The return of both China and Islam in world history after a three-century-long eclipse has been the defining feature of the international stage since 1979.
In the first decade afterwards, the West was simply too focused on the “second Cold War” against the Soviet Bloc to ponder the meaning of the revolutions engineered by Den Xiao Ping in China and Khomenei in Iran. In the second decade, a victorious West, indulging in rhetorical self-intoxication, mistook the most recent stage of a century-old globalization process for the end of history and even geography.
Throughout the 1990s, this infatuation with globalization and a “time-space compression” in the virtual world led most Westerners to ignore the twofold epochal change taking place in the real world: the transfer of the center of gravity of the world economy from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with “three billion new capitalists” poised to put an end to three centuries of Euro-Atlantic economic primacy; and the rise of a “second nuclear age” in Asia and with it, the concomitant end of three centuries of Western military superiority.1
The year 2001 could have been an eye-opener but the West, too traumatized by the Islamist attack on America, failed to notice an equally important, if less spectacular, development: the creation by China of a coalition, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, including Russia and Central Asia as members, Iran as a silent partner, and India and Pakistan as observers. It took another five years for Western foreign policy experts to realize that this emerging SCO was, for all practical purposes, an OPEC with nukes, which had the potential to develop, over time, into a full-fledged “NATO of the East.”
At the NATO summit in Riga in November 2006, a little-noticed transatlantic revolution of sorts finally occurred when the Atlantic Alliance acknowledged that it would have to “go global” in order to remain relevant. Divided, America and Europe will fall; united, they can retain the lead. But all manners of “going global” are not equal, and the coming globalization of NATO is as much full of promises as it is fraught with perils.
Some will argue that, with 50,000 troops present in three continents today, NATO is in essence already global. Others will counter that the story of this halfhearted, haphazard globalization reads at times like a tale told by an idiot, full of rhetorical fog and bureaucratic friction, and signifying nothing more than “flight forward” or “muddling through.” In fact, in the post-Cold War period, NATO’s desire to have its cake (collective defense) and eat it too (collective security) has created a certain conceptual confusion.2
As a political organization, the Alliance rushed to invoke Article 5 within twenty-four hours of 9/11; as a military organization, NATO turned out to be as ill-prepared to do counterinsurgency in Afghanistan as the U.S. military in Iraq. It would be a mistake, however, to claim that NATO’s credibility is at stake in Afghanistan. Afghanistan may have been the graveyard of empires in the past, but it won’t be the graveyard of the Alliance — for a simple reason already pointed out by one European observer:
When the territorial integrity of one of its members is threatened by an attack, NATO cannot afford to lose. It would sacrifice its credibility as an alliance. . . . But in stabilization operations the existence of NATO is not threatened. Here NATO can afford to fail without losing its credibility as an alliance. . . . There are, thus, fundamental differences between collective defense credibility and stabilization credibility. To lump them together or to blur the distinction between the two, shows a lack of understanding for the very nature of such interventions. The consequences of getting stuck in hopeless operations as well as holding NATO’s authority and standing hostage to fortune is doubly dangerous. The UN, the institution with the widest experience in post-conflict stabilization to date, has never made these operations a test for its credibility. NATO needs to do likewise.3
If the Alliance survived a debacle of the magnitude of Suez in 1956, it can withstand anything. The main danger for NATO therefore is not military failure or even a Suez-like temporary political meltdown, but something more insidious. Over time, what an ill-conceived globalization of NATO could lead to is the transformation of the tactical coalition that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization currently is into a strategic “NATO of the East” while at the same time perverting the Atlantic Alliance into, so to speak, a “SEATO of the West” — namely, a make-believe alliance with no viable strategy (because a conventional military configuration is irrelevant when the threats are of the asymmetric variety) and no coherent policy (because the interests of the global members are simply too heterogeneous to ever converge.)
The Long War promises to be a thinking man’s war. As a full-fledged Alliance, NATO possesses the kind of staying power that mere ad hoc coalitions cannot deliver; but NATO still has to come to terms with the fact that thinking power will matter more than fighting power. If NATO is to avoid the twofold danger of the SCO becoming a NATO of the East while NATO becomes a mere SEATO of the West, the Alliance will have first of all to downgrade its “toolbox” dimension and beef up its “think-tank” dimension.
The revolution in strategic affairs
Ever since the 1999 intervention in Kosovo, NATO has been eager to prove that it stands for more than “No Action, Talk Only.” But the adoption by the Alliance of the Marge Simpson doctrine (“Are we gonna just stand there like the French, or are we gonna do something?”) has proved to be no substitute for a new strategic concept. Kosovo itself, waged in no small part to maintain the credibility of the Alliance, ended up paradoxically weakening NATO’s credibility and the mutual bad blood afterwards constituted the single most important underlying reason of the 2003 near-death experience over Iraq.
By the time of the 2006 NATO Riga summit, two eminent Americans argued in no uncertain terms in favor of a re-invention of the Alliance: “It is time to stop pretending that everything is fine in Brussels and Mons. NATO will never generate the political impetus and leadership to reinvent itself unless we face that truth and openly debate what this Alliance can and should become. . . . NATO leaders have thus far demonstrated neither the vision nor the political will to reinvent the Alliance.”4
Strong words, to be sure, but perhaps the wrong diagnostic: to the extent that there is indeed a danger of NATO drifting into irrelevance, it is due not so much to an absence of philosophical vision and/or political will as to a deficit of strategic literacy on the part of NATO leaders and cheerleaders.
On the American side, there is certainly no shortage of will and vision. Our two authors themselves were instrumental in forcing Europeans to look beyond Brussels sandbox politics and leading the drive for a successful enlargement of NATO. In the process of preaching a gospel of “broader and farther is always better,” though, they elevated enlargement to the rank of a Kantian categorical imperative and by the same token lost sight of the Hobbesian iron law known in the jargon of political science as the security dilemma. Simply put: however defensive in intent, any actor’s move to increase its security always runs the risk of being perceived as an offensive move by another actor.5
As Vladimir Putin reminded the West in a very Russian way in his Munich speech earlier this year, one state’s idea of “projecting stability” is another’s idea of “exporting subversion.” Enlargement has been a bold move that played a critical (and often underappreciated) role in the successful transition to democracy of the former captive Europe, but for every action there is a reaction, and the gradual enlargement of NATO to the East has been the main cause of Russia’s gradual rapprochement with China. A bold move today would be to acknowledge that, for a host of reasons, this process has reached diminishing returns, and that projecting stability should from now on be achieved at less cost through other means, be it security cooperation or global partnerships.
If Americans these days tend to have forgotten something as basic as the security dilemma, Europeans for their part have serious difficulties remembering something equally basic that they used to perform with undeniable virtuosity: coercive diplomacy. Be it with Iraq yesterday or Iran today, an astounding percentage of the allegedly sophisticated EU elites have the hardest time grasping what any American redneck knows intuitively: namely, that the collective threat to use force is still the best way to avoid having recourse to actual force. Fifty years of increasing focus on intra-EU politics has led EU elites to mistake “multi-level governance” (read: horse-trading by capitals in Brussels) for the whole of statecraft. But genuine diplomacy always rests on the implicit threat to use force, and the EU mantra about force as last resort should logically lead Europeans to view coercive diplomacy as their preferred weapon.6
Iraq, to be sure, was in many ways sui generis. Iran, by contrast, should be a no-brainer, since a nuclear Iran would lead to nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East all the way to Algeria. Were coercive diplomacy to fail, then, as Senator McCain put it, there would still be one thing worse than military intervention in Iran — a nuclear Iran.
This question of “strategic literacy” of NATO leaders cannot be overemphasized at a time when NATO allies are elaborating a new (i.e., post 9/11) strategic concept. The task promises to be a daunting one if only because, since the end of the Cold War, the very concept of “strategy” has become increasingly problematic in the West — in no small part because the concept of the “West” itself is no longer self-evident.7
Forget the “Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus” mantra that gave the Brussels Eurocracy the vapors in the summer of 2002.8 Though the slogan captured well a moment of transatlantic relations, over time this mantra has obscured the issue. The truth is, for the past 15 years, and on both sides of the Atlantic, there have been two major attempts underway to get rid of the strategy problematique altogether.
In the civilian world, politicians and bureaucrats have robbed the concept of “strategy” of any meaning by systematically using it interchangeably with “policy.” Academics and think-tankers, for their part, have chosen to blow out of proportion a Revolution in Security Affairs in which “the dividing lines between hard and soft, civil and military security are rapidly dissolving, requiring far more flexibility and causing much confusion as allies and partners have disagreed significantly about how to manage such complexity.” This supposed Revolution has been used as a pretext to dissolve the concept of “strategy” in the catch-all notion of “security,” the concept of “national security” itself in a nebulous “human security,” and last but not least, the concept of grand strategy into that of global governance — whatever that may mean.9
Within the military, the concept of “strategy” has not fared much better. The post-Cold War era has witnessed a surreal debate between the disciples of Clausewitz, who invariably confuse strategy with the operational level of war, and the supporters of the supposed Revolution in Military Affairs reducing war to “targeting and shooting,” and whose network-centric paradigm leads to a tacticization of strategy.10
Between the shock-and-awe slogans of the military Mars, and the human security fairy tales of the civilian Venus, Strategy in the West has been MIA for too long. Since the real Revolution in Strategic Affairs happens to be a non-Western affair, NATO leaders will have to start by learning the new grammar and logic of the kind of unrestricted warfare elaborated by the Chinese and the fourth-generation warfare practiced by Islamists.11
As U.S. NATO Ambassador Victoria Nuland argued, “if the divisive debate over Iraq taught us one thing, it is that NATO must be the place where we talk about all the issues affecting our future — the Middle East, Iraq, North Korea, China, Iran, just to name a few.” The North Atlantic Council has recently broadened its range of consultations to include global issues ranging from energy security to transnational terrorism. But increased consultation, in and of itself, will not mechanically lead to better conceptualization. Enhancing the strategic literacy of NATO’s stakeholders should be the logical prerequisite to a debate about the future NATO strategic concept.
The SCO as NATO peer competitor?
In the past hundred years, the instrumentalization of Islam has been a recurrent temptation on the part of every rising power, be it Wilhemine Germany or Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, not to mention America itself. As the latest rising power, China itself would not be immune to that temptation even if it were energy self-sufficient. The fact that China’s energy needs are huge guarantees that the constitution of a Sino-Islamic axis is for Beijing not just a tactical option, but a strategic necessity.12
While the pivotal states of this strategy appear to be Pakistan, Iran, and (more recently) Saudi Arabia, the geopolitical situation of Iran puts it in a class by itself, as the most precious proxy in China’s “indirect approach” against American primacy. It is therefore no surprise to learn that China is using Iran as a conduit for the delivery of arms to both Iraqi and Afghan insurgents, and providing Iran itself the kind of small boats needed to conduct attacks against commercial shipping or the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.13
If the instrumentalization of Islam constitutes the geographical axis of China’s grand strategy, the functional axis is — or ought to be — of equal interest to NATO, since it consists in the artful combination of space power, sea power, and soft power.
Space power. While lending support to Russia’s ludicrous posturing on NATO missile defense, China is experimenting with antisatellite weapons — a disturbing trend given the reliance of modern military (especially navies) on space power.
Sea power. A hundred years after Theodore Roosevelt sent his Great While Fleet around the world to signal the emergence of a new great power, China is rediscovering the writings of Admiral Mahan on the importance of sea power in history and dreaming of a Great White Fleet of its own. Against the backdrop of an ever-shrinking U.S. Navy (more on that later), China is transforming itself as a maritime superpower at such high speed that Western analysts estimate it could become the world’s leading naval power by 2020.
Last but not least, soft power. On the military side, China is focusing on developing security cooperation within the ASEAN Regional Forum framework with the intent of marginalizing America. On the civilian side, China is peddling “Asian values” from Africa to Eurasia and from Latin America to Southeast Asia. For the past six years, China has been promoting autocracy through soft power while America has been promoting democracy through hard power, and the verdict is in: China today has a more positive image worldwide than America.14
Russia’s relation to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and its expectations, are of an altogether different nature. On the surface, to be sure, China and Russia appear to be the two main pillars of the SCO. Economically and militarily, the two countries’ relation is, for the time being at least, one of genuine complementarity. But while the SCO constitutes the core of China’s Islamic strategy, it is for Russia a tactical option to both manage the rise of China in Eurasia and to gain leverage over the West.15
Unlike China, Russia is energy self-sufficient; and unlike China’s Confucianism, Russia’s Eurasianism actually comes in two opposite versions: one pro-West and anti-Islam; the other pro-Islam and anti-West. American Putin-bashers would do well to realize that the Putin regime clearly favors the former version —– which may not be the case for his successor. Putin’s Russia is a mystery wrapped in an enigma only for those caught in a 15-year time warp. In a nutshell: While Yelstin’s choice of an alleged Polish model of transition in 1992 resulted, by 1999, in 38 percent of the population living below the poverty line, Putin’s reorientation toward a Chinese model has since created an annual growth rate of 6 percent for Russia — and a 70 percent approval rating for Putin. Having taken considerable domestic risks by siding with America after 9/11, Putin, for the past 5 years, has received nothing in return — other than a seemingly endless enlargement of NATO in his own backyard.
Now that Russia is rich with oil money and has paid its debts to the West, what Russia wants from the West is respect.16 Russia’s nuisance capacity should not be underestimated, even though threats to withdraw from the CFE Treaty, or to turn the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) into a “natural gas OPEC,” are intended primarily for domestic consumption and to signal that NATO has enlarged far enough.
Unlike China, Russia is not a rising power. Russian hearts and mind are still up for grabs, though, and there are three reasons why it would be grossly irresponsible to alienate Russia gratuitously. In the short term, Russia’s support is critical to solve (militarily or not) the Iranian question; in the middle-term, Russia has considerable leverage over Europe, with much bigger sticks and carrots than America’s, and the risk of a creeping Finlandization of Europe is real were America to indulge in brinkmanship; in the long term, the West would have nothing to gain were Russia, against its best interest, to upgrade its relations to the SCO from the tactical to the strategic level.
The current demonization of Russia in some American quarters is thus incomprehensible, unless one keeps in mind the particular conceit of democracies at war that Kennan, following Tocqueville, pointed out long ago: “There is nothing in nature more egocentrical than the embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision of everything else. . . . People who have got themselves into this frame of mind have little understanding for the issues of any contest other than the one in which they are involved.”17
This tunnel vision, and the incapacity to distinguish between the essential and the peripheral, is all the more surprising when it comes from the neoconservative side. Among the new generation of neocons, many seem to have forgotten the lessons of the older generation, as captured in Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s celebrated 1979 essay on “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” Simply put: when all is said and done, there is a difference in kind between totalitarianism and authoritarianism. If Islamist totalitarianism is the main enemy, as the neocons rightly claim, then it follows logically that Russian authoritarianism, however unpalatable to democratic sensibilities, is something we can live with. In that respect, the arch-realist Kissinger is paradoxically closer to Kirkpatrick than some of today’s neocons in arguing:
Russia may be tempted to pursue tactical rapprochement with China. But any meaningful strategic rapprochement with China would move Russia further away from the United States and into a position of dependence on Chinese support. This would run counter to the strategic realities Russia faces on its far-eastern border, given the decline in its population and negative demographic trends. We cannot be fixated by things that are in the power of Russia and China to do. The wise American policy is to establish close relations with both Russia and China. And we should conduct it on the basis that whenever possible there should always be at least equal if not greater incentives or prospect of risks to cooperate with the United States than with each other.18
Similarly, a wise NATO policy should always make sure that NATO-Russia security cooperation is always stronger than Russia-China security cooperation. By the same token, and given the always-possible energy Finlandization of Europe, a wise NATO policy should make sure that the NATO-Russia Council always remains one step ahead of the EU-Russia Permanent Council.19
The Great Game and the Long War
One thing is certain: the Great Game and the Long War will be the two global and generational challenges confronting the West in the next 30 years. While the two challenges at times overlap, they remain analytically distinct. Attempts to conflate the two challenges with a new geopolitical concept like “Greater Middle East” risk confusing the issues. The Great Game? While the West remains fixated on the continental dimension, the East shows more lucidity in giving as much importance to the maritime dimension (more on that later). The Long War? Due to mass migration, the sociopolitical umma no longer coincides with the geopolitical Dar al-Islam.20
So much for the Greater Middle East, then. When all is said and done, globalization has not so much led to the “spiritualization of borders” (as the flute-players would have it) as to the partial “virtualization of geopolitics.” The Great Game and the Long War are global and generational, but the geopolitics of oil, of Islamic banking, of Islamic media, etc. only partly overlap, and the geopolitical mapping required is a multi-level mapping including both the real and the virtual worlds.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the globalization theology of the 1990s has been the withering away of geopolitical thinking in the West. This eclipse of geopolitics is not totally negative, to be sure, for as one pundit put it, “few modern ideologies are as whimsically all-encompassing, as romantically obscure, as intellectually sloppy, and as likely to start a third world war as the theory of ‘geopolitics.’”21
Yet, globalization theology itself has proven even more intellectual sloppy than the theories of geopolitics. And while the West thought it could do away with geopolitics altogether, the foreign policies of Turkey, Russia, China, and other players were becoming increasingly shaped by distinctive geopolitical visions based less on theories than on memories (with often a tenuous link to historical reality). Thus in Turkey, memories of the Silk Road were the main driving forces in Ankara’s turn away from pro-Western Kemalism and toward neo-Ottomanism. In China, a country that had traditionally viewed itself as a quintessential continental power, it is the rediscovery of the short-lived maritime adventures of Admiral Zheng He (the Chinese Columbus) and the awareness of missed opportunities, coupled with the revival of Admiral Mahan’s navalist theories, that were being invoked to mobilize public opinion around the idea of turning China into a maritime superpower. Intellectually sloppy or not, these representations have real effects in the foreign policies of non-Western nations. The West can ignore them only at its own peril.
In the West itself, the current fixation of America on Central Asia and of Europe on the Middle East — the closest thing to a “Western” geopolitical vision — is based on two flawed premises. To put it crudely: Americans believe that Caspian Sea oil is the key to success in the Great Game; Europeans are convinced that the resolution of the Palestinian question holds the key to victory in the Long War.
Talk about intellectual sloppiness: Warnings about a Caspian mirage were already common among energy experts a decade ago, and time has only made them more relevant: “The current fixation with the Caspian Basin’s alleged resource bonanza is exaggerating the region’s commercial and strategic significance, distorting US foreign policy calculations and raising the risk of unnecessary contention with other actors, particularly Russia and Iran. . . . Russian analysts could be forgiven for construing US/NATO policies as encirclement from the West through open-ended NATO expansion. . . . The myth [of Central Asia and the Caucasus as a region of independent democracies buoyed by new-found oil wealth and part of an expanding “Euro-Atlantic community”] is diverting policy-makers from a far more profound geopolitical challenge to energy security in the twenty-first century: the rising dependence of Asian nations on Persian Gulf oil. . . . It might be wise to ponder how comfortable China will be in relying on the US Navy to defend the sea-lanes through which its Persian Gulf oil must pass.”22
Ten years later, it is clear that just as NATO enlargement to the East has sent Russia into the arms of China, Western energetico-military forays in Central Asia have led China, in turn, to increase its activities in the backyards of Europe (Africa) and America (from Cuba to Panama and Venezuela). America’s fixation on Central Asia has been based on probable reserves, which were then contrasted to proven reserves in Persian Gulf, though never with probable reserves offshore worldwide. Since Caspian Sea oil now seems to combine all the problems associated with landlocked transportation and offshore extraction, not to mention geopolitical entanglements, it may be time for a reappraisal.
If American fixation on Central Asia is questionable, European fixation on the Palestinian question as the panacea of the Greater Middle East is downright irrational. As Edward Luttwak pointed out recently: “Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the Middle East from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan, Muslim-Igbo violence in Nigeria, Muslim-Moscovite violence in Chechnya, or the different varieties of inter-Muslim violence.”
This European fixation is all the more irrational in that as far as the proverbial Arab Street is concerned, the resolution of the Palestinian question ranks only seventh in importance, way behind the usual bread-and-butter issues (employment, health, corruption, education, and even combating extremism and protecting civil rights). And who can blame Ali Six-Pack for his lack of interest? Unlike the Kurds, who have proven capable of self-government, Palestinian leaders have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, as the saying holds. The pathetic clash between Fatahland and Hamastan is today leading many Palestinians themselves to reconsider the long-abandoned possibility of forming a confederation with Jordan. It is time for Europeans to realize that, as Joseph Joffe demonstrated in a seminal article, “far from creating tensions, Israel actually contains more antagonisms than it causes” — though of course you would never know it, since Israeli public diplomacy is nonexistent.23
Flawed premises aside, there is another, more pedestrian reason why the closing of the transatlantic mind is particularly pronounced within NATO. As the Alliance underwent a gradual transformation from collective defense to collective security, this functional broadening focused on the continental dimension led to a neglect of the maritime dimension and thus to transatlantic tunnel vision.
During the Cold War, the Atlantic Alliance had two geographic pillars: the Brussels-based Allied Command-Europe (ACE) for continental affairs, the Norfolk-based Allied Command-Atlantic (ACLANT) for maritime affairs. From 1991 to 2001, the maritime dimension, once identified with the Atlantic, became confined to the Mediterranean (Operation Sharp Guard). Yet, despite the shrinking of the maritime dimension at the operational level, ACLANT continued, at the intellectual level, to deliver outside-the-box, yet topical thinking on issues like “Multinational Naval Cooperation and Foreign Policy into the 21st Century.”24
The real change occurred with the 2002 Prague Summit‘s decision to transform these two geographical pillars into functional pillars: Allied Command Operations (ACO) and Allied Command Transformation (ACT). The transformation of the geographical ACLANT into a functional ACT did more than marginalize the maritime dimension; it also brought the wrong transformation to the fore. NATO-ACT being twinned with the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), the Alliance, in the name of interoperability, soon adopted all the shibboleths of the RMA: network-centric warfare, information dominance, the change from threat-based planning to capabilities-based planning which can only aggravate the idea of the Alliance as a “toolbox,” and last but not least, the religion of jointness itself, whose unintended effect was to downplay the specificity and autonomy of navies when it comes to constabulary and diplomatic missions.
The whole RMA folklore was introduced to NATO right at the time when, in Iraq and Afghanistan, its limits were becoming too obvious to ignore. The Pentagon is today trying to find a better balance between Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) and Culture-Centric Warfare (CCW), and one would hope that ACT will quickly NATO-ize the lessons learned in theater.
In and of itself, though, this rebalancing will not bring the kind of maritime domain awareness that is so crucial for an understanding of both the Great Game and the Long War. Outside the Anglo-Saxon world, to be sure, Western policymakers and opinion leaders have rarely been literate when it comes to naval strategy. Though this is not the place for a comprehensive tour d’horizon of the military, political, diplomatic, and constabulary uses of seapower25, basic “maritime domain awareness” is necessary when discussing the future globalization of NATO.
On the military side, the importance of the maritime dimension begins with the fact that, for all the talk about airlift capabilities, 90 percent of military lift remains sealift. But what is more noteworthy about the post-Cold War period is the fact that the decline of “maritime domain awareness” within the Atlantic Alliance took place precisely at the time when globalization was significantly increasing the importance of the maritime dimension on the commercial side (85 percent of world trade volume and 60 percent of oil and gas travels by sea) and of maritime security, all too often confused with — and reduced to — maritime safety.
It is hard to imagine a “Global NATO” — in whatever shape or form — that would continue to ignore the global commons the way today’s NATO does. It is time for NATO’s maritime commitment to match its continental commitment. To put it only half in jest: Either NATO will go out to sea, or it will go out of business.
The new Rimland
NATO was created as the political-military expression of the containment doctrine. While the father of the doctrine was diplomat George Kennan, the godfather of containment was geopolitician Nicholas Spykman. During World War II Spykman had challenged the centrality of the concept of the “Heartland” developed a generation earlier by Halford Mackinder (against Mahan’s sea power thesis), and focused instead on what he called the “Rimland,” by which he meant essentially continental countries with a maritime facade.
As Spykman defined it, the Rimland “functions as a vast buffer zone of conflict between sea power and land power. Looking in both directions, it must function amphibiously and defend itself on land and sea.” On this geopolitical foundation laid by Spykman, Kennan simply built a chronopolitical strategy of containment, which would pay off 50 years later (much later than initially anticipated by Kennan).
In 1904, Mackinder had made the grandiose pronouncement: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; who rules the World Island commands the World.” The Cold War was to prove Mackinder wrong and Spykman right: For 50 years, the Soviet Heartland did rule Eastern Europe; if it fails to command the world, it’s because it failed to rule what really matters, i.e., the Rimland.
Throughout the Cold War, then, it is the concept of Rimland which provided the geopolitical underpinnings for a grand strategy of containment and its security architecture, of which NATO constituted only one pillar (arguably the most important) along with SEATO and CENTO. Today, the Soviet Union is gone and, against all odds, NATO is still around. True, today’s NATO is not your father’s NATO, but equally true, today’s Rimland is not your father’s Rimland — and it is not clear that today’s NATO has fully grasped all the implications of the sea-change.
Today’s Rimland is a 400-mile wide amphibious area. In contrast to 1904, the Heartland today is an empty shell, and not just because of Russia’s demographic decline. In China, the population is deserting the Heartland and moving to the coast. Worldwide, today’s Rimland is both leaner and meaner than a century ago; no longer the “buffer zone of conflict” described by Mackinder or Spykman, this overpopulated Rimland, with 4 billion people living within 200-mile wide coastlands, is the “epicenter of all conflicts.”
Should NATO care? As a military alliance, NATO cannot afford to ignore the increasing covergence of littoral warfare, amphibious warfare and urban warfare — an issue to which the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps are devoting increasing attention. As a security organization, NATO’s reasons for caring should be based on a recent report produced by the Center for Naval Analyses entitled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” describing a number of not exactly rosy scenarios regarding the political-military consequences of rising sea levels in the next 30 years. The hard security consequences of soft-power issues: This is the kind of outside-the-box thinking that NATO should itself promote.26
Equally interesting is the other phenomenon happening on the new Rimland: the so-called territorialization of the seas. The belated implementation, in the 1990s, of the 1982 Law of the Sea (UNLOS) and in particular of the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), has had over time unintended effects. Due to the existence of more than one hundred EEZs, 32 percent of the ocean is today under some sort of national jurisdiction. We are talking an area of 28 million square miles, i.e. four times the size of Russia (America’s EEZ itself is two-thirds the size of the continental United States and accounts for 30 percent of the U.S. oil production).
The process of territorialization of the seas has been twofold: the “enlarging” of territorial waters from 12 miles to 200 miles, but also the “deepening” of territorialization. Twenty years ago, offshore wells were being drilled in just a few hundred feet of water; with ever-improving technology, prospecting then moved to deep water (i.e. beyond 1,300 feet) and more recently still to “ultra-deep” drilling under as much as 10,000 feet, with dramatic consequences for some countries like Brazil, who went from quasi-total dependence on foreign oil to quasi-total independence.
For all the post-Cold War talk about the decline of the state, there is at least one domain where the state is in expansion, and it is the sea. And for all the talk about a Great Game in Central Asia, it is worth keeping in mind that more than 30 percent of the world’s oil and 50 percent of the world’s natural gas is produced offshore. The percentage is greater still when moving from proven reserves (i.e., 90 percent certainty) to probable reserves (50 percent certainty). Add to that the fact that 60 percent of the world’s oil and gas is transported by sea, and in the end, it is hard to deny that command of the high seas will matter just as much as control of the Heartland.
A little-noticed global chasm is occurring today in terms of geopolitics: As the center of gravity of world history is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Western mind, traditionally maritime, is rapidly closing itself to anything other than continental matters, while the Asian mind, traditionally continental, is becoming increasingly maritime in outlook.
In the East, a region lacking a security regime analogous to NATO, the lack of clarity of the law of the sea regarding such issues as military and intelligence-gathering activities in the EEZs of other countries, and the competing claims for territorial waters and seabeds, has become a game increasingly fraught with dangers. The best known example is the Spratly Islands, one hundred or so islands scattered over an area the size of France, said to hold more oil than Kuwait, and situated right in the middle of one of the busiest sea lanes, used by 300 ships a day. The Islands are claimed in part or totality by no fewer than 17 countries, and five of them (including China) actually have small military forces on these otherwise uninhabited islands.
Unlike the legendary Great Game between England and Russia throughout the nineteenth century, the current Great Game at sea involved more than two players: America and China, the two greatest oil consumers, but also Japan and India, Malaysia and Indonesia, and other countries. This multiplicity of actors gives the seaborne Great Game a greater unpredictability. And unlike the slow moving Great Game in Central Asia in the nineteenth century, which resembles a leisurely game of chess, today’s Great Game in the Asian Sea at times is more like Russian roulette, in that “incidents at sea” — like the October 2006 close encounter of a Chinese sub with the USS Kitty Hawk — have the potential to trigger unintended and unpleasant developments quickly.
The Great Game at sea is too complex to be examined in detail here. Suffice it to say that if in terms of transportation, the true identity of the players takes forever to sort out (the nationalities of the owner, the crew, the flag, the cargo), there is a clear trend in the nationalization of oil companies when it comes to production: “The percentage of the world’s oil reserves held by publicly traded international oil companies (IOCs) has declined, while the percentage held by state-owned national oil companies (NOCs) has increased. Currently, 72 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves are held by NOC’s [the majority of which are Russian and Chinese].”27
Should NATO care? When you put together the territorialization of the seas and the nationalization of oil companies, the Great Game at sea becomes worth examining (e.g., the 2006 decision of the Cuban regime to hire Chinese NOCs for offshore drilling — 45 miles off the coast of Florida). China’s interest in Cuba, Panama, and Venezuela shows that the “string of pearls” strategy of China goes beyond the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea and the Gulf of Guinea, extending into the Western Hemisphere all the way to America’s Caribbean backyard. Since Chinese NOCs are present in 50 countries and play with different rules than regular international oil companies, one would think that the geopolitics of the NOCs could be a suitable topic of discussion in the NAC.
For now, the Great Game at sea affects the Pacific more than the Atlantic, and as such has not directly affected NATO. But it certainly affects NATO’s new global partners (Australia and Japan, Korea and New Zealand), who all happen to be maritime powers in the Pacific, and this is something that NATO will have to factor in when deciding the nature of its relationship with non-Atlantic powers. Global partnerships will have to be a two-way street, or there will be no global partnership.
In that respect, it is worth remembering that, in its day, SEATO included non-Asian countries like the UK and France, whose threat perceptions over time evolved differently from those of Australia and New Zealand (not to mention Thailand or the Philippines), and eventually SEATO went the way of the dodo.28 Therefore, when talking about NATO’s global partners, one cannot avoid raising SEATO-related issues: Do allies and would-be partner nations have the same threat perceptions? What kind of “added value” will the concept of global partnership offer not only to the former, but also to the latter? In what ways can global partners become a force multiplier for the Atlantic Alliance, and in what way can it lead instead to an “entangling alliance”?
New perils, then, but also new promises. The maritime dimension is an opportunity for European allies to go beyond the “EU sandbox” and play a global role at relatively little cost, if only because public opinion will always find a maritime commitment more palatable than a continental one. For many allies like Norway and Greece, a greater maritime commitment on the part of NATO would also be a way to display niche capabilities (it’s not as if the U.S. Navy had a surplus of mine-sweepers) that they don’t necessarily possess in land operations. Last but not least, for a country like France, a middle-sized power as a land power but a maritime superpower of sorts (the third largest EEZ in the world thanks to its South Pacific possessions), a greater maritime commitment would be a way to maintain a leadership position. When it comes to NATO, to be sure, France, since 1958, has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. With Chirac and Villepin gone, however, it may well be that France will no longer confuse History with histrionics, and volonte de puissance with capacite de nuisance.
The Great Game at sea is only beginning. However fanciful they may be given the current international legal regime, Putin’s claim in June 2007 to a chunk of the North Pole holding twice the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia gives an idea of the challenges ahead as global warming increases the areas available for offshore drilling.
The Long War at sea
The maritime dimension is as important for the Long War as it is for the Great Game. Before the attack on the Twin Towers, the attack on the USS Cole gave the West an idea of what asymmetric warfare can accomplish (17 sailors killed and $250 million worth of repairs for a terrorist operation that cost $40,000 to launch). That asymmetric warfare at sea shows great promise has not been lost on the jihadists who, when all is said and done, are less interested in restoring a caliphate (a goal they know is beyond their reach) than in making the West bleed to death economically.
Nine million containers enter U.S. ports each year, and 80 percent of U.S. port facilities these days are owned by foreign companies. It is estimated that the detonation of a 10-to-20 kiloton nuclear weapon in a container would cause a disruption of trade valued at $100 billion to $300 billion, property damage of $50 billion to $500 billion, and the loss of 50,000 to 1 million lives. A mere dirty bomb smuggled in a container would kill very few people, but the disruption would cost $58 billion and it would take 19 days for ports to resume normal operations and 92 days to stabilize the container backlog — by which time the disruption could well spawn a recession.
The trauma caused by two planes crashing into the Twin Towers has made us forget that al Qaeda and its associates have a maritime strategy more sophisticated than blowing up the USS Cole. Before his arrest, the man responsible for the Cole attack himself had undertaken preparation to attack shipping in the Mediterranean with a four pronged-strategy: “ramming, blowing up medium-size ships near other vessels or at ports, attacking large vessels such as supertankers from the air by using explosive laden small aircraft, and attacking vessels with underwater demolition teams using limpet mines or with suicide bombers. During his interrogation, Nashiri revealed that if warships became too difficult to approach, tourist ships could be targeted. The cruise ship industry, which in the U.S. alone carries nearly seven million passengers every year, is facing this new threat.”29
Eighty percent of world trade travels by sea, and 60 percent of the world’s oil is shipped by about 4,000 tankers: “Were terrorist pirates to hijack a large bulk carrier or oil tanker, sail it into one of the chokepoints, and scuttle it to block the sea-lane, the consequences for the world economy would be severe: a spike in oil prices, an increase in the cost of shipping due to the need to use alternate routes, congestion in sea-lanes and ports, more expensive maritime insurance, and probable environmental disaster. Worse yet would be several such attacks happening simultaneously in multiple locations worldwide.”30
A rogue nuclear missile on Paris or Berlin is decidedly more unlikely in the next five years than the hijacking and sinking of a couple of supertankers in the Strait of Gibraltar or the Bosphorus. The latter, in particular, is less than a mile wide in some areas, and 10 percent of the 50,000 ships that pass through it each year are tankers carrying Russian and Caspian oil.
In the Turkish strait in 1996, the nine pro-Chechen gunmen who hijacked a Turkish ferry and held 255 passengers hostage for three days had first considered the possibility of sabotaging one of the two suspension bridges with explosives to bring down the bridge and close shipping traffic. The worst case scenario, now that the Russian Duma has passed a bill to transport 20,000 tons of nuclear waste through the straits in the next ten years, is the possibility of one of these tankers being hijacked in the vicinity of Istanbul, a city of 12 million inhabitants. It is expected that traffic on the Bosphorus will be 50 percent higher in 2010 than it was in 2005, and so will the opportunities to create catastrophic mischief.
NATO military planners and civilian policymakers continue to think in terms of nation-states and regional “areas of operation,” whereas, as the navy community knows full well, maritime threats are more often than not nonstate and transregional in nature. But terrorist networks are genuinely transnational: the Sri Lankan LTTE not only owned and operated a fleet of ten ocean-going freighters flying Panamian, Honduran, and Liberian flags, it also hijacked commercial vessels carrying weapons to reroute them to the Tamil Tigers. In 1994, the LTTE shipped 50 metric tons of TNT on board one of its own freighters operated by a front company from a Ukrainian Black Sea port via the Turkish Straits to Sri Lanka.
NATO is today paying less attention to potential maritime threats affecting its own civilian populations than to making the non-Western world safe for democracy (or sharia, since the jury is still out). If NATO wants to survive another 30 years, it will have to focus a little more on the concerns of its own population.
Global NATO, thousand ship navy
In the 1990s, some foreign policy analysts called on the United States to adopt a policy known as “offshore balancing.” Succinctly put, “offshore balancing is predicated on the assumption that attempting to maintain U.S. hegemony is self-defeating because it will provoke other states to combine in opposition to the United States, and result in a futile depletion of the United States’ relative power, thereby leaving it worse off than if it accommodated multipolarity.”31 Whether such an offshore balancing is still possible or desirable for the U.S. in a post-9/11 environment is highly debatable. But a maritime globalization of NATO could become, for the Alliance itself, the continuation of “offshore balancing” by other means. Its main merit would be to constitute a hedging strategy of sorts against the SCO.
China is emerging as a maritime superpower as quickly as America itself (not to mention the UK) is declining as a naval power, to the point where China could become the leading naval power by 2020. The Russian Navy, which until now was a pale shadow of Gorshkov’s navy (since 1991, the number of submarines has declined from 317 to 61 and of surface ships from 967 to 186) has announced plans to build a class of four new aircraft carriers in 2013–14, with initial service to begin in 201732. One would do well to remember that it took hardly more than a decade during the Cold War for Russia, the quintessential land power, to develop a formidable navy. In 20 years, we could realistically see a China/Russia-led SCO that is hegemonic not only on land but at sea. As counterintuitive as it may be at first, NATO would be wise to consider the possibility of making maritime cooperation the centerpiece of NATO-Russia security cooperation.
Maritime operations are of course not foreign to NATO. In the 1990s, Operation Sharp Guard constituted a dress rehearsal of sorts for Operation Active Endeavor after 9/11. In 2003, OAE was expanded functionally and geographically to cover the whole Mediterranean and ended up including some Mediterranean Dialogue countries as well as Russia and Ukraine. Many NATO allies participate in the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), and it is no coincidence that the former head of Joint Forces-Naples, Admiral Mullen (the current chief of naval operations and JCS chairman-designate), is the one who developed the concept of the “Thousand Ship Navy” (TSN), which is today the talk of the U.S. Navy.
Though globalization has increased the importance of maritime affairs, there has been both a relative and an absolute decline of U.S. seapower, with a U.S. Navy today at its lowest level in the post-World War II era. For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. is in the process of drafting a new maritime strategy, but with a considerably reduced force that went from 600 to fewer than 300 ships, and with new responsibilities in terms of nonmilitary maritime security. Hence the concept of the Thousand Ship Navy, which is meant to create a global maritime partnership with foreign navies.33
TSN is much more than an attempt to make a virtue of necessity. The Thousand Ship Navy — the “Great White Fleet” of the twenty-first century — represents a revolution in military affairs in that the concept raises the “network-centric” paradigm established by Admiral Cebrowsky from the domain of strategy (Network-Centric Warfare) to that of security (Global Maritime Partnership). In the process, it brings back a much-needed balance between techno-centric and culture-centric skills as components of success. Just as important, the TSN concept also represents a revolution in diplomatic affairs, in that a global maritime partnership would go beyond the traditional military-to-military contacts and, as Admiral Mullen points out, would unite “maritime forces, port operators, commercial shippers, and international, governmental and nongovernmental agencies to address mutual concerns.”
As the Proliferation Security Initiative in Asia shows, though, this twenty-first- century naval diplomacy presents formidable challenges in terms of redefinitions of “sovereignty.” Though the TSN concept is still a work in progress, it is worth noting that naval representatives from 72 countries have already taken part in the first symposium on the subject. NATO would do well to examine if the indirect approach of “going global” through a Thousand Ship Navy path is not also the best way to avoid making self-defeating waves in Asia.
Strategic considerations aside, there is an additional reason for Global NATO to get associated with the Thousand Ship Navy. Hard as it is to remember today, there was a time when NATO captured the imagination of Western audiences: Until the mid-sixties, in fact, the prospect of an Atlantic Union was seen in Europe as the wave of the future, while the idea of a European Union was associated mainly with coal, steel, and the standardization of electric plugs.34 Today, hard as they try, the 700 million people of the West can’t really bring themselves to get exited when the “deliverables” of NATO Summits amount to — the purchase of three C-17s? If that is NATO’s level of ambition these days, no wonder that even the EU is beginning to look good. NATO will require nothing less than a Thousand Ship Navy if it is to recapture the imagination of public opinion.
NATO and the rise of UN-istan
Two organizations emerged in short succession from the 1941 Atlantic Charter: the United Nations in 1945 and, when the UN proved ineffective in a Cold War context, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. For the next 50 years, NATO’s role in waging and winning the Cold War was as central as that of the UN was marginal.
In the early days of the post Cold War, there were, on both sides of the Atlantic, great hopes that the UN could finally play the role it was initially designed for. A former ambassador to the UN, the elder Bush in particular hoped to make the UN the cornerstone of a New World Order. In Europe as well, as the EU was toying with the idea of transforming itself from an Europe-espace to an Europe-puissance, many thought that an EU military force could constitute the military arm of the UN, and that the EU, in turn, could use the UN as a force multiplier to provide a “counterweight” to the US.
The fixation of EU elites on this idea led them to overlook the various scandals that marred the UN throughout the 1990s (from the Rwanda genocide to the Iraq oil-for-food program). More important, there is great reluctance on the part of EU public opinion at large to acknowledge the fact that, in the process of enlarging 54 members in 1945 to 184 in 1993, the UN’s initial goals have been perverted.
Once the embodiment of Western ideals, the UN has turned into a lean, mean anti-West machine. Though European publics no longer have any illusion today about a Europe-puissance, they still retain a surprisingly boy-scoutish view of the UN, one that no longer corresponds to reality. European public opinion saw nothing wrong, for instance, in the recent establishment of an International Criminal Court that would give its prosecutor the power of a grand inquisitor, in part because they are not aware of the politicization of the UN (and of the potential use of the ICC as an anti-Western weapon), but also in part because, over the years, they have resigned themselves to the creeping judicial and technocratic imperialism pursued at home by the EU Court of Justice and the EU Commission.
If, against all odds, the European public has a more positive image of the UN than of NATO, it is for a simple reason: When it comes to strategic communication, today’s NATO is your grandfather’s NATO. Meanwhile, over the years, the UN has turned itself into a slick, global propaganda machine.
In that respect, the UN’s main achievement since 1949 has been the transformation of a once-peripheral issue into a global Passion Play. Though the number of refugees throughout the world were millions after 1945 (and 15 million more with the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947), the UN decided to focus quasi-exclusively on the 700,000 refugees of the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. For these Palestinian Arabs, the UN created not only a specific agency (UNRWA) but a unique, and Orwellian, definition of “refugees” carefully designed to maintain the issue forever alive.35
Twenty years later came a new development. The demagogic UNESCO projects about a New World Information and Communication Order did not disappear when the US and the UK left the organization in protest and UNESCO, as a result, lost one fourth of its budget. The NWICO project was simply quietly transferred from Paris to New York, from UNESCO headquarters to UN headquarters. Over the years, the UN-New York developed its radio and TV station and its global network of 60 centers. It has provided “training” to Third World journalists (with a particular predilection for Palestinians) and built both a formal and informal media empire on which the sun never sets. By 1998, the UN spent a greater share of its budget on self-promotion and propaganda through its Department of Public Information (5.37 percent) than on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (4.96 percent) or International Justice and Law (2.10 percent).
At the same time that it was becoming a major player in the propaganda game, the UN inside was gradually turning into a “lawfare” machine against the West. As Joshua Muravchik explains: “In the General Assembly, the Arabs have a unique leverage with which they can make the UN say whatever they want (except in the Security Council where the US veto has prevented that). The 22-nation Arab League constitutes a decisive bloc within the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC], which is decisive in turn in the 115-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which constitute nearly two-thirds of the UN and is the organization’s main bloc.”
The OIC, it will be remembered, was created by Saudi Arabia in 1969 as a weapon against the Egypt-led Arab League in the ongoing Arab Cold Wars. In recent years, under the leadership of the OIC, the UN has turned into UN-istan:
The OIC is silent on putting the blame for the slaughter of innocent Muslim pilgrims precisely where it belongs — on other Muslims. Instead, the OIC squanders most of its energy condemning the West for defaming Islam whenever terrorism is in any way linked with adherents of their religion. . . . While as a group they pay less than 3 percent of the regular annual budget of the United Nations, they have managed to exercise an outsized amount of influence in the General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies over how the UN deals with such issues as Palestine, terrorism and human rights and terrorism. Next on their agenda is a permanent Islam seat on the Security Council. Iran has already been designated as the OIC’s preferred candidate for election to the Security Council in 2008. . . . In short, the Organization of the Islamic Conference bloc has been able to manipulate the UN’s machinery to turn the liberal vocabulary of racism, oppression, genocide, tolerance and multiculturalism against the critics of reactionary Islam.
How delusional is the OIC today? So delusional that, at its May 2007 summit, the 56 foreign ministers agreed that the “greatest form of terrorism” in the world today is — Islamophobia! The same OIC is the main force behind the election of Iran as vice-chairman of the Disarmament Commission, the presence of representatives of the worst dictatorship on the planet in the UN Human Rights Committee, not to mention the attempt, following the Danish cartoon affair, to make the UN recognize “blasphemy” as a crime.
In this ongoing weaponization of the UN against the West, China has not remained passive: beyond the OIC and NAM proper, the largest group in the UN happens to be the “G-77 + China,” i.e., 132 countries representing 69 percent of UN members. China’s UN dues may be 2 percent of the UN budget, but Chinese activism in the past decade has spectacularly increased in recent years.36 It is reportedly under Chinese pressure that the US was evicted from the Human Rights Commission in 2001 to make room for Arab dictatorships.
While the UN was sinking in global parochialism, NATO has gone global geographically (50,000 troops deployed now on three continents) and functionally (broadening of political consultations in the NAC). It is also beginning to go global in its cooperation with non-Atlantic partners like Japan to Australia.
In some American and European quarters, this globalization of NATO has led some observers to assert rather boldly that “NATO’s next move must be to open its membership to any democratic state in the world that is willing and able to contribute to the fulfillment of NATO’s new responsibilities.”37 But to add four or five global partners is one thing, to add the 88 countries recognized as democracies by Freedom House is quite another. The necessary, if not sufficient, condition for turning NATO into a UN of democracies would be to change the flawed images of the UN and NATO that European publics currently have. That said, this long-term scenario of NATO as a UN of democracies cannot be ruled out given the ongoing deconstruction of the Tower of Babble by China and the OIC.
With the possible emergence of a NATO Security Providers Forum consisting of the leading contributors, three key questions are likely to keep the Allies busy in the coming years. What would happen with the four NATO Partners who are also SCO members in the event the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council was to be disbanded in favor of a Security Providers Forum. What will be the nature of the articulation between the North Atlantic Council, the Security Providers Forum, and the NATO-Russia Council? Has the time come for NATO to adopt an EU-style, “variable geometry” decision-making process? At the same time, the debate on the future Global NATO should not be limited to these organizational matters.
The Western-inspired international legal order is today under assault at the UN; at the same time, an obsolete Law of Armed Conflict is preventing the West from defending itself on the ground. As a military organization, NATO should today articulate a “Counter-Lawfare” doctrine for the sake of intellectual interoperability. As a security organization, NATO should not wait until it has become a full-fledged UN of Democracies to start elaborating a New Law of Armed Conflict adapted to the realities of post-modern warfare.38 Last but not least, the Alliance should take strategic communication more seriously and make better use of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (information) and the NATO Defense College (education).
If the Atlantic alliance is to genuinely “go global,” it will have to achieve a better balance between “toolbox” and “think tank” and to focus more than has been the case so far on increased strategic literacy, broader situational awareness, and state-of-the art strategic communication.
History on the move again
Two hundred years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte, who knew a thing or two about epochal change, remarked: “When China awakens, the world will tremble.” China is awakening, all right, and promoting worldwide authoritarianism all the more successfully that the spectacle of Western democracies lately has not been exactly edifying. If the Chinese promotion of “Asian values” has a global, rather than regional, historical significance, it is because Confucius today speaks with a very strong German accent: that of Carl Schmitt. While Western pundits were enrolling Kojève for their musing on the “end of history,” the Chinese were translating nine books by Schmitt to philosophically buttress their return in history. The future of liberal authoritarianism has never looked brighter.39
The return of China alone would be enough to make the West “live in interesting times.” To make things even more interesting, Islam too is back, this time in the form of a totalitarianism which manages to combine an ideological comprehensiveness (Salafism) unseen since Communism and an existential nihilism (jihadism) worthy of Nazism. A generation ago, the post-Vatican II Catholic world finally espoused the 20th century, and the Church went on to play a critical role in the collapse of communism; meanwhile, under the increasing influence of Wahhabism, the Muslim world was going in the opposite direction, and this great leap backward brought them back to the 14th century.40 If the Saudi caliphate does not soon undertake its own Vatican II, chances are the Muslim world will never make it back to the 21st century.
It is time for the Transatlantic chattering class to realize that there is a time for problematizing, and a time for strategizing — and that its first order of business should be to stop mistaking a simple transatlantic time lag for a metaphysical problem. In the wake of 9/11, there was an extreme disconnect between an America that had just experienced its first continental aggression since the “second war of independence” (the war of 1812) and a Europe convinced that the then-imminent opening of the Brussels constitutional convention was, if not the beginning of universal peace, at least the world’s most important event since the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.
Hence the temptation in certain quarters to reify this temporary disconnect into a Mars/Venus gap. But the most cursory examination of twentieth-century history shows that transatlantic time lags have always been the rule rather than the exception. The First World War began in 1914, the U.S. only joined in 1917. The Second World War began in 1939, the U.S. only joined in 1942. The Cold War began in 1947, and it took Europe a full two years to give up the temptation of neutrality and side with the U.S. Since the Long War is of an asymmetric kind, it is no surprise if it took longer than usual for America and Europe to synchronize their chronopolitical watches.
There are still too many talking heads today whining about the fact that Americans are still too much from Mars, Europeans too much from Venus. You still have a metaphysical problem with that? Get over it. As Javier Solana reminded us in his inimitable way, Mars himself was from Mars, Venus was from Venus, and that sure did not prevent those two from getting down to business: “I seem to recall that it was only in the arms of Venus that Mars found peace. And was their beautiful daughter not the goddess Harmonia?”41
1 Clyde Prestowitz, Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East, 2007; Paul Bracken, Fire in the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age, 1999.
2 David Yost, NATO Transformed: the Alliance’s New Roles in International Security, 1999.
3 Christoph Bertram, “NATO’s Only Future: The West Abroad,” Riga Papers (November 2006).
4 Ronald Asmus and Richard Holbrooke, “Re-reinventing NATO,” Riga Papers (November 2006). On Kosovo, see Henry Kissinger, “New World Disorder,” Newsweek (May 31, 1999). It is worth nothing that by summer 2001, there were more than 200 books written in the English language alone — not a good sign for a 78-day war. See Jamie Shea, “Instant History,” NATO Review (Summer 2001).
5 See Robert Jervis’ classic Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics, 1976.
6 Alexander George, Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War, 1991.
7 Richard Betts, “Should Strategic Studies Survive?” World Politics, 1997, and “Is Strategy an Illusion?” International Security (Fall 2000). William Anthony Hay and Harvey Sicherman, eds., Is There Still a West? The Future of the Atlantic Alliance, 2007
8 Robert Kagan, “Power and Weakness,” Policy Review (June/July 2002).
9 Hew Strachan, “The Lost Meaning of Strategy,” Survival (Autumn 2005); Julian Lindley-French, “The Revolution in Security Affairs: Hard and Soft Security Dynamics in the 21st century,” European Security 13 (2004); Mary Kaldor, “Human Security: A New Strategic Narrative for Europe,” International Affairs 83:2 (2007).
10 Hew Strachan, “Making Strategy: Civil-Military Relations after Iraq,” Survival (Autumn 2006); Lawrence Friedman, The Revolution in Strategic Affairs, 1998, and The Transformation in Strategic Affairs, 2006.
11 Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, 1999; Thomas Hammes, The Sling and the Stone: War in the 21st Century, 2004.
12 See, e.g., Tilman Ludke, Jihad Made in Germany: Ottoman and German Propaganda and Intelligence Operations during the First World War, 2006; Selcuk Esenbel, “Japan’s Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900-1945,” American Historical Review (October 2004). Alexander Bennigsen, Soviet Strategy and Islam, 1989; Rachel Bronson, Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia, 2006.
13 Bill Gertz, “China Arming Terrorists,” Washington Times (June 15, 2007); Matthew Brummer, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Iran: A Powerful Union,” Journal of International Affairs (Spring/Summer 2007); John Garver, China and Iran: Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World, 2007.
14 Philippe Saunders and Charles Lutes, “China’s ASAT Test: Motivations and Implications,” INSS-NDU (June 2007); Bernard Cole, The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy Enters the Twenty-First Century, 2002; James R. Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, Chinese Naval Strategy in the 21st Century: The Turn to Mahan, 2007; Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World, 2007.
15 There is still no book-length study of the SCO. For short introductions, see Ariel Cohen, “The Dragon Looks West: China and the SCO,” Heritage Foundation (September 7, 2006), and Eugene Rumer, “China, Russia, and the Balance of Power in Central Asia,” Strategic Forum, National Defense University (November 2006).
16 Marshall Goldman, The Piratisation of Russia: Russian Reform Goes Awry, 2003.
17 George Kennan, Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin, 1960
18 Henry Kissinger, “Universal Values, Specific Policies,” National Interest 84 (Summer 2006).
19 On Russia-EU relations, see Roy Allison, ed., Putin’s Russia and the Enlarged Europe, 2006; on Russia-China, see Ming-Yen Tsai, From Adversaries to Partners? Chinese and Russian Military Cooperation after the Cold War, 2003, and Marcel de Haas, Russia-China Security Cooperation, Research Institute for European and American Studies (Athens, 2007); on NATO-Russia, Stephen J. Blank, The NATO-Russia Partnership: A Marriage of Convenience or a Troubled Relationship? Strategic Studies Institute (November 2006); on US-Russia, see Richard Weitz, Revitalizing US-Russian Security Cooperation, 2006.
20 For a concise introduction to the new Great Game, see Flynt Leverett and Pierre Noel, “The New Axis of Oil,” National Interest (Summer 2006), and Richard Weitz, “Averting a New Great Game in Central Asia,” Washington Quarterly (Summer 2006); for the Long War, see Tony Corn, “World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare,” Policy Review (January 2006), and “Clausewitz in Wonderland,” Policy Review (September 2006).
21 Charles Clover, “Dreams of a Eurasian Heartland,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 1999). It is worth noting that, in the 1990s, about 500 books were published on globalization; between 2000 and 2004, there were more than 4,000 books published. Pankaj Ghemawat, “Why the World is not Flat,” Foreign Policy (April 2007).
22 Amy Myers Jaffe and Robert Manning, “The Myth of the Caspian ‘Great Game’: The Real Geopolitics of Energy” Survival (Winter 1998–99). See also Robert Sokolsky and Tanya Charlick-Paley, “NATO and Caspian Security: A Mission Too Far?,” RAND, 1999.
23 Edward Luttwak, “The Middle of Nowhere,” Prospect (May 2007); James Zogby, “Arab Attitudes in 2005,” Arab-American Institute; Joseph Joffe, “A World Without Israel” Foreign Policy (January/February 2005); Eytan Gilboa, “Public Diplomacy: The Missing Component in Israel’s Foreign Policy,” Israel Affairs (October 2006).
24 Fred Crickard, ed., Multinational Naval Cooperation and Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, 1998 (a three-day symposium attended by 200 CNOs, diplomats, and academics from 32 countries). See also Sam Tangredi, ed., Globalization and Maritime Power, National Defense University, 2002.
25 Edward Luttwak, The Political Uses of Seapower, 1975; Ken Booth, Law, Force and Diplomacy at Sea, 1977, and, Navies and Foreign Policy, 1978; James Cable, Gunboat Diplomacy, 1919–1989, 1998, and Norman Friedman, Seapower as Strategy: Navies and National Interests, 2001.
26 “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” Center for Naval Analyses, CNA, 2007.
27 Flynt Leverett and Pierre Noel, “The New Axis of Oil,” National Interest (Summer 2006).
28 Lezlek Buszynski, SEATO: The Failure of an Alliance Strategy, 1984. see also Ronald D. Asmus, “NATO and Global Partners: Views from the Outside,” Riga Papers (November 2006).
29 John Harrald, “Sea Trade and Security: an Assessment of the Post 9/11 Reaction,” Journal of International Affairs (Fall/Winter 2005). and “Maritime Terrorism and NATO,” Energy Security (January 24, 2005).
30 Gal Luft and Anne Korin, “Terrorism Goes to Sea,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2004); John Temple Swing, “What Future for the Oceans,” Foreign Affairs (September/October 2003); Michael Greenberg, Maritime Terrorism: Risk and Liability, RAND, 2006; Michael Richardson, A Time-Bomb for Global Trade: Maritime-Related Terrorism in an Age of WMD, 2004; “Maritime Terrorism: A New Challenge for NATO,” Energy Security (January 24, 2005); Daniel Yergin, “Ensuring Energy Security,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2006).
31 Christopher Layne, “Offshore Balancing Revisited”, Washington Quarterly (Spring 2002).
32 Milan Vego, “Russia and the Return of Geopolitics,” Joint Forces Quarterly 45 (2007).
33 Admiral Mike Mullen, “What I Believe: Eight Tenets That Guide My Vision for the 21st Century Navy,” Proceedings (January 2006); “We Can’t Do It Alone,” Honolulu Advertiser (October 29, 2006); “Principles for a Free and Secure Global Maritime Network,” RUSI Journal (February 2006); Amy Klamper, “The 1,000 Ship Navy,” Sea Power (February 17, 2007). See also Joel Sokolsky, Projecting Stability: NATO and Multilateral Naval Cooperation in the Post-Cold War Era, 1998
34 On PSI, see Mark J. Valencia: The Proliferation Security Initiative: Making Waves in Asia, 2005. On NATO, see Ian Thomas, The Promise of Alliance: NATO and the Political Imagination, 1997, and Istvan Szent-Miklozy, The Atlantic Union Movement: Its Significance in World Politics, 1965.
35 Marc Ginsberg, “Arabs Ignore Palestinian Plight,” Wall Street Journal (August 2002).
36 On the relation between the UN and the media, see Eric Shawn, The UN Exposed: How the United Nations Sabotages America’s Security and Fails the World, 2006; Mark Alleyne, Global Lies? Propaganda, the UN, and World Order, 2003. On the UN follies, see Joshua Muravchick: The Future of the United Nations: Understanding the Past to Chart a Way Forward, 2005; Dore Gold, Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos, 2005. See also Michael Fullilove, “Angel or Dragon? China and the United Nations,” National Interest (September/October 2006), Joseph Klein, “UN-istan,” www.frontpagemagazine.com, (March 12, 2007); Fred Gedrich, “The World’s Gravest Terrorist Threat,” NRO (June 5, 2007), Anne Bayevsky, “A Mockery of Human Rights,” Washington Times (May 12, 2006) and “UN dishonors Women,” NRO (March 19, 2007); David Littman, “Islamism Grows Stronger at the United Nations,” Middle East Quarterly (September 1999); Brett Schaefer, “The False Promise of the ‘Alliance of Civilizations,’” & Heritage Foundation (December 22, 2006).
37 Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier, “Global NATO,” Foreign Affairs (September/October 2005). On the issue of Global NATO, see also Jose-Maria Aznar, NATO: An Alliance for Freedom, 2005; Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, “Global NATO?” Clingendael Institute (October 2004). for a Russian/CSTO reaction, Mikhail Kokyeyev, “Russia-Nato Relations: Between the Past and the Future,” Russia in Global Affairs (April/June 2007).
38 David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, “Leashing the Dogs of War,” National Interest (Fall 2003), and “Europe in the Balance: The Alarmingly Undemocratic Drift of the European Union,” Policy Review (June/July 2001); William Taft IV and Frances Burwell, Law and the Lone Superpower: Rebuilding a Transatlantic Consensus on International Law, Atlantic Council (April 2007); On lawfare, see David Kennedy’s thoughtful Of War and Law, 2006.
39 Bin Dian, “That Vital License,” BeijingReview.com (December 16, 2006). See also the special issue of the Twenty-First Century Review (Hong Kong) on “Reflections on the Cult of Carl Schmitt in Contemporary China” (April 2006). Schmitt is also popular in Russia with some Eurasianists; and the recent proliferation on both sides of the Atlantic of studies on Schmitt on the part of philosophers and legal scholars (see recent special issues of the Cardozo Law Review and the Leyden Journal of International Law) would seem to indicate that the Zeitgeist is more Schmittian than Kojèvian these days.
40 George Weigel, The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism, 2003; Dore Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, 2004
41 Javier Solana, “Mars and Venus Reconciled: A New Era for Transatlantic Relations,” Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (April 7, 2003).