Getting away from the eternal baboon threat displays and absurd disinformation for a moment, what do we know about EU and US defence? The lazy/cowardly/decadent/anti-imperialist Euros refuse to do anything, spend any money, or fight, and the US is permanently and increasingly stronger, right? Let’s see what the professionals think. The latest issue of Parameters, the journal of the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute at Fort Carlisle, is out and it’s a special on Europe. (Mmm, a treat.)
Stephen J. Coonen writes that the EU’s efforts in the security arena should not be seen as competitive with NATO, but complementary and providing means to act if NATO does not – something which cannot be overemphasised enough, in my opinion. He assesses EU and US capabilities and concludes that the power gap is small, and specifically concentrated in a few areas such as strategic airlift and satellite reconnaissance. He argues that “sound plans” exist to reduce the gaps, for example, the NATO C-17 purchase and the SALIS project, which jointly leases Antonov-124 aircraft to support NATO and EU-RRF operations, the Anglo-French Stormshadow missile and more (see note 29, if you’re like that, or for a more sensational argument read all about France’s latest ICBM test).
He also suggests that the de facto division of labour between the US, NATO and the EU should be maintained. This, today, is another way of saying that much of the US’s super-tech capability is either useless (like the F-22) or counterproductive, in the light of the post-conflict (or rather post-intensive conflict) problems. So, at least, says Michael R. Melillo, who argues that the US armed forces’ problem is to give a military designed for big decisive battles the capabilities to succeed in counter-insurgency, policing and peacekeeping.
“The military culture has long been convinced that technological overmatch was the prescription for securityâ€”a continuation of the traditional American way of war. However, the character of warfare is changing,” he says. “Interstate wars, while not obsolete, are now less prevalent than direct threats from irregular forces. The US militaryâ€™s conventional dominance has forced its enemies to seek other methods to challenge American hegemony. While conventional might is still necessary in an uncertain world, the American invasion and subsequent operations in Iraq have exposed the US militaryâ€™s limitations and instigated changes that will make it more prepared to meet the growing irregular threat. Only by creating a force that is just as adept at conducting small wars against irregular enemies as it is at conducting big wars against conventional foes will the United States be able to ensure security in the 21st century.”
“While the initial success of American forces in Iraq validated the traditional American way of war, their experiences since May 2003 reflect the institutional resistance of defense planners to prepare for the messy tasks associated with peacekeeping, stability operations, and nation-building. The US militaryâ€™s ineffectiveness at these types of operations helped create a military culture that eschewed such operations.14 The reality of the â€œlong war,â€ however, is that counterinsurgency, stability operations, and nation-buildingâ€”the essence of small warsâ€”will dominate the future of warfare. ”
What kind of a strategy could overcome this crisis? Perhaps it might be “human security”, which according to P.H. Liotta and Taylor Owen is embodied in the EU’s 2003 European Security Strategy. Rather like the British General Sir Rupert Smith, whose recent book The Utility of Force argues that classical, decisive war no longer exists, having given place to timeless conflicts in which every actor strives to maintain a condition rather than to “win”, they suggest that an institution like the EU with a full spectrum of governmental functions may be best suited to this era.