16 years on… A reflection.

Today marks 16 years since one of the most tragic days in recent history. On the morning of Tuesday 11th September 2001, the world woke up to the tragic news of one of the most horrendous terrorist attacks on western soil in years. We pause to remember those 2,977 innocent victims who lost their lives, to send our prayers to their families & to pay tribute to the heroism of the first responders and volunteers who responded to New York’s time of need with courage and dedication.

Countless lives lost in an instant. Hijacked planes flying into the World Trade Centre – it was something no one had imagined in their wildest dreams. 2,977 lives were lost and a further 6000 others were injured. Families shattered, loved ones lost. It still sends shivers down the spine. The images of the collapsing towers engulfed in flames, the smoke and debris still feels fresh to this day. President Bush declaring in response

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundation of our biggest building, but they cannot touch the foundations of America.

He wasn’t the most loved President at the time and still continues to divide opinion; but at the time, his words provided assurance to people all over the world and helped show defiance to terrorists who tried to break the spirit of our freedom and tolerance.

I still recall – being a 9 year old child at the time. Hearing about the incident, going into school the next day – still deeply disturbed by the events of the day before. Only to see a devastated teacher at school who’s son had gone to New York on holiday. The look of desperation on his face was something I had never seen before. Glued to his phone – he was anxiously trying to get hold of his son but was having no luck. We learned from him a few days later that his son had been admitted to a New York hospital suffering from smoke related injuries but was safe.

This single fateful day reshaped the world we live in drastically. The idea of terrorist attacks on such a large scale in the West were unthinkable – especially at the turn of the new millennium, when significant world events had occurred to aid our quest for world peace. Peace in Northern Ireland had just become a reality – with the Good Friday agreement just a few years prior. A jubilant Tony Blair as British PM in Paris in 1997 had declared proudly:

Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live our entire lives without going to war or sending our children to war.

Little did anyone know, that just a few years later – the attacks on September 11th would reshape global geopolitics in such a way that the western world would once again be plunged into a endless conflict with the Gulf states. One who’s effects still seems to continue to this very day.

Not only did the attacks on September 11th redefine America, but also the whole of the western world. The resulting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq paved ways for radical preachers to capitalise on the casualties of these wars and use the deaths of civilians as a fuel to ignite their fires of hatred in the hearts of many young people throughout the west. We continue to see the effects of this even today. After September 11th, terror attacks became more common throughout the west. From the 7/7 bombings in London the following year, to the recent attacks in Paris, Brussels, Manchester and London once again. Terror attacks on western soil orchestrated by home grown terrorists have become a sad but regular occurrence in our lives. While the root cause behind these can be attributed to many factors – ranging from hate preachers brainwashing innocent youth to lack of integration and hatred for western values. One thing remains true – the attacks of 9/11 have deeply scarred the world and its dark legacy continues to haunt us to this day.

On my visit to New York in 2012 for a conference, I decided to take some time out and visit the 9/11 memorial on ground zero that had just been newly opened at the time. Despite being 11 years on since the attacks, the area still has a deeply unsettling feel to it. As soon as you step into the vicinity of the grounds where the tall and grand towers once stood – every other thought escapes your mind. You can’t help but feel overcome with emotion. The scenes of suffering and terror that you once saw on the TV start to flash through your mind. The monument houses two fountains honouring those innocent lives that were lost, with plaques hearing the names of all those 2,977 kind souls who lost their lives in 2001 and the 6 who lost their lives in a bomb attack on the World Trade Centre previously in 1993.

Despite all these years, countless military operations and arrests; justice still remains elusive for the families of the victims of this tragic atrocity. The five men accused of masterminding these attacks remain in US custody – awaiting trial. Despite hoards of evidence stacked up against them including tapes of their ring leader boasting of orchestrating the attacks to press media in 2002, a date for the trial remains provisionally set to start in 2019. Despite there being enough evidence to convict, the trials have been repeatedly put off potentially due to some of the methods used to obtain information – with one of the convict alleged to have been given the controversial “Waterboarding” treatment 183 times in a single month alongside rectal rehydration. Thus potentially jeopardising the Prosecution’s claims.

The biggest disservice in all of this is to the families of the victims – seeking closure. From what it seems – Justice is a long way away for these families.

The 2,977 individuals who lost their lives on that tragic day act as a reminder to us all of our duties to fight any form of extremism – especially in these times where we are seeing a rise in extremist ideologies across our nations.

On behalf of everyone at Graduates of Democracy, I, as President of the board would like to pay my respects to all those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the first responders and volunteers who responded in the toughest hour in New York’s history. Their heroism and selfless acts are a testament to the unwavering spirit of New York.

By Mu-Hamid Pathan

 

– President – Graduates of Democracy

– Former Member of UK Youth Parliament for Leicester South & Media representative for UKYP East Mids

– Mentor to Leicester Children’s Council

– Freelance Politics, policy and participation advisor

– Young Advisor to O2 mobile on youth strategy and Think Big CSR

– Steering group member for Young Researchers network

 

Twitter- @Muhamid_Pathan

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The curious case of North Korea

  1. Overview

North Korea, considered to be one of the last communist regimes on earth and one of the most secretive; was seen with a certain curiosity and fun how such a ‘self isolated’ country survives in a globalized world like the one we have today. North korea was originally united with her “sister” South Korea being a single Korea, however as a result of the cold war in 1948 they were split in two, with two separate governments.

However that division was never really accepted by both Koreas, each one of them believed they had the legitimacy to govern all Korea. This friction escalated, and on 25 June 1950 North korea, supported by the communist regimes of China and Soviet Union, moved south and started what would be called as the Korean war. On 27 June, 21 countries from UN constituted an UN force, with the vast majority being american troops, to help the south korea against what was considered to be the communist faction (north korea, soviet union and china). The war would last 3 years with more than 2 million fatalities, the most being South and Northern Korean soldiers.

After that the North and South became more distant than ever. The North allied with China and Soviet Union – the communist faction, while South Korea became an ally of US, Japan and other UN member states. This alliance with the communist factions was really important, not only in terms of geopolitics and defense against the south korean allies, but also as a source of financing since the Soviet Union was a major source of money for the North Korean communist regime. This alliance however would get weaker, as Deng Xiaoping became the 1st chinese leader to visit the US in an attempt to open it’s country to the outside and foreign investment what would be called China’s capitalist revolution. In 1991 came the collapse of the soviet union, which was a major source of financing to North Korean regime. The combination of these events led to the isolation of the North Korean regime and its continuing closure.

As many people state this country is not simply a communist state as it represents the mixture of communist ideology, nationalism, Juche and Songun philosophy. This combination was set up by what are considered to be “eternal leaders of north korea” Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il. The country fell in a repressive and authoritarian regime that used, and still continues to use nowadays with Kim Jong-Un, the cult of personality where everything that has been made or planned was an act of “divine intervention” by the supreme leaders.

It’s 25 millions inhabitants are believed to live under extreme poverty, that many human rights are violated – something it’s defectors tell to the outside world, and the fact that human rights organizations like International Amnesty do not get a permit to visit the country shows that these aren’t just rumors and western propaganda. Under the many accusations, it’s the fact that this is one of the few countries in the world who still conduct public executions, just for “committing the crime” of not agreeing with the regime and supreme leader.

 

  1. A rising threat

At first sight we are to believe we are in the presence of some crazy dictatorship that lives under the cult of personality, is a closed country that violates human rights but poses no threat to the world. However in 2006 that started to change as North Korea managed to carry out its first successful nuclear explosion, in 2009 it carried out its second and more powerful nuclear test. Subsequently, they continued with their research and tests but no one seemed to believe they were really making progress in terms of Nuclear power. Many said some of the nuclear warheads we see in North Korea military parades are made of paper, or that they had soviet technology that was completely outdated.

But since Kim Jong Un got in charge in 2011, their nuclear research and activity seemed to boost. Despite having a hard time in terms of economics, specially with the tougher economic sanctions, 16% of GDP is dedicated solely to military activity – having one of the largest paramilitary organizations (roughly 25% of the north korean population are military). By mid 2016 they started to show major developments which culminated with the launch of ICBM missiles this year during summer and the creation of what is supposed to be thermonuclear weapons, way more powerful than the nuclear bombs US launched on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.

NorthKorea_Missile_testing_update_08.17-01

(source: Center for Strategic International Studies )

This obsession with military and nuclear power is above all the result of the Songun philosophy North korea has, which is basically “Military first policy”, in other words the state priority should be to achieve a powerful and mighty military force so no nation even thinks of challenging its regime. Something that Kim Jong Il saw happening in Iraq with US intervention in 2003, and regime change that led to the execution of Saddam Hussein and the execution of Gaddafi after he was overthrown in 2011. This was probably one of the reasons north koreans reconducted their nuclear research in 2003 after a 5 year break and in 2006 had their first nuclear weapon test with success.

Geographically speaking, we can see it as a “child trying to show he is a grown up as well”, its neighbours are all world leading economies China is the 2nd largest economy in the world, Japan the 3rd largest and South Korea, the eternal rival, is the 11th largest economy in the world according to the IMF and Work Bank data from 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the nuclear pursuit is used by the North Koreans as a show of force to their neighbours – in order to display that despite their languishing fiscal condition, the North remains a strong nuclear force to be beckoned with.

The reason behind North Korea’s constant show of force is simple. It’s used as a deterrent to their neighbours and helps consolidate their position in the area as a force to be beckoned with – despite their fiscal degradation.

Due to their isolationist attitude towards globalisation over the years, the North has constantly been at risk of falling into obscurity and nothingness. However, their strategy over the years has been simple – to remain in the news through whatever outlandish story they can pump out to the world. Thus they have constantly made outlandish claims of having found miraculous drugs to cure terminal illness amongst other things.

What initially remained a harmless yet comic display of faux aggression from the reclusive nation over the years, has slowly developed into something more sinister. The North’s experimentation with high grade Nuclear weaponry has alerted the international community.

The North’s lack of regard for the international community makes it a dangerous wildcard in a strategic location for the West. Whilst the North has nothing to lose from any of this, their maverick attitude towards conflict can have devastating effects on the world both in regards to trade and environmental reasons.

Recently, Japan endured incredibly large unnatural tremors due to what can only be guessed as military experimentation from their North Korean neighbours. This has further ramped up the need for the international community to band together in dealing with the North Korean threat.

The danger remains simple – North Korean recklessness with Nuclear and thermonuclear weaponry that is potentially beyond their capacity to control, put the whole region at the risk of an apocalyptic scenario where a fall-out causes millions of lives to be lost within minutes and global levels of catastrophes ensuing from the conflict. The lives would not only be lost by the military weapons used – but also from the environmental disasters that would follow. In recent years – we have come very close to seeing a nuclear melt down at the Fukushima Power Plant. This would undoubtedly trigger that and a whole load of similar scenarios.

But North Korea has now boldly made claims they have missile capabilities of reaching the US – which can be loaded with their new thermonuclear Hydrogen Bomb stronger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s a scenario of the worst kind. Something that you only get to see glimpses of in apocalyptic action movies from Hollywood – but it’s now become a real possibility.

 

  1. Trump foreign policy

This brings into question what role America plays in dealing with this dangerous scenario. The North has remained a bone stuck in the throats of many previous Presidents – from the Bush father and son to Bill Clinton, Obama and now Trump.

Previously, despite the North being very vocal in their desires for Nuclear supremacy, there hasn’t been much of a display of aggression physically. Just a mere war of words – which previous Presidents have responded to with ridicule, humour, sanctions and other not too complicated means such as mediation through China and other regional partners.

However, with the election of Trump – a firebrand in the Oval Office. It seems Kim Jong Un has found his match. Both share similar characteristics of being outspoken, often outlandish and having little regard for diplomatic dialogue.

Despite Trump’s campaign focussing on establishing China as his enemy No. 1 for their trade malpractices and its impact on US economy. Ever since his election, Trump has had to change his direction. Softening his stance on China and trying to forge a friendly relation with President Xi Jinping. It is evident to the Trump administration that their best hopes of dealing with North Korean problem is by optimising China as a mediator – even if that means giving up some ground on the on-going fiscal war between China and the US to become the next fiscal Hegemony for the new age.

But the problem doesn’t end here for the Trump administration. The real issue here is that they lack a clear and coherent strategy or direction in regards to how they hope to deal with this crisis.

Despite Trump trying his best to cosy up to the Chinese – including his infamous anecdote about eating ‘Chocolate cake’ with President Xi while America launched missile strikes. Former Trump Election Chief Steve Bannon proudly went on record to ‘The Prospect’ stating that:

We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.

Furthermore, Trump pledged to respond to North Korea with “Fire and Fury”. only to once again be contradicted by Bannon – who in the same interview, went on to say:

There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.

Many would have argued that these views are Bannon’s own and thus he has subsequently been removed from office and relieved from his White House duties by President Trump.

However, it doesn’t end there. Trump’s Defence Tsar Nikki Haley at a UN Emergency Meeting regarding North Korea made the bold statement that; North Korea’s “Abusive use of missiles” displayed that Kim Jong II was “Begging for war”. Only to be followed by Trump’s Defence Secretary; General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis briefing the Press at the White House through a self contradictory statement saying “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, But as I have said, we have many options to do so.”

If this wasn’t enough, the President decided to take it one step further himself. In a display of having absolutely no clue at all in regards to dealing with international military conflict or the North Korean issue that is escalating, Trump decided to answer a reporter who shouted out a question to him as he was walking to his ride “Mr. President, will you attack North Korea”. Rather than remaining diplomatically coy about it like other statesmen and women would, Mr. Trump decided to break his stride, turn to the reporter and reply “We’ll see”. before smiling, waving and walking off again in true Trump fashion.

 

  1. Bottom Line

What remains certain is that whatever the real capability of Nuclear warfare that North Korea may possess, the threat is now more realistic than ever.

Despite the well known fact that North Korea has a habit of making exaggerated and outlandish claims, their recent test results display not only a real desire for the reclusive nation to develop, improve and create Nuclear warheads, but also display the fact they have finally refined their research and become capable of achieving their nuclear dreams.

This makes the scenario a very dangerous one for the international community as North Korea can no longer be dismissed as a Political Parody of a state with an eccentric but foolish leader, it is now a unhinged state with Nuclear capabilities – catapulting the world into a dangerous scenario.

Alongside this, what isn’t helping is President Trump’s approach of lacking a clear strategy and his constant displays of amateurish antics which can only be compared to Kim Jong Un.

The stark reality is that we live in a world where two egomaniacs are displaying their masculinity to each other through a war of crass rhetoric and insults. On one hand we have a cartoonish Dictator who revels in killing or jailing political opponents and anyone he sees as a threat to him – including students visiting his nation, and on the other hand we have a US President who takes to twitter 3am in the morning to insult those who oppose him with childish slurs. Yet these two men hold the codes to some of the most powerful Nuclear artillery in the world.

 

Luís Carvalho, Graduates of Democracy Editor in Chief

Mu-hamid Pathan, Graduates of Democracy President

 

Disclaimer: This article reflects the author’s opinion it might not reflect the whole group’s opinion

Don’t throw the firecrakcers yet

If you’re one of those cheering for Steve Bannon’s getting fired and believe this will mean change inside the Trump administration, you’re probably not seeing the whole picture.

donald-trump-steve-bannon-ffc84d1d-0af3-4bb4-a4c9-dd88de8f30f0

Bannon’s presence inside the WH as Chief Strategist was always seen as the “source of evil” behind Trump’s policies. Others saw him as a troublemaker inside the WH, even going as far as accusing him of leaking insider info. However, truth be told, “evil” didn’t start with him.

Having been officially aiding Trump with his campaign only since August 2016 – after Trump got the Republican nomination, most of the controversial policies/statements had already been made before Bannon got in. The first of those ideas – which is now currently on hold, was the wall at the US-Mexico border to stop Mexican immigrants to come to the US – who according to Trump, were coming over “committing serious crimes like rape, killing and selling drugs”. By the end of 2015, the new flavour of the month was the Muslim ban, in which Trump proposed temporarily stopping all Muslims from entering the country “Until we know what’s going on“, something that is now being seen by the Supreme Court.

Bannon is no moderate, in fact he is a well know right-wing nationalist and the reason why Breitbart became what it is today; a website that spreads alt-right propaganda with immense exposure in doing so. His world views are no secret of his, he warns of an incoming apocalyptic war between Islam and Christianity and warns that if the US doesn’t act, China might outpace the US both in terms of economic and military capacity. Something that can be seen in his interview at ‘The American Prospect’.

This interview of his was quite scandalous because of the old “on-off the record” controversy, but also because of what he said in that interview, especially about North Korea:

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us”

Something that might have not gone well with his former “chief”, but Bannon’s mistakes didn’t start here. If we go back to April we could see that clashes between Bannon and Trump’s most sacred treasure, his family, started to come up especially with Jared Kushner, who was accused of being a “Democrat” – aka soft republican, and a “Globalist”. Trump tax cut plan; typical of Republican establishment, might have been a stab in the back for Bannon – who’s a fierce economic nationalist and clearly saw the impact that would have on the electoral base that got Trump elected – leading to Bannon remarking in his interview at The Weekly Standard:

“What Trump ran on—border wall, where is the funding for the border wall, one of his central tenets, where have they been? Have they rallied around the Perdue-Cotton immigration bill? On what element of Trump’s program, besides tax cuts—which is going to be the standard marginal tax cut—where have they rallied to Trump’s cause? They haven’t.”

For those who are trilled and happy with Bannon’s getting fired don’t throw the firecrackers yet. There is more than meets the eye in this administration. Bannon might have gone, but if we can learn something with this is that Republican establishment and Trump’s nepotism are alive and well.

 

Luís Carvalho, Bsc graduated in Economics and proud 2015 graduate of democracy

Disclaimer: This might not reflect the whole group’s opinion

 

Is Trump boosting the Economy?

US June Jobs report has come out, and unlike the previous mistrust from Trump  regarding the official numbers of unemployment rate he and his supporters seem to be astonishingly happy for a unemployment decrease that according to experts is just an extension of the trend that was observed in 2016 under the Obama administration in terms of Job Creation.

According to data, in June nonfarm payroll employment, which is any job with the exception of farm work, unincorporated self-employment, and employment by private households, the military and intelligence agencies, increased by 220,000 in June. The unemployment rate suffered little changes, considering the 2 previous months (4,4% in April and 4,3% in May) being now at 4.4 percent. Special highlight for the Health Care, Social Assistance, Financial activities and mining, in terms of jobs creation.

Many Trump supporters, and specially his vice president Mike Pence believe this Jobs report just show Trump’s commitment to create “tons of jobs” is being delivered. At the same time there is an urge by some people to believe investors and economic agents are confident on the economy and the way things will evolve.

Captura de ecrã 2017-07-09, às 12.08.07.png

Employment by Selected Industry, source: US Labor Statistics

Taking into consideration the chart above we can clearly see that the Education and Health Services was the industry that had added more jobs to the economy in June, around 59,100, not the type of industry that depends on business owners feelings but more on the needs of the population. Retail Trade which only added around 8,100 jobs in June and Utilities, which added 1,800 jobs, this past month are betters examples of industries driven by economic feelings and weren’t that much expressive as it was Education and Health Services, even if take into consideration their added jobs together.

This happens for a reason, optimism towards the economy is seeing a decline, referring to pre-election levels, as we can see in the chart below.

Captura de ecrã 2017-07-09, às 12.28.36

Source: New York Times, Neil Irwin’s article

This decline in optimism between consumers can be expressed in their practically stagnant wage. As the June Jobs reports states, in this month average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $26.25 in comparison to May. However if we look from June 2016 to June 2017 average hourly earnings rose only 63 cents, around 2.5 percent. This is an important factor to take into consideration because if consumers don’t have a reasonable disposable income or aren’t pretty confident on their future economic conditions they won’t consume which won’t create a Demand for business owners to invest and hire more people to meet the demand for more products/services.

In the end a question still has to be answered, “Is Trump boosting the economy?”

Not even 6 months have passed since his inauguration and even though there is a urge to say this economic evolution is due to the “Trump factor” to justify the argument that “He isn’t so bad after all” I do believe it’s really early to make such assumptions. Yes he already signed legislation to roll back some regulations to promote jobs creation and expressed his intention to cut taxes, even though trickle down economics has proven to be mislead, but some things take time to start affecting the economy this is just one of them, we’ll probably have to wait the first year or two to see if he is really boosting the economy or just continuing the trend that started under the Obama administration.

 

 

Luís Carvalho, economics bachelor student and proud 2015 Graduate of Democracy

Seven Nation Army

“In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon…”

 

It has become some kind of European routine: confronted with an increasing number of citizens displeased by the Union’s policies, lack – or excess – of shared programs, European leaders revive the idea of a European army from time to time. There’s nothing new about using the military to reassure people, for it’s both a useful tool and a symbolic object of the utmost importance: in France, politicians are after all still debating about re-establishing a military service and arguing about its ability to mix social groups ([1]) within a single, united corp. But as Russia seems to be revaluating its strategic orientations to promote a more active approach to security issues while revitalising its military industrial complex, Europe, now forced to act by The Donald’s erratic way of handling foreign affairs, might have no other choice but to go “once more into the breach.”

Still, obstacles are various: even though interoperability have been promoted for quite a long time, European armed forces still use different material, especially in strategic realms such as the air force – the French Armée de l’Air uses Rafale and Mirage, while the German Luftwaffe uses Eurofighters, for instance. Moreover, shared industrial program such as the A400M one ([2]) – which aimed at providing various European armies with a common transport aircraft – met surprising difficulties, costs skyrocketing without any apparent progress being made. In addition to those technical, industrial issues, the sole idea of a common European armed force raises many more issues, from political ones to military ones: what would the missions be of such a force? By whom would it be commanded? What about language and structure? Where would its bases be located? In order to rationalise all of these rightful inquiries, one has to draw the line somewhere: it is almost impossible, if not simply bizarre to imagine that 28 countries will ever come together to form an armed force capable of designating its capacities, foes, theatres of operations and missions in a clear way.

The French Armed Forces, created in 1792, are currently divided into five branches: the Armée de Terre, the Marine Nationale, the Armée de l’Air, the Gendarmerie and the National Guard. Recently deployed in Sub-Saharan Africa (3,000 troops) in Iraq (3,200 troops) the French Armed Forces are also taking part in various peacekeeping missions by mobilising nearly 1,000 blue helmets. Besides enjoying the world’s only nuclear-powered carrier completed outside of the United States Navy, the French Armed Forces can rely on highly functional tools as various as fifth-generation aircraft (Rafale) and ultramodern frigates (FREMM) Yet, the French Armed Forces are suffering from the same drawbacks as most of their European partners: a chronic lack of funding which currently sever its ability to carry out  missions on its own and this has resulted in a lack of strategic airlift and unmanned aerial vehicles. However, recent reforms have been announced: they include investing in the modernisation of the Rafale, investing in the French special forces and speeding up the modernisation of France’s armoured vehicles

While discussing military integration, less is more. It is always easier to merge a small number of forces into one than to try and design a European military based on twenty-eight countries’ will to create something shared and common. ([3]) In fact, common characteristics exist between some militaries in the Union: German and French forces, for instance, are reaching an almost similar level of operational capacity, France’s main asset being that they have  acquired important experiences on theatres as diverse as South America, Sub-Saharan and Central Africa, Levant and Middle-East and own combat-proven aircrafts (Rafale) self-propelled howitzers (Caesar Canon) infantry fighting vehicles (VBCI) tactical transport helicopters (Caracal) and attack helicopters (Tigre) the latter being the result of a European military program and therefore used not only by France but also Germany and Spain.

 The Spanish Armed Forces aren’t as important as the French or Italian ones, but they still represent forces to be acknowledged, members of both NATO and the Eurocorps and representing around 130,000 men and women divided between the Ejército de Tierra, the Armada Española, the Ejército del Aire and the Guardia Civil. Though only carrying modest missions and relying on small battlegroups, the Spanish Armed Forces enjoy modern and various equipment including German MBT (Leopard II) European and American helicopters (Tigre, Chinook) and Austrian-Spanish IFV (ASCOD Pizarro) asserting its capacity to act in coordination with other western forces. Yet, and as many European forces, the Spanish ones suffer from a lack of investment resulting in poor operational abilities based on aging tools and gears, which was made even worse by the political turmoil faced by the nation a year ago

 This, for instance, came from a simple thought: “We all need a similar tool to carry out similar missions on similar theatres of operation. Why not share the costs of production as well as future, prospective benefits?” such a model of military cooperation being encouraged by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation ([4]), which currently supervises no more than twelve military programs, from armoured fighting vehicles (Cobra) to multi-mission frigates (FREMM). Its most active members include France – with nine shared military programs – Italy – seven – Germany – three – and Benelux – three. Seven military’s therefore sharing highly efficient tools and reaching an almost unmatched interoperability capacity; seven countries active on shared battlegrounds such as Mali or Iraq and who could, at one point, start to exist as a Seven Nation Army.

As far as organisation is concerned, the Forze Armate Italiane can be compared to the French one. It is divided into four corps: the Esercito Italiano, the Marina Militare, the Aeronautica Militare and the Arma dei Carabinieri and represent nearly 300,000 men and women. Recent reforms in the Italian military included a decrease in the number of the army personnel meant to reallocate military funds to instruction, training and armaments. Its main assets include: owning two STOVL aircraft carriers – short takeoff and vertical landing – meant to carry short-range missions in the Mediterranean Sea, having at its disposal a vast number of military aircrafts – the most recent being Eurofighter and F 35 – and an even more impressive number of soldiers. This military strength furthermore relies on two things: an efficient arms-industry – Leonardo, Beretta – and a satisfactory operative level based on experiences acquired in Afghanistan

But as important as industrial cooperation might be, their sine-qua-non conditions remain to share strategic orientations and goals, and that’s where the rub is. Italian and French objectives include controlling the Mediterranean Sea or having the means to carry out short-range missions, but France has interests in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It therefore needs slightly different tools, including the ability to carry out long-range missions, such missions relying, for instance, on tanker aircrafts and light warships. But why would Germany need those? Its most recent military doctrine has been designed after the Ukrainian Crisis and mostly revolves around countering any Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. ([5]) Such a threat isn’t to be deterred by tools designed for long-range projections, but rather by mechanised and armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons, intelligence and counterintelligence assets or artillery systems. But what would France make of those in Mali’s desert, or in Bangui’s unstable streets? That’s when the dream of a European army meets a dead end.

With military budgets barely superior to 1% of their GDP, the Belgian and Dutch Armed Forces aren’t as impressive as the French or German ones. Though mostly equipped with modern equipment, they are both in need of more recent planes, the Royal Netherlands Air Force having already settled for American Lockheed Martin F-35. This of course came as a surprise, since such an investment would have been a perfect occasion to support Europe’s military-industrial complex. Moreover, the Composante Terre/Land Component suffers from the same flaws as the French Armée de Terre as it is currently used to patrol the streets which weaken the soldiers’ morale while damaging its military budget. Though modest in strength, the Belgian and Dutch Armed Forces are still members of the European military cooperation programs, with one each: the A400M Atlas and the Boxer

Finally, the idea of a European military poses another issue: the one of nuclear defence. In its recent article The Case for a European Nuke, Foreign Affairs’ Doug Bandow ([6]) perfectly explained how the perspective of a shared nuclear programme could benefit both the European and the American military interests by reducing Washington’s expenditures on our soil while increasing our influence in the West’s military decisions. As noted by Ulrich Kühn of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “it would be far too expensive for Europe to match Russia’s store of 2,000 to 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons” but Europe could, by using France’s nuclear doctrine settle for a deterrent force. “Europe,” notes Doug Bandow, “is also the most obvious place for Washington to close at least one of its nuclear umbrellas. None of the United States’ Asian allies possesses nuclear weapons, and their development would have unpredictable regional effects and be more likely to trigger proliferation” making this issue of a European Nuke a priority of the utmost importance.

Such a European military revolution would nevertheless have to be handled with care. Creating a European Nuke and therefore increasing the number of nuclear weapons possessed by European nations could arguably have an important impact on non-proliferation. It would also pose a very concrete question: to whom should fall the ultimate decision to fire those weapons? This has been established by many specialists: the first and main strength of a nuclear deterrent is its credibility. Not only do you have to let your prospective enemies know about your weapon, you also must absolutely erase any possibility to let them think you might not be prepared or ready to resort to those weapons of mass destruction. In the French case, the president has the possibility to order the use of nuclear bombs without referring to any counter-powers. This of course goes with him constitutionally being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and raises some political issues, but it is also ultimately there to assert France’s ability to punish any important attack on its most vital interests. In the event of a European Nuke, who shall we entrust with the possibility to unleash weapons so powerful one might think of them as blasphemous ([7])? Here, the military idea of a shared weapon meets the political necessity of a common executive power.

The almost romantic idea of a European Army, let alone of a Seven Nation Army, is no dream nor illusion, but a strategic necessity. Yet, the obstacles to be overcome in the process of creating such a tool are both various and imposing: beyond the inherent need to build it around shared military objectives, orientations and tools, it would furthermore require a common sense of politics, a remarkable – almost unreachable in those modern times – pedagogy and the insurance that this device, while being controlled by civil authorities, would not be neutralised by them. In the meantime, humble industrial cooperation appears to be the main way forward in designing the collective tools upon which unity shall, one day, be accomplished.

 

Hugo Decis is currently studying International Relations i Paris and is the current Communication Officer. This article was previously posted on Mercoeur, a french blog specialised on International Relations, at this address:  https://mercoeur.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/seven-nation-army/ 

 

[1] Le Creuset de l’Armée : Un Mythe de l’IntégrationJean-Dominique Merchet, Libération

[2] Airbus : Le Programme A400M est-il en danger ?Michel Cabirol, La Tribune

[3] Samuel Beckett’s European ArmyDaniel Keohane, Carnegie Europe

[4] Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, official website – available at: http://www.occar.int/programmes

[5] In a Reversal, Germany’s Military Growth Is Met with Western ReliefAlison Smale, The New-York Times

[6] The Case for a European NukeDoug Bandow, Foreign Affairs

[7] Towards the Nuclear Sublime: Representations of Technological Vastness in Postmodern American PoetryRob Wilson, Cambridge University

Israel and the resolution 2334: At last isolated?

The resolution 2334, stating that Israel′s settlement activity constitutes a « flagrant violation » of international law and has « no legal validity » [1] came as a shock and that, for various reasons: in Israel, it was interpreted as the Obama administration’s last betrayal, after months and months of tensions and petty rivalries, though Obama’s relative audacity consisted in not vetoing a resolution which only officialise a neutral Continue reading “Israel and the resolution 2334: At last isolated?”

Why Obama’s final plan for the Middle East must be prevented at all costs

The recent upheaval regarding America’s decision to abstain from using its veto power to protect Israel from a UN security council resolution was hard to miss. Israel was not just surprised, they felt humiliated by their traditional ally. President-Elect Donald Trump and Israeli officials had convinced Egypt, the original initiator of the resolution, to delay the voting process but current President Barack Obama unexpectedly made sure the vote would happen and even passed. This article will argue why that can be a horrible mistake. Continue reading “Why Obama’s final plan for the Middle East must be prevented at all costs”

Civil disobedience in Sudan: Another Arab Spring?

“Peaceful” civil disobedience is always linked in the minds with Mahatama Ghandi’s march to the sea in protest of the British monopoly on salt, his most courageous act of civil disobedience against the famous British rule in India in 1930. However, this time the news come from Africa, specifically in Sudan where Sudanese  started on Sunday 27th of November 2016 a five-day civil disobedience with varying proportions of response among the residents of the country.

Continue reading “Civil disobedience in Sudan: Another Arab Spring?”

Trump’s presidency and its implications for the European Union’s foreign policy

In the past days we are coming to terms with the fact that in the next 4 years we will have to deal with the Trump administration leading the most powerful country in the world, “the leader of the free world” would be a controversial person like Donald Trump. The two articles on this blog written by Luís[1] and Tjeerd[2] highlighted the failure of the Democratic Party and the Establishment to present a credible alternative or deliberately undermining one (yes, I am talking about Bernie). But after going through the five stages of grief with denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance it is time to look into the future and deal with the situation as it is. Some would even say there is a silver lining Continue reading “Trump’s presidency and its implications for the European Union’s foreign policy”

Where did it go wrong for Clinton?

Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. A few days ago when saying this, people would have declared you mad. Hillary Clinton, the nominee for the Democratic party, was seen as favorite to succeed President Barack Obama. Trump was a clown, a racist, even a woman hater. The many scandals would prevent him from obtaining America’s highest public position. How different did it turn out to be.

First let me help some readers to get rid of their mourning and sadness. Hillary Clinton was never the perfect candidate. Not just because of the mail-affair or for whatever Bill Clinton did wrong. But because she was chosen for her name, not for her ideas. Sure, she was turned into the natural successor of Obama and a champion for women’s rights. But she never came with a great plan to back that image. When looking at her policy plans it was really hard to say what Clinton’s presidency would have actually stand for. Continue reading “Where did it go wrong for Clinton?”