Reinhold Grether on 4 Jan 2001 13:00:16 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] The Imminent Militarisation of the European Union

[Please read below a challenging analysis of the imminent
militarisation of the European Union. Author Jan Oberg is
director of the Transnational Foundation, an outstanding
International Relations think tank based in Lund, Sweden.
fwd by ]

Jan Oberg
EU - Can Imperial Policies and War Be Avoided Now?

EU militarisation as an outburst of deep culture
How is it possible to militarise the European Union with so little
attention and so little knowledge in the media, in public debate
and in political decision-making circles? How come that an idea
such as military humanitarian intervention, bombing, war-fighting
strategies and a never-ending flow of new smaller as well as
mass destructive weapons are sold to the general public as
instruments of peace?

Let's start out with a few heuristic theses that I believe underpin
the present global militarisation trends, driven as they are by the

1) In spite of all the good things that can also be said about it,
the West, the Occidental culture, is a deeply militarist,
violence-prone civilisation. Direct and structural violence,
psychological, cultural and entertainment violence is so
pervasive that they look 'natural' to the majority.

Thesis # 1: the system is culturally blind and fundamentally
violent. Western social cosmology advocates a peace that
permits, even requires and legitimises, violence.
2) Conflicts are about two parties, one of which embodies evil.
The 'problem' is located inside an actor, not in the structure,
thinking, or situation. Conflict-resolution is about eradicating
evil, i.e. an actor, not the conflicting issue between actors.
Thus, evil violence must be controlled or combated with good
violence. In short: tell me about your cosmology and I will tell
you what type of conflict-resolution you are likely to apply!
The Buddha statement that the only thing we need to kill is the
will to kill which points to the fundamental reverence for life is
incompatible with the generalised Western cosmology and
dominating political doctrines.

Thesis # 2: Western cosmology is monotheistic and believes
in one truth - our own, of course. Possible other truths are
perceived as threatening, corrupt, rogue and 'evil.' Conflicting
parties are seen as either wholly good or wholly bad/evil, not
as complex, as mixed. Co-existence? Yes, but only with those
who are basically like us or will live according to our cosmology
("us") but not with "them." This means limitless expansion, the
larger the more to control -- and the more we fear to loose.

3) Complementary with that: the West in general and US/EU
leaders see themselves as chosen people, as (self-aggrandising)
princes of peace, as those who must take the "white, civilising
man's burden" on their shoulders and bring peace to the world
after having eradicated evil in less civilised regions.

Thesis 3: the leaders have Messianic motives.

4) The world is becoming so complex, information and decisions
travelling so fast that most citizens do not have a chance to
obtain the relevant, comprehensive knowledge and take part in
a democratic debate before irreversible decisions have already
been made. A menacing information and trust gaps between
representatives and represented widen in proportion to these
processes, if not faster.

Thesis 4: the citizens feel powerless and political apathy and
alienation threaten democratic norms and rules. Citizens lack
faith in politicians but, equally, messianic politicians show
contempt for citizens when they are sceptical to the grandiose
projects and the sheer speed with which they are pushed.

This is a dangerous mixture: violence more than nonviolence 
+ mono-ism more than pluralism + Messianism more than
humility + citizens alienation more than participation. With
increasing system over-extension and even more mega(lomaniac)
projects to repair the system, these elements in the modern
body politic could cause overall system breakdown,
accompanied by bouts of decentralised citizen-based violence,
civil war or international war. Let's introduce a fifth thesis at
this point:

5) The delusion of grandeur (thesis # 3) could be linked to
another type of delusion in classical psychology: that of being
persecuted. This can happen from inside and from the outside.

Could it be that the leaders of the West and of the emerging
EU world power sense that they could be persecuted from
inside by their political opponents and parts of their citizenry?
I think here of e.g. populists, neo-nazism, the resource- and
information-poor, left-wingers, greens, the women and the
young - - who have different reasons to be anything but
enthusiastic about the future that is being created for them
over and above their heads? Look at the 'family photos' taken
of the same few statesmen and ministers when they meet in
the EU, NATO, OSCE, Davos, or IMF meetings; it is not
unlikely that they have a strong group feeling and would be
seen by their respective constituencies back home as being
more loyal to each other than to them?

Could it be that the leaders - - more or less consciously - - 
sense they could one day be persecuted from outside, from
the non-West, by virtually the rest of the world in two ways:

a) by the world's disadvantaged, the poor, the asylum-seekers
and other victims of globalisation and of Western greed and
luxury amidst a world where the basic needs of the majority
are still unmet?

b) by new emerging powers in Asia and elsewhere who
will no longer put up with a West that has no answers to
the real global problems except to continue exploitation,
marginalisation, perverse consumerism and, if need be,
military dominance?  Thus:

Thesis # 5: EU leaders fear that the West is shrinking, if
not sinking, in a macro-historical perspective because of
trends and dilemmas like these? They fear that US policies
aiming at world dominance (see PressInfo 107) will increasingly
antagonise everybody, including themselves, to such an extent
that the end of Western supremacy will come sooner rather
than late, and they want to guard the non-US West from
that fate. In short, that they believe they can save the West,
or save it longer, from this clash of civilisation (completely
different from Huntington's).

EU as a counter-force to the U.S. or to imperialism?

Many Europeans are well aware of the risks and deficiencies
of the EU project but promote it as a balancing force against
U.S. 'imperialism' and dominance, somewhat along the lines
of the theses above. But then the question must be asked: are
they only against the U.S. as an imperial power but not against
super power-ism and imperialism per se? Do they believe that
EU imperialism and military intervention is compatible with
what they also advocate as a peace project? That it will, over
the next 30-50 years be more human and not display basically
the same features as all the other imperial actors in history, that
it will be a new kind of benevolent imperialism? Is there actually
any point in being anti-U.S. imperialism and pro-EU imperialism?

Is it really true that there is no other way to counterbalance the
U.S. but to imitate it - - and become as 'ugly' as the U.S. has
become in the eyes of many around the world? It seems to me
that the intellectual, political and moral challenge is to think more
creatively, to do something entirely new for an entirely new
phase of human history and not substitute one empire with
another. Europe and the rest of the world should have seen
enough, more than enough, of that by now.    

I believe that we need something beyond political science,
economics or defence to explain the EU project. I think we
need a perspective that encompasses macro-history, world
order and psycho-cultural dimensions. I've hinted at some
elements and will leave it to people much more expert to
criticise the five - - admittedly impressionistic - - theses above
and provide much deeper insights and ideas. Let's return now
to the micro-level of EU bureaucracy.

Democracy and accountability in militarisation

Point 1: How to persuade citizens, rather than listening to
and representing them?

EU elites seem unable to imagine a new type of super power
geared to values such as  cultural, economic and  political
nonviolence, soft power, alternative security, ecological
balance, justice and a world order that permits a basic
standard for the many before the few climb further up on the
material, consumerist ladder. So, it is heading for a traditional
type imperialist power.  As such, the EU is unlikely to develop
without a strong military component. In the longer run it must
become more autonomous and less dependent on the United
States. Signs of a growing self-assertion and American worry
are plenty already.

The new militarist mood will fizzle out without various concrete
manifestations. Rationalisation, inter-operability and
military-industrial mergers can achieve some results. But higher
military expenditures is a sine qua non. This points to the
democratic foundation of the project: will the European
taxpayers automatically go along with all this in political and
economic terms? Or will they only do so if told that the world
is an increasingly dangerous place, even more dangerous than
it was during the heydays of the old Cold War. EU leaders
will be caught in the dilemma between politically arguing that
all this is only for noble aims like mine-sweeping, peacekeeping
and humanitarian aid and economically burdening the citizenry
with higher military expenditures to make a militarised super
power dream come true.

Point 2: Militarisation needs no threats and permits no transparency

The problem is that there are no threats in or around Europe to
which EU militarisation and Rapid Reaction Force is the (most
appropriate) answer. None of those advocating this development
have set the limits: what tasks are we not going to perform, what
missions are we not going to engage in, what geographical limits
do we not aim to go beyond. It has become a mantra that all this
new security 'architecture' is open, inviting, overlapping,
networking and based on shifting groups or alliances,
representations in different bodies and ad hoc arrangements
which later, hocus-pocus, become permanent bodies. The
media have lost track and merely quote press statements,
i.e. what the decision-makers want people to know, not what
there is to be known. They are filled with formalities and
legitimations rather than with realities and problems.

In short, this is not a democratic deficit. It could become
democracy made a mockery. It weakens responsibility,
accountability and transparency. There are too many cooks
spoiling the broth in this peace project, and they could well
end up preparing wars instead, even without intending to.
The EU systems are overloaded, the EU's vertical and
horizontal integration coupled with attempting to play a
world role is already overextended and unrealistic if you
judge by the last ten years of remarkably confused policies
in the Balkans. Decision-making norms and the division
of powers, influence and votes are still unsolved - - while
the EU keeps on racing towards new even greater
mega-project such as militarisation.

To make all this look right and the EU noble, it will have to
either invent a pseudo crisis/threat and blow it out of
proportion or find a real one, preferably far away from
European soil. Turning the attention away from inner problems
and joining forces (literally) against a foreign challenge is
nothing new.  

Point 3: Europe's security more ramshackle than architectonic

Take the impenetrable European security architecture as of
today; there is overlapping membership of NATO, former
WEU, the EU, OSCE, Council of Europe, Partnership for
Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the
NATO-Russian Council, etc. There are no limits to the
number of co-ordination bodies between them and to the
number of sub-groups, ad hoc units, committees etc inside
each. Non-NATO countries participate in NATO operations;
non-EU countries will participate in EU operations. If a
country for some reason cannot participate in an activity
with one identity, it can find another among any number of
ever-changing "alliances", "assemblies", "associative
agreements", "arrangements", "initiatives", "partnerships"
and "networks" and make its contribution anyhow.

Indeed, this proliferation is so complex, not to say chaotic,
that one wonders how it will function if one day it has to. My
hypothesis, using a sociological law, is simple: like in the case
of the bombing of Yugoslavia. The strongest, those who are
biggest and control information and intelligence and who
make the larger investment will take the lead - - irrespective
of formal decision-making structures which will anyhow be
ignored to get things done in a war situation.

Point 4: Authoritarianism - voting about but not choosing the irreversible

Three democracy-related aspects can be brought in on the
EU. First, for as long as it has existed, the Europeans have
been told at each turning point that there was one way ahead
or their country could be "left outside and loose influence
where decisions are taken;" in short, they could vote but not
choose among more alternative futures.

Second, there has been considerable system incrementalism;
one option ahead is presented as 'natural given the decisions
made or the Treaty signed at this or that meeting in the past." 
In other words, one decision holds a series of related
decisions in store.

And, third, when a decision has been made it is irreversible.
The price of having diverting views can be high in any
organisation that strives to speak with once voice in complex

Combine the three and you have a cocktail that increases
the famous "democratic deficit" rather than diminishes it. No
institutional reforms can remedy this fundamentally top-down,
authoritarian character of the EU project.  If they characterise
the general EU development, they are likely to no less
characterise the specific process of militarisation.

Twelve conflict scenarios

If the life cycle of modern weapons is some 20 years, that's
the minimum time horizon with which responsible decision-makers
should work. We don't know what the future will be in Europe
and elsewhere, but various developments and situations can be
imagined - here with a view to what the real function of a
militarised EU could be.

1. EU's citizens will make up about 5 per cent of the world
population. How will the 95 per cent look at a militarised
Festung Europa that keeps on sitting on privileges and extracting
relatively underpaid human and natural resources for its own
purposes? What if it becomes increasingly closed to those who
knock on its doors even for very clear humanitarian purposes?

2. What about inner conflicts in the EU sphere -- ethnic,
socio-economic, class, between a First, a Second and a
Third Class Europe? What about increasing tension between
its contending leaders Germany, France and the UK? It does
not have to become military to be serious for the project. If
the project eventually falls apart, what options will newcomers
have, what other European structures, new or old, is there to
build on? (It is unlikely that all goes well or according to
declarations and action plans). And what about more or
less militarised local, internal majority/minority conflicts in
future member states? What about cases like the Albanian
armed activity in Southern Serbia or a build up of tension
between Belgrade and Podgorica?

3. How is the EU going to handle an increasing conflict with
the United States? Will it be by staying its course and
antagonise it more and more, muddling through or basically
acquiescing to dictates of the big brother whose thinking has
penetrated into NATO foreign ministries to such an extent
that it is difficult to see how most of them would be able to
switch and think and act independently?

4. What about the risk of a split into basically Northern,
Southern, Western and Eastern regionalisation if the centre
does not hold? Would Sweden in such a situation choose
to re-group with other Nordic countries or become a vassal
of Germany?

5. If the East European candidates eventually turn sour
because of frustrated expectations, will they come together
and form their own Eastern EU and link up with others further
south in the Middle East and the Caucasus and a future,
reformed and stronger Russia?

6. In case of, say, a future US and/or NATO military
intervention in the Middle East (it can't go on as it does
forever) or in the Caucasus how will the EU as EU react -
will it be on one side, the other side or neutral vis-a-vis
the parties, will it be with, against and neutral vis-a-vis
NATO and the US in particular?

7. Since there is no evidence of a strategic concept on which
the EU's conflict-management is based, can it remain neutral
in a conflict about the Caspian oil and its flow to the West?

8. There is a serious conflict in Georgia between the central
government in Tblisi and the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia
and somewhat the same in the case of South Ossetia. What
exactly is it the EU conflict-management experts would like
the EU to do and not do in the event of increased tension?
Are the force composition and the number of weapons
allocated to the new EU force the result of an informed
estimate of the needs, civilian as well as militarily? Or in this
region: what about Chechnya, would the EU see a role there
for its rapid reaction force?

9. The Kurdish problem might be another future flash point.
It would be interesting to see some kind of list of possible
actions that the EU should take - and, for sure, such documents
must exist and serve as a basis for the development of this
military and civilian crisis management machinery?

10. Recently TFF adviser and member of the European
Parliament, Per Gahrton, in a Swedish daily, offered a concrete
scenario: a coup d'etat in Saudi Arabia. Some revolutionaries
take over the oil, throw out foreign capital interests and begin
to hang regime people in the lampposts and imprison hundreds
of citizens. Given the importance of that country and its oil
wealth, the US might go it alone immediately. But why not
the EU at some point in the future? It too is dependent on
oil and certainly can not just sit on its hands when human
rights are violated to such an extent?

11. And then, why not take the longer view in time and space?
The EU plans to be able to intervene as far away as
6.000 kilometres from Brussels: that covers places like
the major part of Russia, Beijing, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur,
the Southern tip of Africa, Sao Paolo, Equador and Columbia,
Central America minus Mexico - by and large all the former
colonial territories, and perhaps some 40 of the worlds
ongoing war theatres. To keep the peace within this -
probably about 75 per cent of the world's territories - is not
exactly a humble plan. The mere fact that there seem to exist
such a framework is enough to call the project megalomaniac.
How do EU leaders expect these "interventionable" territories
and places to be "pacified" to react? How much arms
proliferation could this horisontal militarisation spark off over
the next few decades (while the United States take care of the
vertical militarisation of space and of the oceans)?

12. A new cold and eventually hot war could make up a final
"civilisational" scenario. If the West feels a relative weakening
vis-a-vis upcoming powers they are likely to be China, India,
parts of the Far East and a Russia which, as soon as it is capable,
might want to rise from its present humiliation and restore its
global status. It is not at all unlikely that these three giants will
come closer in the coming decades. Others may join in the
event of a new two-bloc system led by these three on one side
and the US and the EU (NATO+EU Military) and American
allies including Japan to the East (AMPO) on the other. So,
the Orient and the Occident to a certain extent pitted against
each other, of course not so clear-cut but something much more
global, civilisational and fateful than the old inner-Occidental
Cold War with its Iron Curtain hanging between an Eastern and
a Western Europe based on Euro-Occidental philosophers
such as Karl Marx and Adam Smith.