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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Tony Corn

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Tony Corn

Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 00:41:14 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs

Tue, 21 Aug 2007 00:41:14 -0600

The year 2001 could have been an eye-opener but the West, too traumatized by the Islamist attack on America, failed to notice an equally important, if less spectacular, development: the creation by China of a coalition, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, including Russia and Central Asia as members, Iran as a silent partner, and India and Pakistan as observers. It took another five years for Western foreign policy experts to realize that this emerging SCO was, for all practical purposes, an OPEC with nukes, which had the potential to develop, over time, into a full-fledged "NATO of the East." At the NATO summit in Riga in November 2006, a little-noticed transatlantic revolution of sorts finally occurred when the Atlantic Alliance acknowledged that it would have to "go global" in order to remain relevant. Divided, America and Europe will fall; united, they can retain the lead. But all manners of "going global" are not equal, and the coming globalization of NATO is as much full of promises as it is fraught with perils. Some will argue that, with 50,000 troops present in three continents today, NATO is in essence already global. Others will counter that the story of this halfhearted, haphazard globalization reads at times like a tale told by an idiot, full of rhetorical fog and bureaucratic friction, and signifying nothing more than "flight forward" or "muddling through." In fact, in the post-Cold War period, NATO's desire to have its cake (collective defense) and eat it too (collective security) has created a certain conceptual confusion.2 As a political organization, the Alliance rushed to invoke Article 5 within twenty-four hours of 9/11; as a military organization, NATO turned out to be as ill-prepared to do counterinsurgency in Afghanistan as the U.S. military in Iraq. It would be a mistake, however, to claim that NATO's credibility is at stake in Afghanistan. Afghanistan may have been the graveyard of empires in the past, but it won't be the graveyard of the Alliance -- for a simple reason already pointed out by one European observer: When the territorial integrity of one of its members is threatened by an attack, NATO cannot afford to lose. It would sacrifice its credibility as an alliance. . . . But in stabilization operations the existence of NATO is not threatened. Here NATO can afford to fail without losing its credibility as an alliance. . . . There are, thus, fundamental differences between collective defense credibility and stabilization credibility. To lump them together or to blur the distinction between the two, shows a lack of understanding for the very nature of such interventions. The consequences of getting stuck in hopeless operations as well as holding NATO's authority and standing hostage to fortune is doubly dangerous. The UN, the institution with the widest experience in post-conflict stabilization to date, has never made these operations a test for its credibility. NATO needs to do likewise.3 If the Alliance survived a debacle of the magnitude of Suez in 1956, it can withstand anything. The main danger for NATO therefore is not military failure or even a Suez-like temporary political meltdown, but something more insidious. Over time, what an ill-conceived globalization of NATO could lead to is the transformation of the tactical coalition that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization currently is into a strategic "NATO of the East" while at the same time perverting the Atlantic Alliance into, so to speak, a "SEATO of the West" -- namely, a make-believe alliance with no viable strategy (because a conventional military configuration is irrelevant when the threats are of the asymmetric variety) and no coherent policy (because the interests of the global members are simply too heterogeneous to ever converge.) The Long War promises to be a thinking man's war. As a full-fledged Alliance, NATO possesses the kind of staying power that mere ad hoc coalitions cannot deliver; but NATO still has to come to terms with the fact that thinking power will matter more than fighting power. If NATO is to [...]

Clausewitz in Wonderland

Sat, 09 Sep 2006 00:10:24 -0600

Last but not least, the third major flaw is "strategism." At its "best," strategism is synonymous with "strategy for strategy's sake," i.e., a self-referential discourse more interested in theory-building (or is it hair-splitting?) than policy-making. Strategism would be innocuous enough were it not for the fact that, in the media and academia, "realism" today is fast becoming synonymous with "absence of memory, will, and imagination": in that context, the self-referentiality of the strategic discourse does not exactly improve the quality of the public debate. At its worst, strategism confuses education with indoctrination, and scholarship with scholasticism; in its most extreme form, it comes close to being an "intellectual terrorism" in the name of Clausewitz. Clausewitz in Londonistan That infatuation with Clausewitz can lead to hair-raising absurdities about the GWOT is never better illustrated than by the recent remark of Anglo-American Clausewitzian veteran Colin Gray on the global jihad: "It is but axiomatic to maintain that an irregular belligerent wins by not losing. Somewhat in defiance of that axiom, I will argue that time is not on the side of the catastrophic, post-modern terrorist. The war-hardened multinational cadre of veterans of the Afghan struggle is diminishing rapidly. It has suffered the natural attrition of age and infirmity, as well as the combat attrition inflicted by an aroused bevy of state enemies.... Those warriors for Islam cannot be replaced by new cohorts with comparable training and group bonding.... Al-Qaeda has now aroused a formidable array of enemies, within and beyond the Islamic realm."3 Besides the fallacy of equating jihadists with Al Qaeda alone, this static conception of the global jihad in terms of finite "stock" ignores the dynamic created by media, i.e., the cyber-mobilization as the new Levee en Masse. On what planet does the good professor live? From the Balkans to Londonistan, Europe has been, for at least a decade now, the closest thing to a "frontline" in the global jihad. In Colin Gray's Britain today, 6 percent of the Muslim population (i.e., 100,000 individuals) think that the 7/7 London bombings were "fully justified;" 32 percent of British Muslims (half a million people) believe that "Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end;" and 40 percent want to see sharia law adopted in the UK.4 In Colin Gray's Britain, Muslims are barely 2 million, but politicians are already pandering to the Muslim vote and willing to make all sorts of concessions, including on immigration. Caught in a time warp, Gray looks jihad (al Qaeda) and dawa (Hizb-ut-Tahrir) in the eye, and see nothing more than -- a bearded version of the IRA. Rather than bury their heads in the Clausewitzian sand, strategists would be better inspired to meditate the truly "remarkable trinity" engineered by Arab governments for more than thirty years: natalist policies, anti-Western mass indoctrination, and mass emigration to the West. Isn't time at least to add a chapter to On War on "demographic warfare?"5 If a Colin Gray -- arguably the smartest living Clausewitzian today -- can be so blind as to the nature of the challenges facing the West, one can easily guess the damage done by Clausewitzology on less talented minds. Clausewitz in America: Prussian fantasies, French realities? Since the end of the Cold War, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (which can apparently walk and chew gum at the same time) has been rethinking both conventional and irregular warfare. For the former, the pla turned to the American Mahan, not the Prussian Clausewitz; for the latter, the pla went back not only to Sun-Tzu, but also to Lawrence, Beaufre, Arquilla, Lind, etc. -- anything that can be of use in the conceptual toolbox of "unrestricted warfare" (URW). In America, meanwhile, -- and despite a guerilla war engineered by "Netwar" and "Fourth Generation Warfare" insurgents -- the military educational establishment has continued to peddle Clausewitz[...]