Wednesday 6 August 2014

The folly of EU imperialism

There is a need for a serious debate on the subject of liberal intervention. It is not just some abstract moral argument about meddling in the affairs of far away lands. It has serious implications not just for those countries where our bombs fall, but expensive and potentially destabilising consequences for Europe.

As Europe still struggles to climb out of the global financial crisis, the addition of large waves of immigration is adding costs both financial and social on already stretched populations. From Golden Dawn to Ukip, there is a growing unease about the levels of immigration.

Resentment also grows as taxpayers see their local services hit by cuts as billions in aid go overseas, but it is often overlooked that foreign aid is one of the tools in the box to slow immigration. Aid to Ankara in exchange for them taking Syrian refugees can be said to be cheaper than absorbing them into the EU. Similarly, since 2004 we have lifted sanctions on Libya, along with an aid package in the hope of stemming the flow of immigrants. It worked too.

While many would rather we didn't fund tinpot dictators or hand vast sums of cash over to be spent on space programmes in "bongo-bongo land", the only other alternative is to close our borders and impose quotas, which is not economically desirable, but also the policing of closed borders would make life intolerably bureaucratic and intrusive here at home. Pragmatism and the national interest is the primary concern. Or it should be.

Libya, a once growing country with a comparatively prosperous economy, with greater domestic freedoms than many, was the last stop on the migrant trail for those traveling up through Africa to make a better life. A stable, functioning civil society with employment opportunities in Libya is then the best asset we have in controlling immigration. It is not for the prospect of drawing Job Seekers Allowance that so many risk their lives on makeshift boats to cross the seas. They want a decent life in a safe country, as do we all. If aid negates the need for that perilous voyage, then it is money well spent for Europe.

As much as a prosperous North Africa is in their interests, it's essential for us too. This is that much talked of, but seldom practiced "common sense". But so very often national interest takes a back seat to the EU which is seemingly incapable of acting in its own interests, blinded as it is by its own expansionist agenda. Rather than recognising the asset that Libya was, the vanity of our euro-elites set in course a myopic policy of humanitarian intervention at the outbreak of the Arab Spring.

Following yesterday's piece, one is reminded not to get too caught up in the detail. Detail matters and to oversimplify is to distort but inescapably, "the West" facilitated regime change without any regard to how we might magnify the chaos.

I have already outlined a case that chaos we see was set in motion well before NATO intervention. Libya's small and ineffectual army was unable to mobilise, with badly maintained equipment, likely to defect in the face of Islamist militias, and also reluctant to follow the increasingly insane orders of Gadaffi. It was never going to stop the regime from folding. I take the view that the regime was only going to survive with Western sponsorship and military assistance. Instead we chose "humanitarianism" without much of an idea what that might entail.

The direct national interest and the regional interest was the status quo. But a sizable contingent of the Libyan public evidently did not agree that the status quo was in their interests. Consequently "The West" could not be seen to be giving direct assistance (any more than it already had) to the Gaddafi regime, or to quash an evidently democratic uprising. Either would have had consequences.

Many would argue that the only smart option would be to leave well alone. But that is not to say that inaction would not have consequences either. The revolution had already triggered a mass exodus to Southern Europe and that is what triggered the first diplomatic manoeuvrings by the European Union.

Following the Arab Spring, the massive influx of migrants from North Africa had put the protection and reception systems of several EU member states, Italy and Malta in particular, under strain. The EU responded to a formal request for assistance from Italy and launched the Frontex Joint Operation Hermes 2011, mandated to assist Italian authorities in coping with ongoing and prospective migratory flows.

Libya was about to become a problem that, whatever the outcome, the EU could not afford to ignore. This report by Istituto Affari Internazionali has it that "On 20 February 2011, the High Representative for CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) Catherine Ashton issued a declaration on behalf of the EU stating that the Union was “extremely concerned by the events unfolding in Libya” and urged the Libyan authorities to refrain from the use of violence.

"At the extraordinary European Council meeting on 11 March, the Heads of State declared that Gaddafi had lost all legitimacy as an interlocutor and urged him to step down. They welcomed and encouraged the TNC in Benghazi, which, while not recognized as the sole representative of Libya, was henceforth considered “a political interlocutor”. Here marked the departure from reason, motivated by political vanity, toward a thoughtless and strategically unwise endorsement.

Amid escalation of violence, the EU had resolved to intervene to protect civilians. But given the conflicting agendas of nation states a common EU position was proving impossible. Germany abstained from the vote on UN Security Council resolution 1973, the legal basis for intervention.

A lack of consensus between 27 Member States (and more specifically the lack of EU permanent planning and command capabilities) prompted Member States to set up an ad-hoc command structure relying on NATO capabilities. The divergence can be understood as a German reluctance to use force or the lack of political will from northern Member States to invest in the Mediterranean. Istituto Affari Internazionali speculates that "Due to its past and its subsequent reluctance towards military engagement, Germany is attached to the "civilian" identity of the EU. Though this did not stop German officials implementing regime change in Ukraine.

In true EU fashion, having failed to gain consensus, with Germany multifariously resisting all the way, participating nations turned to international means to seek the fig-leaf of multi-lateralism. From the Istituto Affari Internazionali report (and from the horses mouth) you can see that the intent is for foreign policy integration, and we have already seen various moves toward defence integration. But the EU doesn't like to wait. It will go around an obstacle if it can't get over it.

Notably, David Cameron's enthusiasm for the adventure certainly puts to bed any notion that he is Eurosceptic. His need to display his statesmanlike credentials took precedence over the national interest.

Of course no humanitarian adventure would be incomplete without Uncle Sam. But Obama was hesitant. The reluctance to add much in the way of strike capability to Unified Protector was symptomatic of a much broader reluctance by the Obama administration as since Obama, the great peacemaker, could not be seen to be starting another war with a Muslim country and it would not be tolerated by a war weary American public.

As I noted on yesterdays piece the impact of US reluctance to take the lead and commit forces should not be underestimated. Reuters has it that the lack of of US leadership was perhaps the reason for the military stalemate in Libya.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said this week Gaddafi's attacks would not be stopped without U.S. participation in strikes on his tanks and artillery, which ceased after NATO took command of Libyan operations on March 31.

A senior French official said on Wednesday U.S. involvement would help as European air forces conducting ground strikes lack low-flying A-10 "tankbuster" planes and AC-130 gunships that analysts say would be useful against Gaddafi's forces.
"A-10 tankbusters are ideally suited for this type of operation -- to attack tank formations blocking streets... but America has been very reluctant. Once again this displays the old truth that NATO minus the U.S. is just not capable of doing much given their lack of military hardware," he said. While European allies have helicopters, these would have to operate from carriers off Libya and a NATO official said none was currently available.
Marko Papic of political risk consultancy Stratfor said the lack of close-attack aircraft, combined with the rebels' poor military skills were key inhibitors of the NATO operation. This certainly supports the view I presented yesterday, that the assets deployed during Unified Protector - and the lack of Close Air Support, were insufficient to affect regime change, thus I find myself at odds with more simplistic narratives. Without the US taking the lead it was largely ineffective, having pruned European defence assets to a rag-bag of expensive white elephants on the road to a Euro-rapid reaction force.

In the deadlock, unsure of the direction of travel, and with Islamist militias pouring in from all directions, this prompted the CIA to take a more active role in events for their own security interests that would later have grave consequences. The detail of which is not critical to this particular piece, but further embroilment by NATO forces would not be permitted under the UN resolution since the legal basis for the intervention was humanitarian, excluding the possibility of regime change.

Therefore, far from being the deciding factor of the ensuing chaos, NATO air strikes were sporadic, ill-directed and largely inconsequential to what was already unfolding. We wasted a lot of money parading our toys and making expensive bangs, but nothing of the effort could be said to be help or hindrance. The Libyan Army had all but collapsed and the writing was already on the wall for the regime. At best we can say the air operation might have prevented more sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of Islamists, but if this Daily Mail report is true, we can't even say that.

Following further extensive NATO strikes on targets of opportunity, Catherine Ashton opened a liaison office in Benghazi in order to support “the nascent democratic Libya in border management, security reform, the economy, health, education, and in building civil society.”

According to this blog "Observers noticed several measures taken by the EU in attempt to prevent the crisis from escalating. One should acknowledge EU and member states’ humanitarian efforts (by August, it reached €150 million). The opening of an EU office in Benghazi will bring more efficiency to EU actions and could be interpreted as a de facto recognition of the National Transitional Council (NTC) by the EU."

So what we have is an inconsequential, messy military operation by the EU "partners" with only grudging support from a US (already bogged down with unpopular conflicts) once again having to act in its own security interests - in response to a crisis brought to priority international significance by the EU elite and their imperial ambitions. This will sound familiar to those readers who have watched events in Ukraine unfold.

Far from learning from this experience, the lesson taken by our rulers will be the lack of any central intelligence and command facilities along with inadequate expeditionary equipment was the reason for its failure, and that mean old Uncle Sam doesn't care anymore. Rather than not tinkering in the affairs of others, it must give us more Europe, and extend their neighborhood policy to a North African regional policy.

This will of course mean more Ukraine type Association Agreements, more micromanagement, more cultural imperialism and more airspace under the control of Galileo. The driving force is less about what is in our own direct interests than the ambitions of unelected Eurocrats and their desire for regional influence, to interfere at will, and to push their own soft power objectives - such as ending FGM, sexual violence in combat zones, CO2 reduction and the ethnic and gender make-up of foreign governments.

The EU has become the cultural imperialist instrument of NGO and global governance. Direct material interest and strategic caution have gone out of the window entirely. Of course this is not entirely out of step with the Obama administration's own infantile ambitions for the world, but thanks to term limits and the binary nature of American politics, every now and then, adults are allowed to at least influence policy, if only for a short time.

But as with Ukraine crisis, we need to stop talking about "the West" as the culprit, in that the US is the Johnny-come-lately in both Libya and Ukraine, and very reluctant in the case of Libya. Ukraine was an EU coup and Libya was an EU flag waving operation hiding under the banner of NATO.

We saw only restrained involvement in Libya from the US, who did not contribute to all that many strike missions that I know of, - nor were they forthcoming with sharing intelligence assets. And why would they? France leaks like a sieve and Britain cannot make up its mind where its loyalties or its own destiny lies.

The EU has long been moving toward joint military operations, pursuing it's dream being a global power with a single foreign policy and single army - which is progressing faster than you might think. We are beginning to see the EU elites flex their muscles on the international stage in ways that even the US is now reluctant. They have learned nothing, believing that soft, gentle EU bullets will be better received than American ones. And as for democratic consent... since when did that matter to the EU?

But this does not answer the question of liberal intervention. There are circumstances where a failed state leads to more unmanageable immigration. Libya being a prime example. It should be that intervention works in our own best interest, but we are ruled by those who don't know what that is and have not the first idea how to approach that question. Further to this, the EU's imperial interests are not the same as our interests.

But then there are times when the price of doing nothing outweighs the cost of doing something. If we are going to intervene, then we must come down on the side of order, then work with whatever regime we end up with through soft power to achieve our moral objectives, as we were managing successfully with Libya before we let it slide into the abyss of civil war.

I am not convinced that United Protector can be blamed for the chaos in Libya, but it can be said that it served no purpose. Whatever it's humanitarian mission was, far more people will suffer and die in the fighting yet to come, more boats full of Africans will be lost at sea, while many more rot inside Libyan transit camps. They may well be the scene of the next mass slaughter.

United Protector failed in any humanitarian sense, it failed in any military sense and it failed to protect our interests. It served nothing but the vanity of the EU and European leaders, it wasted a lot of money and killed a lot of people.

This all underscores precisely why the UK must reclaim its own military independence and retake the freedom to negotiate on its own deals with the world. The agendas of cultural and moral imperialists bring nothing but misery to the world, and it damages our economy, while immigration gradually chokes the quality of life of us here at home - and undermines our liberty. The world is suffering from the tyranny of the well-intentioned EU, ironically to bring about democracy and peace, while sowing the seeds of war with Russia and dissolving our nation states without democratic consent.

We have yet to feel the full impact of the Arab Spring and Ukraine may well descend into a full blown civil war, while our leaders push us closer toward a new cold war. Our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan still have to play out to their conclusions, while we contemplate the ISIS monster we have enabled, making the Middle East more dangerous than it has been for generations.

There are also a dozen other places where our malign interventions have yet to backfire. It's beginning to look like all our chickens are coming home to roost and yet we still pour more petrol on the bonfire, while alienating allies like Israel. If anything will shatter the fragile peace, it is the EU and its imperial ambitions, and with a media unable to put all the pieces together, it's beginning to look like a major war on our doorstep may be inescapable. The bottom line is that we can no longer afford the vanity and ignorance of our rulers.

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