A Sight on European Defence

Among the multiples areas in which our governments operate, the fight against terrorism is often regarded as a field in which European Defence could develop. Some of the arguments one can read here and there are the following ones:

-The terrorist attacks of the past years against European countries have shown that international terrorism threatens our countries and could destabilize our democracies.

-As our borders are no more directly threatened, our armed forces must restructure towards expeditionary warfare. Then, they will be able to properly address international terrorism, which could otherwise develop far beyond our borders.

-The police forces are not tailored against this new threat, as they are conceived to operate within the national borders of EU member states. Their modus operandi does not fit with such an enemy living hidden in remote areas and which owns heavy weapons.

-As terrorism ignores the borders and terrorist organisations have ramifications throughout Europe, none of the European nations can anymore face alone international terrorism. Multilateral cooperation is necessary.

-Terrorism is the corrupted fruit of poverty, failed states, organised crime, corruption and so on and so forth. Therefore, a military answer is not sufficient. A global approach is necessary and the EU, as a global actor, will be more efficient than the NATO, which assets are first of all military ones.

Like the apple in the Garden of Eden, the war on terrorism offers the bored soldiers promises of a better future, particularly as for budgets refers. However, some major hurdles remain before reaching the apple-tree.

-An analysis consisting in discrimination between the different forms of terrorism: national and international would be a mistake. This discrimination will not be a definitive one, as there are some links, connections and flows of combatants, or worse, of ideas, between both forms of terrorism and all those organisations.

-Further check could be the threat is represents: is it a threat against the stability of the state, or simply a threat against the citizens. In the first case, the military could play a role; in the other case, this is purely a police and justice task. In each of the attacks of the past years, might it be the 9/11, the attacks in Madrid (Atocha train station-2004) or London (2005), the democracy has not been endangered. Thousands of people have been slaughtered by criminals, without any result on democracies, which have proved their intrinsic strength.

However nobody would deny that such attacks create a political problem: how react properly, so that the population clearly perceives that the government is doing its best and will avoid further attacks.

In such cases the most complicated issue consists in the use of coercion. The recent experiences has shown that leaving apart the basic rules of democracy, of which police investigation, legal prosecution and fair trial, could unfold a process that nobody would manage and that would lead sooner or later to a weakening of democracy. Therefore, only for democratic reasons, the use of the military in counter-terrorism should be, per se, envisaged for extreme situations, on a case-by-case basis.

The only possibilities I see for the commitment of the military are: special operations for hostage release or open war on a rogue or failed state. And even: there are many rogue states, which support terrorism and against which we would never do anything., because of the completely inextricable situation. Currently although the Somali pirates come all from the nearby beaches, none of the European powers have expressed the intent of a military expedition on the coast. Past experience has been a good lesson as well.

In any case, it shows clearly that the current restrictions imposed by some countries to the use of the military against international terrorism does not facilitate a European action beyond a reinforced cooperation between the police forces and judicial organizations, which seem already on the way.

Well the apple-tree of Eden is far from being able to feed all our armed forces in the war against terrorism.

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