Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Dan Plesch, Senior Research Fellow, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies

  1.  The committee is addressing how government policy can best carry forward the war against terrorism, assist in a just and peaceful settlement in the Middle East and help reconstruct Afghanistan. These are vital issues. The key points of analysis and recommendations that I offer for consideration by the Committee are explored in more detail in my pamphlet, Sheriff and Outlaws in the Global Village.

  2.  11 September marks a new era in conflict because it was the first major strategic attack carried out by a guerrilla force and the attackers came from within as well as without our society. The attack also marked the first time since the Ottoman Empire that non-Westerners have attacked a Western capital. Or, to put it crudely, that the colonised have hit back. These factors and the ever-increasing integration of our globalised world mean that it is useful to consider the conflict as a global guerrilla or civil war rather than a war on terrorism.

  3.  Attacks on the scale of 11 September need only occur every few years to keep the initiative with the attackers.

  4.  The vast majority of political attention and defence expenditure has been devoted to traditional power projection expeditions and traditional weapons systems. These operations divert attention from the need to make a shift in strategic response to match that made by the attackers. Such a response needs to be integrated with approaches to pre-existing issues of globalisation, WMD and the environment. We need a better grand strategy.

  5.  We need to rediscover that military means are the tool of a broader policy rather than the other way around. The more the US keeps to its present orientation the more our own policy must strengthen the non-military means in coalition with other partners.

  6.  I would like to draw attention to four problems with the present orientation of the Bush Administration's policies.

  7.  The first problem is that it is over militarised, with other policy tools including the Coast Guard and the State Department being neglected. The lack of any US system for translating Arabic into English is a detail that is indicative of the lack of attention to non-military fundamentals.

  8.  The second problem is the US's weakness in infantry operations, which significantly weakens its predominantly military approach to policy.

  9.  The third problem is the lack of understanding of the views of opponents.

  10.  The fourth problem is the Darwinian or anarchistic approach to international affairs. It is the ideological opposition to international law rather than any isolationist or unilateralist tendency that is the defining quality of the present Administration's approach.

  11.  Co-operation is essential to ensuring good intelligence between nations, the sine qua non of effectively countering international terrorism.

  12.  Another illustration of how far present political thinking has drifted from a broad approach to collective security is drawn from history. The following document is the Atlantic Charter of 1941. Much of its inspirational vision would today be regarded as unfit for a summit agenda. Indeed, there was no commemoration of its sixtieth anniversary last year, despite the great attention given to other anniversaries of that era.

  The President of the United States and the Prime Minister, Mr Churchill, representing HM Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

    1.  Their countries seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other.

    2.  They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.

    3.  They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live, and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.

    4.  They will endeavour with due respect for their existing obligations, to further enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.

    5.  They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement, and social security.

    6.  After the final destruction of Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.

    7.  Such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance.

    8.  They believe all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea, or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armament."

  13.  The following recommendations are in the spirit of this Atlanticism.

  14.  The vital security and enforcement element in combating terrorism should be subject to a far broader global strategy and not the other way around.

  15.  International development and aid policies are essential to improving the international climate. We should adopt the old medical principle: first, do no harm. Three "harms" inflicted by the industrialised world that impede development are weapons transfers, high tariffs and debt repayments.

  16.  Effective intelligence requires a good multilateral climate of co-operation. Greater democratic accountability of intelligence agencies is necessary to improve effectiveness and public confidence; clear improvement in co-operation between agencies should be the key priority.

  17.  Progress on legal controls on international security should be linked with legal agreements on trade in order to ensure a more balanced system of international law.

  18.  Interventions in sovereign states should have explicit UN mandates and the UN should have a strong role in managing operations to prevent them becoming a new form of imperialism. "Co-operative imperialism" is a contradiction in terms.

  19.  The International Criminal Court should be brought into force as soon as possible[2].

  20.  The EU should initiate ad hoc international security agreements with the developing world in preparation for the day when states that now reject them are ready to join in an UN-sanctioned agreement.

  21.  Democracy should be used to invigorate international institutions to help balance globalised corporate power. Electorates should directly elect their representatives to the UN General Assembly and other international bodies such as the IMF.

  22.  As a short-term remedy for the democratic deficit in international institutions, the United Kingdom should post Ministers of State to the permanent missions to the UN, the IMF, NATO, the EU and the OSCE.

  23.  In order to remove the vulnerability of the industrialised world to both interruptions of Middle East oil supplies and attacks on the energy infrastructure, an emergency transition strategy to renewable energy should be the focus of attention for the leading industrialised nations.

  24.  The following programme should provide the political context for efforts to manage and eliminate weapons of mass destruction in South Asia and other areas of regional proliferation. The idea of mutual deterrence is irrelevant to guerrillas with weapons of mass destruction and is not compatible with a military strategy of domination exemplified by missile defences. The imperatives a few nation states derive from their interest in weapons of mass destruction impede efforts at international controls of such weapons and materials.

  25.  In general, the process of accelerated disarmament that occurred in the period 1987-92 should be resumed.

  26.  The UK and like-minded states should implement the provisions of the biological weapons verification protocol. This would make it harder for guerrilla groups to gain access to these materials and enable future detection efforts to "eliminate potential suspects from their enquiries", so saving time and increasing confidence, experience and political momentum.

  27.  Increase funding for the nuclear inspectorate of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

  28.  Implement the agreement made in 2000 at the Non Proliferation Treaty review conference on a 13-point programme. The House of Commons should initiate a joint Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee investigation of this programme and ensure that the NATO nuclear posture review now underway reflects the NPT decisions. NPT implementation should involve the phased elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020.

  29.  A combined verification and enforcement regime for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons should be developed.

  30.  It is necessary to initiate a programme to control and eliminate conventional weapons, building on the provisions of the INF and CFE Treaties and covering naval vessels. These can be developed further in Europe, begun in Africa and prepared by the Middle East and the regions of Asia with the objective of a verified halt to the production and trade in such weapons by 2010, the elimination of most major weapon systems by 2020, and a global halt to major military production contracts should be made after 2010.

  31.  The UK and other European states should not participate in the US missile "defence" programmes and should base their opposition on the offensive nature of these systems. At a minimum, support should be linked to full implementation of the NPT and other arms control regimes by all states including the USA.

Dan Plesch

Senior Research Fellow

Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies

April 2002

2   Note by witness: The International Criminal Court has been established since this memorandum was submitted. It should be supported both politically and financially. Back

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