there are no effective bars. Though Europe is not yet in target of rocket- delivered weapons of mass destruction, it will become so within the next two decades.
Coalitions of forces are already much more popular than in the past, and will become more so. NATO forces will be drawn into further wars which do not directly threaten European or North American territory. These developments will produce strains between members of the coalitions with different interests and politics.
The European defence contribution remains an unknown factor. It has suffered, since first being proposed, from lack of fit between different forces, the quite different approaches to warfare and strategy between different European states, the presence of NATO which tends to crowd out European initiatives, jealously guarded national military industries, the suspicion of the US that European defence would weaken NATO and the fact that most countries are decreasing military expenditure making a European capacity with independent intelligence and strategic capability much harder.
September 11 has accelerated or perhaps caused another evident trend. France has been distrusted in the US, especially in military circles. On the US side, that distrust is seen as a reflection of the distance which France has taken from NATO, and alleged leakages of intelligence in the Kosovo conflict. On the French side, the coolness in the relationship is seen as reflecting US dislike for France's independent foreign policy stance, especially in the Middle East. French policy makers believe that their country's independent stance foreshadows what will be the inevitable policies of other European states, including Britain, as Europe gains authority in international affairs.
However, France has taken an unambiguously supportive stance towards the US, and on its action against terrorism. This seems to reflect a broad and deep consensus in French civil society, and may have continuing and permanent effects on its attitude towards NATO membership and towards the European defence force influencing it towards a view that NATO and the new force should be closely intertwined.
Reaction in Germany has been even more marked: in a speech to the Bundestag after his visit to New York in early October, Chancellor Schröder said that Germany's role outside of its borders would include "participation in military operations to defend freedom and human rights and to create stability and security". In this way, the September 11 attacks have given depth and meaning to Schröder's speeches in the early years of government on a more independent Germany and seem to presage the emergence of Germany as a military force. German troops will operate outside of German boundaries a profound psychological shift for the country. However, there may remain implicit limits, such as operations by German troops in the Middle East.
September 11 has seemed to privilege the action of individual member states against action by the EU and even against NATO. The EU has been seen as weak. A rotating presidency, which often puts small countries in the leadership position at times of crisis as now, with Belgium's presidency can deprive it of the necessary authority, even as the mechanism gives the smaller states a stake in the Union. It has not coordinated the defence response; that has been led by Britain, France and Germany, which had to face accusations of cutting out the contribution of other states, especially Italy and Spain. It has said it wishes to develop a coherent military force; but its member states continue to cut defence budgets, and the shape of the force is still unclear. However, with sufficient political will a European force may appear over the next decade. The September 11 attacks will be likely to accelerate that trend.
The US now knows that security is not gained by unilateralism only by multilateral action. However, it is not yet clear if the US will become more multilateral in the long term, beyond the duration or outside of the bounds of the war against terrorism. The US has greatly stepped up its efforts to get a Middle East settlement, and has turned around in its policy towards Russia. But it is not clear if these initiatives will last, or if the US penchant for doing it its way will continue to hold sway.
2. New forms of engagement in globalisation
Globalisation is made up of a number of interrelated features. It includes the greatly accelerated interconnection between the world's finance centres; the increasing internationalisation of production and distribution; the view of the world as one unit for investment purposes; the spread of media-culture industries across ever-larger parts of the globe while their products reach almost all parts of it; the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions in using global resources for world development and analysing the world economy; the spread of United Nations agencies; and the great growth, in several waves, of non-governmental organisations. It comprehends many apparently contradictory trends such as a rise of sometimes militant and violent nationalism; a resurgence of fundamentalisms in various religions, coupled with a rapid spread of cosmopolitanism, as citizens of all countries live, work and travel increasingly abroad; the development of English as a lingua franca of these cosmopolitan classes; and the efforts to tie together states, including previously hostile states, into close regional alliances, of which the European Union is by far the most ambitious.
Globalisation faces a number of serious challenges.
Social democrats have drawn on similar sources of inspiration and idealism to those claimed by the new movements; but for decades, their major parties have claimed the rights and responsibilities of power, and thus must appeal and deliver to mass electorates. Social democratic governments, which remain in power in a large majority of the European states, found themselves the target of movements which claimed allegiance to many of the goals to which the democratic left parties were historically committed, and which they still believe they are serving. Their own political approach to globalisation to see it as a field in which social democratic values could be gradually spread internationally, through extending democratic practices and institutions to a global level has been so far tentative. It is also largely confined to academic articles and speeches, including the remarkable speeches given by Tony Blair to the Labour Party conference in October and to the Lord Mayor's Banquet in November, both of which dedicated the advanced states to a much more active engagement with the poor ones.
The social democratic parties have so far given only sketches of answers to what will become a central concern of our age, made more urgent by September 11: that of the possibilities of global politics and of the foundations of global justice. Yet, in creating a global market, we are willy-nilly creating the outlines of a global society. The left has only begun to feel that it should bring to that table the concerns which inform its domestic practice: for greater equality, for social justice, for the right of free expression, for non-exploitative relations, and for personal (including economic) security.
Such a global politics would crucially include indeed, its first sketch already does include a court in which criminals would be judged. At the same time as Osama Bin Laden was identified as the man most likely to be the perpetrator of the Manhattan and Pentagon attacks, another alleged mass murderer, Slobodan Milosevic, was on trial in The Hague. It would also include a strengthening of the UN, especially of its Economic and Social Council. Aid must be re-focussed on the poorest states, especially in Africa, in order to stimulate development there.
The patient construction of such institutions and policies is what might, in time, ensure that the values we saw outraged on September 11 gain wider currency; a mere punishment, in itself, cannot. The effort to create a system of global governance is probably now unavoidable, if the twin challenges of the new global movements and of the new global terrorism are to have an answer.
That creation must be accompanied by a more robust challenge of the global movements' propositions and actions. Poverty in other states is not the result of the wealth of the West. Democratic values are not just Western: they have universal application, and the UN Charter on Human Rights has a more or less universal signatory list. However, ideas cannot be imposed on other states, and a great deal of work needs to be done to make of human rights a truly universal concept. If humankind is really to enjoy access to rights, the often rapacious governments and ruling groups must somehow be circumvented and the opportunity to enjoy rights offered to them a difficult task. In this, media can be at least an occasional aid; it shows different ways of life and freedoms.
3. Building New Bridges with Islam
Islam, of concern to relatively few outside of it until September 11, is now at the centre of Western states' concerns. It has been the subject of two kinds of approach.
The first is broadly followed by most governments in the West. It is a careful indeed, insistent discrimination between radical groups who speak in the name of Islam, as the Al-Quaera network of Osama bin Laden and Islam proper. Tony Blair has said he has read the Koran, and finds it a source of inspiration and of concern with peace and forgiveness. At one extreme of this view are those Western commentators, generally on the left, who agree with all or part of the anti-global and even radical Islamic case: that the West is imperialist and oppressive and has brought most, if not all, of the terror on itself.
Radical Islamic groups are in a class of their own in West-hating (particularly America-hating). In different areas in different ways, they have developed a shifting narrative of victimisation at the hands of the West in general and America in particular. The Gulf war against Iraq and the continuing sanctions on the country; the attacks launched on Libya with intent to kill Colonel Ghadaffi in 1993 (CHK); the sanctions, applied particularly by the US, against Iran; the US support for Israel, seen as an occupier of Moslem land and a bridgehead of imperialism, a vision of oppression which has grown in scale since the breakdown of the Camp David summit in 2000 these are part of a litany of justification for hatred, and provide a sea of acceptance, even of joyous acceptance, of the September 11 action.
Osama bin Laden, the Saudi multi-millionaire turned mujahaddin who is the first suspect for the organisation of the terrorist action, has made clear in successive interviews his detestation of America, and sought to give it the status of a religious war, or jihad. "Hostility towards America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God", he said in an interview with Time in 1999. He has identified Jews ands "Crusaders" (Christians) as the imperialists on Moslem soil, to whom the fight must be carried. He represents the sharpest and most extreme edge of a loose movement of groups and states, which have identified imperialism, materialism, godlessness and immorality all reaching their acme in America as objects of active hostility, as enemies in a fitful but real war. He is also, in part, a product of the last days of the anti-Soviet campaigns: trained and armed with thousands of others by the CIA, he gained his self confidence in fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, learning there that once the Soviet Union was destroyed, America must be next.
The Middle Eastern states have for long tended to see the US at least publicly through their hostility to Israel. Indeed, in the 1990s the traditional distaste for the US as Israel's protector was fleshed out with a fiercer hatred, which saw the West in general as an oppressor. Even where, as in the Gulf War, Moslem states expressed hostility to Saddam Hussein and support for the US-led intervention and war against Iraqi forces, they were usually forced by public pressure to backtrack on their support before the war's end.
In turn, the US tends to see the Islamic fundamentalism professed by some governments and movements in the region especially Iran, in the eighties and early nineties as a new ideological threat to the west. President George Bush talked of Saddam Hussein of Iraq as "Hitler revisited"; the conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote of Iran as "the world's new Comintern". The 1994 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York by Islamic extremists, associates of Bin Laden planned to achieve many more deaths than it did and to topple the twin towers brought home for the first time the sense that a religious civilisation had dedicated itself to America's humbling.
In his Clash of Civilisations, a work which grew sharply in influence after September 11, Samuel Huntingdon shows that Moslem states have been involved in more "intergroup violence" at the end of the 20th century than other 'civilisations'. In an attempt to explain this, he suggests a range of answers:
Whichever one or more of these give an explanation, the fact of Moslem hostility is un-matched by other religious civilisation, groups or states including Russia and China. At the same time, the fact that the largest reserves of oil are in Arab-Moslem hands means that the West has made strenuous efforts to support the ruling dynasties in the pro-Western states, especially Saudi Arabia. Part of the agenda of the radical Moslem groups is a replacement of these dynasties, seen as corrupt and insufficiently Islamic, with their own rulers a nightmare for the West.
The West has, in the past few decades, developed a series of attitudes and passed a raft of laws outlawing discrimination on racial or religious grounds. Western countries, with the US in the fore, have taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Asian states, including Afghans fleeing from the Taliban regime with whom Bin Laden is allied. France, Germany and the UK have all, in differing ways, sought to integrate Moslem minorities into their societies. Their rights to separate religious practices are guaranteed. America has been a pioneer in multiculturalism a policy often contentious, but never seriously challenged, by successive governments. Both the US and the EU states have made it a plank of their foreign and aid policies, recommending multicultural solutions to states whose ethnic groups live in hostility to each other as they did in the states of the former Yugoslavia into which they were drawn by war.
At present, it appears that a significant strain within Islam certainly present in groups who claim to be its most fervent disciples now regard Western values, Western customs and often Westerners themselves as intolerable. The rejection of the West's culture at times makes no distinction between a distaste for American TV and films (one shared by most European cultural elites) and a contempt for attitudes and strategies such as, for example, to end discrimination against women, or homosexual men and women. An effort to be inclusive meets a rejection of the very philosophy of a multicultural society, including by those living within multicultural societies.
These elements within Moslem societies represent a large and continuing problem between these societies and the West, one which the events of September 11 have thrown into harsh relief. They are particularly severe for social democrats: for it is the values and practices of the centre left which have been to the fore in adumbrating practices and legislation against discrimination and for the extension of civil and human rights. It was a conservative figure, the Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who in September 2001 bluntly stated in a speech in Berlin that Western civilisation was "superior" to the Islamic because of the former's development of civil rights. It was a bad time to say it, when a broad coalition including many Islamic states was being constructed against terrorism, and it proposed a hierarchy of civilisations which flies against the necessary respect to be shown to other cultures. But it forced, or should have forced, the left to reflect that its strategies for the betterment of mankind are seen as intolerable and imperialistic intrusions into states' and societies' networks of customs, traditions and laws.
The need for a deepening of dialogue with Islamic states and groups is now very urgent. An effort must be made to make these dialogues open and pointed, with both sides prepared to examine their own assumptions, as well as their views of the other. This should be done between political groups, scholars, commentators, trade unions, business groups and all other institutions of civil society. The aim must be not just to produce a passive understanding helpful as that would be but an active process of problem solving.
But the dialogue must be frank and open. If criticisms are to be made of the non-Islamic world, those making them must be open to criticism in return. Previous efforts to start and maintain such a dialogue as in France are not encouraging. Increasingly, in European and North American societies, Moslems are a significant minority within the population, taking citizenship of the country in which they live. Yet at best, the relations between the minority and the rest of the society are tolerant, but indifferent: real interaction is rare; intermarriage is strenuously resisted; much energy is spent on seeking separate Moslem education.
The questions facing both Western and Moslem societies are not whether or not Islam is an 'enemy of the West'. It is whether or not Islam can co-exist with societies which are plural, tolerant, open to many faiths and non-discriminatory. These values are held by all non-extremist political parties in the West to be central to a good society; and it is hard to imagine any deep dialogue, let alone any agreements, with Moslem groups or states which do not respect these principles. But we have yet to determine whether or not these principles can form a common basis.
Further, societies in all parts of the world, both developed and developing, are undergoing processes of modernisation which include both economic and political elements. Moslem societies cannot be immune. These processes now beat at the gates of the conservative regimes in the Arab world, which have attempted to keep modernisation into a fenced-off sector of their economy, and allow little fundamental change in ruling practice. The signs are that this cannot last much longer, but that a radical takeover of these regimes would lead to murderous civil war within these states themselves and be hugely damaging to Western economies.
A large issue in the relations between Islamic societies and the developed Western states is the policies in some cases the existence of the state of Israel. About the latter the West can make no compromise: the existence of the state of Israel, as other recognised states, is not a matter for debate or bargaining. The policies, however, are different: in an increasingly interdependent world, Israel has no more licence than any other state to pursue policies damaging to peace and the world economy. The deepening conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the insecurity which both sides use as a weapon against the other, cannot be allowed to continue: it has consequences too serious for the rest of the world.
The US is now re-engaging in the area, and proclaiming the necessity of creating a viable and independent Palestinian state. It is not clear, however, how much diplomatic weight will be added to an approach which grows out of the exigencies of war. In any case, Europe must now become a more active interlocutor for the Israelis and Palestinians. Germany is second only to the US in its involvement in Israel, while the other European states have close and long-standing ties with the Middle Eastern world, which would allow a multilateral and rich dialogue, with many possibilities for breakthroughs.
4. New Challenges for the Partnership with the US
There is no question that the US Bush administration, and more deeply the mood it represents, has presented a large challenge to centre-left-led European governments. They could ignore it while Bill Clinton remained in office, since he sought to share many of the concerns and values of European left governments. Now, however, the policies are in more evident conflict, and lie deep under the solidarity instantly shown in the face of the Manhattan and Pentagon attacks. US unilateralism, its recoil from efforts as by the International Criminal Court to establish norms of international justice; its unwillingness, until after September 11, to restrain Israel in the Sharon government's destruction (in awful symmetry with the Palestinian leadership) of a base for future negotiations; its determination to put domestic growth above any and all considerations of ecological damage to the biosphere, its unequivocal commitment to a defence system which compromises all other defence strategies, present friend and potential enemy alike - all of these directly or largely contradict the tentative efforts made by European states to globalise justice, equity and representation as well as business and media. If, as Robert Cooper writes "solving the problem of international legitimacy will be the major challenge for the 21st century", it is presently a challenge to which the US did not seem willing to rise
European governments, whose Union constitutes the only alternative pole of Western global influence, have now a particular responsibility to use their influence to draw the US into creating the institutions of an interdependent world. These institutions - those created at Bretton Woods, those developed or developing since, as the EU and those in embryo - now must take over more and more of the burden of global governance from states, including states as powerful as the US. They must develop sufficient common strength and influence to demonstrate that a world of supranational institutions is a more secure and rewarding one than a flight into defiant strength. That is both harder, but much more urgent, after Manhattan. It is particularly the task of social democratic governments - who must have the conviction of their ideals to argue the case with the present US administration.
There are some signs - though they are not unambiguous - that this argument may be heard more clearly now. Among the lessons European leaders of the centre-left have sought to draw from the aftermath of September 11 has been one of global interdependence" and both the solidarity shown with the US across the world, as well as the accent on building new alliances and developing new solidarities with the developing states, are strong signals of the possibility of a new commitment.
In a way which was not the case in the nineties or before, Europe and America have come to represent two differing - but not wholly opposing - ways of influencing the world. This in part reflects their differing natures: the US, as a strong state with unparalleled wealth and military force, tends to see the world as a series of states with which it wishes to co-operate but can, in the last analysis, dominate or ignore. The European Union, with little state power, is used to negotiating deals and projects at various levels of power and authority. For the first, unilateralism is always an option; often - as in the first months of the Bush administration - the preferred one. For the EU and its member states, it is not.
The values of cooperation and the practice of negotiating power are generally more in tune with the contemporary world that strong borders and unilateral action. But not always: especially in the provision of military force. Europe has been dependent on the US for the latter for over half a century: and must face up (see section 1) to the imperatives of lessening that dependence.
Interdependence cannot mean dependence. The creation of the Euro, and the development of a Common Security and Foreign Policy, are counters to this. Europe is not a state, and is unlikely ever to become one; it thus has not the coherence of the US (or any other state) in making and executing policy, and can at times be slow in reactions to urgent situations, as after September 11. But it has another strength: that of a multilateral approach which is part of its nature. It has deep and inalienable civic principles: but it has no view of itself as in principle virtuous, and thus beyond the restraint of conventions and of international law. It is deeply liked to the US by treaty, common struggle, culture, language, tradition and economic system. It has a duty to share burdens with the US - one of which as been the burden of keeping the peace within Europe and round its borders. It must become the major player in the relationship between Russia and the West - the more since President Putin makes it increasingly plain that he wishes his main orientation in foreign policy to be with Europe.
Both the US and Europe need each other: now, the nature of their interdependence must be again examined, and with it the nature of interdependence everywhere.
John Lloyd is a former foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Associate Editor of the New Statesman
This paper is based on a British-German-French seminar Europe's Role in the New Global Order, organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung London and the Policy Network, and held on 1 November 2001 in London
The opinions expressed in publications of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung London Office are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation.
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