Tag Archives: US

Mali: Intervention, Invasion, and Invention

Broadly, it may be that intervention is a limited and fundamentally flawed approach, but to say that some invented Western Empire marches on Africa to secure its dominance is to simplify a complex internal crisis, and to ignore the appeals of the Malian government for help.


Mali Islamist Militants


Ten years since the West’s intervention in Iraq and in the midst of a new French and British presence in Mali, it is right to emphasise that failing to appreciate the complexities of any international conflict is always costly. Deciding whether or not to commit to military intervention requires extensive deliberation and patience. Whatever one decides, there must be no doubt as to the seriousness of the implications, no question as to the responsibilities assumed as a consequence. Interventionists are often urged to keep these warnings in mind before they choose to support a foreign military conflict, but it should be remembered that this counsel must also apply to those opposed to intervention.

Not long after the French intervention in Mali, a number of voices on the left denounced what they saw as a provocative invitation to Islamist violence and a failure to learn from the West’s intervention in Iraq ten years ago. However, it is arguably these voices that appear to be repeating past mistakes. Opposition to the Iraq War, while vociferous, never received the scrutiny and interrogation it truly deserved, and since it so frequently characterised itself solely in terms of what it was against, it is crucial to keep in mind what the anti-war movement was for.

Broadly speaking, we can infer that many of those opposed to the Iraq war would have preferred the continuation of Saddam Hussein’s rule over Western intervention. There was little and remains little to suggest that his regime could have been toppled from within the country, and in any case, this was not a hope articulated by some within the anti-war movement at the time. In particular, we should note that George Galloway, one of the most prominent members of the Stop the War Coalition, openly praised the dictator and the operations of insurgent forces in Iraq. The Stop the War Coalition’s erroneous unease around efforts to thwart fascism in Iraq and elsewhere have been disappointing, but by failing to offer a credible approach to the tangible dangers of the Islamist influence in Mali, some are perpetuating the notion that to be anti-war is to abdicate responsibility for the consequences of non-intervention. The impact of intervention is important and deserves continuous scrutiny, because this impact is severe and often bloody, but the potentially destructive impact of inaction in the face of the dangers present in Mali are not receiving the attention they deserve.

It would be in error to say that alternatives to intervention do not exist. Here at The Risky Shift, Alex Clackson has identified a number of suggestions, including the provision of development aid and increased support for domestic governments. However, a deeper misunderstanding often characterises opposition to intervention. There is a tendency among many, particularly on the left to locate intervention by the West in general and, in the case of Mali, France and Britain in particular, in a neo-imperialistic/colonialist narrative. Journalist John Pilger has gone so far as to say that ‘A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way,’ which he compares to the Scramble for Africa of the nineteenth century. This is a limited and ultimately ahistorical view of the kind of Western intervention we have seen in the region.

The sovereignty of Mali is not under threat from ‘the West’ but from several Islamist groups including Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which demand the imposition of Islamic law throughout the country. It is also worth noting that it was Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traore who requested military aid from France in January of this year to counter these groups. Broadly, it may be that intervention is a limited and fundamentally flawed approach, but to say that some invented Western Empire marches on Africa to secure its dominance is to simplify a complex internal crisis, and to ignore the appeals of the Malian government for help.


Photo Credit: Magharebia

Biogas: The Fourth Generation Fuel

As long as there is life, there will always be biogas.


Biogas lamp kabul


There are numerous debates on Europe’s energy security and fears of over dependence on Russia’s gas imports. The most popular fear is that Russia is increasingly imposing its energy imperialism onto Europe via its bilateral deals with EU countries. As a result Europe is increasingly looking to renewable energy in order to increase energy security and foster local renewable businesses and innovation. That said most renewables are known to be intermittent, expensive and unreliable. However recent improvements in biogas generation by the Berkerley Lab in the US, have proven that biogas may become the best energy option among for the future.

As long as there is life, there will always be biogas. Biogas is not the same as natural gas or shale gas. It is a renewable energy coming from fermenting plant, animal and human waste. The process of rotting creates methane, which then can be burnt as gas straight away, converted to electricity or stored and transported in large gas canisters. The benefits of this process are three fold: It can provide a solution to sanitation as it uses the abundance of wastewater and rotting foods a community produces. Anaerobic digestion produces both a renewable fuel source- methane as well as turning the organic waste into nitrogen rich fertilizer. In a time when topsoil is being destroyed by intensive agricultural processes, this fertilizer can be sold on as a more organic alternative to chemical fertilizers. These anaerobic digesters can also be scaled down to serve small and remote agricultural communities that desperately need solutions to sanitation, energy and improved crop yields.

What is unique about the innovations in microgrid technology called FuelCell Energy by the Berkeley Lab at the University of Wisconsin is that it can ‘seamlessly disconnect itself from the grid and function as an island and then reconnect.’ These energy batteries are run by cells that generate constant energy 24/7, while being very low in emissions, quiet, and more efficient than any other energy source. After a decade of research, the lab has invented these Fuelcells that provide biogas to large buildings like hotels, universities and prisons. Most recently, FuelCell is planning to provide biogas from wastewater to power the Microsoft labs in Wyoming. The US Department of Defense is already interested in this clean energy, which would also provide energy security as the cells can work completely independently. The US’s recent developments in biogas have a lot to teach Europe.

The Supergrid is the most recent example of Europe’s increasing efforts to become more energy interconnected. It has constructed a large undersea network of cables in order to best exploit each country’s renewable energy capabilities. The Supergrid’s goal is to be “the electricity transmission backbone of Europe’s decarbonised power sector”. When asked whether it’s view on biogas’s potential in Europe Paola Testini, the assistant to the Supergrid’s CEO, said, ‘We do not have any specific info on the best sources of biogas in Europe.’ If as Climate Action Network Europe claims that ‘the EU is the world leader in renewable energy technology’ then it surely should not ignore the hottest topic in the renewables industry – innovations in biogas.

It is not clear why this innovation is not being debated in Europe’s mainstream media. It is not the first time that Europe has fallen behind America in renewable energy solutions. To this day, there is no large- scale CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology in Europe, whilst the US and Canada have two large CCS projects underway that should be operational in 2014. Despite Europe having stringent Renewable energy goals up until 2020 Europe has started using more coal, while America uses shale gas. Paradoxically, coal is replacing gas in Europe as coal has plummeted in price since the advent of shale gas in order to maintain utility companies’ profits.

The good news is that UK has established the first Green Bank in the world, which is ‘intended to invest in innovative, environmentally- friendly areas for which there is a lack of support from markets’, unfortunately ‘business investment is at historic lows in Europe as firms worry about the lack of demand’, according to the Centre for European Reform. That said, some of Europe’s green businesses investments are paying off. A study by VedoGreen analysed 113 green companies on the European stock markets and the data showed a 7% increase in turnover in the first six months of 2012.

The global biogas market is forecasted to hit $33.1 billion by 2022, up from $17.3 billion in 2011. The World Economic Forum has forecasted that $36 billion of public funding is needed to deal with climate change and to avoid these challenges affecting the global economy. Berkley’s FuelCell has shown that biogas will probably shape the political economy of natural resources and will be the preferred solution for the future of energy. During a recent telephone interview with Gustav Grob, the president of the International Clean Energy Consortium, he said that biogas will be ‘the fourth generation fuel, which will replace all fossil fuels. It is a universal fuel for energy’. It is not clear why this message is being suppressed by the media or whether vested interests in other energy markets would prefer this to be kept under wraps. The next step would be to progress the economic research on the potential of biogas and promote this most sustainable and abundant fuel throughout Europe.


Photo Credit: sustainable sanitation

Food & International Security: Wasted

Globally there is a disproportionate lack of post-harvest food loss related scientific literature, practical research, development projects, funding for agricultural research and extension programs and public attention. Despite this, both governments and the market have failed to address this crucial issue.




Water wars are set to become more widespread in years to come. This is especially relevant to the Middle East, because so many fresh water sources straddle international boundaries. Israel-Palestine negotiations often stumble over the issue of sharing water, and in the past both Jordan and Syria have identified threats to their water supply as a crucial factor in deciding whether they will go to war with Israel.

This situation is expected to worsen: the number of ‘water-scarce’ countries in the Middle East “grew steadily from three in 1955 to eight in 1990”. Now twelve of the world’s fifteen water-scarce countries are in the Middle East and North Africa.

Agriculture is the cause of “70% of all global freshwater withdrawn worldwide”, and this is set to rise, especially as meat consumption in Asia rises. The Middle East is no exception – agriculture is “the main cause of depleting water resources in the region”.

Much of this is in vain – estimates of global food waste have been as high as 30 or 50%. Stuart argues that if 25% of the world’s food is unnecessarily wasted (assuming that between a third and a half is wasted, but that it is not realistic to cut down on all of it), this represents a loss of “approximately 675 litres” of water, “easily enough for the household needs of 9 billion people using 200 litres a day”. The executive director of SIWI said that reducing food waste “is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources”. It is thus essential that the world addresses its food waste, if it wants to avoid water wars in the future.

Land is also a great source of conflict. Here too, reducing food waste would alleviate the pressure by liberating vast swathes of agricultural land for other uses. McKinsey Global Institute estimate that ““reducing food waste at the point of consumption in developed countries by 30 percent could save roughly 40 million hectares of cropland”. Their report examines resource productivity opportunities in energy, land, water, and materials that could address up to 30 percent of total 2030 demand” – reducing food waste is considered the third most important measure.

Food scarcity is also linked with conflict. It has been suggested that recent food price spikes played a role in triggering the Arab Spring. Actually, these food spikes were primarily driven by commodity speculation in futures markets rather than by supply-demand factors – similar in behaviour to inflated housing prices. However, in the long-term food prices have been driven up by food waste, which both creates an artificial scarcity by taking food off the market, and places strain on scarce resources which act as agricultural inputs, driving food prices up. In a world where 925 million people are undernourished, it is vital for both humanitarian reasons and security that food waste be addressed.

Finally, reducing food waste is vital to addressing climate change, itself a threat to international security, through its harmful effects of increased droughts, degradation of agricultural land and likelihood of environmental disasters. Stuart estimates that in the UK and US, assuming that consumers waste approximately 25% of their food, “10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions” comes from “producing, transporting, storing and preparing food that is never eaten”. Moreover, the FAO states that “considerably less energy and other inputs are required to conserve food than to produce an equal quantity of food”. For instance, “the total energy cost of good grain storage practice is about one percent of the energy cost of producing that grain”. Weaning ourselves off fossil fuels has obvious significance for international security related to oil.

Reducing food waste is also generally economically desirable compared to productivity increases. For instance, in the UK it has been estimated that “increasing the proportion of a farmer’s crop that gets into the supermarket by just 5 per cent can increase the farmer’s profit margins by up to 60 per cent”.

Despite all this, globally there is a disproportionate lack of post-harvest food loss related scientific literature, practical research, development projects, funding for agricultural research and extension programs and public attention.

Both governments and the market have failed to address this issue. Governments have focussed development programmes excessively on productivity increases. The market’s uneven development creates inadequate investment in post-harvest infrastructure in developing countries, and the power of retailers within developed country supply chains enables them to profit from pushing food waste onto suppliers and consumers.

Iran has been the first to address food waste as a geopolitical issue. We must all wake up to the geopolitical significance of food waste: our future security depends on it.


Photo credit: Bobolink

Getting Your Five A Day?

The government wants us to eat five portions of fruit & veg every day; why not engage with five different news sources each day as well – it would be equally as healthy for you, and for the wider world.


5 a day


Tom is currently employed by Edelman Berland (the research arm of Edelman and the organisation that produced the data referred to in this piece). He was not involved in the creation of the report.


International PR firm Edelman released their 2013 survey of global trust, the ‘Trust Barometer‘, yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The survey, released annually since the turn of the millennium, commenced with the rise of NGOs to the global scene as a consequence of the anti-globalisation movement in the US. Since then it has tracked the ‘Fall of the Celebrity CEO’ (2002), to the rise of ‘A Person Like Me’ as a credible spokesperson (2006), through to the ‘Fall of Government’ (2012).

The data released this year was telling. Some pointed to things that we already knew (people don’t trust bankers or journalists much these days), and some to things that you would be unlikely to consider (the most trusted location for a company to be headquartered, for example, is Canada). Below are my highlights – you can see the figures for yourself here.

The ‘informed public’ (college-educated/within the top 25 per cent of household income per age group/significant media consumption/engaged with business news and public policy) felt significantly higher degrees of trust than the general public. According to the data the global difference was 9 points (informed public trust standing at 57 points against the general public trust at 48 points), with the UK displaying equatable levels (taking into account margins for error). The US, however, surged ahead with a whopping 14 point difference (informed: 59, general: 45) – though it is worth noting that this may have been artificially inflated by the recent election and the ‘hope’ of Obama having a successful second term, however improbable.

Business was trusted more than government in 16 out of 26 markets surveyed, including the US, the UK, Japan, and India. Interestingly, citizens of Singapore and China – neither possessing especially liberal or hospitable governments – expressed greater trust in their governments than in business, by 5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Whether this is due to mass failings in business (corruption et al.), good economic performance, or the lack of a polycephalous media…

We in the West, perhaps somewhat idealistically, trust small businesses significantly more than we trust big businesses: in the UK this amounts to an astonishing difference of 30 per cent (trust in small business: 78 per cent, big business: 48 per cent). Emerging markets on the other hand, expressed greater trust in big business. 89 per cent of Chinese, for example, giving the thumbs up for large organisations, against only 65 per cent for their smaller equivalents.

The winning statistic, purely from a fear factor, is the increasing level of trust that many are placing in social media as a reliable news source – 58 per cent in emerging markets view social media as a credible news source, 28 per cent in developed markets.

Bertrand Russell once said, “I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine”. By relying on social media to provide information about the world around us we run the risk of regressing into an environment that relays to us only what we wish to hear, rather than ideas that challenge our perspectives.

In the case of Twitter, for example, a platform where you, and only you, are responsible for choosing the sources of your daily digestion, this possibility is entirely plausible. I myself am guilty of ‘unfollowing’ those with whom I expressly disagree with. An over-reliance on social media to provide us with a snapshot of world events creates the foundation for a wholly unbalanced diet of media consumption.

The government wants us to eat five portions of fruit & veg every day, why not engage with five different news sources each day as well – it would be healthy for both you and the world around you.


Photo credit: luckyjimmy

US Presidential Election Roundup 3/11 – 10/11

US President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term in office on Tuesday after a close race against Governor Mitt Romney.

Polls in the final days before Election Day suggested ties in the crucial states of Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado with both President Obama and Mitt Romney making final appeals to voters on Monday. President Obama spoke to 20,000 supporters in Iowa, saying, ‘This is where our movement for change began. Right here’, while Mitt Romney rallied with 12,000 voters in New Hampshire, saying that, ‘This is a special moment for Ann and for me because this is where our campaign began. You got this campaign started a year and a half ago at the Scammon Farm.’

Talking to reporters Romney revealed that he had not written a concession speech, saying, ‘I just finished writing a victory speech. It’s about 1,118 words. And, uh, I’m sure it will change before I’m finished, because I haven’t passed it around to my family and friends and advisers to get their reaction, but I’ve only written one speech at this point.’

As exit poll results emerged, both Obama and Romney remained tied for some time in Florida and Virginia, while Obama was said to have a 3% lead in Ohio.

NBC became the first network to call the election for President Obama, with Rachel Maddow confirming that, ‘We have just learned that in the state of Ohio, NBC News has projected that President Obama has won the state of Ohio. President Obama has been re-elected for a second term.’

Despite campaign staff preparing to challenge the result in states they deemed too close to call Romney eventually decided to concede, thanking his wife Ann, his running mate Paul Ryan and his campaign staff in a short concession speech in Boston and stating that, ‘The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to occasion.’ He added that, ‘I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader, and so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.’

Advisers later describes the atmosphere in the Romney campaign as the result became clearer,  while Conservative commentators such as Bill O’Reilly were quick to analyse the Republican failure as it emerged. On Fox News, O’Reilly commented that, ‘The white establishment is now the minority,’ adding that, ‘And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?

President Obama delivered his victory remarks in Chicago, saying, ‘I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that. Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone, whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.’ The President also thanked Vice-President Joe Biden, and also said that, ‘I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. Let me say this publicly: Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation’s first lady.’ The President went on to praise his campaign staff, stating, ‘To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics. The best. The best ever. Some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning. But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together and you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful President.’

Meanwhile, in the Congressional elections, Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives, while the Democrats increased their majority in the Senate. In addition, equal marriage propositions were successful in Washington state, Maine and Maryland, leading to speculation as to the implications for the Supreme Court, while recreation marijuana was legalised in Washington state and Colorado.

Following the presidential election results, footage emerged of the newly re-elected President Obama wiping tears from his face as he thanked his campaign staff. The media also picked up on the accidentally published Mitt Romney ‘Victory’ splash page and transition website.

Since the results, ABC News has drawn up a list of economic issues that President Obama will have to deal with in his second term, including the situation in Europe, payroll taxes and unemployment benefits, while Global Post has reported the international reactions to his re-election. The National Journal has scrutinised the accuracy of polling during this year’s election cycle  while the New York Times has investigated shifts in voting patterns, and the Washington Post has looked at what exit polls reflect about the concerns of voters. In addition, the Huffington Post has speculated about the President’s plans for the Supreme Court, suggesting that his re-election may allow him ‘to deepen his liberal imprint’ on the Court’. Meanwhile, the New York Times has also explored Mitt Romney’s post-election plans.

This week, The Risky Shift’s Anastasia Kyriacou wrote a piece questioning the power of the US presidency, David Schaefer explored the ambiguity of recent polling data, and Peter Kelly has analysed the difficulties President Obama may face in his second term.

US Presidential Election Roundup 28/10 – 3/11

This week’s roundup of the US presidential elections…


Obama leads in Virginia [Washington Post] A new poll has given President Obama a small lead over Mitt Romney in the state of Virginia.


New York Times endorses Obama [New York Times] The New York Times has published an endorsement of President Obama for re-election.


Obama campaign halts amid storm [The Hill] The Obama campaign has cancelled events in order to respond to Hurricane Sandy.


Romney focuses on storm relief [USA Today] The Romney campaign has focused on storm relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


Sandy political implications considered [Politico] Politico explores the potential effects of Hurricane Sandy on the presidential election.


Susan Eisenhower endorses Obama [MSNBC] Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of President Eisenhower, has endorsed President Obama for re-election.


Early voting continues despite storm [Washington Post] Hurricane Sandy has not affected early voting in Ohio, the Washington Post reports.


Republicans optimistic about Iowa [CBS News] Romney campaign staff have expressed optimism over Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the state of Iowa.


Obama ahead in Pennsylvania [Talking Points Memo] A new poll places President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by 4 points in the state of Pennsylvania.


Obama campaign optimistic [The Hill] Jim Messina, campaign manager to the Obama campaign, has appeared in a new ad arguing that President Obama is in the ‘dominant position’ in the presidential race.


Super-PAC targets new states [The Hill] A pro-Romney super-PAC has focused ad campaigns in Minnesota and New Mexico.


Obama surveys Sandy damage [MSNBC] President Obama has visited New Jersey to survey the damage done to the area by Hurricane Sandy.


Ohio swings to ‘tossup’ [Washington Post] The Washington Post reports that Ohio has moved from leaning towards President Obama to being a ‘tossup’ according to its ratings.


New ads attack Obama [CNN] Groups opposed to President Obama have released new ads in Michigan and Pennsylvania.


Economist endorses Obama [The Economist] The Economist has published an endorsement of President Obama for re-election.


Romney focuses on CEO endorsements [Wall Street Journal] Mitt Romney has sought to demonstrate the support expressed for his campaign among business executives.


Romney ad focuses on Obama endorsements [CNN] A new ad from the Romney campaign has attempted to associate President Obama with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.


Obama to conclude campaign in Iowa [CNN] The Obama campaign has said that the President will conclude campaigning at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday.


Romney leads in Ohio poll [The Hill] A poll commissioned by the Republican group Citizens United has Romney up by three points in Ohio.


Obama business proposal criticised [CBS News] Mitt Romney has criticised President Obama’s proposal to introduced a Secretary of Business to the government.


Romney criticised over auto bailout [Huffington Post] A number of groups will file an ethics complaint against Mitt Romney over his alleged failure to state auto bailout profits, the Huffington Post reports.


‘I can smell success right now’ [CNN] Republican Vice-President candidate Paul Ryan has said that he believes the Republican ticket can win Wisconsin and Iowa.


‘Closing arguments’ [Washington Post] President Obama and Mitt Romney have spoken at rallies, offering their closing arguments to Americans in Ohio and Wisconsin.


Compiled by Patrick McGhee

US Presidential Election Roundup 21/10 – 27/10

This week’s roundup of the US presidential elections…


Romney ad focuses on executive role [CNN] A new ad from the Romney campaign has focused on the executive roles of Mitt Romney and President Obama.


Super PAC breaks fund record [Huffington Post] A super PAC that supports Mitt Romney raised nearly $15 million in September, meaning that it has now raised over $100 million overall during the election.


Romney insists on TV show reference [Huffington Post] Mitt Romney has continued to make reference to the US television programme Friday Night Lights after being asked by the show’s creator to stop.


‘Romnesia’ causes campaign criticism [The Hill] Members of both the Romney and the Obama campaign have spoken about President Obama’s suggestion that his opponent’s policy shifts are symptoms of ‘Romnesia’.


Ryan campaigns in Iowa [ABC News] Paul Ryan has spoken at a campaign event in Iowa on the Republican ticket’s chance of victory.


Poll suggests tie [NBC] A new poll suggests that the presidential election is tied at 47%.


Obama campaign targets environmental issues [The Hill] An email sent to environmentalists has sought to demonstrate President Obama’s stance on green issues.


Ohio polls suggest close result [CNN] A new series of polls suggests a close race in the battleground state of Ohio.


Campaign finances compared [Huffington Post] The Huffington Post contrasts the way in which each campaign has handled its campaign finances.


Third presidential debate takes place [New York Times] The third presidential debate took place this week with a focus on foreign policy issues.


Polls suggest Obama debate win [National Journal] Poll results following the third presidential debate favoured President Obama.


Debate viewing figures released [The Hill] Nielsen Ratings reports that the third presidential debate was watched by around 59.2 million people, fewer than the previous debates.


Obama comments on close race [NBC] President Obama has said that he is not surprised at the closeness of the presidential race.


Campaigns tied among women [The Hill] Mitt Romney has a national lead and is tied with President Obama among women, a new poll suggests.


Ryan reveals Halloween plans [CNN] Republican candidate for Vice-President has shared his plans for Halloween.


Cheny and George HW Bush campaign for Romney [CNN] CNN reports that former Vice-President Cheney and Former President George HW Bush will attend Romney campaign fundraisers.


Romney speaks on ‘change’ [The Hill] Mitt Romney has said that if elected, he and Paul Ryan will ‘bring big changes’ and described President Obama’s approach as ‘status-quo’.


Campaigns confident in early voting [NBC] Both campaigns have expressed confidence over the impact of early voting in Ohio.


Obama campaign comments on interview [Yahoo News] The Obama campaign has sought to explain remarks apparently made by the President in a soon-to-be published Rolling Stone interview in which he suggests Mitt Romney is ‘a bullshitter’.


Ann Romney discusses food shopping [ABC News] Ann Romney has appeared on the Rachel Ray Show, where she discussed groceries.


Obama votes early [The Guardian] President Obama has become the first president to cast his vote early, in an effort to encourage others to do so.


Washington Post endorses Obama [Washington Post] The Washington Post has publically endorsed President Obama.


Powell criticised for Obama support [Huffington Post] Senator John McCain has criticised Colin Powell for declaring his support for President Obama.


Obama leads in Iowa and Wisconsin [Public Policy Polling] New polls suggest President Obama leads in Iowa and Wisconsin.


Poll suggests close race in Nevada and Colorado [The Hill] A poll has found that President Obama has a three-point lead in Nevada and is tied with Mitt Romney in Colorado.


Obama campaign reports finances [CNN] The Obama campaign has revealed that it raised around $90.5 million in the first part of October.


Obama discusses Trump [Huffington Post] President Obama has joked about Donald Trump on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.


Obama leads early voting [Reuters] Reuters report on the percentage of votes cast early, as polls suggest President Obama leads early voting.


Compiled by Patrick McGhee.

US Presidential Election Roundup 30/9 – 06/10

This week’s roundup of the US presidential elections…


VP candidates campaign [Reuters] Vice-President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan have campaigned in battleground states while President Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for the first presidential debate.


Impact of debating discussed [CNN] A political communication specialist has discussed the impact of presidential election debates on voters.


Sponsor disassociates from debate [Politico] Philips Electronics has become the third sponsor of the presidential debates to withdraw its support.


Romney criticises Obama foreign policy [Huffington Post] Mitt Romney has criticised the foreign policies of the Obama administration.


Poll predicts close call [Washington Post] A poll by the Washington Post and ABC News has found that President Obama and Mitt Romney are tied across numerous political issues.


Ryan comments on Medicare plans [The Hill] Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has commented on the impact of Medicare plans in swing-states.


Ryan criticises Afghanistan policy [Washington Post] Paul Ryan has accused President Obama of making decisions on Afghanistan based on election politics.


Biden comment used by Romney [New York Times] The Romney campaign has used a comment by Vice-President Joe Biden on the middle class to criticise President Obama’s first term.


First debate takes place [New York Times] The New York Times provides a full transcript of the first presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.


Obama campaigns after debate [BBC News] President Obama has criticised Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate.


Romney job proposals ad airs [CNN] The Romney campaign has aired a new ad focusing on the Republican ticket’s plans for job creation.


Health care ad attacks Romney [The Hill] The Democratic National Committee has released an online ad in which it accuses Mitt Romney’s health care proposals of neglecting those with pre-existing conditions.


‘Elmo, you better make a run for it’ [Huffington Post] President Obama has joked about Mitt Romney’s statements on cutting funding for PBS.


Lehrer faces criticism [CNN] The chair of the first presidential debate Jim Lehrer has been criticised for his handling of the event.


Romney responds to jobs report [ABC News] Mitt Romney has questioned a new jobs report that suggests a decrease in the unemployment rate.


Compiled by Patrick McGhee

China’s Growing Role In Counter-Piracy Operations

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has now maintained a counter-piracy presence in the Indian Ocean for four years. This begs the question: why is China becoming increasingly cooperative in counter-piracy operations?


PLA Missile Tracking Ship


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he rise of China is one of the prominent issues that scholars of International Relations encounter today and will continue to do so in the future. The PLAN deployment is a fascinating component of the wider China debate as it represents the first time that Chinese vessels have conducted a ‘far-seas’ operation to protect Chinese interests since the fifteenth century. Even more remarkable is the fact that the typically isolationist and paranoid Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now openly cooperating with a variety of traditional foes in the area of counter-piracy; states such as India, Japan and the US are now closely communicating and operating in conjunction with their PLAN counterparts in the Indian Ocean.

This raises a series of intriguing questions. From a Chinese perspective, what are the motivating factors behind this operation? Is it economic, political or geostrategic concerns that have driven the PLAN to cooperate in the Indian Ocean? Is this deployment merely benign in nature or does it imply an element of self-interest? Why is China cooperating over the issue of piracy when it refuses to align itself with international norms, for instance, human rights?

PLAN Deployment

This deployment did not arise out of a policy vacuum; when Jiang Zemin was replaced by Hu Jintao in 2002 he affirmed that the PLAN must develop towards ‘far-seas defence, enhancing the far-seas manoeuvring operations capabilities’. In the years since Hu’s statement, there has been a significant evolution in the PLAN capacity from a ‘near-seas active defence’ strategy (jinhai jiji fangyu) to ‘far-seas operations’ strategy (yuanhai zuozhan). Chinese defence expenditure has enlarged year after year in line with its burgeoning economy; official figures show that, prior to the PLAN counter-piracy operation began, defence expenditure rose to RMB417.876 billion (USD65.71 billion) in 2008, representing an increase of 17.5% upon the previous year. Thus, with an enlarged budget and a new ‘far-seas’ doctrine, the naval modernisation observed in the PLAN has certainly influenced the Chinese decision to join the international response in the Indian Ocean.

Traditionally, the East and South China Seas have been the significant regional chokepoints that had a strategic bearing on Chinese interests; however, as mentioned in the introduction, the Indian Ocean has now become a crucial expanse for China due to piracy, rising energy demand and trade interdependence. Hijackings, such as the Tianyu 8 and Zhenhua 4 incidents, are appropriate examples of how piracy is detrimental for Chinese trade.

Subsequently, the passing of UN Security Council resolutions 1814, 1816 and 1838 provided the PLAN with the supranational authority it required and it joined the international counter-piracy effort on 26 December 2008, becoming fully operational on 6 January 2009. In searching for legitimacy to conduct this operation, it is expected that the presence of the EU, NATO and CTF-151 counter-piracy task forces had a positive influence upon China’s decision.

Chinese caution towards a potential deployment can be explained by the realpolitik that remains embedded in a post-Mao China and an enduring belief in the adages of Deng Xiaoping. A former PRC leader himself, Deng recommended that the Chinese leadership ‘bide time’, maintain a low profile and take advantage of international opportunities to gradually maximise its power and position in the world. China seemingly aspires to take advantage of the unique situation of Somali piracy rather than become an established torch-bearer of international peace and security. By participating in counter-piracy operations, China is afforded the opportunity to deploy into the far-seas without an immediately hostile reaction from the international community.

Counter-Piracy Cooperation

The PLAN signified upon the initiation of the deployment that its undertaking would primarily consist of the independent escort of Chinese and foreign vessels. Despite its underdeveloped operational capabilities in comparison with other naval forces, it is clear that China wishes to be both seen and consulted as an equal within the international counter-piracy effort. China is not comfortable with communicating openly with institutions such as the EU and NATO as they do not represent a single voice but a multitude of perspectives; Beijing much prefers to conduct dialogue on a bilateral basis.

In the wider operational dimension, China has repeatedly declined proposals to integrate with the collective maintenance of the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). Again, China does not wish to integrate itself within a multinational command structure. Instead, China conducts its escort operations approximately ‘five nautical miles north and south of the IRTC’ rather than within the box system. Whilst the PLAN is still a ‘green-water’ navy and their model of participation is not unusual among the other independent actors, the refusal to participate in the IRTC indicates that China is not prepared to truly contribute to the ‘global good’ in a manner that is harmonious with the Western world, as much as its rhetoric suggests otherwise.

However, there are now signals that China’s actions in the Indian Ocean might begin to match their rhetoric; their counter-piracy strategy is outwardly evolving to incorporate a greater degree of coordination with the broader counter-piracy coalition. The first year of the PLAN was characterised by unilateralism, but the De Xin Hai hijacking on 19 October 2009 served to alter PLAN perceptions on counter-piracy cooperation when maritime cooperation could have prevented such an episode. It is widely agreed that only rigorous cooperation and coordination can help the international community to deal with the problem of piracy in an efficient way at sea.

Accordingly, the PLAN has taken progressive steps to enhance coordination with other navies in the Indian Ocean. Firstly, the key to successful and effective coordination is to communication and consequently, a web-based communication system entitled Mercury has been introduced amongst all naval forces apart from Iran. Secondly, China concluded an agreement in January 2012 with its traditional enemies, Japan and India, to strengthen coordination and adjust each other’s escort schedules to achieve maximum efficiency in the fight against piracy.

Lastly, and most importantly, are the coordination mechanisms of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) group. China was a founding member of the CGPCS as it is based around ‘voluntary cooperation’ in counter-piracy rather than under the command of another power or institution. SHADE is a scheme that assembles the wider counter-piracy community for regular meetings in Bahrain. China has now participated in the rotating chairmanship of the SHADE meetings and even expressed an interest in a co-chair position, usually held by the EU, CMF or NATO. However, this initial interest never materialised.

Nevertheless, it is patently clear that China is unwilling to enhance collaborative efforts with the wider counter-piracy community. Reasons for collaborative deficiency in Chinese foreign policy vary from a lack of operational experience to a lack of political will; it is true that much mistrust remains over ideological differences and issues such as human rights and Taiwan.

PLAN Motives

This defensive position is reflected in the PLAN’s counter-piracy deployment and their coordination with the international effort in several ways: firstly, the Indian Ocean represents a vital strategic arena in which China’s energy security is increasingly vulnerable. Secondly, China has evidently taken extra care not to arouse the ‘China threat’ theorem in its counter-piracy and wider foreign policies. Secondly, China is clearly endeavouring to protect Chinese national interests through the PLAN deployment and their naval modernisation. Thirdly, Chinese naval diplomacy in the Indian Ocean signifies a defensive policy, not one of aggression. Lastly, China is practicing ‘security through cooperation’ unilaterally with traditional foes.

What is clear is that the Indian Ocean is a vital arena for China; every year some 100,000 cargo ships pass through the Indian Ocean, as well as 66% of the world’s oil shipments. The significance of this expanse becomes apparent upon learning that Chinese total energy consumption from 2005 to 2012 has risen 60% and is predicted to increase a further 72.9% between now and 2035. Accordingly, there is now a growing energy demand within China to sustain its economic growth and, as the majority of China’s oil imports derive from Africa (Angola, Sudan) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia), it is obvious that the Indian Ocean is the critical route for its external energy requirements.

China has been determined to dispel the ‘China threat’ theory. Before the PLAN deployed in the Indian Ocean, they waited patiently to gauge the international reaction to the counter-piracy mission. They also ensured that the deployment had the authorisation of both the Somali government and the UN. In line with the maxims of Deng Xiaoping, China knows that any sign of aggressive behaviour would be criticised by the international community and potentially harm their development. Thus, China is essentially employing a neo-Bismarckian strategy, manoeuvring peacefully towards Great Power status without provoking the international community into a counter-balancing reaction.

This is embodied within China’s ‘peaceful rise’ policy. Chinese actions and rhetoric attest to this guiding principle in the CCP’s foreign policy; the counter-piracy operation in aid of the global commons allows China to justify their naval modernisation, along with the opportune location of the piracy problem. China speaks of a foreign policy that pursues ‘peace and promotes friendly cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’, in addition to Hu Jintao’s ‘harmonious world’ vision.

Moreover, Chinese counter-piracy policy is distinctly aimed towards the protection of Chinese national interests. There is an evident gap between China’s defensive interests and its actual capabilities; therefore, it is aiming to close this gap through the advancement of the PLAN’s operational capabilities, increased field experience and the acquisition of modern naval assets. For example, China has now acquired its first ever aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet Varyag, and it is expected to become operational by the end of 2012.

By coordinating in the counter-piracy effort, China is able to learn how a ‘far-seas’ fleet is operated, offer PLAN personnel invaluable experience for future expeditions, and gain knowledge from other international naval forces. Thus, China has evolved its naval strategy to meet the demands of its expanding interests in the Indian Ocean and it can therefore be deduced that the PLAN deployment is an extension of this defensive strategy.

As a result of the PLAN’s new ‘far-seas’ mantra, the counter-piracy deployment has also increased Beijing’s diplomatic network across the Indian Ocean. After each task force rotation, the PLAN ‘sails along the East coast of Africa and visits Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar and the Seychelles’ to parade the Chinese flag and to foster goodwill within these countries. Further Chinese engagement with the Indian Ocean littoral states consists of port and refuelling developments at Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Chittagong in Bangladesh with the Seychelles also offering China an invitation to establish a military presence on the islands.

Yet, by cooperating to some extent with traditional regional adversaries, China hopes that it can begin to assuage their doubts about their growth as a power and hopefully continue along the path of development. On cooperation in counter-piracy and the wider Indian Ocean region it is imperative that China ‘go along to get along’ in protecting their national interests.

As Donald Rumsfeld proffered, it is ‘the mission that determines the coalition’ and the issue of piracy has clearly determined China’s participation and cooperation with the international community in the Indian Ocean. From a Chinese perspective, they have participated out of self-interest; on a wider scale, their participation has been facilitated by the ad-hoc regime that has emerged. For China to protect its national interests and continue on its path towards a ‘peaceful rise’ it now appreciates that ‘problems will be global – and solutions will be, too’; this is what truly accounts for Chinese cooperation in counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.


Photo Credit: Michael R Perry

Could There Be Another Iranian Revolution? (Part 1)

Will the Green Movement pull off a second Iranian revolution? The first of a two part series examining the feasibility and probability of such an occurrence taking place.


Iranian Green Revolution


The recent reports coming from Iran about the domestic situation do not paint a positive picture. The BBC reports that the spike in chicken prices has led to angry protests in the sleepy city of Nishapour. The government’s usually bombastic and nationalistic rhetoric declaring Iran’s immunity from the 1st July sanctions is starting to recognise the role of the sanctions in a recent spike of prices. Even IRNA, the government-owned broadcasting company, is televising images of the long queues to buy chicken. The domestic pressure is mounting against the Islamic Republic, and unless there is a breakthrough in nuclear talks, it is uncertain how this pressure will release. For the US, the secret hope is that the government will mismanage itself into regime change under the intense pressure, producing a friendlier (or at least less antagonistic) Tehran.

We actually know very little of what is happening in Iran. The US and UK no longer have embassies in Tehran, and with them their primary intelligence-gathering apparatus, it has become harder for Westerners to travel to Iran and the government is as transparent as a black hole.

The stability of the Islamic Republic is not as straightforward as most would hope. The 2009 protests and the show of strength by the Green Movement, accompanied by a wealth of literature denouncing the undemocratic theocracy, have given the impression that the country is straddling a political fault line. Political exiles fiercely affirm that the Islamic regime does not represent the people. The Iranian blogosphere’s highly critical posture towards their rulers makes it seem as if the whole country is denouncing the Islamic Republic. Those westerners lucky enough to acquire the ever-elusive entry visa report back a general feeling of disenchantment, frustration and anger amongst those they have met. The Islamic Republic weathered the storms of the 1980s when it was at its most vulnerable, but are the sanctions enough to break the country’s back and catalyse a second Iranian revolution?

The first point of reference to understand the tensions within Iran is the split in national identity between ‘Islamicness’ and ‘Iranianness’. Ever since the Arab invasions of Sassanian Iran in 634 AD there has been a struggle to reconcile Iran’s rich pre-Islamic past with the absolutism of Islam. It has led to one of the many contradictions in the country, where ordinary citizens take pride in their historical legacy and yet must simultaneously denounce it as the ‘age of jahiliyya’, or the ‘ignorance’ before the arrival of Islam.

Despite Iranians’ widespread influence in the Islamic Empire, ranging from pinnacle administrators of state to philosophers such as al-Farabi to theologians such as al-Ghazali, there is little love lost between the Persians and Arabs. The Arabs refer to the Iraniains as ‘al-‘ajm’, or ‘those who mumble’ while Iranians constantly call Arabs barbaric and uncivilised. Islam is considered as an extension of this barbarism, imposed on Iranians who had no choice but accept it. This partially explains why Iran is the only Shi‘a state in the Muslim world – it is anti-establishment rebellion within the system at its finest.

The expression of this anti-establishment protest within the country itself takes a different form. Parents now give their children distinctly pre-Islamic Persian names, writers de-Arabise their texts from Arabic’s grammatical influence and young people tattoo themselves with iconographic Zoroastrian imagery. But does this anti-establishment-within-the-establishment protest actually amount to anything?

The trouble is that it is hard to ascertain how widespread this resurgence of pre-Islamic identity has become and whether it is just an offshoot of teen rebellion. In truth, it appears to be popular only among the consumerist middle class who already lost out in the post-revolution system when the left was eliminated from Khomeini’s revolutionary government. There are still millions of Iran’s poor who have dramatically improved their lot under the populist economic practices of the Islamic Republic.

One of the Islamic Republic’s strengths is that its Islamic version of national identity is more inclusive than that touting the pre-Islamic Iranian history. Iran is 98% Muslim and only 54% ethnically Persian. There are Arabs, Baluchis, Armenians, Azeris and Kurds (amongst others) that would soon feel alienated, at least those who are not already, if the state placed the Persian language, history and culture in the forefront. The fear of separatist movements across the country is far more worrying than an attack on its nuclear programme, especially as the Arab province of Khuzestan is Iran’s top oil producer. The fears in the British government of the possible loss of Scotland to the independence referendum spotlight the anticipated consequences of a peaceful and legal transition to separatism within a stable, democratic and established state. When you have a state that is living in a neighbourhood as Iran, any separatist movement is linked with weakness and possible invasion. After all, Saddam Hussein had believed the Arabs of Khuzestan would join him in his offensive against the Islamic Republic.

The 2009 elections were an earthquake for Iran. Tehran had not seen demonstrations on such a scale since 1979, with the most optimistic figures numbering the protestors at 3 million, roughly 4% of Iran’s population – though still shy of the estimated 10% that rallied against the Shah. This is not meaningless, however, as an estimated 2% were involved in the French Revolution and 1% in the Russian. However, considering Tehran’s population is bigger than it was in 1979, it would seem that the Green Movement cannot boast the same support as the anti-Shah factions under Khomeini.

The leadership of the Islamic Republic remembered from its own experience that the Shah’s failure was his refusal to use overwhelming brutality until too late. Their added ace in their collective sleeve is the paramilitary Islamic institutions of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia, along with the Revolutionary Courts (which are responsible for ‘political crimes’ paralleling the criminal courts), that were established as an added insurance against the regular army’s neutrality, the key event in 1979 that hammered the final nail in the Pahlavi’s coffin.

The Green Movement itself is a shadow of the opposition movement under Khomeini. A recent interview with Mojtaba Vahedi, the former spokesman for the movement’s leader Mehdi Karoubi, detailed the incoherence of the movement. Whilst Karoubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi are under house arrest and are regularly denounced in the Iranian Parliament, they are both firm believers of Khomeini’s vision but believe the current Republic is neither ‘Islamic nor a Republic’. Yet in Vahedi’s opinion, if a referendum were conducted across Iran today, most would vote out an Islamic Republic. Mousavi and Karoubi perhaps may be blunting their true opinions to avoid further punishment from the state, but it is equally likely they are telling the truth as both participated in the Iranian Revolution and supported Khomeini. This incoherence has essentially immobilised the opposition as they are missing the two key ingredients of 1979: a strong personality as Khomeini’s, who could be accepted as a leader of all the various opposition groups, and unity of direction. Whilst the 1979 opposition had incompatible visions of the post-monarchist government, they at least all agreed with one another that the Shah had to go.

Read the second part of this series here.

The US & The South China Sea

While Europe is battling the Eurozone crisis, Asian nations are engaged in a territorial showdown over the sovereign rights for the South China Sea. US involvement in the recent South China Sea issue is a way to reaffirm its status as a regional power, but would its involvement guarantee harmony in the region?


USS Essex near East Timor


The South China Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean with small islands. It is situated between China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. South China Sea has rich deposits of oil and gas reserves and fishery. The area has been a long disputed zone and it has been a source of tension between regional nations.

What is the role of the US?

Since the Second World War, the US has been a major player in Asia-Pacific politics, participating in regional forums such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), the Shangri-La Dialogue and East Asia Summit. During the Cold War US policies were driven by the Truman Doctrine to contain communism. The US concentrated its effort to establish and maintain support for states such as South Korea, Japan and ASEAN members to have stronger leverage in Asia-Pacific.

It is now the post Cold-War era but the US believes there is an outstanding issue that could thwart US influence in the region; the rise of China. China’s rise to power has alarmed other Asian nations, compelling them to turn to the US for support. China has the second largest economy in the world and throughout the history of Asia it has been the prominent leading power and it could reprise this role. As China has always been assertive in its claims for the South China Sea, the US perceives China wanting to expand its territory and influence in the region. Therefore, the US acts as an overseer to ensure Chinese territorial expansion does not happen.

A good example to show US intentions to limit Chinese expansion is supporting Taiwan. The US deployed two aircraft carrier battle groups to protect Taiwan from Chinese aggression in the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. During the Bush Administration, it perceived China as a greater threat than the previous Administration had done. Former President George W Bush announced he would “do whatever it takes” to protect Taiwan; former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice labeling China as a “strategic competitor”. Further, in 2010, the US made a US$6.4 million dollar arms deal with Taiwan.

In May 2011, the South China Sea dispute reignited when Chinese patrol boats severed the cables of a Vietnamese ship, stating that Vietnam’s operations in the area threatened Chinese sovereignty. Subsequently, the South China Sea debate was taken up at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the US urging China not to behave in a hostile manner that would threaten regional stability.

As of last year, China, Vietnam and the Philippines are the most assertive competitors for the South China Sea. Simultaneously, the US became more involved in assisting the smaller Asian states in joint naval programs. In July 2011, the US and Vietnam held joint naval exchanges which included noncombat training and China quickly questioned the nature of the activity. Further, in October 2011 the US held an assault exercise program with the Philippines navy near the Spratly Islands.

On December 2011, during the East Asia conference, the US supported ASEAN countries to argue absolute control over the disputed zone. This clearly indicates that the US intends to restrain China’s regional influence and interest. During the 2012 ASEAN Forum in Phnom Penh, the meeting has been unable to resolve the conflict. At the moment, ASEAN cannot concoct a united plan to maintain regional stability while the US is trying to implement its pivotal policy in the region. Prior to the meeting, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said China’s behaviour is a “recipe for confrontation”.

Dangerous Game?

While the US strongly justifies their involvement in Asia-Pacific as a defendant of stability, their actions towards China could spell disaster. From China’s perspective, they believe the US is instilling ASEAN nations to antagonise China’s position and role in the region. Given the past diplomatic strains that have happened between US and China, it is unlikely that China will relax its intentions in the South China Sea. The aim of the ASEAN Forum is to settle the dispute, and while it is almost impossible for this issue to be resolved in a regional discussion, US involvement is perhaps only adding fuel to the already tense moments. If the US wants to achieve its goal in regional peace, it is essential that it forms a more active working relationship with the other regional powers like China and Australia, rather than causing tension.

Why Are The US And Iran Such Bitter Enemies?

With each passing day, the present situation spirals towards greater uncertainty. War, it seems, is a palatable necessity to remove a regime whose existence the US has only ever believed to be temporal.


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]wo months ago, a news story slipped under the radar that added a subtle nuance to the current tension over the Iranian nuclear talks. British and Iranian Foreign Ministers William Hague and Ali Akbar Salehi quietly met with one another amid an Afghanistan security conference in Kabul, reported in each country at the other’s request, in attempt to restore the two countries’ diplomatic relations after they were suddenly cut last November after the attack on the British embassy in Tehran.

This meeting contrasts the current negotiation debacle and rising tension due to the recent implementation of the new sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran on the 1st July. Whilst the two countries have only agreed upon the establishment of interest sections within friendly embassies, the two states’ relations have followed the vicissitudinous patterns of normalisation and tension within the region. The agreement is a far cry from cordial relations, but at least the two governments are tip-toeing their way towards reconciliation. This development spurs a more important question – why has the United States refused Iran its olive branch?

Diplomatic relations between the US and Iran have existed in a state of limbo for the past thirty-two years. The Carter administration cut off ties after the American embassy’s takeover by revolutionary students in 1980. Since then, diplomatic exchange has been limited to interests sections in the Swiss and Pakistani embassies and there has been no attempt to restore full relations beyond this step.

Iran joins Bhutan, Cuba, North Korea and Taiwan as one of the five countries without diplomatic ties with the US. This curious assortment of countries appears to be a list of teenage rebels (minus Taiwan) written by the disapproving American parent.

The reasons given by the US government for the status quo are shallow, retroactive justifications for a series of offenses that Iran is not alone in committing. Iran is neither the first country to support terrorist groups, have a poor human rights record, oppose the US-led peace process nor have a nuclear programme. There is an extensive amount of news articles, opinion pieces and academic works discussing these denunciations. There are, however, two other reasons that are rarely mentioned that underline US policy towards Iran.

The first is pragmatic. The world is witnessing another arms race between the superpowers. Unlike in previous centuries, however, the race is restricted to the cyber realm. The race for cyber weapons is nevertheless as imperative as it was for nuclear weapons. Indeed, there is no indisputable evidence that proves StutNex and Flame were constructs of the US and Israel, however the sheer amount of manpower and resources not only to create these weapons but also to conceal their production points to the involvement of a government.

In The Diplomat, a recent article discussing the cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities compared the alleged US strike to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour. Yet StutNex and Pearl Harbour share little in common. Pearl Harbour was a surprise attack by a country that the US had tragically underestimated in order to wipe out the US Pacific Fleet and level the playing field for Japan. StutNex and Flame are a different kettle of fish entirely.

Using the Second World War example, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki offer a much more accurate comparison to the cyber attack on the Iranian nuclear programme. In both cases, the US was using a weaker victim as an example to warn its competitors of the arsenal at its disposal. Just as the film Dr. Strangelove famously observed, the whole point of a doomsday weapon is lost if no one knows you have it. The attacks send a clear indication of America’s current cyber warfare capabilities to the competing powers. More worryingly, it marks the beginning of another Cold War era after the past two decades of US global hegemony.

Iran is a good test subject. Its ability to retaliate against US interests is muted, especially when one considers the consequences of a US response if the situation is escalated. The Islamic Republic has few friends and its relations with Russia and China do not greatly balance the threat posed by the US. The regime is universally demonised in the Western press and attracts little sympathy from important international actors. In reality there are no other regimes with a similar level of cyber infrastructure that the US could attack without causing huge international uproar.

The second reason is ideological. The embassy takeover in 1979 was a bitter divorce for the US from its protégé in the Middle East. The intensity of the revolutionary’s hatred for the American influence was difficult to accept after the considerable amount of treasure the US government had invested in the country.

Whilst US politicians will not hesitate to mention Iran’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence when justifying their policy towards the regime, they essentially have the same policy towards the Islamic Republic – calls for regime change, claims of ‘separating the regime from the people’ and trying to somehow speak on behalf of the Iranian people. Iran holds a unique place as an existential enemy to the US and best summarised by the infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ term eternalised in George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address.

The US government is trying to undermine the stability of the regime and paints a simplistic picture of how ordinary Iranians view the regime. Its actions show that the underlying assumption of US policy is that the regime is becoming more and more distant from its population – an assumption that cannot be immediately taken at face value. It also shows that the US government does not deem diplomatic relations with the regime as necessary, which removes a vital element in the prevention of war. With each passing day, the present situation spirals towards greater uncertainty. War, it seems, is a palatable necessity to remove a regime whose existence the US has only ever believed to be temporal.

Western – Iranian Diplomacy: Stop, Shut, Ship

The attitude of Western negotiators can be summed up by an anonymous official’s expression: “Stop, shut, ship”. Stop enriching uranium, shutting down the requested nuclear facilities and shipping enriched uranium outside of the country.


Iran flag


[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough the officials involved in diplomatic efforts with Iran are ambiguous about their progress, sometimes praising the “constructive” achievements and occasionally blaming the other side for the deadlock, actions on the ground are crystal clear.

On Sunday 1st of July, the European Union (EU) applied some of the severest economic sanctions so far against Iran. In response to that, Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee drafted a bill to close the Straight of Hormuz, where about one forth of the world’s crude oil is shipped, for all shipments bound for European countries supporting the sanctions. A day later, Iran carried out the “Great Prophet 7” missile exercise in which it simulated, apparently successfully, the bombing of key US bases which abound around Iran (check out this interactive map). In order not to appear weak, the US not only scheduled a military exercise with  the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) due to take place in October/November but also increased its military presence near Iran by sending additional warships, F-22 stealth fighter jets and a new amphibious base to launch ground attacks. Finally, as a provocation, a US judge ruled that Tehran had to pay $8.8bn to the families of the US soldiers who fell victim to a terrorist attack carried out in Lebanon in 1983 sponsored by Iran.

Negotiations between the P5+1 (the five Security Council permanent members and Germany) are clearly failing- again. It should not surprise anyone. There are at least six conditions which need to be satisfied in order to break the stalemate.

Firstly, the US and the EU need to abandon the dual track policy: engaging in diplomatic efforts while applying biting sanctions. They need to choose between one of the two, they cannot have both. Unless they give up some of the heaviest sanctions, they will not come across as trustworthy. Furthermore, lifting sanctions is in their interest for another two reasons. In the first place, economic sanctions hit mainly the Iranian middle class which is where most of the anti-Ahmadinejad Green movement members come from. As long as it keeps the sanctions going, it is arguably helping their biggest foe. And second, sanctions are creating a climate in which the price of oil is increasing dramatically, making the recovery of many European countries more difficult, a factor which the EU cannot allow itself.

Secondly, the US and the EU need to make human rights issues integral to the negotiations. One of the reasons why the Obama administration did not pursue its diplomatic efforts with Iran in 2009, the year in which the White House was most serious about diplomacy with Iran, was because of the rigged Iranian elections and the violation of any human rights on behalf of the Ahmadinejad government against the protestors. The Obama administration could not be seen negotiating with a government allowing the killing, torturing and raping of its population. To be sure, this is a fault of Iran, not the US. But the latter needs to make it clear that it will not negotiate with an autocratic regime.

Thirdly, Israel needs to keep out of the talks. Although the western coalition is called the P5+1, it should really be called the P5+1+1. The Israeli government is doing anything it can to create a detrimental climate around the talks. The truth of the matter is that although it barks at every opportunity, ultimately it will not attack Iran. Even Ehud Barak, Israel’s hawkish Defence Minister, stated that “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel”.

More importantly, the US needs to stop heeding pro-Israeli groups. The latter do not believe in the possibility of peaceful relations with Iran. Their only goal is to hinder diplomatic efforts between the US and the Islamic Republic. Unfortunately, the fact that the US Congress is at the mercy of these powerful lobbies makes it all the more difficult. One of the strongest set of sanctions, namely the ones targeting Iran’s gasoline imports, was sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) after strong pressure by Israeli lobby groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In fact, many ask what is happening to US sovereignty when Israeli politicians start influencing the drafting of bills.

Fourthly, the US and the EU need to recognise Iran’s right to enrich uranium. This is a right of all the signatories of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of which Iran is part (article IV.1). Until the US and the EU recognise this right, they will be perceived by Iran -quite rightly- as being biased (Israel is not a signatory and is in possession of over one hundred nuclear heads).

Fifthly, the Iranian government needs to start passing democratic reforms. At present, it is a dictatorship like any other. Both Ahmadinejad’s government and Ayatollah Khamenei have little if any political legitimacy. This makes the job of any negotiator more difficult because it gives off the impression of supporting a non-democratic regime.

Sixthly, and following from what has just been said, it is imperative that the P5+1 start negotiating not only with officials from Ahmadinejad’s government and close to Ayatollah Khamenei but also with officials from other sectors of society, such as the government’s opposition. One of the reasons why Turkey and Brazil managed to get a breakthrough in the negotiations -which the Obama administration foolishly rejected- was precisely because it engaged with these other sectors of society. This allowed them to build confidence with a higher number of officials which made it easier to close a deal.

Many of these conditions are meant to change the attitude of Western negotiators which can be summed up by an anonymous official’s expression: “Stop, shut, ship”. This refers to the West’s demand to stop enriching uranium, shutting down the requested nuclear facilities and ship enriched uranium outside of the country.

Clearly, many of these conditions are difficult to achieve. At the same time, though, these conditions show, against pessimists, that a solution is possible.

America & Japan: The Strangest Of Friends

In previous wars involving America and Japan, military clout was everything, now it is no more than a side show. Today, the war will be over oil, trade routes and national debts, and in every factor, it is China that is on the attack.


USA and Japan


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1940, when the US cut the supply of oil to Japan, they began a chain of events which within the year would result in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and within five years the destruction of the majority of every Japanese city by US bombing raids leaving hundreds of thousands dead. The seizure of Japan by the US, and the partitioning of their remaining territory with Russia and China has defined the northern pacific ever since.

And yet tomorrow, Japan’s Prime Minister is making a trip to Washington D.C. to discuss the future terms of a very different relationship from the one played out between defeated enemy and victorious occupier. Though many still live with memories of the burning ships in Pearl Harbour or the flashes of nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no other pairing between two former enemies has appeared so close. After half a century of US-imposed pacifist governance, their maritime partner is now inviting Japan to join them in a very different balance of power to the one that began a century ago.

All that time ago, the US had a very limited presence in the pacific, being more interested in holding the rest of the world back from the Americas, its own personal sphere of influence. Britain’s power was beginning to fade as Germany challenged its dominance and the Boers proved a challenge they should not have been. But China, the empire which had remained a constant centre of power for millennia, had been struck down by the European powers. The vice-like-grip of the Dutch East India company began a downfall cemented by the opium wars against Britain, leaving a crippled state more than tempting to the insatiable appetite of Japan. Where European influence had broken China, it had opened the isolated isles of Japan to a world they were more than prepared to face, armed by the US they broke the Russian fleets and seized Korea and Manchuria, their influence stretching across the isles of the pacific. They ate up the Chinese coast and Indo-China, struck down only when those who had once supplied and financed their war efforts drew back in horror at the devastation they were unleashing on Asia, and visited it back upon them tenfold.

In the years after the bombs dropped in their thousands upon the cities of Japan, engulfing them in fire-storms the world had never seen, Japan recovered more swiftly than anyone could have expected. As the first of the Asian dragons they leapt upon opportunities as they came, and emerged an economic powerhouse. But with the rise of the USSR and then China, the Japanese grew ever closer to the one force which could hold the hungry expansion of communism at bay, their previous occupiers.

In what strikes as a nation-scale case of Stockholm Syndrome the Japanese stuck fast to the US throughout the new two-sided conflict with communism, taking capitalism to heart as no other country had done. After Japan regained independence in 1952 the US proved their worth as protectors in the Korean war, holding back the hordes of China and the USSR. A long relationship would continue to warm as the US declared its dedication to protecting Japan against all military threats in a treaty in 1960, and would return the islands seized in 1945 before 1972. As the USSR collapsed and the US turned its attention to the Middle East, Japan would return the favour by deploying its first set of troops since 1945 to Iraq, and developing missile systems with the US. With the fading wars in Europe, and the increased anchoring of Britain to the ever growing political clout of the supranational EU, Japan may very well be set to replace Britain as the true special partner of the US.

Just as Britain formed a special relationship with the colony responsible for the first chink in its ever-growing global empire, so Japan seems to have formed a relationship with the power which destroyed its empires and cities in the interests of protection and the prospects of a future world order. As China continues to rise just across the sea, and the death of Kim Jong-Il seems not to have hampered the isolated insanity of North Korea, Japan represents one of the few fronts in the increasing clashes between China and the 20th Century’s greatest superpower. As Japan drags itself away from the brink of economic crisis and the destruction of the tsunami, it will rise above the waters to see an ever-more aggressive and able China more than willing to flex its muscles in an international arena unrecognisable a century ago.

In this new arena the US is backing a faltering Japan in the face of an increasingly aggressive China in a mirror image of the events of 1940. Then, the conflict was open for all to see in the unstoppable march of Japan’s armies, now the change of hands is more subtle. The early 1990s financial crisis set back the progress of Japan in the same way the opium wars broke the military muscle of China, and now China is marching onwards in a war of economics and trade the indebted Japan may struggle to resist. Even as the US sets up forces in Australia, and Japan’s military begins its first significant expansion, they may be facing a very different shift in power. Expecting a declaration of increased military co-operation between Japan and the US, Guam is to rise as the new pacific military hub for the two powers and will represent a new militarism in Japan not seen in half a century.

Japan finds itself on the opposite side of a new pacific war against an expansionist power. But while previously military clout was everything, now it may be no more than a show. Today the war will be over oil, trade routes and national debts, and in every factor right now China is on the attack.

The Sustained Role Of The US In European Security

Does the United States still have an important role to play in the security of Europe or has the rationale of the transatlantic relationship changed in recent years?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}


Security guard


[dropcap]P[/dropcap]rior to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the relationship that Europe held with the United States was an essential component in the security of Europe. Yet, in the aftermath of the Warsaw Pact’s disintegration, some analysts had already written the obituary of the Atlantic alliance, prescribing a growing divergence in transatlantic relations and casting doubt upon the role of the United States in Europe’s security.[1] The neo-realist view is that the security collaboration across the Atlantic should have concluded with the end of the Cold War.[2]This argument has been made consistently throughout the years succeeding the fall of the Soviet bloc but the transatlantic relationship has maintained its position as the most important relationship in the world. However, the rationale of the relationship has changed in two fundamental ways: first, the removal of the Soviet threat altered NATO’s agenda and second, the United States’ challenge for its European allies to take more responsibility for their own defence has caused the latter to re-evaluate the balance of the alliance.

Despite the modified rationale of the relationship, this article will argue that the underlying principles of the partnership, the common threats that confront it and a conscious European effort to close the capability gap all indicate that the United States will continue to play a substantial role in the security of Europe for the foreseeable future. The first section will analyse how the shared values and economic interdependence of the transatlantic partnership remain central reasons that the United States will still contribute to the security of Europe. The second section will examine the changing focus of NATO and the common threats that the transatlantic partners face and will continue to counter. The third section will argue that the European members of NATO must increase their commitment to the partnership if America is to remain influential in European security.[3] The final section will summarise and conclude the key points that have been argued in this article.

Underlying Principles and the Transatlantic Economy

The association between the United States of America and Europe runs much deeper than a mere relationship of utility and convenience. Common values of freedom, justice and liberty have laid the foundations of the transatlantic partnership for over sixty years and institutions such as NATO form the glue that binds the Atlantic partnership together. An American dominated NATO remains the vehicle for transatlantic security and defence co-operation and a commitment to protect the values of the alliance was re-iterated in NATO’s most recent Strategic Concept document.[4] The rationale of the transatlantic relationship did indeed alter with the dissolution of the Soviet Union but the fundamental principles which formed the bedrock of the transatlantic link remain intact. Presently, Europe represents a zone of peace and democracy and, despite the lack of a common external enemy in the modern security environment, the same remains true today: the United States still has a substantial role to play in European security affairs since the values which underpin the relationship remain as established today as they ever have been. Hillary Clinton added strength to this claim in her recent speech in Paris, outlining that the United States will continue to ensure that peace and security is maintained in Europe for the foreseeable future as the transatlantic bond is an illustration of their shared values.[5]

Nevertheless, it has not been a smooth ride for the relationship since the fall of the Berlin Wall; the advent of the Iraq War in 2003 particularly raised divided opinion on both sides of the Atlantic. Commentators proclaimed that the division over the Iraq War was the biggest crisis in the relationship’s history [6] whilst George W. Bush’s public approval ratings in Europe plummeted to levels never seen before.[7] However, the crisis has been successfully surmounted and today, the transatlantic link remains unbroken, which begs the question: how has the relationship survived despite the worst crisis in its history? It is hard to disregard the fact that a change of leadership aided an improvement in relations after Bush’s tenure; the arrival of Barack Obama at the Oval Office evidently rejuvenated public opinion towards the United States on the European side of the Atlantic whilst Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to office brought France back into NATO’s integrated military command in 2009.[8] Although did the relationship ever really look in danger of coming to an end? Stanley Sloan has deliberated with the notion that NATO and the transatlantic partnership may be a ‘permanent alliance’ based upon its shared values, history and respect for sovereignty and, even if the partnership may not be everlasting, it is hard to see it coming to an end anytime soon.[9] The alliance has weathered many storms such as the Suez crisis in 1956, Bosnia in the 1990s and the more recent war on terror and the fact that it has remained intact throughout is a testament to its resiliency. Therefore, it is logical to deduce that the United States will continue to hold an important role in the defence of Europe in the near future because of the bond that is shared across the Atlantic.

Additionally, the transatlantic economy is vastly interdependent as the financial crisis of 2008 evidently demonstrated. Through the deep economic integration between both sides of the Atlantic, it is estimated that approximately fifteen million jobs are created and five trillion dollars in commercial sales is generated annually[10]; the economic importance of the transatlantic relationship is obvious as it still accounts for over half of global GDP despite the global recession.[11] As the largest and most significant economic partnership in the world it would surely be too great a risk for the United States to not play a considerable role in European security; the transatlantic economy is so intertwined that it is not purely European interests that are at stake in the security of Europe but also American interests. In this light, the neo-liberalist viewpoint that the transatlantic nations will continue to co-operate on security issues as a result of parallel security aims, common economic interests and comparable ideals and political identities becomes a reasonable assumption.[12] This section has demonstrated how shared economic interests and the underlying principles of the transatlantic relationship will keep the United States significantly involved in European security, the next section will argue that common security interests will maintain America’s role in the security arena of Europe.

Common Security Interests

In modern times, European integration and the enlargement of NATO and the European Union has assembled a Europe that is as stable as it has ever been in its history; the notion of a war on the continent now borders on the absurd. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the main threat to Europe’s security since the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, NATO’s raison d’être had vanished and the alliance had to establish a new justification for its existence. So, after the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the attacks of 9/11 and with a seemingly secure Europe, a NATO dominated by the United States consequently undertook a new global agenda to combat modern security threats that may endanger its member states.[13] This transformation process has been a success and a recent survey confirmed that a majority of respondents from the US (77%) and Europe (62%) agree that NATO must be equipped to operate in the global arena to facilitate the protection of its members.[14]

Yet, several analysts have questioned the commitment of the US to the security of Europe for the reason that they are currently focusing their attention upon defence issues that lay outside of European territory.[15] It is true that NATO is presently concentrating its efforts upon global issues such as Iran, terrorism, Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa and there are certainly differing threat perceptions within NATO over where the alliance’s focus should be. For example, the Baltic States are more concerned with the threat of an aggressive Russia on their doorstep rather than global security issues. However, the view that these global issues are not of significant importance to the security of Europe is myopic as these issues unquestionably threaten the security of Europe, if albeit, indirectly. The fact that, internally, Europe is as safe as it has ever been means that the foremost threats to its security are now emanating from outside of its borders; this does not suggest that the United States will have an insignificant involvement in its defence.

Common threats that populate the modern security environment are diverse in the challenges that they present to the alliance and consist of concerns such as economic security (as mentioned above), the Middle East peace process, energy security, cyber warfare, violent extremism, rogue states and nuclear proliferation.[16] Moreover, in spite of Obama’s recent ‘reset’ policy, Russia’s attack on Georgia in 2008 provided a stark reminder of the potential threat that the former Soviet Union poses to European security and that it cannot be taken for granted. Together with a volatile and nuclear armed North Korea now under the control of the youthful Kim Jong-un, an Iran intent on the development of nuclear arms and fertile terrorist hotbeds such as Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan still prevalent, it is clear that the world is not a safe place. For that reason, George Robertson, the former NATO-Secretary General, is realistic when adopting the view that the West ‘still has business in confronting the dark side of globalisation’.[17]

In light of these security threats, the US cannot afford to significantly reduce their involvement in the security of Europe and, regardless of the various criticisms thrown at them, the missions in Libya and Afghanistan illustrate what the alliance can achieve when the US and its European allies co-operate on security matters; this is precisely why NATO remains the most relevant and necessary military alliance today.[18] A strong and stable Europe is in America’s economic and security interests and the common threats that America and Europe both face reasonably suggest that, through NATO, the United States will indeed remain an important player in European security for a considerable time to come.  The next section will analyse how the European members of NATO rely on an alliance dominated by the US and how they must increase their contribution to the alliance if they wish to maintain American interest in the security of Europe.

Rebalancing The Alliance

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world and it is logical for European nations to have aligned themselves with such a force to ensure their security in a hostile and ever-changing security environment. Yet, European reliance upon US resources has become excessive; in 2010 the United States contributed an enormous 72.4% of the total NATO budget compared to 50% ten years prior.[19] The transatlantic alliance is undoubtedly top-heavy with Britain, France and Germany combined only contributing 14.52% of the total NATO budget in the same year whilst the other twenty three NATO members supplied a mere 13% of the budget.[20] Distinguished figures on both sides of the Atlantic have been critical of Europe’s dependence upon the United States’ resources and have warned of the possibility that the United States may reconsider its role in European security unless the European allies endeavour to visibly close this apparent capability and commitment gap.[21]

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has referred to NATO as a ‘timeless alliance’ yet if the European members of NATO are not assertive, American support in the security affairs of Europe may dwindle.[22] To lose the vital support of the most valuable member of the alliance would only be to the detriment of European security and for this reason, the majority of the European members of NATO desire to maintain America’s considerable involvement in their security affairs and view the alliance as a way of sustaining US focus upon their defence.[23] Subsequently, as a result of the United States’ intense participation in European security to date, there appears to be an embedded European complacency that their American partner will constantly support Europe in its security affairs. Thus, the burden-sharing debate, which has been prevalent throughout the alliance’s history, has been growing louder by the year.

In an age of austerity, where the impact of the global economic crisis is being felt around the world and the United States is winding down two expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American support is not guaranteed.[24] The United States cannot achieve its foreign policy goals unaided anymore and, with the rise of China in mind, Barack Obama has been increasingly multilateral in his search for partnerships in the world.[25] Nonetheless, American politicians have been quick to quell fears that the United States has become less committed to Europe and have provided assurances that Europe and its security does indeed remain a priority despite defence cuts.[26] Still, American policy towards Europe has certainly changed. On his first trip to Europe, President Obama asserted that the United States were no longer ‘looking to be patrons of Europe’, but to be ‘partners of Europe.’[27] Washington wishes that its European allies began to pull their weight in the relationship and shoulder their fair share of the burden if they are to keep playing such a pivotal role in Europe’s defence.

It is necessary that Europe becomes more self-sufficient if they are to deal with their own security problems. The recent Libya campaign, for example, confirmed the wide capability gap between the United States and the European participants.[28] Yet, the fact that America pulled back and left Britain and France to take the lead role in this successful mission marked the instigation of the change that Washington wishes to see in the relationship. As Lord Robertson affirmed, Obama has ‘forced the European nations to confront their own destiny’[29] and it is how the Europeans continue to react to this challenge that will somewhat determine how important a role the United States’ will play in its security. If the European allies make a conscious effort to rebalance the alliance and the Americans begin to see a return for their input then any possible friction within the alliance over the burden-sharing debate will surely evaporate and the United States will continue to contribute significantly to the security of Europe.


It is realistic to conclude that the United States does still have an important role to play in the security of Europe in spite of changes to the rationale of the relationship. The arguments put across in this article to support this claim are numerous. The underlying principles and history that have shaped the partnership represent a relationship not of mere pragmatism but of a much deeper value that will ensure the two sides of the Atlantic are forever associated. In addition, the transatlantic link is institutionally and economically entrenched meaning that it would be damaging to the American economy to diminish their part in the protection of Europe. The alliance has proven its resiliency and withstood numerous crises including its most notable crisis over the Iraq War and it will surely continue to survive these predicaments in the near future. Despite the defeat of the Soviet threat it was founded to offset, NATO has managed to successfully transform its agenda and adapt to the modern security environment and the second section demonstrated that there are a plethora of common security threats that the transatlantic partners will persistently counter together despite the diverse threat perceptions and strategic cultures within Europe. The fact that NATO provides America legality for its actions abroad, combined with these common security threats, point towards the United States remaining the key player within NATO and therefore maintaining an important role in European security.

The danger is that American support in European security affairs will decline if the European allies do not react to the burden-sharing dilemma assertively and with haste because the transatlantic alliance is undoubtedly top-heavy. If the European allies want to eradicate this friction within the relationship and preserve American influence in European security affairs then they have to address the current imbalance within the alliance; Libya was a positive start and if they continue in the same vein then the United States will undoubtedly continue to play a substantial role in European security. To summarise, the rationale of the relationship may have changed but the values and interdependent economies of the partnership, the institutional links, common security threats and NATO’s new global agenda all indicate that the United States is likely to retain an important role in the security of Europe.

[toggle title=”Citations”]

[1] Robert Kagan famously asserted that ‘Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus’. Kagan (2004), p.3; Kissinger, ‘The End of NATO’, The Washington Post, (1990), p. 23; Krauthammer (2002), ‘Re-Imagining NATO’, Washington Post, p. A35.

[2] Simoni (2011), p. 27; Mearsheimer (1990).

[3] The case for greater US-EU cooperation will not be developed here.

[4] NATO Strategic Concept 2010.

[5] Clinton Speech, Paris, (2010).

[6] Allin (2004), p. 663; Sloan (2010), p. 253.

[7] ‘Global Public Opinion in the Bush Years (2001-2008)’, Pew Research Centre (2008).

[8] ‘Obama More Popular Abroad’, Pew Research Center (2010); Kaufman (2011), p. 77; Transatlantic Trends (2010), p.5.

[9] Sloan (2010), p. 281.

[10] Hamilton & Quinlan (2011), p. 13; Shapiro and Witney (2009), p. 24.

[11] Hamilton & Quinlan (2011), p. 20.

[12] Mix (2011), p.6; Simoni (2011), pp. 24-7.

[13] See Aybet and Moore (2010).

[14] Transatlantic Trends 2010, p. 6.

[15] Guérot (2011), pp. 55-6; Kuykendall (2010), p.111.

[16] NATO Strategic Concept 2010.

[17] Robertson speech, Chatham House (2011).

[18] Transatlantic Trends 2011 survey showed that NATO is still seen as essential by 62% of both EU and U.S. respondents.

[19] NATO Defence Expenditures (1990-2010).

[20] Ibid.

[21] Gates speech, London (2011); Major speech, Chatham House (2011); Rasmussen speech, Warsaw (2011).

[22] Scheffer speech, Chatham House (2009).

[23] Alcaro (2011), p. 20.

[24] Jones (2011), p. 152.

[25] Kuykendall (2009), p. 110.

[26] Clinton, Foreign Policy (2011); ‘Obama to recall US troops from Europe’, Financial Times, 9 April 2011; Panetta speech, Carnegie Europe (2011); Lindley-French (2010), p. 50.

[27] Obama speech, Strasbourg (2009).

[28] Panetta speech, Warsaw (2011).

[29] Robertson speech, Chatham House (2011).