2003, When the CSDP still mattered…

Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

Once upon a time, the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) used to matter. Ten years ago in an essay written by Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas (read here my review of Habermas’ book on the Euro crisis) in the french newspaper Libération, both thinkers called for the deepening of a common European foreign policy. It was at the time when the US, under the Bush administration, had already flexed its muscles against the will of the international community and unleashed its military power against Iraq. It was a time when the US, under a conservative administration influenced by neoconservative ideas and values, was behaving as an imperial power.

Source: Libération, 31 mai 2003

Source: Libération, 31 mai 2003

A decade later, the 2003 war in Iraq still matters for several reasons: first, Iraq is after over a decade of war and state-building a new heaven to a terrorist network, ISIS; second, the 2003 war announced the beginning of global shift of power and the decline of the liberal world order; third, it discredited the power and relevance of international institutions, especially the United Nations.

Additionally, the war created a serious transatlantic and European split. Two months after the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Euro-Atlantic community was deeply divided. Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, (read here the review of the documentary starring Rumsfeld) made a distinction between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe in order to distinguish on one side, France and Germany – strongly opposed to the war and the neoconservative agenda -, with the new EU Member States on the other supporting the US in its military endeavor. In Europe, the United Kingdom, under Tony Blair, was the keenly expressing its alliance to the US marking an even deeper degree of alliance in the special relationship.

In some way the 2003 war in Iraq was a wake-up call for Europe and its Member States. The EU ought to be more autonomous in foreign affairs. The question of EU foreign policy is not new as one can go back to the failed European Defense Community tentative of 1954. After several failures (EDC and EPC), it was finally addressed, materialized and institutionalized in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty with the creation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CSFP), composing the second pillar. Six years, later, during the December bilateral meeting in Saint-Malo between French President Jacques Chirac and

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), called since the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon as the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), was born. The reason for the two European military powerhouses to seek for a civilian-military instrument, autonomous from NATO, was to assert European security in its region and neighborhoods. The CSDP was born in the ramble of the Balkans – war in Bosnia and Kosovo -, when the EU was unable to stabilize its neighborhood without the intervention of the US/NATO forces.

2003 marked the beginning of the lengthy Iraq war, but as well the use for the first time the CSDP. Three CSDP missions were launched in 2003:

  • EUPM BiH mission, the first CSDP mission, a Police Mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina (2003-2012)
  • ARTEMIS DRC mission, a military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2003)
  • CONCORDIA Fyrom mission, a military operation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2003)
Source: EEAS

Source: EEAS, 2014

For the first time of its history the European Union (EU) had some sort of civilian-military instrument, the CSDP, in order to project power and stabilize the near and broad neighborhoods. Despite the deep division between ‘venus’ and ‘mars’ (remember Kagan?), 2003 was a year of reflection and action for the EU and its Member States. Not only the CSDP was deployed, but at the end of the year, the EU adopted its first European Security Strategy (ESS) titled A Secure Europe in a Better World. The ESS served several objectives:

  • first, to re-unite the EU Member States;
  • second, to give a strategic direction to the Union now active a civilian-military actor;
  • third, to respond to the 2002 US National Security Strategy (NSS). It was really an ideological fight between preventive action and unilateralism (US) versus ‘effective multilateralism’ (EU).

As argued by Derrida and Habermas, the “war [in Iraq] made Europeans conscious of the progressive and announced decline of the common foreign policy” (in french, “la guerre a fait prendre conscience aux Européens du naufrage depuis longtemps annoncé de leur politique extérieure commune”). 2003 was the beginning of a new era in European actions on the global stage ending abruptly with the collapse of global markets ensued by the Eurozone crisis in 2007. In some ways, the short period, 2003-2007, was the golden years of EU foreign and security policy.

Aside from the global financial crisis, has the CSDP been one of the victims of President Obama? During the Bush years, the EU had in some degree found an ‘enemy,’ a person that it could materialize an opposition. It was unilateralism versus multilateralism, international law versus impunity. With the election of President Obama, US foreign policy in regard to Europe has been very different. The message once was ‘do not overshadow and duplicate NATO’ (see the 3Ds of Madeleine Albright, refer p.10) and let the US take care of European security. Sloan even called US foreign policy towards the CSDP the ‘yes, but’ policy; ‘yes’ Europe can develop its CSDP, ‘but’ NATO is the predominant actor in European security. With President Obama, the American strategy shifted to a ‘yes, please’ strategy. Since the US (remember former Defense Secretary Gates) has called on the EU to share the burden, the EU has been unable, or even unwilling, to answer the call.

An important component in the EU defense and foreign policy engine has been the Franco-British couple. Aside from the 2010 Defense agreement, both countries have not been aligned politically, economically and strategically in recent years. Britain, under David Cameron, has been more consumed about bringing back powers to European capitals than seeking for contributing to the integration process. Britain’s big European policy is directly embedded on the eventual referendum on the future of Britain’s EU membership. Cameron certainly won’t seek for deeper integration in defense and foreign policy matters. The latest appointment of Michael Fallon as Defense Secretary, a conservative and euroskeptic favorable to Britain independence, may contribute to widening the gap between continental Europe and the island. In the case of France, Paris has been over-active in launching a military operation almost every year (Libya in 2011, Mali in 2013, and Central African Republic in 2014). Each time, the CSDP was sidelined.

imagesDerrida and Habermas in their 2003 essay underscored the importance of a common foreign policy as part of the European construction. They argued on the importance of a european citizenry and identity. Without it, it is difficult to foresee any sustainable European Union or common foreign policy striving in the coming decades. Ten years ago the CSDP seemed possible even though the Union faced a serious political and strategic crisis caused by the Iraq crisis. Today, the idea of a CSDP seem improbable considering the powerful domestic forces, the economic slowdown and rise of populism. At the end of the day the Bush years may have been the greatest thing for the CSDP.

(Copyright 2014 by Politipond. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission)
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About politipond

Author - Maxime H. A. Larivé, Ph.D., is a European and transatlantic expert. His book, titled 'Debating European Security and Defense Policy. Understanding the Complexity,' is published with Ashgate.
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