Book Review:

April 1, 2005

A European Way of War

By Steven Everts

Published By: Center for European Reform

On: January 1, 2004

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Reviewed By: Patriek Avato

The recent drift in transatlantic relations has been the subject of many controversial debates. Most prominently this debate has centered on Robert Kagan's famous Mars and Venus metaphor, in which an overwhelming American military force contrasts sharply with a post-modern and predominantly pacifist Europe and its notoriously underdeveloped military. The authors of "A European Way of War" deal with questions concerning Europe's role in coping with current world threats and especially with how Europe should position itself regarding these questions relative to the US. All together, the authors suggest that Europe certainly could and should play a more central role in shaping international ·responses to conflicts and threats. Indeed, the European strategic culture and the strengths of various European military doctrines do offer the potential for Europe to develop its own idiosyncratic approach to warfare.

However, as François Heisbourg points out, before raising excessively high expectations one needs to acknowledge that the divergence of military capabilities and strategic cultures among European countries-exacerbated by European Union (EU) enlargement-makes a clear and effective common European military strategy appear highly unrealistic. Instead, Heisbourg argues that Great Britain and France ought to assume a leading role in shaping a European approach to security problems. Both these countries already possess modern militaries and highly developed and effective military doctrines. Not least they have significant experience in overseas deployments, counterinsurgency and peace-keeping operations, due to their colonial legacies.

Heisbourg expects other European countries to follow if British and French policymakers engage in further developing their security policies and integrating them more closely. In fact, with certain limitations this development is already taking place. However, integrating and expanding (the limited) European strengths in medium and low-intensity warfare is not enough. Europe clearly needs to look across the Atlantic with respect to developing better trained and equipped forces, capable of engaging in modern high-intensity warfare. O'Hanlon and Freedman warn against an excessive emulation of the United States (US) approach. Indeed, the authors argue that in some ways the American military doctrine is flawed.

By focusing excessively on increasing its military might against any other military power in the world, the US has not devoted enough resources and training towards dealing with asymmetric threats-one of the major issues on the present security agenda. Moreover, there appear to be strong differences in strategic priorities between the US and the EU. Indeed, it appears that in the future the EU will be more concerned with weak and malfunctioning states on its eastern and southern borders, while the US will be more focused on global security issues like Iraq and "rogue" regimes in Iran and Nortl1 Korea as well as potential escalations between India and Pakistan and the China-Taiwan issue. Together with the harsh budgetary constraints which Europe faces, any European attempts at keeping up with the enormous US spending on defense are futile and, indeed, unnecessary. Europe should rather build upon its strengths and on further developing its soft ­power capabilities, including the concerted and strategic use of measures such as trade, aid and political dialogue-this strategy has lately shown some success in dealing with Iran. However, as Charles Grant puts it, the Balkans have clearly shown that conflicts cannot be solved by soft-power alone.

Indeed, Europe needs to increase its hard-power capabilities. Following the lead of Great Britain and France, European militaries need to adapt to contemporary necessities, mainly by enhancing their capabilities in peace-keeping and nation-building operations and by creating relatively small but highly trained and mobile high-intensity combat units. Though this does not necessarily entail larger overall spending on defense - European spending on defense is by far the second highest in the world-additional resources need to be freed to increase procurement and Research and Development (R&D). This can mainly be done by measures such as cutting personnel costs and by establishing a better division of labor between the various European countries, hence eliminating costly redundancies. Finally, Europe would have to take the growing threats of international terrorism and organized crime into consideration by adding an internal component to its security strategy.

Summing up, Europe needs to further develop and coordinate its hard­power capabilities and integrate them in a coherent approach with soft-power measures in order to be able to fight global threats deriving from nuclear proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, failing states, international terrorism and organized crime. Paradoxically, according to Everts et al., this approach would most likely develop within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as the EU is simply too consensus-oriented and political in nature to be able to effectively target defense issues. Therefore, the authors conclude that the European way of war, while certainly differing from the US strategy in important ways, would effectively complement US efforts in tackling global threats and therefore be mutually beneficial.

Certainly a stronger Europe which aids and complements the United Stated in tackling global crises is highly desirable. In the end such a role would have to rely on a common European foreign policy that builds upon the fairly well­ developed soft-power measures, and to be credible, also on a common military strategy. The book by Everts et al. raises important issues concerning such a European approach to war and thoroughly discusses the major aspects and problems the creation of a true European security strategy would encounter. Most importantly, the authors build a picture of a possibly distinctly European approach to warfare that through its effective mix of soft and hard-power measures might in many respects differ from the American strategy. This stance is refreshing in contrast to the sometimes obsessive comparisons of European militaries with US military might and technological advantage. While European countries certainly need to improve their military capabilities, it is important to point out the different strategic threats and interests of Europe and the US. Indeed, considering that the EU could most probably still respond to any conceivable threat to its territory on its own, calls for increases in defense spending need not be exaggerated. In any case, this does not mean that investments in defense are not necessary. Quite to the contrary, Europe does need to improve the quality and effectiveness of its forces.

However, in light of the budgetary strain on European governments and the relatively low interest of European electorates in security issues, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for European governments to significantly increase defense spending in the near to medium future. As pointed out by Everts et al., efficiency enhancements seem the only plausible way of freeing up resources­offering manifold opportunities, indeed.

The authors also touch upon an important point when stressing the difficulties of forging a European consensus on military strategy through the political organs of the EU. While there is common ground among member countries on the use of soft-power measures in answering to different types of crises, strategic cultures across Europe differ widely concerning the use of force. Also, capabilities in terms of force projection are very different, with only Great Britain and France being able to deploy a considerable force in remote areas. Consequently, Freedman's suggestion to concentrate on these two countries for leading European defense integration is plausible. However, one should not take their coordinated commitment to European defense for granted. Undeniably both countries have moved closer after their rift over Iraq. They both continue to cooperate closely on various defense issues, both on the operational level and on procurement and R&D issues. Also, France has been increasingly pushing for a stronger European commitment to NATO, and the UK has championed a realignment of European countries on foreign and defense policies. However, it is still far from clear how both countries will position themselves in future crises, most notably regarding potential US policies that may again be controversial in Europe. Though Tony Blair has certainly learned from his experience in the wake of the Iraq war - his rate of approval in the UK has not yet recovered - the special relationship between the US and Great Britain will most probably continue to influence British foreign policy in the future. Therefore, the success of further Franco-British defense co­ordination depends largely on the British reaction to US unilateral action. A British abstention would indeed greatly weaken the European security policy. Further, one should not forget that without Great Britain, European security policy would be widely dominated by France and Germany-the reactions to such dominance in other European countries such as Italy, Poland and to a lesser extent Spain are well known. In the end, any EU military strategy would be hardly operational if European countries cannot agree on a common foreign policy.

Consensus among European countries might be more easily attainable on issues regarding internal security. It appears that Europe is in fact subject to substantial threats from within. International terrorist organizations and organized crime have increasingly been able to build up networks across various European countries. Threats associated with these developments can only be tackled by closer cooperation amongst intelligence agencies and police organizations. While some progress has been made in this regard recently, quarrels over the European Arrest Warrant, which has not yet been implemented in many European countries, highlight the inefficiency of the European political and bureaucratic procedures related to such matters. Heisbourg's proposal of creating a High Representative for internal security who is responsible for coordinating internal security measures and organizing operational plans in case of a terrorist attack does offer a possibility to effectively improve the situation.

Finally, one should reflect on the general implications a distinctly European way of war would entail. According to Everts et al., a stronger and more coordinated European actor in foreign policy and military doctrine would be in the long term interest of both the US and Europe. As it is unlikely that anything resembling a real European military strategy would evolve outside NATO, European efforts could complement US policies and aid an already extremely overstretched US military. Unfortunately, in this regard the authors might underestimate the deepness of the transatlantic rift. Indeed, disputes over issues ranging from Iraq, Iran and the Middle East to the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol highlight major differences among the US and European countries. In this light, it is not at all clear whether the US administration would accommodate European aspirations - to play a bigger role in decision-making concerning security policy on a world scale.

For many European countries this option is, however, the very reason for enhancing their military capabilities in the first place. Should the US fail to respond to this, it is likely that European countries would move even closer together on strategic issues, maybe even shifting the focus from NATO towards the EU. In the end however, it is to be hoped that policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic understand that in the words of Everts and Keohane, "NATO and EU defense policy will sink or swim together."