Memorandum from the International Institute
for Strategic Studies
OF US DIPLOMACY
POST 11 SEPTEMBER
1. On 11 September the US was subject to
a terrorist attack on its own territory. It had the right under
Article 51 of the UN charter to strike back with military force
to prevent further attacks. Before doing so it recognised that
the battle against terrorism with a global reach required a campaign
fought on many fronts.
2. Effectiveness in that campaign was dependent
on other countries playing particular parts. A coalition of sorts
was built. It is a coalition of sorts, because it is a coalition
of variable geometry. So far, one country (the UK) is involved
in all elements of the campaign: broad political support, direct
military involvement, military assistance, intelligence sharing,
co-operation on financial controls, collaboration in UNSC diplomacy,
co-ordination of diplomatic efforts, development of long-term
geopolitical strategy, humanitarian and refugee policy, consultation
on macro-economic dimensions and sundry work. Other countries
are involved in some subset of these activities.
3. The coalition is not merely led by the
US but cannot be much influenced by others precisely because it
is of such varied and inconsistent participation. It would be
too cynical to argue that the US policy has been to "coalesce
and rule", but it remains the case that the US has built
the coalition to advance its aims. And to do so with the minimum
constraints. This should be thought normal by a country acting
in self defence.
4. These realities mean that there has been
no sea-change, despite what some have suggested, in the instincts
that animate the Bush administration. The Bush administration,
despite its decision to pay UN dues and consult widely, has not
embraced multilateral diplomacy in the traditional meaning of
the phrase, nor found a new affection for international treaties.
Indeed the current campaign will make it likely that the US takes
harsher judgements about the relevance to its own security about
actual or proposed international instruments and will be more,
rather than less, vigorous in ensuring that, in its view, it is
not constrained by them when it seeks to act in self-defence.
POST 11 SEPTEMBER
5. There will be a point at which the campaign
against terrorism becomes routine, part of the sinews of international
relations, just as was the Cold War itself. Unlike the Cold War,
not every international problem will be seen through the prism
of the campaign against terrorism. Most issues will, however.
Therefore the campaign against terror, or Cold War 2 as some US
commentators are calling it, is providing close to a defining
principle for general international relations in the first decade
of the 21st Century.
6. From the US point of view this will have
advantages and one disadvantage. The advantages are two from its
perspective: First, that it will be able to ask countries to do
things which they otherwise might not because of the need to assist
the US in its own self-defence. US relations with Pakistan have,
for example, turned 180 degrees in one month. Second, that as
it conducts a robust diplomacy on other issues, it will be protected
from the argument that it is inspired by a "Cold War"
mentality, or that it is searching for enemies, by the fact that
the foreign policy of the Bush administration is being defined
by the need to defeat international terrorism. Thus, if it needs
to stand up to China on some question, it will be less vulnerable
to the accusation that it is doing so only to satisfy some visceral
need to "find an enemy". It has one, and will be fighting
7. The disadvantage is that this new task
will require of the US a form of hyper-engagement in the world.
However much it argues that it should not be involved in nation-building,
the US, with others, will have an enormous task to protect countries
that have taken risks and to incubate, in Afghanistan, whatever
new regime comes to office. It will need to invest hugely, diplomatically
and financially, in Middle East diplomacy. It will need to involve
itself in the domestic politics of the 50 plus states in which
the al Qaida network is thought to operate. All this will be a
heavy burden to carry and will have costs.
8. Thus, the US will be heavily engaged
in world politics, but not necessarily using the instruments of
multilateral diplomacy at every turn. There will be a new shape
to the burden-sharing debate with Europe. As Europe develops its
ESDP, it will have to move beyond the so-called Petersburg tasks.
What counter-terrorism role will the ESDP undertake? And as Europe
develops its CFSP, it will need to think way beyond Europe's borders
if it is to play a useful role in shaping events given the new
international dispensation. The extroversion demanded of the Europeans
will put more stress on their (recent) traditions than will the
hyper-engagement of the US place on it.
9. The US will continue to analyse the size
and shape of its nuclear forces in the context of the Nuclear
Strategy Review. It will continue to negotiate with the Russians
on a new strategic framework in which a new balance might be found
between offensive and defensive elements in nuclear strategy.
These efforts will be slowed down but not stopped by the current
10. A prospective ballistic missile defence
programme will need to compete with many other defence requirements
and many other public spending priorities in the post 11 September
order. The timing of any announced withdrawal from the ABM treaty
will be a matter for more delicate judgement. Nevertheless there
will be a programme that will be funded and at some point the
US will declare its withdrawal from the ABM treaty unless it can
get an agreement with the Russians quietly to bury it together.
11. The aim of the administration will be
to argue that the ABM Treaty can be dispensed with because the
US and Russia are no longer in an adversarial nuclear relationship,
and that the maintenance of the ABM Treaty prevents the US from
deploying defences against other states or organisations who may
in the future threaten the US with ballistic missiles. They will
argue that the new dispensation equally allows the US to reduce
its offensive nuclear weapons, a move which George Bush anticipated
in the speech on 1 May 2001 in which he also argued that the ABM
Treaty was out of date.
12. The UK should view the development of
a modest ballistic missile defence as a natural, if partial, response
to the new range of threats. Russia and the US may well reduce
their holdings well below Start 2 levels down to about 1,500 strategic
nuclear warheads, though that figure will only be fixed on the
US side once the Nuclear Strategy Review is complete. For some,
the paradox therefore will be that the abandonment of the ABM
treaty actually contributes to a major reduction in offensive
nuclear weapons. The abandonment of the ABM treaty would thus
be presentable as a contribution to real arms control.
13. The crisis has seen a re-nationalisation
of European foreign policy. The British have unequivocally supported
the US and sought to be near-equal partners in the political effort
of coalition-building. The Germans have been diplomatically supportive
but angst ridden. The French have been embarrassed by the
enthusiasm of the British for the USled campaign yet frustrated
by not being a larger part of the effort. The EU has taken useful
measures on the financial and information-sharing fronts, but
has also realised that policy making for Afghanistan may be beyond
its reach given too many years of Euro-centric introversion in
the development of foreign policy positions. These reactions are
now trends and will not be quickly reversible.
14. As Europeans think about how to influence
US policy effectively over the coming months, they must pick their
subjects carefully. If European leaders stand up and argue that
the ABM treaty is "a cornerstone of strategic stability"
the present US administration will wonder if they were on a different
planet on 11 September, when strategic stability in the proper
sense of the term was shattered by a terrorist network that would
have been happy to launch an attack on the World Trade Centre
with ballistic missiles. As the US gives Homeland Defence a new
primacy, it will be hard for outsiders to argue that the US should
be denied in law the right to spend its own taxpayers money to
erect an imperfect defence against small salvos of ballistic missiles.
15. Equally, it will be important as the
emphasis turns back to diplomacy, for the Europeans to act in
a manner complementary to and in co-ordination with the US as
that country addresses the future of Central and South Asia, and
of the Middle East Peace process. The most useful role that the
Europeans can play is to encourage the US to remain intensely
engaged in the politics of these regions. The PM insisted on this
himself in interviews on 9 October. In the aftermath of these
attacks the world cannot afford a US policy that is itinerant
in character. Europeans can play a role in keeping the US engaged,
but to do so they must lead by example, and this may be challenging
Dr John Chipman, CMB
International Institute for Strategic Studies