by Seth Ferris, New Eastern Outlook:
Donald Trump said frequently during his presidential campaign that he did not want the US involved in all these expensive foreign wars. Americans were lead to believe that the US was finally realising that other countries should pay for the lion’s share of any mutual defence; at their own expense. Trump also said that he wanted other NATO partners to pay their fair share for any action undertaken, the implication being that operational decisions will be based on who has paid for what rather than what the enemy is doing—and if the enemy is real or perceived.
Despite the promises, sources on the ground in Ukraine confirm that preparations are being made for further war, a hot war, and as if Kiev expects the US to back it morally and financially. It is worth mentioning that the US has yet withdrawn from other conflicts it has provoked or encouraged, such as that in Syria.
Indeed, it is unrealistic to imagine that it will, when a vast military-industrial complex with a global footprint is involved. All that complex has to do is wait for a new president who is more supportive, as no one is going to actually take control of all its many tentacles during a four or eight year term of office when they have many other issues to deal with and a very vocal population of over 300 million to satisfy.
It is also obvious that there is no love lost between the new president and Congress. The legislative body may also be Republican controlled but is likely to oppose the president for the sake of it, as part of an internal battle for the soul of the Republican Party. As a party of the Right, the Republicans tend to attract people who like the established order, but Trump supporters see themselves as anti-establishment, regarding the political class as dangerously liberal. It is the outcome of this internal feud, rather than anything the Democrats might do, which will ultimately define what happens to Trump over the next four years.
However all sides involved in this argument see the logic of finding positions on which they can publicly agree. As we remember from the Carter years, Americans are terrified of their country appearing weak, as it soon will if all the branches of government are squabbling all the time. This is one of the reasons the US keeps identifying enemies and starting campaigns against them – it wants to rally the people round the flag and a loosely defined “American ideal”, which the fissures in both the Republican and Democratic parties demonstrate is increasingly less understood. The fact that innocent people die as a result doesn’t come into the equation when you could buy or take over those countries tomorrow, if you wanted to, and they know it.
The evidence currently available suggests that war will once again provide such a common position, however much the parties involved disagree with each other at present. The military-industrial complex will still be able to profit from war, Congress will be able to give people what they want in a traditional American way and Trump will be able to pretend he is getting the US out of unnecessary involvement. But the war is not against one of the identified enemies but against the US’ own allies – which is hardly a new development, but is now being taken to an extreme which previous administrations have not done, even though some may have wanted to.
All things to no men
During the Cold War there was an organisation called the Western European Union, a “mutual self-defence alliance” composed of seven European states, which were all members of NATO but could act autonomously with general NATO structures. None of these countries was attacked by the Soviet Union, so in effect it was little more than a paper organisation. However in 1992 it decided that with Eastern Europe transformed into a number of new states which had yet to prove their pro-Western credentials it should adopt terms of reference to decide what it could and could not do.
These terms became known as the Petersberg Tasks, named after a hotel in Bonn. Specifically, they stated that the Western European Union could independently conduct humanitarian, rescue and peacekeeping work and send combat forces to engage in crisis management. However it also said that the Union’s role “included” these elements but was not limited to them – in effect, it could do what it liked provided these tasks were embedded somewhere in the action.
Same MO as the CNN effect
This appears to be the same MO as the CNN effect, and how the EU can undertake whatever it wants in crisis management operations. Much can fall under the guise of humanitarian tasks, peacekeeping, and peacemaking. In 1997 these Petersberg Tasks were incorporated in the Amsterdam Treaty, meaning that the EU was now responsible for fulfilling them. They formed the basis of the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU, an inevitable consequence of the EU’s transformation from economic to political union. Though it still had to operate within NATO structures, it could eventually develop a common European force involving non-EU members which could act on its own to address threats. This would, of course, be something the EU paid for itself, even though it would still be achieving broader NATO, and therefore US, policy objectives and be expected to contribute to US attempts to fulfil these.
Europe sees this common defence force, which is still largely a paper exercise as the EU still acts within NATO, as giving it a greater and more independent role in world affairs. The US now sees it as a way out. If the US wants to start a war the EU is not going to refuse to cooperate, whatever misgivings individual members of it have. The common European Defence Force enables the US to have its cake and eat it – the military-industrial complex can still do what it likes, Congress can still protect the nation and Trump can avoid involvement in foreign wars by getting the EU to pay for them, and making European mothers rather than American ones grieve for their dead children.
The US doesn’t want more proxy war with Russia in Ukraine and Syria. What it wants is to make the EU develop this common defence force into a reality. It will use the tactics the EU itself has long used – create an impasse and then present a predetermined solution, devised without due oversight, when there is no choice but to accept it. The way the US will resolve its internal problems is to force the EU defence force to exist and to do its dirty work for it – and the EU will be in no position to complain, as it has said it wants to do the same for the past twenty years.