• Info BCSP

    • Sign up to receive our e-bulletin.
    • Find publications, analysis and documents in our unique resource base available to all visitors of BCSP web site.
      Advance search

          The Day that Mobilized the World

          The myth of the United States of America (USA) as a territory beyond the reach of terrorism was dispelled on September 11, 2001. The acts of terrorism which happened at that time set off a series of developments: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorist attacks in Madrid, London and Egypt as well as intensified terrorist activity in Russia. The avalanche keeps sliding downhill, and just who will be swept into it is yet to be seen. The initial reaction to September 11 events was unexpected: acting on a US request NATO triggered Article 5 of the Washington Treaty[2] and within 24 hours adopted the first set of operational protective measures, followed on October 4 by an eight-measure package proposed by the USA to increase its ability for fighting terrorism. Thus, as of September 12, the skies of this state were patrolled by NATO aircraft, and Article 5, which "slept through" the entire Cold War, was for the first time invoked to prevent further terrorist actions. On the other hand, the European Union (EU) responded in line with its policy, and, on September 21, adopted a declaration which recognized terrorism as a real threat to Europe and assigned priority to EU efforts to combat it.[3] The Declaration provided the basis to develop the first EU Action Plan elaborating measures to confront terrorism.

          Globally speaking, September 11 had the following consequences:

          • The breakdown of the North Atlantic security concept: the system which came out of the Cold War victorious and relatively successfully overcome its "identity crisis" of the 1900s, failed in the face of a new, powerful and practically invisible enemy. Hence, the need to change the old patterns of NATO operations;

          • Promotion of new elements of radical terrorism;

          • A serious blow to peace efforts in the Near East: the emerging of radical Islamic terrorism brought about global intolerance (?) towards the Muslims. On the other hand, this kind of terrorism encourages and popularizes the creation and operations of terrorist groups in the Near and Middle East, thus endangering the peace efforts within political options and diverting the public focus from peace plans and actions;

          • Destabilization of potential hotbeds of crisis throughout the world: In addition to Afghanistan and Iraq the possibility has been opened for the breakout of conflicts in other areas such as Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other states wherein the Muslim pro-terrorist lobbies are too strong, or state organization too weak to prevent the establishment of terrorist training camps or even terrorist attacks against the authorities;

          • The collapse of the security-intelligence concept created in the previous century: Transition barely touched upon national intelligence organizations and information exchange was reduced to a minimum. This course of developments was largely supported by the belief that the "global enemy" had disappeared from the political and military map of the world. That is why all documents adopted after September 11 state the priority of intensifying intelligence cooperation and exchange of field information, especially in the case of "high risk" states. The most important document addressing cooperation of this kind was signed on December 6, 2001 by the US departments of justice and interior and the European Union (i.e. the EUROPOL), placing special emphasis on the exchange of "strategic and technical information".[4]

          Antiterrorist Voyeurism

          The allied action in Afghanistan revealed that the partners do not have all that much in common in their perceptions of terrorism and plans to fight it. Already at that time, two concepts emerged, the American and the European, which, wrapped up in political parlance may have appeared close, but were essentially different. James J. Wirtz speaking about these concepts says: "There is a divergence in European and American views not about today’s security challenges... but about the severity and proximity of the threat and about what constitutes an appropriate military and diplomatic response. Europeans are now enjoying a rare moment in their common history: the continent is at peace, cooperation has replaced conflict in their relation and the threat of war has virtually disappeared from their strategic horizon… Europeans believe, like Americans, that Al-Qaeda must be destroyed. But they also suggest that an approach based on negotiation, consensus and strict adherence to international law is the best long-term solution… Bush administration officials believe that matters have reached a point where the possibility for negotiation has been exhausted and military action is necessary to head off disaster." [5]

          The European Union did come up with several initiatives to confront terrorism even before September 11. After its Tampere summit the Union took a decision anticipating cooperation of the member states’ judicial systems in the sphere of crime prevention, including combating terrorism. After the events in the U.S.A., the European Commission already on September 21 announced a package of counter-terrorism measures within an "Action Plan", followed immediately by the signing of the above-mentioned agreement on the exchange of information between EUROPOL and the US departments of justice and interior.

          The EU made much more concrete steps after the terrorist attacks in Madrid, when Al- Qaeda clearly demonstrated that Europe is not exempt from its further actions. Following the adoption of the so-called Declaration of Solidarity on March 25, which emphasized the principle of collective defense,[6] the European leaders appointed a counter-terrorism coordinator and for the first time promoted the idea of a EU intelligence agency.

          In addition to these measures a regulation, resembling the US Patriot Act, was drafted and intended for incorporation into the national legislations of all member states The draft contained controversial provisions granting greater authorities to providers of different types of communications (mobile telephony, internet), enabling them to create data bases on their clients the police and other bodies could use if a possibility arose that a specific person was engaged in illegal activities.

          All the above-mentioned measures do have a positive effect on Euro-Atlantic relations, notably the EU and the USA. However, with these acts the Union has manifested its moderation and, at the same time, limited military action by permitting it only as the ultimate response to wide-scale terrorism. The package of these measures was referred to as "counter-terrorist voyeurism" by some circles, alluding to Europe's passivity in the war against terrorism and its non-acceptance of approaches that gained popularity in the USA, e.g. the doctrines of "preventive" or "permanent war".

          EU-NATO Cooperation

          During the 1990s the US president Bill Clinton supported the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI) project, presented as part of the Maastricht Agreement. Both sides initiated and supported the Agreement guided by their own selfish motives: the USA because it would increase the European countries' military spendings and thus turn them into an important and reliable support in future actions, while the European countries looked upon it as a first step in the creation of Europe’s autonomous military forces.

          The European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) project was publicized on June 3, 1999, as part of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).[7] The joint EU and NATO declaration on the ESDP was issued on December 16, 2002. In it the American concept prevails and gives NATO the right of the "first choice". If the Alliance does not have the interest to intervene in a specific crisis, the European forces formed within the ESDP come into play.[8] However, NATO undertook to provide all its available capacities for the purpose ofthe specific operation it previously opted not to participate in. Thereby the relative autonomy of the ESDP has been relativized, since it depends on the decision of the North-Atlantic Council, although the fact remains that Europe did obtain its first separate force.

          A step further was marked by the signing of the "Berlin-plus Agreement" on March 17, 2003.The agreement specifies the rights and obligations of the EU and NATO in relation to the European Security and Defense Policy. Particularly important in this respect are the provisions governing the exchange of strictly confidential information, as well as regulation of long term defense planning, regardless of whether the future force will be under the EU or NATO command. [9]

          Coalition of the Willing

          The United Kingdom received the ESDP with skepticism. This created a situation marked by the emerging concept of the US-British security (and therefore also counter-terrorism), on the one hand, and on the other, the previous concept of European continental security. The Alliance, which acted as a bonding tissue for Euro-Atlantic allies became an arena for the confronting concepts. The US attempt in 2002 to use the "Partnership Action Plan Against Terrorism" scheme to attract, in the first place the ten candidate countries (seven of which were subsequently admitted to NATO), proved fairly successful. However, when the US request for NATO attack on Iraq appeared on the agenda of the Alliance, Germany and France found it substantially lacking in argumentation and, still more importantly, in contravention of international law. Instead of NATO, a "Coalition of the Willing" was prepared to wage the war on Iraq.[10]

          The USA initially saw the idea of a European army as a positive development in the security situation, since it was believed that the USA and NATO as a whole could only benefit from the strengthening of European combat capacities. However, misunderstandings started when it became clear that Europe actually wanted its own forces in order to "break away" from its role of the "global policeman’s" assistant. The EU articulated its strategies for the development of relations and resolution of problems with Russia, the Ukraine, Mediterranean and Middle East countries. The Union appointed its representatives for Africa, the Middle East, Macedonia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan as well as a representative for the Stability Pact.[11] At the same time, military budgets of EU member countries in 2002 where at their lowest in the history of this organization.[12]

          The question is why is the US so concerned with keeping its military supremacy in Europe. Harald Muller noted that the US vision of the new world order served not only to support the hegemonic concept of international relations, as a way to sustain stability and preserve peace complete withAmerican domination, but also as an instrument to realize the American way of life, essential political positions deriving from a specific narrow specter of the US policy.[13] Accordingly, the undertaking to ensure the EU military and police presence in certain countries seems ideal for the USA since its capacities will thus be available for intervention in other regions. That is why it supported the Berlin plus agreements, as well as the subsequent "Proxima" and "Althea" projects[14].Support is however withheld for the course leading these forces towards their complete independence from NATO. Should that happen the USA would lose important political and military support in its aggressive approach towards terrorism. Traditionally close to the US positions, British politicians give NATO precedence considering the ESDP prospectiveless and dangerous for further development of relations with the USA. Certain analysts even emphasize that Europe is "turning its back" on the USA with its reluctance to put up with the consequences faced by those countries that actually fight terrorism. It is thus said that most terrorist attacks in the previous period were organized on the territories of the states which supported the USA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The list of these countries includes the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Jordan. Kenya, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Spain, Tunisia and Jemen.[15]

          Lessons (Un)learnt

          The next question is how to combat terrorism globally, regionally, in diplomatic or military terms. The room for diplomatic negotiations is practically nonexistent, primarily because global terrorists no longer make national or political demands. Their objective now is to inflict as much damage and as possible and to instill fear. The theory that negotiations with terrorists are immoral and, in the long run, tactically wrong, is one of the basic premises of any concept concerned with confronting terrorism. When Osama bin Laden unexpectedly offered Europe peace in exchange for the withdrawal of all European soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq, the European Union and statesmen individually dismissed the proposal resolutely and promptly. This does not mean that Europe is giving its concept up, but rather that there is a minimum of common interests with the USA (and all other countries of the world), which cannot be disregarded at any point of time. Buying one's own peace at the expense of someone else’s misfortune would morally equate the party concerned with misfortune makers. Precisely this fact should form the basis for the future counter-terrorist policy. The first lesson to be learnt is to understand that terrorism is a movement that counters civilization. The second lesson must be the one that both current concepts to combat terrorism are wrong in their exclusiveness.

          • The US version, based on the preventive war doctrine, emerged under the influence ofevents of September 11, 2001 and stands for the policy of the stronger. It gives the impression that the USA finds the international law an interference ever since it has become the single superpower. This kind of behavior is inadmissible and has been punished by the distancing of its European allies from the joint concepts of actions. The refusal to accept the International Criminal Court (ICC),[16] and the seemingly incorrect behavior in its foreign policy operations, will soon turn the USA intoa minority among the developed countries of the world, as demonstrated by the abortive gathering of the Coalition of the Willing. "Preventive war" is just as a pointless and abused concept as is "humanitarian intervention".

          • The strategy of Europe is primarily based on the prevention of terrorist attacks thorough intensified activity of intelligence services, active global exchange of intelligence data and a "financial war" on terrorists, by preventing money laundering and severing the lines for their financing by individuals, organizations or states. A comparison of these and trans-Atlantic priorities reveals them identical. This means that a joint basis still exists. The European Union, however, has its own vision of preventing any further escalation of terrorism by means of solving regional conflicts primarily in the Near and Middle East. This concept is just as erroneous as the one of a preventive war. The area concernedis indeedthe cradle of Islamicfundamentalism and terrorism, but that fact is irrelevant given thepresent division of power. Namely, Al-Qaeda is not active in that area, excluding the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. Walter Laqueur makes a point: "Osama bin Laden did not go to war because of Gaza and Nablus; he did not send his warriors tofight in Palestine. Even the disappearance of the "Zionist entity" would not have a significant impacton his supporters, except perhaps to provide encouragement for further action. Such a warning against illusions is called for because there is a great deal of wishful thinking andnaïveté in this respect - a belief in quick fixes and miracle solutions: If only there would be peacebetween Israelis and Palestinians, all the other conflicts would become manageable."[17]

          The struggle against terrorism must be adjusted both to the minimum of common interests of the centers of power and the rational anticipations of its future development. The emergent processes in Europe, doubtlessly conducive to autonomy, if not independence, of European armed forces in a medium term, must not be experienced as a threat to the existing integrations, but rather as their complement. Essential in this context is the consensus of Euro-Atlantic allies as to who should coordinate the efforts to combatterrorism.[18] Once the issue of control in this struggle is replaced with that of its organization and channeling the forces towards strategically important projects, the struggle itself shall become a targeted and aggressive action in the right direction. However, what we see today are only huge efforts and will to achieve this outcome with inferior results.

          [1] This text was in a somewhat different form initially published in a scientific magazine "Strani pravni život" (Foreign Law Review), no. 1-2/2005, Institute of Comparative Law, Belgrade, 2005.

          [2]  Article 5 of the Washington Threaty anticipates the use of collective defense system.

          [3]  R. A. Clarke, B. R. Mc Caffrey, C. R.Nelson, R. A. Clarke, B. R. Mc Caffrey, C. R. Nelson,   NATO's Role In Confronting International Terrorismwww.acus.org/publications/policypapers/internationalsecurity/NATO%20CT%20report,%20absolute%20final.pdf, p. 37

          [4] Source: Embassy of Greece in the USA website:  www.greekembassy.org

          [5] James J. Wirtz, "Confronting Euro-Atlantic Security Challenges", Strategic Insight, 11 June 2003, www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/june03/terrorism.pdf,  p.2.

          [6] The Declaration also incorporates Article 42 of the (not to be) EU Constitution stating that member states must take all, thus including military, measures to diminish the terrorist threat, ensure protection against terrorist attacks or assist other countries efforts to that effect. See: EU Counter-terrorism Policy, www.euractiv.com/Article?tcmuri=tcm:29-117489-16&type=LinkDossier

          [7] Although the ESDP states that its main objective is improved cooperation with trans-Atlantic allies  and emphasizes that this is not the case of creating an European army, forces created within it have full autonomy in their operations, best demonstrated in their first engagement outside Europe, in Congo from June-September 2003. For more on the CFSP see: www.euractiv.com

          [8] Soldiers divided into national corps under domestic command. However, EU plans to create fast reaction forces imply the formation of multinational units. For more on that see: Walter Kolbow , NATO and EU - a German Perspective ,NATO School Polaris, October 2004, http://shape.de/internet_multimedia/multimedia_news_Oberhammergau(eng).pdf , p. 8

          [9] For more on ESDP declaration and Berlin plus agreements see the official NATO web presentation at: www.nato.int

          [10] The phrase "Coalition of the Willing" was soon replaced by another one, namely "U.S.-led International Forces" probably because the states were not actually eager to join the Coalition of the Willing, which is why the list of participants turned out to be rather modest, and their disproportionate engagement compared with the US blatantly clear. The total of 140 countries refused to join the Coalition, while positive responses among NATO candidate countries included the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and United Kingdom.

          [11] Source: Common Foreign and Security Policy - Overview,


          [12] House of Lords Paper 71(I), House of Lords Select Committee on EU, The European Policy on Security and Defense, Vol. I , 29 January1. 2002, at: www.heritage.org

          [13] Harald Muller, op.cit, p.94

          [14] "Proxima" and "Althea" are names for EU missions in Macedonia and BiH.

          [15] Source: R. A. Clarke, B. R. Mc Caffrey, C. R. Nelson, op. cit, p. 17

          [16] The US National Security Strategy reads: "We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept", The National Security Strategy of the United States http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html, p. 34.

          [17] Walter Laqueur, The Terrorism to Comewww.policyreview.org/aug04/laqueur_print.html.

          [18] In the words of Walter Kolbow: " We need to concentrate on the unifying aspects of this partnership rather than on the features that may lead to separation..." Walter Kolbow, op. cit, p. 4

          * Translated by Ljiljana Nikolić

        • Tags: terrorism, Security, threat, challenge, USA, eu, European Union, nato
    • Post a comment

    • See all comments